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Mayor vetoes rejection of funding for controversial housing plan department of employment and economic development

WILLMAR -- Mayor Les Heitke has vetoed the Willmar City Council's April 7 rejection of the $350,000 state grant for the controversial Westwind Estates Third Addition housing project.

City Clerk Kevin Halliday said Tuesday the mayor's veto means the grant is accepted by the city.

In an April 8 letter to council members, Heitke said he was exercising his powers as mayor to veto the council's action.

The mayor said the grant is "simply a pass-through by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to the city of Willmar'' for the 34-unit, affordable housing project being proposed by Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership of Slayton in southwest Willmar.

Also, Heitke wrote that not all council members were present for the April 7 discussion. The vote to reject the grant was 4-3, with council members Ron Christianson, Cindy Swenson, Jim Dokken and Rick Fagerlie voting to reject the grant, and Steve Gardner, Doug Reese and Denis Anderson voting against rejection.

Council member Bruce DeBlieck was absent.

"If the city of Willmar is going to reject a $350,000 grant, a decision of that magnitude should involve the full council,'' Heitke wrote.

"Finally, I believe the council's action was inappropriate given the resolution passed on Jan. 22, 2008, entering into a cooperative agreement with the Partnership for the Small Cities Block Grant,'' he said.

In an interview Tuesday, Heitke said the matter will come before the City Council at the next meeting on Monday night "and they'll have a chance to discuss it or try to override the veto.''

Halliday said the council on Jan. 22 approved resolutions to sponsor the application for funding and to enter into a cooperative agreement to submit an application to DEED for the project, which included the $350,000 grant.

The council voted 4-4 on the resolutions with the mayor breaking the tie in favor of both resolutions.

"We approved that cooperative agreement to submit the (application),'' said Halliday.

He said the application was submitted and approved and the grant was made. State Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, wrote a letter to the city, congratulating the city for receiving the grant.

"At this point, the city will accept the DEED money,'' said Halliday.

He said the matter will be placed early on the agenda. A vote by the council to override the veto takes six affirmative votes, said Halliday.

The mayor's powers to veto council legislation and to break tie council votes are described in the city charter.

Within 96 hours after the adjournment of any council meeting, the city clerk shall present to the mayor the record of proceedings of the meeting and all ordinances and resolutions adopted at the meeting.

The mayor, within seven days of receiving an ordinance or resolution, shall return it to the city clerk with approval or with veto. If the mayor does not return the ordinance or resolution within seven days or returns it without a veto, it shall be considered approval.

If the ordinance or resolution is vetoed, the mayor shall attach a written statement explaining the reason for the veto.

The charter states that ordinances or resolutions vetoed by the mayor shall be considered at the next regular council, and the council may pass the ordinance over the veto by the affirmative vote of six members.

The charter states the mayor is not considered a member of the council for purposes of a quorum, but shall preside at meetings.

In the event of a tie vote on a motion or resolution, the mayor shall have the right to vote and break the tie, according to the charter.