Division/Church Corridor Study: Common Council votes not to hire public involvement expert

The agenda for the Stevens Point Common Council meeting this past Monday included the actions of last week’s Board of Public Works meeting. One such action at that meeting was to hire a consultant for the Division/Church Corridor Study project to aid in the public involvement process as well as to advise on additional funding opportunities. The consultant, Chuck Rasmussen of OTIE (Oneida Total Integrated Enterprises), would be hired on a Time and Materials contract not to exceed $30,000. Approval by Common Council is required before the Dept. of Public Works could enter into such a contract.

A recent PPSP blog post reports on this item from last week’s Board of Public Works meeting. That post discusses the motivation for the proposal to hire a public involvement expert. It also outlines the discussion about this item that took place at that meeting.

When the agenda item involving the consultant came up at the Common Council meeting, our alderpeople engaged in short discussion about it. The primary concern expressed was the expenditure of up to $30,000. Although several stated their opinions on this item, the discussion among our alderpersons did not explore justifications for hiring the consultant to weigh against the proposed cost for such services. In particular, no questions were directed towards either the Director of Public Works or the consultant whose services were under consideration.

When the votes were taken on this item, the Common Council’s decision was to not hire the consultant.

I was a bit dismayed that there was not more discussion among our alderpeople. Much acrimony was expressed at the November public meeting for this high-profile project. The request from the Director of Public Works for help with the public involvement process seems reasonable. Whether or not to spend $30,000 for a consultant with expertise in this area is a difficult question. This is why I expected more discussion on this item at the Common Council meeting.

I do realize that most of our alderpeople were present at last week’s Board of Public Works meeting. Several serve on that board, and I noticed that most (if not all) of the rest were in the audience. There was a great deal of spirited discussion about this item at that meeting. I can certainly understand that last week’s discussion was enough for each alderperson to decide how to vote on this item at Common Council. My comments above regarding the short discussion at Common Council is not intended to suggest a lack of consideration by our alderpeople. I simply hoped for a bit more sharing of ideas to make certain that the best decision for our city was being made.

I should add that the Common Council meeting had sat for about four-and-a-half hours before starting discussion on this agenda item. The lengthy meeting resulted from consideration of an unrelated controversial project that received a great deal of public comment. At a considerably shorter meeting, a more robust discussion regarding the consultant would likely have taken place. The eventual vote might have been the same, but such discussion would probably have been useful to the Director of Public Works for guidance on how to move this project forward.

So the Division/Church Corridor Study project will proceed as originally planned. The deadline for public comment from the November public meeting is on December 20. The PPSP Division/Church project webpage under the Speak Your Poky menu has all the information so that Poky Pedalers can make your opinions heard. That is also the place to learn about future meetings and other news concerning this project.

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