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Publication of legals is starting to morph into a hot topic for Willmar, Minn., City Council

WILLMAR — Willmar City Council member Ron Christianson says it’s the council’s fiduciary responsibility for taxpayers’ dollars to request bids from newspapers to publish city legal notices and documents.

Council member Bruce DeBlieck calls it retaliation.

A majority of council members on a voice vote Monday night approved a motion by Christianson, seconded by Steve Ahmann, to request bids from the West Central Tribune and two weekly newspapers in Kandiyohi County for legal publication.

Every two years at the reorganizational meeting following a general election, the council makes committee assignments and also names a newspaper to publish city notices and documents. The Tribune has typically been selected as the legal publication. The appointment runs two years.

Christianson said he thought it would be prudent of the council to request proposals from the other two newspapers that he said are eligible for publishing the city’s legal documents.

Christianson said Kandiyohi County has for the last several years requested proposals from these newspapers which includes the Lakes Area Review in New London. Christianson said the newspaper is consistently 20 percent lower than the Tribune.

During the same council meeting, Christianson criticized what he called “the constant barrage of mean-spirited attacks on our mayor and City Council by the Moving Willmar Forward group who are seemingly in partnership with the West Central Tribune.

“Their partisan bias and unwillingness to accept change brings disharmony to Willmar when your point of view is joined in by cronies at our newspaper. Our paper has confused their editorial position thinking it’s front page news with their loss of objectivity, and for us it is difficult to argue with someone who buys tankers full of ink. When either of you attack one of us, you attack all of us,’’ he said.

DeBlieck said the Tribune is the only daily newspaper.

“If we have to post a meeting in another publication that only comes out on a weekly basis, that means we will not be able to post our meeting notices in a timely manner,’’ said DeBlieck.

“But it’s legal,’’ Christianson said.

“Sound more like retaliation, too,’’ said DeBlieck.

“I don’t buy ink by the truckload,’’ Christianson replied.

Council member Denis Anderson said he wanted to make sure it’s legal.

“I’m not going to go into motivation. But I want to make sure it’s legal if we go with these weekly publications. It doesn’t sound good to me. I’ll defer to legal opinion,’’ said Anderson.

Christianson said the county did not go with the lowest bidder.

“Why not just see what’s out there? What is wrong with getting the requests for proposals? Maybe the Tribune will lower the price. It is our money. I don’t see anything wrong with it,’’ he said.

City Attorney Robert Scott said he would have to double-check the law “because I don’t know sitting here I’m not aware of any prohibition in using a nondaily paper for the city. Were this motion to go forward, I would take a look at that and let you know.’’

Christianson called for a vote and the motion carried.

In other business, the council:

n Voted to amend the 2012 budget to reflect additional costs associated with approval of the two-year labor agreement with Willmar Police officers and sergeants. The council had previously approved arbitration requirements for Law Enforcement Labor Services, the group that represents officers and sergeants. Funds to cover the $53,724 cost will be transferred from non-departmental uncompensated absences to police department salaries, pensions and insurances.

n Voted to declare the house at 511 Seventh St. N.W. as unsafe. The city will send written orders to property owner Fannie Mae to have corrections made in 30 days or the city will seek a court order to have the house demolished. The city would assess the estimated $20,000 demolition cost against the property.

n Scheduled a hearing for Jan. 7 to take comments from the public on an application by Casa De Misericordia to rezone the old Lincoln School property for church use. Churches are permitted in a residential area with a conditional use permit. Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services, said that once the site is rezoned, the group will have to apply for a conditional use permit to operate a church there.

n Approved the final plat of Mills Second Addition to subdivide a portion of the South First Street property owned by Mills Properties of Brainerd into three commercial lots.

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