by ADAM GRUENEWALD
A Hamburg council member’s website drew some extra attention during the most recent Hamburg City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 16.
While no particular action was taken to change the content on the site, council members discussed the site and made a motion to have it looked at by Minnesota-Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) to examine its content.
City Clerk Jeremy Gruenhagen shared that there was some concern regarding the site run by council member Richard Odoms, http://www.hamburgminnesota.com, which is a top hit on Google searches and has generated significant traffic numbers.
City Attorney Kelly Dohm of Melchert Hubert and Sjodin, who was present at the meeting, shared information to the council regarding the important distinction of public and private information as a follow-up to a League of Minnesota Cities meeting on June 1.
“A lot of the things were discussed were what kind of public image it creates for the city,” said Gruenhagen. “We want to make sure that public data is kept separate from private data. The main thing was making sure private data stays with the city and no private data is being given to the public.”
Gruenhagen said that no action has been taken so far as they are awaiting the results from IPAD.
“It’s to the point where we are asking what is the intent of it,” said Gruenhagen. “Are you a council member or are you a private citizen? You have your freedom of speech and first amendment rights, but with your First Amendment rights there are exclusions to that.”
Odoms, who has operated his site since 2007, shared a letter via a special page on his site with the NYA Times and Waconia Patriot about its history and purpose.
In the letter, Odoms outlined his desire to “stay connected” with the residents of Hamburg through his site.
“I sought to be elected to the Hamburg City Council because of my wide and varied professional (and personal) experience and because I sincerely believed that I could help the City of Hamburg continue to be the warm, friendly, albeit small, community that it is,” he said.
Odoms, who moved to Hamburg in March 2007 and launched his website soon after, shared he has constantly used his website to “communicate useful and meaningful information to the many fine residents living in the City of Hamburg that I represent and proudly serve.”
“Elected officials throughout the country commonly use ‘direct mail’ and/or paid advertising to inform their constituents,” he said. “I choose to use the advantages of a modern day, comprehensive, informative website that allows the instant dissemination of information, the capability of instant updating of that information and, most importantly, provides the same information to everyone (from a single source) and allows all Hamburg residents (or anyone else) to instantly contact me directly, via my website e-mail as well as via telephone and/or text messaging.”
His website, which also features links to his radio broadcasts, pictures, weather, a “Salute to Hamburg” program and additional information such as community events and fire department pages, also contributed to Odoms’ successful campaign to join the council in 2012. Since beginning his four-year term in January 2013, he has continued to utilize the site.
“It was quite evident to me that because I was going to become a member of the Hamburg City Council, the continued use, and enhancement, of my website as a modern, up-to-date state-of-the-art means to instantly be able to provide Hamburg residents with valuable, important and needed information was the next logical progression,” he said. “Its effectiveness and popularity continue as such today, as evidenced by the nearly 39,000 ‘hits’ and very favorable comments that my Hamburg city council member website has received to date.”
According to his letter, he does it with the intention of maintaining an “open government” policy.
“I sincerely believe it is my obligation to keep the residents of Hamburg, who elected me to the office that I now hold (and will hold for at least another 18 months), to know what their ‘city government’ is doing and how our performance, as a governing body, is ‘impacting’ our city, our residents and our ‘quality of life’,” he said. “My choice of how to keep my constituents informed of what is taking place in our city is through my Hamburg City council member website, for the many reasons stated above. And it’s not costing taxpayers a single penny for me to be able to do that.”
Also of note, Hamburg council members approved several street improvement projects including mill and overlay on Jacob Street from Henrietta Avenue to the north end of the city limits as well Sophia Avenue and a small portion of Railroad Street as well as the west parking lot in the park to double in size.
“They will mill and put the base course down this year and they will put the wear course on next spring,” said Gruenhagen, adding the parking lot will be done this year.
The projects, which were planned in the budget, are expected to cost a total $342,290.40, which came in under the engineer’s estimate of about $376,000.
With fire department issues, Hamburg council members discussed switching to a pay on-call system that could start in 2016 and would pay firefighters $10 a call.
“No decision has been made yet,” said Gruenhagen. “It would be an additional expense of $5,000 to $6,000 a year.”
They also approved the sale of a J-5 bombardier trailer to the City of Lake Bronson for $1,500 which is no longer in use.
In other news, Hamburg council members approved liquor license renewals for Parkside Tavern, Hamburg Lions Club and Hamburg Baseball Club, a delinquent utility bills report with $2,572.62 in overdue charges for 18 customers, a 20-year electric franchise agreement with Xcel Energy and a fluoridation law agreement that will save the city money in the long term.
Looking ahead, council members will continue discussion on Community Hall roof replacement which could cost roughly $40,000 as well as roof repairs for the Park Open Shelter and repairs of the baseball park catch basin.
The Hamburg City Council will next meet on Tuesday, July 13 at 7 p.m.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]