Salted with Sharks

Council Meeting Report: We Didn’t Start the Fire (or the Sewage)

In Infrastructure and Planning, Politics on November 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm

The last meeting of the Doug Holmes–led Elberta Village Council convened last night. Next month, December 16, will see the new council members under Reg Manville take the reins. Attendance was high, at 18. Among the luminaries present were local developer Scott Gest and newly elected District 3 county commissioner Marcia Stobie.

Doug Holmes had some parting advice for the new council: appoint two representatives to the fire board right away (to replace himself and Charles Hendershott), and don’t miss any of the board’s quarterly meetings. Mr. Holmes has served on the fire board for eight years and says fire department personnel have received cost of living wage increases every year. They have never been denied equipment requests, and they have “the jaws of life now, pumpers, tankers … I would say their equipment is second to none in the county.” The fire chief currently draws a salary of about $50,000 per year, and there are two part-time positions the chief wants to make full-time.

The fire department is shared with Frankfort, and just one member is a Village resident.

Most people would say it’s a good idea to have happy, well-equipped firefighters. The problem as Mr. Holmes and others see it concerns how they’re paid—out of the Village’s general fund. Furthermore, Benzie County taxes us for advanced lifesaving services, but Mr. Holmes feels we are underserved in that respect and that we’re forced to lean too heavily on the fire department. Unlike some neighboring communities, Elberta does not have a special fire millage. “Maybe the other townships have money to burn,” said Mr. Holmes, “but we don’t.”

Marcia Stobie, president of the Elberta planning commission, and Kelli Stapleton, commission member, said they wanted to get started soon on the nine-month master plan process. Sarah Lucas of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NMCoG) will be advising Elberta at no cost to the Village. The planning commission is looking for at least two volunteers from the council and two from the wider community who are able to meet during the day on weekdays. It was decided that Ms. Stobie and Ms. Stapleton will address the new council at its first meeting in their quest for volunteers.

Ken Holmes, who will remain on the council, gave his water/sewer report. Mr. Holmes says the switch to a so-called third degree health insurance plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield for the three BLUA employees will save the Village $20,000 per year—from about $68,000 to about $48,000. Glen’s now has a new disposal system and will be using BLUA less. They are more than up to date with their payments; in fact they’re good for the next 20 years at their current rate of usage.

Doug Holmes said that as with the fire board, it is very important for the Village to maintain its representation in BLUA. Frankfort can outvote us if we don’t have representatives who attend meetings.

Bill Soper and Connie Manke reported from the Parks and Rec Committee. Consumers still needs to switch the electric over so that the lights can be turned on in the Marina park—and so that Christmas lights can go up there. Consumers has been paid to do this job and they haven’t done it yet. A new light pole is in the park waiting to be installed.

Reg Manville brought up the question of a new “welcome to Elberta” sign. Someone will have to investigate MDOT regulations and the zoning ordinance regarding signage before this project can begin.

Ken Holmes mentioned that the picnic tables in the park are “beat to heck” and need to be replaced. He also brought up the condition of the light-pole flags in town, some of which have had their brackets broken by recent high winds and are flapping around. In addition, one of the new street lights on 168 is getting “beat to death” by an adjacent tree.

Reg Manville remarked that the decision to leave the boardwalk down for an extra month has drawn a lot of positive feedback from visitors, especially fishermen. Steelhead fishing has been especially good this season and many people expressed appreciation for the continued easy access to the beach. Ken Bonney said that fishermen told him they would quit around Thanksgiving, so the plan to pull up the boardwalk next week makes sense. Mr. Manville said that the boardwalk is a service we provide to the community and local businesses, and if leaving it down longer means someone stops at the Lighthouse or the Mayfair or the Cabbage Shed, then it’s well worth it.

Doug Holmes remarked that our Department of Public Works under Ken Bonney has been functioning extremely well, with Mr. Bonney going beyond the call of duty and always being available when needed. Mr. Bonney has taken a test to get his water license, a requirement by state law if he is to maintain our water system. He should know within the next 40 days or so whether he has received the license. In the meantime, since August the Village has subcontracted with Dave Bissell, who has a license. A sum of $400 per month was approved to be paid to Mr. Bissell, who as of yet has received no money for this service.

As the meeting drew to a close, incoming trustee Diane Jenks thanked Doug Holmes for his many years of service. Ms. Jenks said she hoped Mr. Holmes would still be around to give advice to the new council. Incoming president Reg Manville said the same. Doug Holmes thanked Village clerk Sharyn Bower for the extra time she has put in. Scott Gest thanked the entire council, saying he’d seen a lot of work done that went unappreciated.

  1. Good job on the Elberta Alert. I read the artcicle regarding Doug Holmes comment of Fire Protection. There are errors in his report that need to be clarified. First, the Fire Chief has a base salary of $8,500.00 per year and the Assistant Chief (Elberta resident) has a base salary of $2,250.00 per year. All Firefighter and MFR personnel receive an hourly rate of $16.00 per hour when they respond to a 911 dispatched incident. There is a $800.00/week cap on on-call personnel that is engaged voluntarilly by those individuals dual tranined and certified in Fire and MFR. These individuals receive $8.00 per hour to be on-call at the Frankfort Fire Station to ascertain any emergency upon occurring. This is limited to the $800.00 per week cap. Do the math!

    He is correct by saying the Fire Department has good equipment. It is a mandate to have sound, working equipment and we have been successful to accomodate this through procurement of grants and budget control. There has been well over $200,000.00 in grant funds procured to purchase well-deserving equipment for this department that responds to a 56 square mile area encompassed through a cooperative agreement between the City of Frankfort, Village of Elberta, Gilmore Twp., Crystal Lake Twp. and Lake Twp.. Currently, Crystal lake and lake have fire millages to pay their share. Frankfort, Elberta and Gilmore pay out their respective General Funds.

    Benzie County provides ALS service but they can not fully provide an enhanced service without the MFR services provided by the City of Frankfort. On numerous the Frankfort MFR is fist on scene, thus providing a precious service enhancing the quality of life we desire.

    The City of Frankfort and Village of Elberta have a wonderful relationship that will only be improved through further collaboration and partnering to achieve an enhanced quality of life to the community.

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