By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
The past year for members of the city of Clinton government has been all but boring.
A continuous stream of sewer and solid waste billing issues, parting ways with the city administrator and pushing toward financial solvency have all topped the list of items the Clinton City Council addressed this year.
Related: Take a look back at the top news stories of 2012
The council will carry over many of its top issues and more than likely face others as the new year begins. On the cusp of the new year, City Council members reflected on what happened in 2012 and what they hope will happen in 2013.
Finding a new city administrator will be the top priority for the Clinton City Council in 2013, members said. Unlike the previous search for a new city leader, the council has hired a human resources consultant to lead the process with the Committee of the Whole. Paul Greufe, who has been the city’s HR consultant for a few months, has stated he would like to include the public in the search for the city administrator.
The City Council voted 4-2 in December to hire Greufe and that resolution went into effect Dec. 26.
“I’m very excited for this new process of selection to include all stakeholders for many reasons; providing interested public members the opportunity to be part of this significant decision and to also understand what exactly the position entails,” At-large councilwoman Jennifer Graf, who voted in favor of the resolution, said.
Councilwoman Bev Hermann, who represents residents in Ward 3, said while she is looking forward to finding the best city administrator possible, she also appreciates the work done by the latest person to hold the position.
“Thanks to former city administrator Jeff Horne’s recognition of the antiquated, inadequate financial procedures that had been used for decades and steps he took to bring us to current accepted city accounting, we now know where we are,” Hermann said.
When reflecting on 2012, council members also thanked Finance Director Jessica Kinser, who started working for the city in October 2011.
“Kinser and her staff have uncovered most of the financial skeletons and financial pitfalls facing city hall. For perhaps the first time in nearly 10 years the city is moving toward sound financial management,” At-large councilman John Rowland said.
Among the “financial pitfalls” the city is facing is the solid waste and sewer billing issues. It was revealed during a lengthy Committee of the Whole work session that nearly 20 percent of the city’s residential sewer customers don’t pay their bills, which causes a serious cash flow problem.
Straightening out billing and working through potential rate increases also will be on the top of council members’ “to-do” lists in 2013. Rowland said he believes this will be accomplished this year.
“While the city has accumulated serious debt problems, at least now we are moving forward in a more positive manner in addressing these issues and planning our financial future. I sense a renewed attitude among council members that we can solve these problems and move this community forward in 2013,” Rowland said.
Of the items the city accomplished in 2012, council members agreed the street improvement program was one of the highlights. The city developed a plan to bump funding for city streets substantially over the next few years.
“When I was campaigning, that was the one clear issue that people in my ward were concerned about. If we can find the financial resource, I hope that we can move forward with continued aggressive street repair so that we are not always working on catching up,” Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee said.
Reflecting on other positive things that came from 2012, council members addressed the railport, Union Pacific bridge reconstruction, the Thomson, Ill., prison’s purchase by the federal government and other business-producing items that could have positive economic impacts on the area.
“I can see us continue to grow as the railport moves forward,” Ward 1 Councilwoman Maggie Klaes said.
Although 2012 may have been tumultuous for the Clinton City Council, members felt it was a year of working through issues that have been present for years prior, but that they didn’t previously have the resources to combat. With the search for a city administrator, billing issues and a slew of other pressing matters to address in the coming months, the City Council will likely have a full plate for 2013.
“I can honestly say, at the end of the day, I’m still honored to serve this community and I truly believe there are great days ahead,” Graf said.