Even before I entered the City Council Chambers I could tell this was going to be a different kind of meeting. The crowd was bigger than normal and there was a stir in the air that was different. There were only 24 items on the agenda, considerably less than in past meetings, but somehow I didn’t believe we would be getting out early.
#1) Motion to adopt the current agenda for March 10, 2020, Regular Meeting. This agenda item is typically not contested as it was this evening. Council member Yerger made a motion to move agenda item 20 up to just after agenda item 4 because they were both Library related items and a certain Library Board member had medical issues where he would not be able to stay past 9:00 pm. I really didn’t think this was going to be a big deal until the City Attorney made a proclamation that a super majority would be needed to change the agenda so we would need 6 votes to modify this item. Seeing how Council member Bechtel was absent, we were down to only 7 voters. The vote to amend the agenda failed, 5 Yays and 2 Nays. At first, I couldn’t believe what just happened. We had a citizen of our city ask for a very minor tweak to our agenda in order to accommodate some health issues and we, the City Council, couldn’t even overlook our differences to help out. The night was going to be a long one.
#5) Receive Audit Report for the year ending September 30, 2019. A great presentation was given by BKD, the city’s auditors. Jody Sanders, Director of Finance for the city, also did a great job of summarizing this detailed report. She brought to our attention one of the areas within the report that would probably make the most sense to non-accountants. Below is a summary of that paragraph.
As of the end of the current fiscal year, the City of Fremont’s governmental funds reported combined ending fund balances of $45,279,962. Approximately 32.3 percent of this total amount ($14,617,501) constitutes unassigned fund balance, which is available for spending at the government’s discretion.
Unassigned fund balance $14,617,501.00
Restricted for debt services $130,878.00
Restricted for street improvements $9,746,156.00
Restricted for public safety $2,264,714.00
Restricted for infrastructure $1,273,260.00
Restricted for property tax relief $958,930.00
Restricted for economic development $7,995,470.00
Restricted for a variety of special projects $2,453,151.00
Restricted for Federal programs $904,493.00
Restricted for community betterment $624,497.00
Committed for code enforcement/defense $1,393,950.00
Assigned for downtown improvement projects $57,467.00
Endowed as non-spendable principal $125,000.00
Non-spendable prepaid expense $50,122.00
Combined ending fund balances $45,279,962.00
#7) Ordinance 5528 for a change of zone from R, Rural to PD, Planned Development for property commonly known as Bluestem Commons. According to the Fremont Tribune’s headline “New development discussed’ was only partially true. Both sides did get a chance to present their case, even though the developer is awarded unlimited time to showcase the project, any other public comments, whether for or against, are regulated to the 4:00 minute restriction. After the Public Hearing was closed, the mayor asked for comments from the council and then there were “crickets”. Nothing. Why? Because council members were advised of possible threatened litigation and the presence of a active court reporter in the room, they refrained from making any statements concerning this agenda Item. The City Council ended up voting on an agenda item that we did not have the opportunity to fully discuss. That was not an acceptable solution for me. My mind had not been made up yet on this topic. Everyone knows we need affordable housing in Fremont and this seemed like a solution worthy of discussion. But to expect the council to vote without no discussion is no way to proceed. That is the reason I voted ‘No’. I stood alone with my vote.
A small note, the Tribune didn’t get the whole number of units correct. They stated 272 units, that is just the apartments. There will be a total of 408 housing units within the 33-acre development.
#20) Ordinance 5518 repealing and replacing Chapter 3, Article 7 Section 3-701 of the Fremont Municipal Code titled Municipal Library; operation and funding. This discussion is all about who, we as a city, want to manage our public library. Most of the City Council voted last October to give control to the Library Board and from that vote on, there have been many attempts to undo that vote. Council member Yerger has been working with the library board to help them retain their authority over the library. While discussing this Ordinance, he asked to have some documents to be ‘Received’ by the council. That simple vote to receive more information to evaluate couldn’t even be accomplished. A ‘Point of Order’ was raised by our City Attorney because Council member Yerger was talking about Section 3-705 in reference to the proposed changes to Section 3-701, but was told he could not discuss Section 3-705 because it would be an ‘Open Meeting Violation’. This tactic to squelch communication and collaboration within the council has to stop. Because of the hour of the night, this agenda item was voted to continue until the next council meeting.