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Three candidates are on the ballot to fill two seats on the Farmington City Council.

Candidate questions 2012: Farmington City Council

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In the interest of helping Farmington voters make more informed decisions when they go to the polls Nov. 6, the Independent has reached out to the candidates to find out where they stand. We asked Farmington City Council candidates the same questions and we're providing their answers to you here.

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Douglas Bonar

Incumbent

City of residence Farmington

How long in the city Since 2001

Immediate family Married with three children

Occupation Construction administrator

You have filed for a seat on the Farmington City Council. What is your impression of the workload and responsibilities if you are elected?

The obvious answer is being a council member requires attendance and participation in meetings and workshops held almost weekly over a four year term (208) not including the necessary preparation time needed to be well informed on the topics. The responsibilities of the council are outlined in chapter five of our city code as found on our website and I would suggest we routinely review and update all of ordinances as a means to refresh and remind ourselves of the role of government officials/servants.

What do you consider Farmington's most pressing need?

As a member of the economic development authority, we have completed a strategic plan that is on an established timeline which is benchmarked routinely. If elected, I would continue to encourage the council to staff and fund the EDA adequately to promote this skilled consumer community to business development along with industry to Farmington. Our future needs more attention and input as this community continues to evolve.

What kind of civic or volunteer contributions have you made to the community, and how do you see yourself using those experiences if elected?

Five years as an appointed planning commissioner and one year as a member of the EDA in Farmington. I also serve on the MUSA review committee and EFPAC group. Additionally, I have served for one year as a member of the Dakota County Planning Commission.

My professional experience is 15 years in the management of educational facilities, 10 years experience in a family business and four years working in a private practice architectural/engineering firm specializing in school construction.

My formal education includes a business degree from Clarke University.

As you consider the city's budget, where would you look first if cuts were needed? Are there areas you believe cannot be cut?

Given the limited revenue resources cities have and the tax burden associated with our residency in Farmington, budgets will be of paramount importance each month for many years to come. I consider the term (cuts) to be to harsh a word for the need to routinely realign our expenses to match our revenue. The difficult question is: "How do we most effectively meet the required and desired needs of our community?" In my opinion the answer is to ask the question routinely and seek varied, new and reasoned responses from all stakeholders.

What role doe a city council play in the day to day operations of Farmington city staff?

The council does not have a role in the day to day operations of the city, that is the responsibility of the city administrator. The purpose of the council is policy, not practices; policy includes items such as the budget, ordinance and goals. A council should expect to see the "big picture" as a collage of precise snapshots on each segment of government with multiple recommendations on potential courses of action for consideration.

Terry Donnelly

Incumbent

City of residence Farmington

How long in the city Lifelong resident

Immediate family Wife, Debbie; five children ages 34 to 18

Occupation Farmer

You have filed for a seat on the Farmington City Council. What is your impression of the workload and responsibilities associated if you are elected?

The workload of a city council member varies throughout the year. The city council meets almost every Monday of the year in some form of formal capacity. The official city council meetings are the 1st and 3rd Mondays with the remaining Mondays being filled with council workshops or Economic Development Authority meetings. A city council member basically dedicates every Monday night of the year to some form of city service. While working on the city budget there are usually many extra meetings to go over budget details. As a city council member you are expected to attend and participate in these meetings.

What do you consider Farmington's most pressing need?

The issue that is most often brought to my attention is taxes, especially on the city's businesses. Farmington does not have a huge business base to spread the tax burden over so the tax burden falls heavily on the local businesses with the city's homeowners picking up the rest. With this in mind, the city council has to find a balance between providing the necessary city services while keeping a lid on taxes.

What kind of civic or volunteer contributions have you made to the community, and how to do you see yourself using those experiences if elected?

I have served on the Farmington City Council for the past four years. Prior to that, I served as a member of the Farmington School Board for seven years. I also served for three years on the Intermediate School District 917 School Board. My volunteer activities include my church, Dakota County 4-H and the local FFA chapter. All of these activities have allowed me to meet many people and learn what they expect from their local leaders.

As you consider the city's budget, where would you look first if cuts were needed? Are there areas you believe cannot be cut?.

When looking for ways to cut the city budget one has to prioritize the services the city provides to its residents. Almost 20 percent of the city budget is debt service which cannot be cut. The city is, however, looking at ways to refinance some of the city's debt at the current low interest rates and reduce the city's debt service. Another huge piece of the city budget is the police and fire department. It is always hard to make the case that cutting public safety is OK. These two items make up almost half of the city budget with debt service being off limits and public safety almost the same. The next big budget item is public works. Everyone expects the city's infrastructure to be maintained at a high level. The roads must be plowed in the winter, water should come out of the faucet when it turned on, etc. The point being there are no obvious or easy places to make a big cut in the budget and save a lot of money. What ends up happening is that a lot of smaller cuts to the budget are made to hold the line on taxes. Over the past four years this has been done and city staff positions have been eliminated to hold the line on the budget.

What role does a city council play in the day to day operations of Farmington city staff?

The city council should play almost no role in the day to day activities of city staff. The city council is a policy making body. The city council hires a city administrator to take of the day to day activities of the city and its staff. Only the city administrator reports to the city council. The remainder of the city staff report to, and take work direction from, the city administrator. When the city council injects itself into the day to day operations of the city confusion is created as to who is really in charge. The city council can, and should, talk to the city administrator about concerns it may have with how the city is run. Throughout my response to this question you may have noticed that I used the term city council and not council members. The city administrator reports to one supervisor, the city council, not the five individual members of the council.

Kirk Zeaman

City of residence Farmington

How long in the city Eight-plus years

Immediate family Two wonderful golden retriever adolescents

Occupation Director of engineering, printing for the RD&E department of Jostens; co-owner of Dunn Bros. Coffee in Farmington

You have filed for a seat on the Farmington City Council. What is your impression of the workload and responsibilities associated if you are elected?

Responsibilities include attending regular meetings, workshops, and other community events. It would also include to research and clearly understand all materials before attending a regular meeting, to enable an engaging conversation for decisions at meetings.

What do you consider Farmington's most pressing need?

Currently Farmington is facing high taxes compared to surrounding communities. It will be the job of the council to increase the overall tax base to lower the overall effective rate by growing Farmington. At the same time the council will be charged with reducing city costs while minimizing the reduction of city services.

What kind of civic or volunteer contributions have you made to the community, and how to do you see yourself using those experiences if elected?

I have been involved with several community organizations in the past such as: 4H, Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol and the Masons. One thing in common with all these organizations is the need for collaboration. I would say collaboration is the strongest skill the city of Farmington needs to enable its growth.

As you consider the city's budget, where would you look first if cuts were needed? Are there areas you believe cannot be cut?

The primary opportunity for the city is to consolidate the city services into city hall and divest itself of other buildings, if cuts are needed. It would not only reduce the overall budget required to maintain those facilities, but provide some income from the sale of the facilities. We need to be extremely cautious with the downgrading of city services, especially our police services. We make an investment in each officer and a cut in staff is not just a salary reduction, but loss of their knowledge.

What role does a city council play in the day to day operations of Farmington city staff?

The city has a very competent city administrator. The city council should provide their direction to the city administrator and allow him to provide the leadership for the day to day operations.

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