The Kenyon City Council declared a vacancy for the position of mayor with, as Councilor Dan Rechtzigel put it, “a heavy heart” at Tuesday’s meeting.
After Mayor Mike Engel’s death July 4 at age 73, the council is left with the question of how to fill the vacancy.
Since Engel’s term had less than two years remaining, the city will not hold a special election. Instead, the council must appoint someone to fill the position until Dec. 31, 2020 — either a council member or any eligible Kenyon resident 18 or older.
If the council appoints one of its own, it will need to appoint a replacement to fill the council vacancy. As the longest-serving councilor, Richard Nielsen is the current acting mayor.
In the past, the city has posted advertisements seeking applications for vacant positions, though this isn’t required. City Attorney Scott Riggs advised the council to bring forward a recommended appointee by the Aug. 13 council meeting.
The council will discuss potential appointees at a 6 p.m. work session in the council chambers before the regular Aug. 13 meeting.
Councilors and city staff expressed their condolences to Engel’s family, who was in attendance, and spoke fondly of the mayor and his accomplishments.
“Mike always kept the city of Kenyon and its citizens paramount in his decision,” said Councilor John Mortensen.
The city’s decision to lease a Ford F150 pickup truck for the Public Works department led to some discord on the council after Councilor Doug Henke questioned the bidding process.
In February, the council approved a $31,600 quote from Kenyon’s Milo Peterson Ford Co. to purchase the new vehicle, minus the $4,500 trade-in value of the city’s 2008 Ford pickup. The cost of the new truck was included in the 2019 budget.
Now, the city requested approval to lease the new truck for about $8,100 a year, with the option to purchase it for $1 at the end of the four-year lease. The vehicle, according to City Administrator Mark Vahlsing, is already in use.
Henke questioned who authorized the acquisition — even though it was previously approved — and wondered why the city opted for a lease even though the purchase cost was already in the budget. He also questioned why the city only sought quotes from the local Ford and not Chevrolet or other dealers.
“I thought it was kind of a slap in the face to the council that you went out and bought this and we weren’t even asked. That’s the part that’s upsetting to me,” said Henke, who argued that the city should have sought multiple bids.
The city uses pre-set quotes established through state contracts, according to Vahlsing. This saves time, he said, because the state has already collected bids from vehicle manufacturers, eliminating the need for individual cities to go through the process.
“It’s a huge benefit for a small county or small town to be able to jump on that state bid,” said Rechtzigel.
Henke argued that leasing should only be used by those who don’t have the funds to purchase outright. Vahlsing stated that he prefers the city lease vehicles so that they can be cycled more often. The city can also choose to end a lease once a year.
Other councilors supported the lease, but also leaned toward continuing to purchase from local dealers in the future. The expectation, then, is that local dealers would find some way to return the favor, either through keeping maintenance prices low or other methods.
The council approved the lease, with all members except Henke voting in favor.
Rose Fest funding
In June, the Rose Fest Committee
from the city to cover the cost of port-a-potties for event use, along with permission to use remaining funds leftover from the Carriage and Cutter festival fund.
At the time, the council questioned the committee’s decision to ask for funds so close to the event date.
Now, the city’s engineering firm, Bolton & Menk, has agreed to donate $1,000 to cover the port-a-potties. With some hesitation, councilors opted to continue the city’s usual $1,000 donation to Rose Fest and add an additional $1,000 donation from the 2019 budget.
The council will grant Rose Fest the funds with the stipulation that the committee present an expense report at budget time next year so that the city can assess costs all at once. Vahlsing noted that the committee had not provided any specific reason for the additional funding request.
“I don’t like the idea of spending outside of the budget, because things come up,” said Rechtzigel. “The line ‘we’ll find the money someplace’ can get a government in trouble.”