RIVERDALE -- Although some residents are questioning Redevelopment Authority expenses, the city administrator is defending city procedures as showing a commitment to open government.
"It is public business and should be acted upon in a public meeting," Riverdale City Administrator Larry L. Hansen said.
According to a post on the Riverdale City citizens Facebook page, some residents are wondering why the city holds monthly RDA meetings, when some of those meetings only last a couple of minutes.
No matter how long the meeting, each council member gets paid $188 for each RDA meeting they attend. The chairman receives $260 for each RDA meeting he attends.
The total bill to pay all council members and chairman to attend a single RDA meeting is $1,200.
Hansen said the RDA budget includes plans for a total of 15 meetings each year.
The pay for attending regular city council meetings is similar.
In 2011, the January meeting lasted less than eight minutes; in April it was almost 10 minutes long; in May it was 18 minutes long; on June 7 it was 44 minutes long; on June 21 it was 61 minutes long; in August it was 1 hour, 57 minutes long; in October it was 14 minutes long; and in November it was nine minutes long.
In 2012, both the January and February meetings lasted about five minutes.
The length of a meeting doesn't give a true sense of how much time council members spend on RDA issues, Hansen said. Many of the issues are complex and council members are often expected to read through meeting packet material that contains more than 200 pages. Behind-the-scenes and personal preparation is extensive, he said.
Simply "sending out an update email" and cancelling meetings, as suggested on the Facebook page, is not an option Hansen supports.
"We do send out many emails about a variety of informative topics, but we do our best to try to conduct business and our actions in an open public meeting," he said. "The key point is to conduct the business and take action on issues in an open public meeting."
Hansen said RDA board meetings are cancelled occasionally if the agenda lacks pressing, time-sensitive items.
In 2011, RDA meetings were cancelled in February, July, September, and December. In 2012, the March meeting was cancelled.
"Like other RDA agencies, our RDA exists, and in effect operates, under state statutes that allow the agency to capture some of the incremental increase in property taxes paid by a property owner over a period of time," Hansen said. "This facilitates redevelopment activities at increased assessed values in project areas."
Hansen said the RDA benefits not only the city and its residents, but also residents of many other communities that share in Riverdale's sales tax revenues.
Property taxes received by the agency are channeled back to a developer, usually in reimbursements for street improvements, infrastructure and utility relocation, Hansen said.
"The RDA also operates certain programs of benefit to our citizens that would otherwise be either difficult or impossible to achieve without this tool," Hansen said in an email. "The two principal programs, both of which are multi-million dollar legacy assets for our city, are the 20-apartment Senior Housing Facility, which doubles as our community Senior Center, and the housing rehabilitation loan program which provides resources for income-qualified borrowers to maintain a safe and comfortable owner- occupied home."