In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council approved changes to the review process for certain consultant contracts totaling at least $25,000.
The new rule, put forward by Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, excludes attorney fees and contracts from Fort Wayne City Utilities. It requires that any consultant contract of $25,000 or more be submitted to City Council for review. Currently, City Council must sign off on contracts of $100,000 or more.
“We're talking about at what point should council see consultant contracts, because there have been a few below the $100,000 threshold that the administration has done unilaterally that I think council would have liked to have seen,” Jehl said.
Jehl said he learned through discussions with other council members that although most want to see contracts below the $100,000 threshold, no one wanted to see so many that it would slow down meetings.
“Productive time for this council is at a premium as it is and I think we all want to spend that precious commodity of time on things that are productive, rather than things that are mundane, especially the smaller mundane things,” he said.
To avoid inundating council with contracts, they will be gathered into a list called a consent agenda, also known by Robert's Rules of Order as a consent calendar. Under that process, contracts are introduced to council as normal. They are then compiled into a single agenda item, allowing them to be approved in one motion, rather than reading and voting on them individually.
This is usually done without discussion, City Council Attorney Joe Bonahoom said. Any council member can request to have an item removed from the consent agenda, Bonahoom added, at which point it would be added to the regular agenda, subject to typical discussion and vote. Robert's Rules of Order is the standard guide to parliamentary procedure.
City Utilities' contracts were omitted from the threshold, Jehl said, because the department submits the majority of consultant contracts valued at less than $100,000.
“By simply omitting those, that gets rid of the problem of maybe having too many things come to council,” he said.
Attorney fees were also excluded, Jehl said, because there may be instances in which emergency legal counsel is needed and can't wait the two weeks necessary for council to approve the contract.
If approved by Mayor Tom Henry, the new procedure will take effect Jan. 1, when the new City Council is sworn in.
In other business, City Controller Garry Morr provided City Council members with an update on the city's Legacy Fund.
The Legacy Fund, which consists of money generated by the lease and sale of the city's old power utility, is expected to have $34,531,187 in cash on hand by the end of 2019, Morr said. That figure includes $10 million earmarked for the Electric Works development, Morr said, which is expected to be disbursed in 2020.
As of Oct. 31, the Legacy Fund had $36,590,102 in cash and investments held in trust, Morr said. When adding in outstanding loans, the fund's total assets come to $40,090,102 as of the end of October, he said.
“We are very fortunate with the market growth this year in our fund,” Morr said. “It has been very good.”
The Legacy Joint Funding Committee, which hears and makes recommendations on funding requests, will meet Thursday to discuss a funding application from the Questa Foundation.