Clintonville voters will not have a referendum regarding the city’s swimming pool on the April ballot.
The city council voted 5-3 in favor of a motion for the referendum’s wording when it met Monday, Jan. 19. However, the motion was defeated after a council member said it needed a six-vote majority to pass.
The council had originally approved by a vote of 9-1 at a Nov. 18 council meeting to put to referendum in April of this year to let voters decide what to do with the pool.
At the council meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 13, the council was informed it needed to pass the wording of the question that would appear on the ballot by Jan. 27. A 20 minute discussion followed regarding the pool. A Parks & Recreation Committee meeting was scheduled for Jan. 16 so the committee could write the question, with the understanding a special council meeting would be scheduled for early in the week of Jan. 19.
When the council met Monday, Jan. 19 for a special council meeting to approve the question that was to appear on the ballot, committee chairwoman Gloria Dunlavy told the council the committee didn’t write a question because it didn’t know what a new pool would cost. She then asked interim City Administrator Chuck Kell to recap the committee meeting.
Kell said the more information that is available to the public regarding this project, the better the chance there is for success in approving the project. He said unfortunately that information hasn’t been developed.
“Until you get the information and you can actually answer questions for the public when they come forward, and have some details about what your plan is, I just don’t know that a resolution that says we want a pool is going to be of a whole lot of value,” Kell said.
Kell said he encouraged the Parks & Rec Committee to establish a pool committee with pool supporters and opponents to get a balanced look at the issue. He added that the city doesn’t have the money available to hire consultants to even get an estimate on how much a new pool facility would cost.
Alderwoman Lois Bressette expressed disappointment that nothing had been done recently to gather information about a new pool facility.
The discussion turned to whether the city can afford a new pool facility.
“Do we want to saddle this city with more debt when we have the sewer project going on right now. We’ve got so many other things that are in the works, completing the industrial park expansion. All these things are big-time money,” Alderman Jim Krause said.
“Is it right to strap the citizens of this city with another big bill, which we are only going to be using three months of the year? That’s a dirty shame,” Alderman John Wilson said. “… Once that tax is on, that tax will never come off.”
Stephanie Hintz, who also spoke during the citizens forum portion of the meeting, told the council any citizen can petition to have a referendum done. If the required amount of signatures is collected, the city would be obligated to have a referendum regarding the matter.
Alderwoman Mary-Beth Kuester asked what the recommendation for a motion was from the Parks & Rec Committee.
Alderman Mark Doornink told the council there may be some money in the capital funds for the swimming pool. He wasn’t sure if the funds were still available. He also recommended that the city have an advisory referendum question on the ballot in April.
Kuester countered that she was “stunned” that the chairman of the Finance Committee would make that recommendation considering the possible cuts the city is facing.
“I know that he is not going to be running after April so we would be stuck with this referendum. I’m just shocked that we haven’t been able to come up with one budget cut and now we’re talking about putting a referendum on that would encourage the people that we were even thinking about this,” Kuester said.
Doornink responded, “It surprises me that an alderperson that prides herself on always listening to the people and acting on it refuses to put on an advisory referendum that does not bind us. It just advises us. Do the people want it? Just ask.”
Hintz provided the council with sample questions that could be on the referendum. She also reiterated that a petition could be done to compel the council to have an referendum.
Dunlavy said she felt that Hintz was threatening the council.
“That’s the vibe I’m getting. Either you put this on the referendum now, or I’m going to go and get a petition,” Dunlavy said.
Kuester then stated that Doornink wasn’t at the last council meeting when the pool issue was discussed. The Clintonville Tribune-Gazette checked its records, and Doornink was indeed at the last meeting.
Kuester again pressed the Parks & Rec Committee as to what its recommendation was.
Dunlavy stated what she thought the city should do, but didn’t provide a specific recommendation from the committee.
Kuester called a point of order, asking if there were minutes available from that committee meeting to see if a vote was taken at the committee level, or if Dunlavy has the right to revise it.
The two went back and forth about what the committee discussed until Dunlavy said, “I give up with you Mary Beth. I just give up. I’m throwing the towel in.”
Doornink reminded the council that an advisory referendum doesn’t require the city to spend money.
Eventually Doornink made a motion to have the following advisory referendum question on the April election ballot:
“Should the city of Clintonville pursue design and explore funding options including grants, bonds, and fundraising to renovate/rebuild the Clintonville Municipal outdoor swimming pool with the understanding that future taxes will be impacted?”
A majority of the council members present approved the motion 5-3. Kuester, Wilson, and Krause voted no. Alderwoman Amy Steenbock and Alderman Bill Zeinert were absent from the meeting.
After the vote, Kuester stated according to “Robert’s Rules of Order,” six votes were required to approve the motion. City Attorney April Dunlavy was not present at the meeting to confirm that.
Mayor Judy Magee announced the motion failed because it didn’t get the required number of votes.
The council didn’t do anything further regarding the motion it passed on Nov. 18 that stated it would put a referendum on the April ballot to let voters decide what to do with the pool.