Willmar City Council is irredeemably dysfunctional, consultant says

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Consultant Carl Neu said he has worked with hundreds of councils, boards and organizations over 40 years and Willmar was in the lowest 10 percent.

Community leadership consultant Carl Neu ended a strategic planning retreat for the Willmar City Council and Mayor Frank Yanish saying the council and mayor were dysfunctional and incapable of setting a vision and goals as a result of deep-seated personality differences and beliefs, writes David Little of the West Central Tribune. “Neu said it’s gotten to the point that is it so deep, and was evident during the meeting with things that were said or implied that Neu said signaled to him that the dysfunction was irredeemable,” Little wrote. During the retreat, a “personality debate” between council members Ron Christianson and Audrey Nelsen shut down one exercise. Later, Yanish said he has been advised by City Attorney Robert Scott not to talk to City Administrator Charlene Stevens. Council members said their directives are ignored and they are not getting sufficient information. “Maybe people are withholding information because they are fearful. You are suffering from a fatal self-inflicted disease and you are blaming everyone else,” Neu replied, adding that the fix lies with the voters. Neu said he has worked with hundreds of councils, boards and organizations over 40 years and Willmar was in the lowest 10 percent.

A fire Monday morning in Albert Lea destroyed a storage shed containing a 1955 Chevy, a 1950 Studebaker, and a 1968 Ford Mustang. A pet rabbit and cat also died, writes Tim Engstrom of the Albert Lea Tribune. No one was injured. The fire occurred behind Subway on East Main Street. Jeff Quam of Albert Lea and his son Wade own the property. Jeff Quam said he had owned the Chevy for 21 years. The other two cars belonged to other people and were being stored for the winter. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, said Albert Lea Fire Department Capt. Scott Hanna.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle took the floor at the New Ulm Civic Center to pitch investment in state transportation, writes Fritz Busch of the New Ulm Journal. “Without proper transportation investments, business and industry won’t survive. … Almost nine percent of Minnesota bridges are structurally deficient. Our state highway system pavement condition ranks 38th nationally,” Zelle said, adding that because vehicles are more fuel efficient, gas tax funds don’t keep pace with inflation. If bridges become too deficient, they must be closed until repairs are made. “Ask people in the Duluth area about that. We closed I-35 southbound last week because a bridge was so corroded. It’ll take three to four weeks to repair the bridge foundation,” he said.

Archibald Bush, the former chairman of the executive committee for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, or 3M, made his first earnings by trapping muskrats near Granite Falls, writes Tom Cherveny of the West Central Tribune. The Bush Foundation, created by Bush by turning over a large share of his 3M stock 60 years ago, has remembered Bush’s hometown and alma mater by donating $100,000 to the public schools in Granite Falls. Al Stoeckman, superintendent of the Yellow Medicine East Schools in Granite Falls, said the money will help build a new science, technology, engineering and math building at the high school. It will include a science laboratory with an attached greenhouse and will be powered by solar, wind and biofuel. Bush grew up on a farm near Granite Falls in Chippewa County and the family later moved to western Renville County. After graduating from the Granite Falls schools, he moved to Duluth where he was hired by 3M founder William McKnight as a bookkeeper. His foundation has donated money to Granite Falls schools, helped create an industrial park in Granite Falls, and contributed more than $250,000 to open the Minnesota West Community and Technology College in Granite Falls.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness will see a 25 percent bump in pay beginning in December, writes Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune. His pay will go from $78,000 to $97,500 per year.  City Councilor Sharla Gardner said the mayor’s salary had not been adjusted since January 2000. If the mayor had received pay increases commensurate with those provided to unionized city staff, he would be receiving an annual salary of $103,740, she said. Gardner compared Ness’ duties to those of the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The St. Paul mayor is paid $111,635 per year and the Minneapolis mayor is paid $105,598 per year. David Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer, said Ness had not been involved in the council’s discussions about raising his pay. Passi notes that the mayor gets an annual vehicle allowance of $5,000 per year, a benefit that has remained unchanged for more than 20 years, but does not get use of a city vehicle.

Mayo Clinic Health Systems will outsource its transcription services in southeastern Minnesota, writes Jeffrey Jackson of the Owatonna People’s Press. The result will be the loss of 82 jobs, including 17 in Owatonna and four in Faribault. The southeastern Minnesota clinic being hit the hardest will be Albert Lea, where 26 transcriptionists will lose their jobs. Austin will lose 18, Owatonna 17, Lake City eight, Red Wing five and Cannon Falls and Faribault four. Friday’s announcement comes on the heels of an October announcement by Mayo that it was laying off 42 transcriptionists in southwestern Minnesota. The jobs are going to Madison, Wis.-based Amphion Medical Solutions.

In addition to celebrating the Diwali festival, Rochester Hindi are celebrating the creation of a new temple to be built in the next year, writes Tom Weber of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Construction on the new temple off Hadley Valley Road Northeast will begin in 2014 on a new building. About 300 families belong to the temple. Suresh Chari, coordinator of the temple project, looked to the Diwali celebration as evidence of the necessity of the new temple. Chari, who has lived in Rochester since 1997, said “When we started this, we would barely break even. We struggled to get 50 people here. Now, you have 400 to 500 people here.” Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important events on the Hindu calendar. The Rochester celebration was a showcase of local talent as 34 acts took the stage Saturday, ranging from Bollywood dance to classical song to a fashion show of the latest styles from India. The key to preserving the community’s heritage, Chari said, is to involve entire families. “For us older folks, it’s important to get our children on stage,” Chari said.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Tim Walker on 11/27/2013 - 07:58 am.

    Update: Duluth Mayor Don Ness declined his pay increase.

  2. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 11/27/2013 - 10:52 am.

    Wow, Willmar

    Time to do some housecleaning, voters.

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