by Dennis Dalman
A proposal for a facilitator for the City of Sartell was nixed by the Sartell City Council on a 3-2 vote at its April 13 meeting.
For several years, council member Amy Braig-Lindstrom has sometimes been critical of the way the council does business, saying the council’s special meetings could be more transparent and suggesting council members would make better progress, being on the same page so to speak, if a mediator could be an objective, outside assistant in the planning process.
Braig-Lindstrom was especially concerned about “special meetings” that often took place just before regularly scheduled council meetings. Such meetings, she noted, often took place in a small conference room at city hall, often with little or no notice that the public was welcome to attend and, unlike regular council meetings, the special meetings were not videotaped for Sartell residents.
She also said in some cases the agenda about what was to be discussed at special meetings was not, in fact, what was discussed. One meeting, she noted, was supposed to be about the topic of the city’s financial-management plan but instead turned into a long discussion about improvements to Pinecone Road.
At the April 13 council meeting, some members took issue with Braig-Lindstrom’s viewpoint. Informal special meetings, they said, can be conducive to relaxed discussions without the pressure of members being videotaped.
Braig-Lindstrom said a facilitator, besides nurturing public transparency, would help the council when considering budgetary issues, would assist in setting goals, would identify challenges and would help council members stay on a track toward progress.
In the council’s agenda packet for the April 13 meeting were two proposals, solicited by city staff, from facilitator companies that offered services along the lines of what Braig-Lindstrom was proposing.
Council member David Peterson said he agreed the council should try a facilitator, noting one proposal would cost only a bit more than $2,000 and that if it helped, it would be money well spent.
The other council members, however, obviously did not agree and voted against the proposal.