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Farmington council says yes to staying in the municipal liquor business

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Making big decisions takes lots of time, lots of information and, in many cases, lots of discussion. That's why the Farmington City Council is changing the way it will handle those big-decision discussions.

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The plan is simple: take some of the bigger discussion items off of the regular city council agenda and have them during a work session, or talk about them briefly before a regular city council meeting.

This council has had a monthly workshop for well over a year. The workshops have been used to cover a number of topics - the city's budget, a new fire truck and, this week, Farmington's involvement in the municipal liquor business.

At an April 30 retreat, council members talked about the amount of time they currently get to discuss some of the "higher level issues" that come before the group. In some instances, things have come up that have needed quick action, but council members felt they did not have enough information. That's where a workshop or pre-meeting session could be beneficial.

"They want more time to discuss bigger ticket items, more chance to dive into things," city administrator David McKnight said.

There is no straight-forward definition of what types of items will end up on the work session agendas, McKnight said, but he expects council members will want to shift more items to the workshops or pre-meeting discussions.

"I expect this will mean there are more items on normal work session days. That might mean longer meetings, it might mean more. It just depends on what topics are coming down the pipe for us and the council," he said.

Under the current schedule, council members hold a regular city council meeting the first and third Monday of each month, and a workshop on the second Monday of the month. All three are open to the public.

Regular city council meetings are broadcast live and are rebroadcast on the city's cable channel, and available for viewing on the city's website. While workshops are audio recorded, they are not replayed afterward.

The reason work sessions are not available for viewing, mayor Todd Larson suggested, "comes down to money." The city is charged between $175 and $200 for each meeting that is taped and rebroadcast.

Residents can attend work sessions, though few do.

"It's run the same way as a council meeting," Larson said. "It's just that there's no vote."

The decision to move more of the bigger discussions off camera was not meant to exclude residents from the government process, council member Jason Bartholomay said. Instead, he thinks council members get a better chance to understand the material before them and to get an idea of how each other feels on topics before those items are brought to a regular meeting for a vote.

"It just gives us the chance to have a more in-depth conversation," he said.

Agendas for the work sessions are also available to the public on the city's website, www.ci.farmington.mn.us.

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 460-6606
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