Council, mayor split on adding to DCS duties

by Emmitt B. Feldner

PLYMOUTH — The position is less than a year old, and has only been filled for less than two months, but the City Council wrestled Tuesday night over adding to the director of city services’ duties.

At issue was a resolution making the DCS “the lead economic development coordinator and negotiator” for the city. After defeating efforts to refer the resolution to the Personnel Committee for study and to amend the resolution, the council adopted it by a vote of 5-3 — aldermen John Anderson, Jack Fernsler, Charles Hansen, Jackie Jarvis and Ronald Lade voting for it, Doug Dobratz, Harold Meyer and Jim Sedlacek voting no.

Following the vote, Mayor Donald Pohlman informed the council that he would exercise his mayoral veto of the resolution.

“The main reason I voted for the creation of the (director) position was because I think we need someone to work on behalf of the mayor and the Common Council,” on economic development, explained Jarvis, who introduced the resolution along with Hansen.

“I think this resolution improves how we’re handling our economic development projects,” she added.

Lade cited past instances where he said the council has had to act on development issues without being fully informed as a reason for the proposed change.

Speaking to Pohlman, Lade said, “When you do things and we don’t get information, or things are promised to people and we don’t learn about it until after the fact and we vote no, we look kind of silly. It creates a lot of controversy.”

“If we have poor communication it’s a two-way mirror,” Pohlman responded. “Sometimes, if you don’t ask a question, you don’t get an answer. I’ve never denied information to anybody who’s asked for it.”

Pohlman termed the proposal an infringement on the powers of the mayor. “I think the mayor is elected to be the chief executive officer of the city and, as the CEO of the city, I think that the community puts some trust in the mayor.”

“The City Council and the mayor are the CEO of Plymouth,” Jarvis retorted.

Hansen emphasized that the proposal was not directed at any individual but was intended to enhance the director position.

He noted that, while Pohlman has a background in fiscal affairs and accounting, future mayors might not. But the qualifications for the director of city services includes a strong background in economic development.

Sedlacek proposed amending the resolution to remove the terms lead contact and coordinator and leave in negotiator for economic development projects.

Director of City Services Brian Yerges, who began in the position Aug. 30, objected to the proposed amendment.

“I don’t want to be stuck in an awkward position where I have not been involved in the discussion from the beginning and then have to come in as the lead negotiator,” he explained.

With that, the council defeated the proposed amendment, 7-1.

Director of Public Works Bill Immich commented that, in the 20 years he has been with the city, “The mayor has always been the lead contact” but any development efforts have been a team approach.

Depending on the proposal, he explained, those negotiations have included himself, the city assessor/building inspector, the Plymouth Utilities manager and/or the Plymouth Industrial Development Corp.

“It’s never been the mayor alone and I think we need to continue in that vein,” Immich told the council. “Having Brian be the point person for that is a reasonable thing.”

“I’d like to say we are working in a team approach,” Pohlman added. “We hired Brian to be part of that team approach and I think we are working well together. I think the bigger problem here is we have a failure to communicate among ourselves.”

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