Lisa Kotter lands full-time job as Eldridge Administrator

Lisa Kotter lands full-time job as Eldridge Administrator

At a special session of the Eldridge City Council, that body approved an agreement with Lisa Kotter to serve as that city’s City Administrator. According to sources who understood the council’s reasoning, it was Ms. Kotter’s financial and utility experience that made the biggest impression on them. Eldridge has seen explosive expansion over the past few years and has the highest growth rate in the Iowa Quad Cities.

The move comes as Riverdale was considering a more permanent relationship with Ms. Kotter for a similar position.

“It’s a bummer to lose someone I thought would be of great benefit to the City of Riverdale,” said Mayor Mike Bawden. “But I understand how the Eldridge job would appeal to Lisa. They’re great people and the city is poised for tremendous growth. There’s a much longer and larger career opportunity for the right city administrator out there – and I have every reason to believe Lisa is up to the challenge and pace.”

“The question is: Is Eldridge ready for Lisa Kotter?” he added.

“She’s high energy and, as she proved to us in just the 2 months she’s been working at Riverdale, she’s able to hit the ground running and make a difference on day one. Eldridge is very lucky to have her.”

What’s next for Riverdale?

According to the mayor, Ms. Kotter will continue working with Riverdale through the end of February and thanks to discussions with both Ms. Kotter and officials from Eldridge, Lisa will be allowed to complete her original engagement with Riverdale (working on the City’s FY21 budget) and a few other administrative projects currently in-work as long as her service is provided outside of her regular office hours.

“Is it an ideal arrangement?” Mayor Bawden asked. “No. But we just weren’t able to move as quickly as we needed to in order for things to go Riverdale’s way, so we’ll have to live with the consequences.”

The Mayor explained that the Riverdale City Council will still hold their closed session scheduled for Tuesday’s City Council meeting – but rather than approve the employment agreement with Ms. Kotter as originally intended, they will be discussing what kind of compensation arrangement with a new city administrator would be deemed to be appropriate as well as the scope of recruitment search needed to find a qualified candidate.

Council agrees to extend Administrator Kotter’s hours through the month of February

Council agrees to extend Administrator Kotter’s hours through the month of February

At Tuesday evening’s meeting, the City Council agreed to extend the hours allowed under Interim City Administrator, Lisa Kotter’s consulting contract to 40 hours per week through February. The additional hours are necessary given the ambitious goals and objectives set forth at the Council’s work session on January 5th.

As part of the resolution passed at last night’s meeting, the mayor is expected to work out the details of a full-time employment contract and transition plan with Administrator Kotter for review and consideration by the City Council in February. If things go according to plan and the proposed employment agreement is accepted by the Council, Administrator Kotter’s new employment arrangement would take effect March 1.

City’s cash management policies under review

City’s cash management policies under review

As part of the Mayor and City Council’s focus on improving operating processes and customer service, the City of Riverdale’s cash management policy (adopted in 2016) is currently under review and will be updated accordingly.

Changes
  • The first change to the policy (to be considered at the City Council’s 01/28/20 meeting) will allow the City to maintain a cash drawer with a starting balance and to allow City staff to give change to customers paying with cash for bills owed to the City.

Further changes to the policy are expected in 2020.

Council to consider engaging Bohnsack and Frommert as the City’s accountant

Council to consider engaging Bohnsack and Frommert as the City’s accountant

The City Council will consider a proposal for accounting services from Bohnsack and Frommert, an accounting firm based in Moline, IL, that specializes in municipalities and has worked for Iowa communities including Clinton, Dubuque, and Muscatine. The proposal was solicited by Interim City Administrator Lisa Kotter and underwent a preliminary review by both Administrator Kotter and Mayor Mike Bawden.

The decision to identify and select a professional accounting firm to handle the bookkeeping and accounting services previously provided by former City Clerk Ron Fullerlove rather than finding a staff replacement came down to the following factors:

  • The city’s need for redundancy on several aspects of the bookkeeping process in order to safeguard against possible misrepresentation/fraud and to double-check against simple math or bookkeeping mistakes
  • The city’s on-going need for timely invoicing of fees for services to residents, commercial accounts and other parties
  • The city’s need to review, update, and manage the City’s sewer fund, billing, and reconciliation of payments received against outstanding accounts receivable
  • The city’s need for more useful financial statements than what’s currently generated through the current online bookkeeping system used by the City of Riverdale.

“While Ron’s work has always been very solid, and current City Clerk, Mary Francis Blevins is keeping up on the invoice coding and entry, there is a need for someone who has an accounting background to handle this job in an on-going capacity,” explained Mayor Bawden. “Ron is getting busier and busier in his new position, so that’s not a long-term solution, and it’s not fair to Mary Fran to try and learn how to be a bookkeeper on the fly.”

The cost of the proposal from Bohnsack and Frommert is in-line with what the City was paying Mr. Fullerlove for his accounting/bookkeeping services as City Clerk.

City considers going to a 5-day work week

City considers going to a 5-day work week

As part of its goal to re-organize the operations of city hall and create a more productive and responsive government, Mayor Mike Bawden and members of the City Council are considering the costs and benefits of expanding the hours of operation from 3 to 5 days a week and then staffing accordingly.

“We’ve been talking about doing this since August, when (then City Clerk) Ron Fullerlove left to take the County Administrator’s job in Henry County, IL,” explained the mayor. “Then, when (City Administrator) Tim Long took an early retirement, it became really clear that we needed to make some fundamental changes with the way we were structured and operating.”

The mayor pointed out that the City’s General Funds surplus is currently more than adequate to cover any additional costs incurred by adding the days to Interim Administrator Lisa Kotter’s current work schedule (taking her from 20-40 hours per week) for the remainder of the current fiscal year. Additional costs for a full-time City Administrator and Deputy/Administrative Assistant would be built into the FY21 budget. But the benefits of “increasing the City’s bandwidth” by adding more hours and capabilities to the City’s staff are, in his opinion, worth every penny.

“If we want high-performing people in positions like City Administrator, we need to be able to compete with other cities from a salary and benefits basis – and while we’re never going to be offering big-city money, we stand no chance of even getting consideration from a prospective employee if we can’t offer a full-time position,” explained Mayor Bawden.

Staff Changes

Are staff changes imminent with a shift from 3-days to 5-days? According to the mayor, probably.

“I don’t think the fact that we’ll be looking at everything we do and everybody who’s doing it will come as a shock to anyone – residents and staff, alike,” explained the mayor. “But we’re going to take our time and figure this out carefully. The end goal here is to get the City to be more efficient and more responsive for residents – and an important part of that is making sure we’re using every employee’s talents to the max. That means taking the things they don’t do well off their plate and replacing it with work where they can add considerable value to the City.”

Does that mean change? According to the mayor: definitely. “Things will be done differently, and that requires change,” said Mayor Bawden. “But that change may just mean a change in focus and re-alignment of hours. It may mean working on special projects that have languished for a while.”

“Whatever shape that change comes in, it means staff will need to be flexible and willing to go with the change. And that may be tough in the short-run. We’ll just have to see how things go.”

“The one thing we know,” he concluded, “Is that not changing is not an option.”

Mayor and City Council work up goals for Riverdale for the next two years.

Mayor and City Council work up goals for Riverdale for the next two years.

At their January 5th work session and following City Council meetings, the Mayor and members of the Council developed an ambitious list of goals and objectives to keep Riverdale moving forward for the next two years (and beyond). While not officially “adopted” by the Council, the five-page list of goals and objectives will be used by the mayor and City staff to help focus efforts on accomplishing as much as possible during the next two years.

“The City of Riverdale has been blessed for the past fifty+ years with volunteers, elected leadership and staff who have tried their level best to make good decisions and treat residents fairly and equitably,” said Mayor Mike Bawden when asked why focus on goal-setting and long-term planning at this time. “But I can tell you from first-hand experience that every time there’s a change over in elected leadership or staff, we lose a great deal of institutional memory about how and why things are done the way they are. There isn’t much on file when it comes to written plans and procedures.”

The mayor explained that as long as the City didn’t see any major increases in population or development, the more casual approach to governance and maintenance might have been generally accepted. “All that has to change now, though, because we’re going to see Riverdale’s population double in the next 5-10 years. Failing to plan and document now could cost taxpayers dearly in lost efficiencies.”

“We’re not in any trouble,” he continued. “But now is the time to get serious and spend the time, effort and money required to get ahead and stay ahead of potential problems.”

The process

They mayor met with council members individually between Christmas and the public work session on January 5th. While reviewing notes from those individual meetings with the City Council, additional items were added to the combined action list.

Following the January 5th meeting, the mayor organized the action items and created over-arching goals for the City of Riverdale. That document (click here for a copy) was reviewed with the Council at their January 14th meeting and with residents at the Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting on January 26th. The action items, goals and objectives will also be posted to the City’s website (and updated accordingly) in the future.

“I’ve recommended the mayor and council meet every two years (following the general election) to review and update these goals and objectives in the future and then review them in public and post them to the City’s website,” explained Mayor Bawden. He said he hopes future leaders of the City will see a beneficial outcome from taking the time to go through the process. “Whether I’m the mayor or not, I think it’s good leadership to make sure everyone knows what we’re trying to achieve.”

City Goals

The City (meaning staff, elected officials and volunteers) will focus on achieving the following goals over the next two years – and probably well beyond that.

1. Re-organize and improve how the city administration/staff operates and interacts with each other and our residents.

2. Improve our fiscal controls, reports and management.

3. Maintain and improve our neighborhoods, streets, green spaces and utility infrastructure.

4. Review the current structure of the volunteer fire department and develop a comprehensive plan for its future configuration and operations.

5. Increase and improve the experience citizens have with the City and their neighbors.

6. Grow Riverdale’s commercial property base in a way that compliments the quality of life experienced by its residents.

7. Manage the growth and development of the City in a way that is both responsible (to current residents and taxpayers) and responsive (to new arrivals and developers).

So, what do you think of these goals? Have you downloaded and reviewed the action item list (objectives) the City is using for the next two years? Let us know if you have questions or suggestions for consideration as we continue to manage both the growth of the city and the various projects/items on our list.

Council agrees to extend Administrator Kotter’s hours through the month of February

Lisa Kotter named Interim City Administrator

Lisa Kotter, the consultant retained to assist the City of Riverdale with developing its FY21 budget, has now had her role and relationship with the City expanded to include picking up on the duties of City Administrator following the resignation of former City Administrator, Tim Long. Ms. Kotter has over 25 years’ experience in municipal management/administration – all with communities significantly larger than Riverdale.

Former administrator, Tim Long, has offered to spend some time with Lisa over the next few weeks to make sure she’s fully up to speed on the variety of issues he was dealing with when he turned in his resignation and to ensure a smooth transition. The hourly rates for both Ms. Kotter and Mr. Long are the same, so the long-term budget impact of the transition and engagement are expected to be minimal based on the current personnel configuration at City Hall.

“We have a lot of things to do at City Hall,” said Mayor Mike Bawden. “I’m looking forward to working with Lisa on these issues and making sure all of us – from elected officials to local residents – get the full benefit of her experience, enthusiasm and energy.”

No plans for a search for a long-term replacement in the City Administrator’s position have been announced as of yet.

“Whether this becomes a more permanent relationship depends on both parties,” said the mayor. “Right now, we’re focused on a few short-term issues that demand our attention – specifically the development of a budget for FY21 and the final review and decisions regarding the Phase 1 plat for Woods Estates of Riverdale. We’ll see where things stand after that and make some decisions then.”

City Administrator Tim Long announces retirement, effective December 3, 2019

City Administrator Tim Long announces retirement, effective December 3, 2019

City Administrator, Tim Long, submitted his notice of retirement to Mayor Mike Bawden earlier this week. His last regular day of employment will be December 3, 2019. In the letter, dated Monday, November 18, Mr. Long stated:

For the past thirty years, I have been gratified to serve as administrator for communities in Illinois and Iowa, and I have been especially proud of being chosen to serve as first-time administrator for the City of Riverdale. It has been gratifying to work with you and the other thoughtful people chosen to serve the needs and goals of the community. It has been especially satisfying to see Riverdale continue to refine its long-run goals and objectives, and manage growth and development toward better outcomes.

It is time for me to turn over those administrative tasks of Riverdale to other hands. As well, at my tender age, I have come to terms with the clear understanding that time and good health are fleeting, and the completion fo projects, and the building of important relationships call for both time and good health. Therefore, this letter constitutes my two weeks’ notice of retirement, and resignation. If you and the Council determine it to be in the best interest of the Council, that date could be advanced. Alternately, I can be available to assist you and the Council in the development of agenda items or other matters to which I could be of assistance, until December 20th, when I wish to prepare for my sons’ families return home from afar for Christmas.

Finally, I want to thank you, Mike, and the members of the City Council who have been supportive of our efforts at making Riverdale’s local government more effective, transparent, and responsive. I have gained a great deal of respect for all of you, as well as for our staff and consultants over these past two and-a-half years. I wish you well, and would be pleased to cross paths with you in the future.

The City Council will meet in an executive session at the end of the Tuesday’s City Council meeting to discuss this personnel issue and options to consider for moving forward in both the short and long-term. Decisions on immediately pressing issues and longer-range plans will be shared with the community through this website and our e-newsletter once they are clearly defined.

Resolutions reached on two lingering issues in favor of the City of Riverdale.

Resolutions reached on two lingering issues in favor of the City of Riverdale.

City Administrator, Tim Long, reports that agreements have been reached in two matters that have been on the Council agenda for the past few months:

1. An agreement with the driver of a car that took out a tree at Volunteer Park earlier this year will re-pay the City for the cost of removing the damaged tree and replacing it with a similar one. The re-payment plan extends over 24 months and is the result of a direct outreach made by the driver (who didn’t have insurance but accepted responsibility and accountability for the accident).

2. After receiving a letter from the City concerning how they were to remove the brush cleared on City property behind their home, a Deerbrook couple have agreed to repair the damage in the spring. A date certain to be confirmed in writing is expected later this week.

Should the City post audio files of its public meetings online?

Should the City post audio files of its public meetings online?

At last Tuesday’s City Council meeting (10/08/19), the mayor proposed the idea that recordings of the City’s public meetings should be available as audio files on its website. Members of the City Council didn’t all agree on whether or not that was something that should be done – and, once you look into the issue, you find there are a variety of issues that need to be addressed.

There are some technological considerations that have to be taken into account. Will transcripts have to be provided as well as the recordings? Are there any state guidelines about what needs to be made available with regard to files, online players, etc.?

And, of course, meetings will probably need to run a little differently, too. If an audio recording is made of a meeting, attendees (and the chair) will need to remember to allow only one person to speak at a time – and the amount of time allowed for people to opine (currently unrestricted except in the most extreme cases) will probably need to be limited.

Feelings on the Council ranged from: “If people really want to know what goes on in these meetings, they should be here” to “the more transparency, the better.”

What do you think?

Let us know in the comments section, below.

(Updated) City begins search for a new City Clerk.

(Updated) City begins search for a new City Clerk.

(Updated 10-10-19) After reviewing preliminary discussions with a consultant to assist in the search and selection of a new City Clerk for Riverdale, the mayor and council have agreed to delay a formal search until after the start of the new calendar year.

Cheryl Channon, City Council

For now, the City will proceed with identifying and hiring someone to fill the role of Treasurer – another of the positions currently filled on a part-time basis by Mr. Fullerlove. On Tuesday, October 8, the City Council approved the placement of this ad for the position and City Administrator, Tim Long, suggested that he thought it was possible to have a preliminary slate of candidates for review and discussion by the Council at its next meeting on 10/22.

With the decision made by Finance Committee Chair, Council Member Cheryl Channon, to not run for re-election, the Council agreed that they hoped most of the difficult budget work could be completed before Cheryl’s departure at the end of the year. The person fulfilling the Treasurer duties will need to work extensively with Council Member Channon, City Administrator Long and the mayor/mayor elect to make sure this deadline gets met.

(Original Story: 09-15-19) City Administrator, Tim Long, laid out the city’s general plan for finding a replacement City Clerk (to replace Ron Fullerlove who resigned on August 22nd to become the county administrator in Mercer County, IL).

“Ron had been instrumental in helping the City get on top of its financial situation and establish a more proactive approach to managing our tax levies and expenditures,” said Mayor Mike Bawden. “We now need to find someone who will view the clerk’s position in Riverdale as an opportunity for growth – and that may require us to make some changes to the ways we’ve been doing things over past practices.”

After conducting some initial meetings with other city administrators and consultants with knowledge of the market, Mayor Bawden and Administrator Long intend to provide a more detailed breakdown of the search and hiring process to City Council members for their review and input.