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Willmar City Council seeking other options for publication of legal notices

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council is directing staff to research options other than the West Central Tribune for legal publication of ordinances, council minutes, notices and other city matters.

The council voted 7-1 Monday to direct City Administrator Michael Schmit and Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday to do the appropriate research and report back within 60 days.

Those voting to approve the motion were Tim Johnson, Ron Christianson, Steve Ahmann, Bruce DeBlieck, Doug Reese, Rick Fagerlie and Jim Dokken. Voting against was Denis Anderson.

Until Schmit and Halliday present their research and until a decision about pursuing other options is made, the council voted 7-1 to designate the Tribune as the legal publication for 2011.

Those voting to designate the Tribune were Johnson, Ahmann, DeBlieck, Reese, Fagerlie, Dokken and Anderson. Voting against was Christianson.

Christianson raised the idea of pursuing other options, such as the city's website.

"It's going to save the city a lot of money if we can use the Internet or our website for that. And (for) people interested in it, it's there, and not everybody buys the West Central Tribune. Not everybody sees the publication of our ordinances and policies,'' he said.

"If the Internet or our website is an alternative, I suggest we look into that and maybe set a deadline for whenever you can get back to the council on it. I see it in the best interest of the city to do that,'' he said.

Schmit said one question to consider is cost, but a more important question was reaching out to the community.

"Granted, not everyone is going to read a newspaper, but not everyone is going to visit the city's website every day, either, to check on public notices for hearings,'' he said.

Schmit said he had no indication whatsoever that the idea might be raised; otherwise he said staff perhaps could have researched and provided answers to questions about options and ramifications if the city did not use the Tribune.

"For the time being, the local newspaper should be designated the official publication and if you want to consider other options, that we be given adequate time to do proper research and it's something you might want to consider at a later date,'' said Schmit.

Halliday said the council needed to designate a legal publication because the council approved two ordinances Monday night, including an ordinance allowing a two-year 20 percent water rate increase, and ordinances don't become law until they are published in a legal publication.

Halliday said he believes there is something new at the League of Minnesota Cities that gives cities some options.

"But it will take time to make that report to you,'' he said. "But you've got a couple of ordinances that need to be implemented this evening that we need (a legal publication) to start with and there is a possibility we could alter our activity depending on what the League may advise us you can do in the new technology.''

In an interview Tuesday, Halliday said state statute 412.831 says the council "shall designate a legal newspaper of general circulation in the city as its official newspaper in which shall be published such ordinances and other matters as are required by law to be published.''

The discussion occurred during approval of council reorganization resolutions such as committee assignments and council meeting days and times.

Committee member assignments are as follows:

- Labor -- Ahmann, chair; Johnson, vice chair; members: Reese and Anderson.

- Finance -- Anderson, chair; Fagerlie, vice chair; members: Dokken and Johnson.

- Community Development -- Dokken, chair; DeBlieck, vice chair; members: Christianson and Ahmann.

- Public Works/Safety -- Reese, chair; Christianson, vice chair; members: DeBlieck and Fagerlie.

Regular meetings will be at 7 p.m. the first and third Monday of every month in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building.

Reese was appointed mayor pro tempore to serve in Mayor Frank Yanish's absence when needed.

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