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Chatfield City Council approves first of two votes to define administrator role in city charter

If the ordinance passes unanimously at the next council meeting, the changes to the city charter will go into effect in early January.

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The Chatfield City Council meets on Sept. 26, 2022.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin
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CHATFIELD — The Chatfield City Council took a step toward amending the city charter on Monday evening by holding a public hearing and unanimously approving the first consideration of the amendment ordinance. The proposed change would define a city administrator role for the city.

It's a change that would be, for the most part, a housekeeping measure, said Mayor Russ Smith.

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"For years, we've had a city clerk that basically is fulfilling the function of a city administrator, but was doing it under the title of a city clerk," Smith said.

Chatfield City Clerk Joel Young has served in his position since 1991, and his current job duties and pay mirror that of other city administrators. If the charter amendment passes, Young's title would change, but his role will largely remain the same.

"Presumably, they'll hire me to be that person," Young said of what would happen next. "The current deputy clerk, I'll be proposing then to hire as the city clerk."

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The charter amendment would also redefine the city's organizational chart. As it now stands, all city departments, except the police department, report directly to the city council, and the city council and chief of police report directly to the mayor. Under the proposed amendment, all Chatfield city departments report to the city administrator, who then reports directly to the council.

"For all practical purposes, nobody will notice any changes when it comes to the actual operation of the city," Young said.

Smith added that when Young retires or otherwise leaves his position with the city, the scope of the role is clear to job candidates.

"This is just making the technical description of it match to how it actually operates," he said.

Beyond the city administrator and organizational changes, the proposed amendment would also make it so that "dissolution of the police department shall require a majority vote of the qualified voters of the city."

Because the city council is amending the charter through an ordinance, the proposal must be considered a second time and voted on. If the council unanimously approves the ordinance again during its Oct. 10 meeting, the charter amendment will take effect 90 days after that.

"It'd be unusual for it not to be (unanimous) two weeks from now," Young said. "But given the history, we'll wait for the votes to be cast."

This is the city's fourth attempt at establishing the clear-cut city administrator role. Proposed amendments in 2017, 2020 and February 2022 failed due to issues with the title (the original proposal would have called the role "city manager") and the council's inability to hold a public hearing on the amendment during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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No one spoke during Monday's public hearing on the amendment. After the ordinance vote, the council passed three resolutions. The first set the city's proposed property tax levy increase at 5.809%; the tax levy will be discussed again during the Dec. 12 council meeting. The two other resolutions will increase the mayor's and city council members' pay by a few hundred dollars in 2023 and bumps up the city's pay grid for full- and part-time employees by 5%.

Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's region reporter, covering the greater Rochester area. Before joining the Post Bulletin in 2022, she attended Kansas State University and served as an editor for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and news director for Wildcat 91.9, K-State's student radio station. Readers can reach Dené at ddryden@postbulletin.com.
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