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Council talks restructuring, pay cuts at workshop meeting

Farmington City Council members covered a lot of ground at a March 10 goal setting retreat and set out several goals for the year ahead.

Meeting in Lakeville, four of five council members aired their thoughts, concerns and ideas for 4 1/2 hours Thursday. Council member Terry Donnelly was not present.

No Farmington city staff members were in attendance, and though the meeting was open to the public, no residents attended.

Though they did not take a vote on any issue, council members reached an informal agreement on the goals including restructuring the city's planning department and asking several senior staff members to accept a reduction in pay.

Council members expressed interest Thursday in combining the city planner position -- or one within the city's planning division -- with that of the economic development specialist.

They are also interested in once again making city's economic development authority a committee of primarily at-large membership. Currently council members serve as the EDA.

Council members also discussed selling the old liquor store building on the corner of Third and Oak streets, and what to do with the old Rambling River Center building on Third and Spruce streets. Many of the EDA items will be addressed at an upcoming EDA workshop Monday at Farmington City Hall.

Council members also discussed creating an interactive budget process in which council members would give staff its goals and ask that a budget be built to support those goals. That would include asking senior staff members to voluntarily accept a decrease in their salaries, asking the Farmington Fire Department Relief Association to decrease the amount it asks the city to contribute to its retirement program and decreasing the amount of overtime paid by encouraging employees to use comp time.

They also would like to move all of the offices on the second floor of Farmington City Hall to the first floor, then try to rent some of the upstairs facilities, or get some savings from not having to pay the electricity for those offices.

Council members also expressed frustration over communication with city staff, particularly city administrator Peter Herlofsky. On several occasions, council members said they felt the information they were getting from staff was filtered and that Herlofsky was not providing them with all of the information they needed to make good decisions. They also cited frustrations with last year's budget process, saying Herlofsky did not follow through with directives they had given him but instead looked for alternatives they were not interested in.

Council members in attendance agreed the retreat had been helpful and talked about holding them on a quarterly basis.

"This is the best thing we can do to keep us all on the same page," said council member Christy Jo Fogarty. "I think we don't have enough meetings with staff not there to interrupt us with their input."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  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 American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also 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. 

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