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Willmar looks at holding planning retreat to air issues

WILLMAR — City Council members continue discussing the possibility of holding a planning retreat. Council members have been discussing for the past several months the possibility of having a retreat and lining up a facilitator to lead the discussion.

The latest discussion took place at the Sept. 17 meeting of the council’s Labor Relations Committee. Committee Chairman Steve Ahmann reported the discussion to the rest of the City Council members on Monday night.

He reported committee members discussed what they hope to accomplish with a planning retreat. Suggestions included reviewing roles and responsibilities, reviewing the City Charter, additional training for council members, and taking a personality profile, such as the Meyers-Briggs assessment.

Another suggestion was to hold a retreat out of town.

The idea of holding an off-site retreat was among recommendations in the Brimeyer Fursman study of the city’s organizational structure.

The study recommended holding a couple of off-site retreats to establish or refine better working relationships among council members themselves and the city administrator. The study said many issues need to be aired and resolved, or an agreement is needed to agree to disagree when needed.

The council commissioned the study in March. In August, the council did not act on any of the recommendations but voted to continue with the present structure.

A time, date and location have not been decided, although a suggestion was made during committee discussion to try to hold the retreat in late October or November if possible.

Ahmann told the council the committee was going to reach consensus as to when the retreat should take place, and he thought the committee understood that the retreat would be held after the holiday season or after the first of the year.

It was also suggested that following the rollout of the Vision 2040 plan on Nov. 20, it might be appropriate to meet in January to consider a long-term plan for the city. Staff was directed to return with additional information, Ahmann reported.

Council member Ron Christianson asked if requests for proposals were sent to retreat facilitators.

City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday, who has been working on the retreat, said two consultants have been contacted who the city believes could meet the needs being considered.

One is Carl Neu of Colorado, whom the council hired for a previous retreat and who has provided a proposal. Halliday also said Bruce Miles of Big River Consulting of St. Cloud, who has been used by other cities, has provided an incomplete proposal. Halliday said he would be meeting with Miles today.

Halliday said he learned about Miles after contacting fellow city clerks who have used the St. Cloud consultant. Halliday said Miles was highly recommended.

Christianson asked if the recommendation on the consultant would come back to a committee for discussion.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the proposal would come back to the Labor Relations Committee for a recommendation.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150