Doornink didn’t seek re-election in 2015
By Bert Lehman
Incumbent Alderwoman Jeannie Schley is facing a challenge from former Alderman Mark Doornink for one of the District 5 seats on the Clintonville City Council in the election on Tuesday, April 5.
To help inform voters where the candidates stand on the issues concerning Clintonivlle, the Tribune-Gazette asked the candidates several questions. The questions and their responses are listed below.
What qualifications do you have that would help you when serving on the council?
Doornink: I have served four terms as alderman on the Clintonville City Council. I enjoyed being on the City Council very much and I am seeking to be elected again. My previous eight years of service were both challenging and rewarding for me. I am not a person that likes to sit back and watch as decisions are being made that affect my family and the community in which we live. I like to be involved in the process and provide input that will help determine the best path for the future success of our city. While on the City Council I was a part of nearly every regular committee including being chairman of many of them. I understand how our local government process is supposed to work and have the experience to do the job.
My work experience can be a valuable asset to the city. My career gives me the privilege of working with dairymen all over the Midwest to help them organize their daily tasks and work more efficiently on their farms. I work alongside them in a team environment to help them be more profitable. My job responsibilities also include working in product development where I seek to find new solutions to problems that our clients are trying to solve. Both of these aspects of my career will help me make Clintonville a better place if elected.
Schley: Experience. I have served on council for over 10 years and am well aware of my role as a councilperson. The do’s and don’ts of my authority and role of being a part of city government.
What are the two most important issues facing the city of Clintonville?
Doornink: After the turmoil of the past few years, our city unfortunately has many issues to solve and less money to solve them with. We need to get back to business as usual, do things that promote the growth of Clintonville, and contribute positively towards its image. Successful completion of several important projects that are already in the works will be key. Those projects include completing our north Main Street, fixing Maize Street, and modernizing our wastewater treatment plant. We have over 38 miles of streets in our city and we are currently replacing less than half a mile per year. The roads we construct are designed to last 25-30 years. At our current replacement rate, we are expecting our streets to last over 70 years. That simply is not possible and something has to give.
City Administrator Chuck Kell has done a good job while entering into a very difficult situation. Thankfully, he has agreed to extend his stay here in Clintonville until we can settle things down and get back to business. Attracting and acquiring a new long term leader to manage our city will be critical. I do not wish to relive or bring back any part of our past. We must move forward and learn from our mistakes. The citizens of Clintonville and the people they elect to the City Council need to create a positive atmosphere that promotes the growth of the city.
Schley: There are more than two issues and it would be difficult to put them in order as to what is more important.
There is the $330,000 Angelus (TIF) that will need to be made whole.
The dam fix of 2012 that has to be addressed.
The flooding into buildings and parking lots at the industrial park.
Streets that are literally turning into gravel/dirt roads.
This list could go on and on.
If elected, what would you do to find solutions to those issues?
Doornink: Everyone knows and will say that we need to control spending and make cuts where ever possible. I think this is a fairly obvious fact and has already been done in all the previous city budgets that I have been a part of. In some city departments these cuts have been so deep that some functions of the department are in jeopardy of being lost.
The City Council will have some tough choices ahead of them because these cuts may be in the form of services that are no longer provided. These types of cuts will not be easy or popular with the citizens or the departments involved. However, doing what’s in the best interest of our city should be the goal. When more cuts are needed, my approach will be to focus our spending on services that citizens cannot do for themselves. This includes police and fire protection, providing a safe water supply, disposal of our wastewater and keeping our streets in good condition. We may need to look at contracting out some services such as lawn mowing, maintenance, tree trimming and perhaps snow plowing.
Schley: Some of these issues are currently being addressed. Our city administrator Chuck Kell is on top of his game, looking for grants, federal and state aid, etc.
He should be commended for his hard work and dedication to this city.
The city of Clintonville has used undesignated fund balance funds to balance the last two budgets, what does the city have to do in order to stop tapping into this fund?
Doornink: Everything possible must be done to stop using undesignated funds to balance the annual operating budget. Using the undesignated funds to pay operational expenses is like a family using their savings account to pay their monthly water, electricity and food bills. That is simply not sustainable. Eventually the money in their savings account will run out and they will still have those monthly bills to pay.
The city budget, although bigger and more complex, is no different and needs to follow this basic economic principle. The reason the extra funds exist in the first place is because our city department heads and their employees have done an excellent job of staying at or below their budgeted amounts. The money, obtained through taxes and fees, is collected but not spent and goes into the undesignated fund balance. Over time, as our city managers did a good job, the balance in that fund has grown. They have been frugal and are good stewards of your money.
Our city’s financial advisors recommend maintaining a safe level in that account in case of emergency circumstances. We are at or slightly above that level now. Future city councils will have some tough choices to make in order to stop spending down that balance on operational expenses. Previous councils that I was a part of were not willing to make those decisions. As I stated above, these choices will not be easy or popular.
Schley: Grow our tax base. Close our TIFs, as they have been scheduled to close, so those tax dollars will be coming back in.
We will be able to open new TIFs once those are closed. We need to get that money back into circulation to maintain the city.
You are correct that we did use the undesignated fund balance to balance the budget, but as the year played out our city department heads found ways to cut/save money so we did not have to use as much money from that account as anticipated. The 2015 budget isn’t finalized but it is far less than the number that was put in to balance the budget.
The city of Clintonville spent more than $100,000 on the investigation of and settlement with former city administrator Lisa Kotter, but no official report was released to the public. In an effort to promote open government, should a report of the findings of the investigation be released to the public? If yes, why should it be released? If no, why should it not be released?
Doornink: Yes, an official report about the findings should absolutely be released to the public however no official report exists. This is the unfortunate truth. The allegations brought against the former city administrator were serious and made the investigation necessary. I supported the initial investigation, as did the other nine aldermen. The findings of the investigation were delivered verbally to the council by the attorney hired to do the investigation. From that point forward I did not support further action on the matter. This is a sad chapter in Clintonville’s history and while we must learn from our mistakes, we must also put this matter behind us.
Schley: As you know, the then mayor ended that investigation, so it was never completed, and a resignation from the city administrator followed.
As reporter you know that you can make an open records request. That is also available for citizens as well. I would encourage anyone to do so. The city cell phone records (text messages and excessive use) is quite enlightening.
In closing, there is really no official report to release (it was stopped by the mayor) but the fact remains we have a list of issues that were not properly handled — the dam and Angelus sale to a nonprofit without council’s knowledge.
The loss of $90,000 for not staying within our tax levy limit with the state. This list also goes on, but how much do you really need to know to say the job was not being done.
The city’s outdoor swimming pool has been an item of discussion for more than a year, but no solutions have been presented. What process does the city need to follow in order to make a decision about what to do with the outdoor swimming pool?
Doornink: There are no easy answers to the problems we are facing with our outdoor swimming pool. I think everyone would agree that having a nice outdoor pool facility would be an asset to our community and a benefit to our families. I also think most everyone would agree that the decision to spend or not to spend money on the facility is something to be carefully considered.
There are many equally important decisions that need to be made and have been made over the last year. I do not think this issue has been ignored or neglected by the city staff. Would I like to have the issue to be already solved? Sure, but it’s just not that easy.
I like the process that was started shortly after I left the Council a year ago but we will need to make a decision very soon. While I was on the Council I stated that I would not support spending any money at the outdoor pool without a plan. I still feel that way. An Ad Hoc Pool Committee was formed and they are working toward a recommendation. The timing of the fire that occurred at the facility, although it was not the first one to occur, was exceptionally bad and the damage more severe than previous fires. We are now faced with a fast-approaching timetable in which we need to make the needed repairs and start preparation for opening the outdoor pool, yet no plan or options have been presented to the Council. In the next month or two, the Common Council will need to be more involved with the ad hoc committee to aggressively seek answers to their questions so a decision can be made.
Schley: I supported a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ referendum question to be placed on the ballot at last year’s election. It never made it through council approval without a cost attached to it.
I still support a referendum question, and I still believe it could be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. I feel we are all intelligent enough to know it is a million dollar question. So what is the voters’ opinion on it, knowing that it is going to cost them on their taxes? If the voters have no interest in it do we even need to spend $10,000 for a study?