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Council Extends Public Invitation
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Calling on citizens for input, members of the Oakdale City Council asked residents to attend two important meetings that will shape the city’s budget and strategic plan for the next few years.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Jan. 3, the council confirmed a special meeting on the budget for Jan. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Oakdale Community Center with a follow up meeting slated for Jan. 24.

Mayor Pat Paul invited the public to attend the meeting, describing it as a workshop for the citizens to express where they think funds should be spent. Her request was supported by the other council members, stating they wanted to hear from the public.

City Manager Steve Hallman also outlined another upcoming session, the city’s strategic planning retreat scheduled in February. He offered some objectives, displaying the mission statement, vision statement, core values, and three-year goals for the city that had been developed and will come under further discussion at the retreat.

Mayor Paul questioned why a professional consultant was needed at a $2200 fee to facilitate the meeting when she said there were plenty of qualified individuals in the city who could handle the task on a voluntary basis. Councilman Michael Brennan called for that meeting to be open to the public for its input.

Paul said she did not feel items from the previous strategic planning sessions she had attended were working, citing employee morale was still low and the city budget was floundering. She appreciated the public being included because they may have requests that weren’t considered originally.

Councilwoman Katherine Morgan felt that members from the city commissions should also attend.

Hallman noted that the strategic meeting was originally for the council members and department heads and in recent years was opened up to the bargaining units. He agreed inviting the public to increase ideas could be beneficial.

The strategic meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10 starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Oakdale Community Center.

“The strategic planning retreat will be the council’s opportunity to give staff specific direction to carry out goals they hear from citizens at the two budget workshops,” Hallam noted.

“This is their city,” Paul said. “In the past, input came from the council. This time we want to hear from the people. We’re listening.”

In other issues Monday night, the council discussed but did not take any action concerning ending the $20 per meeting stipend given to planning commissioners and to eliminate the health insurance option given to council members. Currently the council receives a $371 monthly stipend and, if they opt for health insurance coverage by the city, get an additional stipend to apply to the health insurance.

In supporting her request to eliminate the benefit for the council members, Mayor Paul called the council position basically a volunteer position where the $371 was primarily for expenses. Brennan, who said he was playing “devil’s advocate” on the issue, pointed out that when Paul was a county supervisor, she received both pay and health insurance. Brennan also pointed out that in previous years it had been discussed by the council that the benefit should be an “either-or” situation where the member received the stipend or health insurance benefit.

The council also discussed a code of conduct including rules establishing council initiated items and again the removal of confidential documents.

At the start of the meeting the council recognized Lori Vierra for her efforts in coordinating Oakdale’s Old Fashioned Christmas, hosted downtown in early December.