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Bessemer Council delays decision on elections


June 4, 2019


Bessemer — The Bessemer City Council on Monday tabled resolutions on elections to review and gauge public input until the June 17 meeting.

The council approved 4-0 to table a resolution that would amend the Bessemer charter to changed the two year council member terms to four year terms, if approved by the Bessemer voters. The second resolution would ask voters to change local elections from odd years to even years of the state and federal elections.

The change would save the city the expense of running a separate odd year election, said Charly Loper, Bessemer city manager. The staggered council terms would provide continuity and stability in the offices and city government, she said.

If approved the first even year election in 2020 would have the three candidates with the most votes seated for four years. The next two candidates would serve for two years followed by a 2022 election for the two seats with four year terms.

Bessemer Mayor Adam Zak expressed concern that the transition to the four year staggered term would mean that candidates running for a two year term in 2019 would need to run again in 2020. A two-year term that is actually a one year term could discourage candidates and may present election law issues, he said.

“I'm skeptical of the even year election,” Zak said.

Council member Linda Nelson said the four year term was also a long commitment. It might frustrate people from running for council, she said.

“Four years can be very long time,” Nelson said.

Nelson expressed support for the idea of even year elections. An odd year election with few candidates or issues produces a low turnout, she said.

Council member Rob Coleman concluded that four year council terms would be “a good experiment and something worth trying.”

“If it's not working then we can go back to two or change it,” Coleman said. “I don't think it hurts to try to find out if this makes it better or worse.”

Loper said the four-year term allows new council members to grow into the role. A new council member usually learns the role his or her first year and a two year office does not leave as much time to make an impact as a four-year term, she said.

The state of Michigan has yet to comment on the two resolutions, Loper said. The urgency is that if the council moves to approve the resolutions is must be soon to be published as ballot measures at least 60 days prior to the next regular election.

The council unanimously approved five resolutions on charter amendments for the next election ballot.

Resolution No. 3 changes the board of review process from four days to three days. Additional days are allowed when necessary.

Resolution No. 4 mandates the city clerk or council designee to act as keeper of the board of review proceedings. The city assessor is the current designee.

Resolution No. 5 deletes an antiquated section regarding council member salaries that is now filled by Article 2 of the city code that establishes a compensation commission for locally elected officials.

Resolution No. 6 deletes a section for council appointments of a city health officer and chief of police. The positions no longer exist.

Resolution No. 9 deletes a section on alteration of city ward boundaries. Bessemer has one ward and the section refers to multiple wards.

The council approved the resignation of council member Allen Archie. The city is calling for applications for an interim appointment seat on the council to be received by June 14, to allow post council meeting interviews to occur on June 17.

In her report, Loper said the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Gogebic County Road Commission will mill the top inch of road surface off a section of U.S. 2 and replace it with new asphalt by July 4. The work will start with outside lanes and then the inner lanes to allow traffic flow, she said.

In other business, the council approved:

—An $1,850 Coleman Engineering Company bid to conduct a Phase One environmental site assessment at 506 S. Mine St., and a $2,480 Pearson Asbestos Abatement Inc. bid to conduct lead and asbestos testing.

—Appointing council member Terry Kryshak as mayor pro tempore.

—Paying mileage for Loper to serve as a county member of the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region board.

—Creating a two-year union general laborer position to allow Shawn Kitto to fulfill a union negotiator role that requires up to a two year leave of absence.


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