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Speer: A big week ahead for city, residents

May 4, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

The way most months fall, Alpena Municipal Council usually meets every two weeks. Because of the way the calendar fell in April, the time between this Monday's meeting and the last gathering of council April 16 will have been three weeks.

That's probably a good thing.

When council last met words were shouted, names were called, tempers were raised, doors were slammed and one councilman stormed out of the chambers and didn't even vote on an important issue. When the smoke cleared, city residents woke up the next morning to learn they no longer had a city manager in place.

Since then peace branches have been extended, fences have begun to be mended and conversations normally occur without raised voices. Yet to say that life has returned to normal would be a gross mistake.

The mayor pro tem has resigned his post. City employees still aren't sure when the next bell might toll, or for whom. And city residents still wait to learn what vision council has for the city.

Monday's meeting should be one for the record books.

For openers, if you plan on claiming a seat for Monday's session you had better camp out in front of council's doors early. From the word I'm getting, the place is going to be packed.

Second, if you plan on speaking, you had better be concise. I've heard a lot of people have opinions they want to share with council, so the timer will be running Monday in order to let everyone speak, and still adjourn the meeting before midnight.

On the agenda Monday are discussions concerning an interim city manager. Seeking suggestions from council and staff, five names have surfaced for that role and council likely will choose one at the meeting. An interim will allow council to navigate through the next few months, establish a 2013 budget, and begin interviews for the next manager.

Next week also will be quite revealing as residents should begin to gain insight into the "new" city vision.

The selection of interim city manager will be the first opportunity. Each candidate offers certain strengths, and has specific weaknesses, that will be considered. Once the public understands both the strengths and weaknesses of all the candidates, and then sees the person council ultimately chooses, it should reveal an area council identifies as being important moving forward.

The second opportunity will be Wednesday, when the city holds a public hearing on the proposed 2013 city budget. As it stands today, the proposed budget is but a framework modeled from this year, that gives council a starting point to sharpen their pencils and pull out their scissors.

The draft council ends up with will be dramatically different than the framework council begins with. What survives and what gets altered will again provide insight as to where council is headed in the year ahead.

In a newspaper story Friday, Councilman Mike Nunneley, in discussing perhaps having to draw from the city's fund balance to assist next year's budget, was adamant in is his contention that ultimately, the city needs to develop other avenues to address the budget shortfalls.

"I'm comfortable using the fund balance this year if a serious effort is made to explore consolidation with other local units of government," Nunneley told reporter Steve Schulwitz. "I have absolute faith in all of the townships, the county and the city to move forward on this without hesitation, because it is not just about the townships, the county and the city, it is an issue about Alpena as a whole."

This is one example of insight into the future vision of council concerning the city.

It's going to be an important week for Alpena city residents. A lot should happen. A lot should be revealed. It should be a week laden with news.



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