For the second time in as many vacancies on the five-member North Branch Water & Light Commission, the North Branch City Council has found itself bypassing their expanded appointment process in favor of expediency.
Back in January, the council voted to appoint James Baxter to the commission without an interview before the entire council based on the fact Baxter had applied and been interviewed for the commission just a few months prior.
This time, while Peter Schaps had withdrawn his application last summer prior to being interviewed, the council felt his previous service on the commission - he was chair until the commission expanded to five members, plus his interviewing for the open council seat vacated by Brian Voss and his recent appointment to the Parks, Trails and Open Spaces Commission (which also involved an interview), they had more than enough information to reappoint Schaps to the NBW&L Commission.
“I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Schaps on the Water & Light Commission,” said Council Member Kelly Neider. “I think his application is very thorough, and I do think his track record speaks for itself, so I would be willing to appoint him tonight.”
“He has three applications out there in the last year,” added Council Member Patrick Meacham, “his history of dedication working with the community, and obviously the 18 months as chair of Water & Light, I would be willing to forward with voting on his appointment tonight.”
The lone dissenting vote came from Council Member Kathy Blomquist, citing his previous actions prior to being appointed the first time.
“He was the one that former Council Member Borchardt said did the petition to have the take over of the Water & Light Commission,” Blomquist said, referring back to the 2016 referendum vote to abolish North Branch Water & Light altogether. That ballot question was voted down by over a two-to-one margin. Blomquist also accused Schaps of being part of a “hidden agenda” to abolish NBW&L by the commission itself if the commission had been enlarged to five members in 2016.
“I still have my reservations about him being on the commission because of his past history of wanting to have the city take it over,” she said before a “point of order” was called for by other council members.
“We have a process that we put in place that we wanted to interview and do the right thing,” Mayor Jim Swenson said, “but we’re in the same position as last time when we have one candidate. And I’m seeing three council members saying they want to vote tonight.”
Ultimately, the council voted 4-1 to appoint Schaps to the commission, with his term expiring December 31, 2022.
Fry receives positive job assessment
Also at the March 9 council meeting, Mayor Swenson gave a summary of City Administrator Renae Fry’s performance review, which was conducted as part of a closed meeting just prior to the regular meeting.
“Tonight I am confident to report that City Administrator Fry is doing a great job for the City of North Branch,” Swenson said before going through a list of attributes Fry’s staff and coworkers extolled upon her. “The truth is, we can all use continued education; to continue to learn more in all areas of our lives. However, the good news tonight is the city staff and city council are very healthy at this time, and I am sure we are all grateful for that. We’re looking forward to another excellent year here in North Branch.”