During a special meeting on Oct. 16, the Cherokee City Council voted 3 to 2 to employ a consulting service to search for a city manager. The two who opposed the motion also expressed opposition to filling the position that has been vacant since April of 2006.
In a motion approved by Dwight Varce, Greg Stieneke and Bob Leach and opposed by Mick Mallory and James Peck, the city approved a contract for Clarence Krepps of Storm Lake. He appeared at the regular meeting on Oct. 9 to explain the details of the process of selecting a person for the job of city manager. He said it would take about 90 days to complete.
The process would culminate in a three-day intensive interview process after the list of applicants had been reduced down to a small number of finalists, most likely three.
The cost of the service would be $14,300, which would not include the expense of transportation and lodging for finalists and their spouses.
In response to a question of where the money for the service would come from, Deb Taylor, city clerk, said that it would need to come from the city utilities. Dan Morrow, speaking from the audience, asked about the legality of exclusively using utility funds, generated from fees for service, to pay for the city manager search or for the city manager position itself.
Mallory asked whether the rates would be raised for water, sewer and storm sewer without improving those services.
Peck referred to the part of the contract about the city being billed directly for candidate travel and lodging expenses. He added that some candidates have applied from a good distance away and the expense could be significant.
Mark Buschkamp, director of the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation, said it is fairly standard to pay expenses for travel and lodging of candidates at this level.
Linda Burkhart said that when she served on the Cherokee School Board, candidates for administrator positions in the school district had travel expenses paid for by the district.
Mallory stated that the council members and department heads should take care of the leadership duties themselves.
Stieneke said that he has been working 20 to 25 hours a week putting together a long absent safety program for the city. He said that is not really the job of a council member.
Bob Leach said there needs to be a boss over the city.
Morrow said that the city has a mayor to be the boss.
Stieneke said that the mayor is not a full-time position. He added that many things that need to be done are not being done.
Peck said that the last two city administrators might have been in 40-hours-a-week positions but did not give 40 hours a week of service.
Varce said that a committee had volunteered time and made the recommendation to hire the search service and the council should follow that recommendation.
Prior to a vote on hiring the consultant, the council approved a motion on a vote of 3 to 2 to forfeit pay for the special meeting. Each council member receives $40 per meeting pay.
In making the motion, Mallory said that he made a mistake the previous week in voting to approve a special meeting and that the matter could have been taken care of at a regular meeting. Peck and Stieneke voted with Mallory for the motion. Varce and Leach voted against the motion.
The possibility of repairing the community center roof rather than replacing it had been on the agenda but discussion was delayed until a later meeting when Duane Mummert can provide more information.