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