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And then there were two

Panel will recommend either commission or city manager form, members will decide

Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – The governmental task force Wednesday narrowed its recommendation for what type of government Dixon should have to two possibilities.

The first: embrace the direction Dixon is heading with its plan to hire a city administrator along with its commission form of government.

The second: adopt a city manager form.

These two forms, and their pros and cons, will be presented at a public hearing July 29, where the public also will be able to ask questions of task force members.

A few of the seven members admitted they haven’t made up their minds between the two. The committee wants to start deliberating in August and come up with a united recommendation.

The panel, charged with determining the best form of government for the city, reached its consensus on the two forms after meeting Wednesday with Rock Falls city officials.

Rock Falls Mayor Bill Wescott and City Administrator Robbin Blackert spoke about the mayor-council form of government, which no longer will be considered as a possible recommendation.

The task force agreed professionalizing the city’s government is the most important of all options, noting each form of government can be set up to succeed.

The fundamental difference between the two recommendations is how authority is distributed.

In the commission form of government, final authority in departmental matters must remain with a commissioner, while in the city manager form of government, the city manager is given that authority by state law.

Task force member Jack Schrauth said the commission form gives the most protection to the people, because it is required to put ordinances on file for review before they are passed.

The drawback is the city administrator’s job description can be changed by the City Council on a whim, he said.

Panel colleague Tom Shaw, CEO of Shaw Media, the parent company of Sauk Valley Media, said the commission form divides authority politically through elected officials. He acknowledged the city manager form concentrates power into one position, which can be more efficient.

Jim Marshall said he favors providing opportunities for “new blood” in city government; Kelly Allen agreed, saying the city manager form allows for a more diverse council, and keeps commissioners from being bogged down by departmental oversight.

Before the task force narrowed its study to two forms of government, Wescott and Blackert spoke about the pros and cons of the mayor-council form of government – a form that can be adopted only if the city abolishes its current form by referendum – that strips departmental oversight from commissioners, and allows for aldermen to be elected by wards. Also, a city administrator can be hired and given as much or as little power as the council sees fit.

In Rock Falls, aldermen are very involved in oversight through committees, said Blackert, adding that she’s given oversight over day-to-day operations, but when larger issues arise, committees reach decisions.

Also, the treasurer and city clerk are elected in the mayor-council form.

The City Council writes the job descriptions and determines the salaries for those positions, so it can dictate the quality and authority those positions wield within the city, said Wescott, the city’s former clerk.

The city clerk has no governmental authority in Rock Falls, Wescott said. He told task force members that the treasurer’s support staff provides expertise to the position to help guide anyone who is elected.

The administrator also provides financial oversight, and is in charge of working with department heads and committees to form the budget.

To attend

Learn more about the governmental task force recommendations during a hearing at 6:30 p.m. July 29 at City Hall, 121 W. Second St. Members of the public will be able to ask questions of task force members.

Go to www.discoverdixon.org or call City Hall, 815-288-1485, for more information.

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