November Ballot Question Could Shake Up Beloit City Council

The Beloit City Council met in special session on Monday evening. The sole purpose of the meeting was to discuss, and potentially approve, a ballot question for the November general election to revamp the makeup of the city council. The ballot question could also, by definition, change the position of the city administrator to that of a city manager.

Based on a recommendation of the Leadership Mitchell County Task Force, most citizens seemed to agree that eight council members was too many and should be reduced. The task force also recommended the city do away with the ward system and make council positions at large only. The amount of public support for that recommendation was less clear. Citizens seemed to fall on both sides to a more even extent based on feedback at a recent meeting held by the task force and from comments from citizens received by council members which favored keeping a ward system in place.

The council also considered changing the city administrator to a city manager. The difference being a city manager would have a more decisive role in day to day operations as city department heads would answer directly to the city manager. Currently, city department heads answer ultimately to the city council.

A motion made by councilor Matt Otte to reduce the council to six at large members, and do away with the ward system, failed by a 5-2 vote. Councilman Lee McMillan cast the other vote in favor of Otte’s motion.

Councilor Kent Miller then voiced concerns about the time table of the action under consideration.

Miller said, “The task force has had seven months to work on this and we’ve had seven weeks.”

Miller expressed a view that he would like to get input from incoming city administrator Jason Rabe who will not take his position until September 6. In order to get the question on the ballot it must be approved and submitted before Rabe is to take his new position.
Rabe then joined the meeting by phone. He agreed to accept a city manager position if the voters in Beloit chose to make the change in title and duties.

This would actually give Rabe more responsibility, and more direct influence over city employees and department heads if the public voted yes to any approved ballot question in November containing language that would change his title from administrator to manager.

Andrew Grabon then moved to amend the proposed ballot question to reduce the council to six members, and to discuss at a later date reducing the number of wards in Beloit from four to two with three council members from each ward. The question would also change the city administrator to a city manager. The measured passed by a 4-3 vote with Grabon, Otte, Miller and Tony Gengler voting yes while McMillan, Raymond Pontow and Lloyd Littrell voted no.

The question will be posed as follows on the general election ballots in November for the citizens of Beloit to determine.

“Shall the City of Beloit, Kansas adopt the mayor-council-manager form of government with a mayor elected at large, six council members – three elected from each of two wards, and a city manager appointed by the council, and become a city operating under such form of government?”