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Donation of $5,000 is accepted by Willmar, Minn., Council for government study

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council voted Monday to accept a $5,000 donation from the Moving Willmar Forward group to help pay the cost of an assessment of the city’s organizational structure.

Council action follows an offer made last December by Moving Willmar Forward to help pay the cost. One month later, the council engaged Brimeyer Fursmann LLC of Maplewood to conduct the assessment for approximately $25,000.

The council’s Finance Committee met last week and voted to recommend the council accept the donation.

Committee members said that while the funds will be put toward the cost of the assessment, further limitations by Moving Willmar Forward will not be placed on the use of their donation.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens had assured the committee that there are no further limitations other than to apply the donation to the assessment costs. The committee expressed its appreciation to the group for the donation.

Moving Willmar Forward member Wayne Nelson presented the check to Mayor Frank Yanish.

Nelson said the group brought to the Dec. 3 council meeting four areas of concern, which he said the council was also considering addressing or were in the process of addressing.

One of those concerns was civility, meeting rules and governance, and Nelson thanked the council for adopting a set of parliamentary rules for meeting governance.

(Later in the meeting, the council voted to adopt the Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure as the council’s official rules of order).

Nelson said the second concern was with the council’s full participation with the Vision 2040 community visioning process. Nelson said the first Vision 2040 meeting was held and he said the city along with stakeholders were well represented.

Nelson said the third area was having a better understanding of what constitutes a conflict of interest, and he said Moving Willmar Forward looks forward to seeing the council adopt a policy that will positively address this concern.

The fourth area was the organizational assessment. Nelson said the group hopes the effort will create a “roadmap’’ for the future of the city and its organization, and he congratulated the council for hiring an outside consultant to assist in the process.

Council member Steve Ahmann thanked the group for the donation.

“If we’re going to receive contribution, there’s 15 people that are donating money to our city above and beyond paying their taxes as I mentioned at the Labor Relations Committee meeting when you were there, that there wasn’t any need for you to give the money. It was already in our plan. It’s a gracious gift. I appreciate it,’’ he said.

Council member Audrey Nelsen asked that donors’ names be read and Nelson read the list.

In other business, the council agreed to provide $5,000 for a feasibility and planning study for a possible amphitheater at Robbins Island as a venue for family-oriented events and as a recreational amenity lacking in Willmar.

The funding was recommended by the council’s Community Development Committee and also has the support of the Community Education and Recreation Joint Powers Board. Committee Chairman Rick Fagerlie said the city now uses the Showmobile, which he said is costly to move and set up.

The amphitheater concept is being promoted by Bob Mathiasen who has lived in other cities where amphitheaters are used for concerts, movies and other events. He believes Robbins Island is a beautiful but underused community asset and would be a nice location for an amphitheater.

In an interview, Mathiasen said his concept is to build the amphitheater without taxpayer money, but to raise funds privately, construct the amphitheater and turn it over to the city, which would be responsible for operation and maintenance.

The proposal would be similar to the fundraising effort that resulted in the construction of Bill Taunton Stadium at Baker Field several years ago.

Mathiasen said his intent was to ask the city for money to proceed with the study and to reimburse the city in the course of private fundraising.

The Community Education and Recreation Joint Powers Board, at its Jan. 25 meeting, voted to recommend Engan Associates of Willmar conduct the study, which would include discussion of maintenance and operating costs.

Engan has said it will reduce the study’s $10,000 cost by $5,000 as its in-kind gift to the city.

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