Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Wakefield City Council members to host public coffee sessions


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Wakefield — The Wakefield city council voted Monday evening to enact monthly “Coffee with Council” sessions as a means of encouraging public input.

“The purpose would be just to provide an informal setting for residents to come in and share ideas and thoughts,” said city manager Rob Brown to the council.

Brown added that city officials and employees will be welcome to attend the sessions on a volunteer basis.

Council members agreed to schedule the sessions on the second Saturday of the month from 9-11 a.m. in the council room of the municipal building.

In a formal statement about the initiative, Brown explained, “Coffee with Council is intended to be an interactive and relaxed conversation over a complimentary cup of coffee, outside of the formality of a city council meeting.”

He said treats such as doughnuts or cookies will be included.

Brown concluded that the sessions also will help Wakefield to meet requirements in moving forward with its goal to be declared as a state “redevelopment-ready community.” That, in turn, will open up new grant opportunities.

Charter proposals

In other news, council members also voted to approve three charter amendment proposals in relation to civil service employees, staggered council seat terms, and election year timing.

If approved, the proposals would enable the following changes:

Proposal 1 would allow the city to eliminate civil service selection of non-union and non-officer employees.

Proposal 2 would allow the city to stagger the election of city council terms, rather than continuing to have all seats up for election in the same year.

Proposal 3 would allow the city to hold city elections in even years, in conjunction with state elections, and hence at state expense, rather than continue in odd years at city expense. Brown noted another advantage of even years is greater voter turnout.

All three charter amendments now will be placed on the election ballot, pending approval by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The council also:

—Voted to approve Resolution 262, which amends the city’s 2018-2019 fiscal budget in relation to $95,150 for the general fund, $19,500 for the sewer fund and $3,500 for the motor pool. The general fund increases are mainly due to the establishment of an account to fund retirement benefits. Also included in general fund hikes are increases in salary, fringes or budget for city clerk Sue Ahonen and city attorney Ray O’Dea. General fund amendments also reflect the expensing out of revitalization and bike trail accounts. Sewer fund amendments address high spring rain and related lift station repairs, as well as payroll fringes and increases in electric pumping equipment.

—Voted to provide a public letter of support for the Gogebic Range Trail Authority, in relation to its ongoing goals of building, enhancing and maintaining motorized trails in Gogebic County. Steve Hamilton, GRTA’s president, told the council that he is currently seeking grants to expand existing trail options.

—As part of an ongoing collective bargaining agreement, voted to pass Resolution Nos. 242 and 261 in relation to opting out of the Michigan Publicly Funded Health Insurance Contribution Act.

—Voted to approve a routine closure of Hancock Street, between Brotherton and Smith streets, for a July 3 block party, at the request of Wakefield resident Marcia Jurakovich.

At the end of the meeting, the council went into a closed session to discuss a collective bargaining agreement regarding the city’s union employees.

The municipal building will be closed for two days on July 3-4 in honor of Independence Day activities.

A planning commission public hearing will be held on July 8 at 5 p.m. regarding a pending variance for a prospective attached garage and addition to a house on the corner of Hill Street and Ahola Avenue. Kent Leach owns the property.

The next regular meeting of the city council will be on July 8 at 5:30 p.m.

Both the hearing and the meeting will be in the council room of the municipal building. The public is welcome.