May 12, 2009

Committee Notes: A closed session, $4,700 for furniture, legal listings and the Racine Yacht Club's lease

Here are notes from Monday night's Personnel and Finance Committee meeting:

Closed Session

The committee met in closed session to consider converting two outsourced information systems positions back to city employees. The proposal would remove the infrastructure manager and programmer positions from the city's contract with Velocity Partners Inc., Brookfield, and bring them back to the city. The city contracts with Velocity Partners to handle much of its computer needs.

The move would save an estimated $28,981, according to the meeting's notice.

Here's our story on the city's decision to outsource its MIS department in 2007.

City administrator’s furniture

The committee reluctantly approved spending $4,700 for new office furniture for the city administrator’s office. Money budgeted for the furniture was used for asbestos removal in City Hall. Instead, the committee used money set aside to pay the city administrator’s salary – none has been paid since Ben Hughes resigned in February – to buy a U-shaped desk, credenza and chair.

Alderman Michael Shields and Q.A. Shakoor II questioned the need for the furniture. Shakoor asked if there were any old desks that could be reused, and Shields asked if the office needed “something that fancy.”

But the price quote came from the city’s regular furniture supplier and was similar to setups used in other offices, said acting City Administrator Scott Letteney.

“Surprisingly, it’s not that fancy,” he said. (Letteney also noted the new furniture was not his request. Money for the desk, credenza and chair was included in the City Hall remodeling project, which started long before he was named interim administrator.)

Alderman Jim Spangenberg, chairman of the Personnel and Finance Committee, hinted at a coming debate over the city administrator’s position when he asked: “Can we still use it (the furniture) even if we don’t have a new city administrator?”

The answer was yes.

Spangenberg, the owner of Johnson's Home Furnishings and Gift Gallery, 3219 Washington Ave., took some ribbing over the purchase.

“Those furniture salesmen have to make a living,” said Alderman Bob Anderson.

Shields added: “Go to Johnson Furniture get a good deal … put that in the minutes (of the meeting).”

Spangenberg replied: “No, no don’t put that in the minutes.”
Anderson half-heartedly agreed to spend the money. “It’s a new office, you need some furniture to go with it, I guess,” he said.

Shields ended the conversation with a poignant remark. If the city can find money for office furniture, he said, hopefully it can find money for things it really needs.

Legal announcements

The committee approved the JT as its newspaper of record. State law requires communities to publish their legal notices in a printed daily newspaper. The Journal Times is the only publication that fits the required definition in Racine.

What’s comedic about the state law is the JT, and other newspapers, do an inept job of publishing their legal notices. The listings run in hard-to-read six-point font in the paper with no real context of what readers are looking at. The JT also runs the notices online, but good luck deciphering the search engine that supposedly displays the results.

Meanwhile, the city publishes all of its agendas and meeting minutes online in a highly searchable and easy-to-use format with links to supporting documents. As someone who uses the city’s website on a daily basis, it’d sure be nice if the tens of thousands of dollars they pay the JT for doing a poor job could be spent on further upgrading the city’s document library.

Racine Yacht Club lease

The Racine Yacht Club’s annual lease will jump from $400 to $7,500 next year. The club had paid the Racine water utility $400 a year since 1997 to use land on Hubbard Street. A new contract will escalate the club’s lease to $7,500, paid to the city, over the next three years. The committee agreed to rescind the $400 fee, which was written into an ordinance, to make room for the new lease.

Ohio Street

The city owes the state an extra $500,000 for work down on Ohio Street between 16th and 21st streets last year. Workers had to dig out sandy soil under the street and replace it with clay soil that makes for a better foundation. The unbudgeted work cost the city between $500,000 and $600,000, according to Finance Director Dave Braun.

The city has the money to pay the bill for the roadwork, which came to $960,000, Braun said.


  1. Hire a Human Resources director and give the office to her/him. We don't need a city administrator as much as we need a HR director.

  2. I agree. Get a Human Resources Director NOT a City Administrator. It should be separate from the City Attorney's Office. Kudos for whoever is responsible for using common sense in wanting to give the City 2 positions back that it lost. Another one of Becker's bad ideas/decisions. Since Becker made Velocity do the work, the City has nothing but problems with the software, help, and Director of the department.

  3. So let me get this straight, the Racine Yacht Club has only paid four hundred dollars a year since 1997 to the city, but the seniors are paying how much a year for the lease at the senior citizen's center. Who ever is in charge of this lease should be fired. The gentleman that has run the boat ramp for years was run through the ringer for his lease but this garbage is allowed to go on. I would like to know if Mr. Rooney is a member of this yacht club

  4. Yes the last anon poster is correct. Perhaps Dustin could check into the lease agreement for the Yacht Club since the property is owned and leased by the city and report on it for us.

    That is possibly one of the most desirable and beautiful properties in the city of Racine and the Yacht Club is leasing it for peanuts.

  5. Just another example of contracting out positions under the stupid idea that it would save money, it didn't and it doesn't in almost every case.

  6. Don't need to repeat it but I will. WE DON'T NEED A CITY ADMINISTRATOR, we need a Human Resources Director. God this city is so FUBARD. All the Aldermen need to go, Dickert is going to have his hands full.

  7. IMHO Becker got rid of the MIS folks because he hated some of the staff, and I think that CAR 25 has the tape he said at a City Council meeting that the change would not save money but he was going to do it anyway!
    How did that work out for us?

  8. Anon 8:55 -

    Yep, he will have his hands full. He will have to get disgruntled city employees like you to actually earn their pay. There is a lot of dead wood that needs to be cleared out of that place, and it starts with the whiners like you.

  9. I like the point about the seniors. Even at $7500.00 they are still paying way less than the seniors. This is not okay. Why are some people, orgs and some businesses getting preferencial treatment? It really seems to me that the interim administrator did push to get the furniture.

  10. What's wrong with the furniture the last administrator had ??

  11. What's wrong with the furniture the last administrator had ??

  12. Why is the seniors complaining again. Why can't they play fair and share their community center like they used to. Have it during the day and then when the kids get out of school they can use it. As for the desk couldn't we just wait until the new mayor gets into office to make the decision to purchase a desk.