KENNETH CITY — Should Kenneth City continue to be managed by town council members untrained in municipal governing or should this small community's day to day operations be run by a professional city manager?
That's the question voters may finally have a chance to decide in November.
Council members agreed during a Monday workshop to let taxpayers vote on whether they want to change the style of government to a city manager format.
Currrently, Kenneth City has a mayor and four council members who are elected at-large. Each council member is put in charge of the daily activities of one or more departments – police, fire, public works. The mayor acts as the chief financial officer of the town.
But it's a style that has been heavily criticized for at least 20 years — some councils have attempted to run the town like a homeowners association, holding morning coffee klatches in Town Hall.
At other times, the town government has been consumed by scandal and uproar sparked at least in part by political infighting, power plays and petty tiffs. Even when things have been relatively peaceful, the overriding factor is that council members, who have no training in municipal needs, are left to make decisions about crumbling infrastructure and setting priorities for the town's $2-million operating budget.
Throughout the years, a grand jury and others have suggested that the best solution to Kenneth City's woes would be to convert to a manager-council style government in which a trained professional would run the daily activities and the council would be responsible for setting policy and passing a budget presented by the manager. Most recently, a charter review committee, recommended that a manager be hired.
In the past, councils have resisted, saying a manager would cost too much. But now, they appear to be ready to let the taxpayers decide if that's how the budget should be spent.
Getting the item on the November ballot is still not a done deal. Council members have to officially vote at least one time to add it to the ballot.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.