Salted with Sharks

Council Meeting Report for June 2012

In Culture Bluffs, E Beach, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Politics, Uncategorized on July 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm

INITIAL PUBLIC COMMENT

An unidentified woman spoke regarding the beach: “Whether an ordinance is needed or not, I urge the council to take action and move on protecting the fragile environment.” She cited three clear tracks including the well-established track at the base of the dune. She questioned the claim that people are driving off-road because they don’t know where the road is. “The inner dune does not look like a road. There are also tracks now very evidently along the water’s edge. Anything short of getting some sort of barrier, at the end of the plat of land, won’t work. We need to go back to the sheriff’s department, find out what they need, and get going on it.”

Emily Votruba had just come from the public safety committee meeting at the sheriff’s office: “The sheriff reiterated that in his opinion the solution is large boulders. He suggested either passing an ordinance to vacate the road and block the entrance to the road with boulders, or else survey the road, figure out where it is exactly, and put boulders all alongside it. Another solution might be to deed the road to the land conservancy and let them manage it, making sure in the agreement that the area would remain open to the public.” She said a rumor of a boulder benefactor had been mentioned.

Candidates: Adrian Poulisse, running for county commissioner for the new District 7, introduced himself briefly. Michael, a.k.a. Mike, Smith is running for prosecuting attorney. “I have been licensed for 24 years. I am a former assistant prosecuting attorney. I have been on court-appointed councils in Michigan and North Carolina, where I practiced briefly. I have a broad range of experience including municipal and governmental defense. I have both prosecuted and defended cases. What makes a good defense attorney makes a good prosecutor, which is standing behind your client.” Smith said if elected he could perform the job without a full-time assistant prosecuting attorney. An assistant could come in one full day or two half days and that would save the county money in salary and benefits. He raised the issue of opponent Sara Mason’s young age and level of experience and said that another candidate, Anthony Cicchelli, had “attracted a lot of negative publicity for Benzie County.” He said he himself had never had a grievance filed against him or been subject to a law enforcement investigation. “I certainly have never lied to an officer indicating that I had dismissed a ticket because I had worked out a plea agreement. So by virtue of those two factors, experience and integrity, I ask for your support.”

Eric Van Dussen said he agreed that the only solution to the beach driving problem was a barricade at the end of the road. He said whatever is undertaken should begin with the Parks and Rec Commission. He said Parks and Rec should have a line item in their budget specifically for signage that would delineate the lawful roadway and list other rules. “I will make the first $100 donation to that and I have people waiting in line to give more money for that.” He said he had tried to get specific information from the DNR about penalties. “When was the last time someone from this village has written a grant request?” [Laura Manville was not present, but she has written several.] He mentioned the license plate passport tags that fund a yearly grant with a 25% match.

Emily Votruba said a PayPal button for accepting donations directly into a beach fund could be added to the village website and that our website developer, Jon Maue, was willing and able to help with that.

Reg Manville said anything to do with money had to be approved by the council. “We have a letter from John Keillor offering his opinion concerning the beach. All these different viewpoints will be taken into consideration. As a village we have now agreed upon a map of the road [which the council had in their packets]. We have contacted people at the state municipal league. And so we do have a basis on which to make a decision. This [map] tells where the road actually is. Diane has taken this situation under her wing and she’s been in the process of working with these other municipalities and different law enforcement and we’ll be starting again from this basis.”

APPROVAL OF BILLS

The May bills were approved. Total receipts,  $31,984.73. Total expenditures, $55,619.36 (Accounts payable, $41,293.35; Parks and Rec, $2,280.00; Solstice, $67.01; Payroll, $55,619.36). NB: Parks and Rec and Solstice are entirely self-funding. They are not funded by tax revenue or revenue from rental of the Lifesaving Station.

DPW/KEN BONNEY

Ken said, “The remains of the gate that was taken down were stolen, so we reported that to the sheriff’s department. The water sample last month was bad, so the DEQ requires that they do five samples afterward, and they all came back good.” The hydrants, woodchips, and sand were all good to go down at the Waterfront Park. The flower pots were out and the potholes fixed. The Elberta sign’s vinyl letters that were peeling off had been fixed. Ken was to meet soon with the engineer contracted for the state-required water survey.

WATER AND SEWER

The BLUA budget had been approved at that board’s last meeting. “Finances are on an even keel but we need to tighten our belt. The figures are sometimes $12K to $14K in the red but by the end of the year they’re back to normal,” said Ken Holmes.

PARKS AND REC

Connie reported on the approved purchase of a popcorn machine for P&R to sell popcorn at the Solstice Festival. Emily reported on the Historical Preservation Committee’s public meeting of June 13 at which Bill Herd, a national park ranger and historian, spoke on the Section 106 process with the Army Corps of Engineers and the State Historic Preservation Office. Elberta Land Holding Company rep Scott Gest and 14 other members of the community attended. Scott, the SHPO and the Army Corps will work together to come up with a memorandum of agreement through which the Army Corps’s finding of significant adverse historical impact from the proposed demolition of the car ferry aprons (East and West Slips) will be mitigated. The Elberta Historical Preservation Committee has been deemed an interested party by the Corps and its proposal will be considered. The committee and those present at the public meeting discussed three different design ideas; only one drawing has been produced so far. Scott had said an anchor was uncovered by Elmer’s, and that might make a nice addition to a historical display in the village. The anchor was to remain on the site until it could be identified (see below).

Connie said Parks and Rec felt they were not getting full representation from their liaison to council, Reg Manville, who had missed the previous three Park and Rec meetings. She asked if it was possible to appoint another liaison.

Reg Manville: “Does the council have anything to say about that charge?”

Bill Soper: “I don’t think it’s a charge. It’s just a comment. You haven’t been to the last three meetings.”

RM: “There’s going to be a meeting about Parks and Rec before our next [council] meeting, because I have some things to say, but I’m not going to say them publicly. We have some problems, big problems. But we’ll deal with that later [general expressions of confusion and disbelief from audience]. I don’t want to discuss it in public.

Mike Smith: “Then why don’t you go into closed session?”

RM: “I want our council to be informed before they take this issue up.”

EVD: “Don’t you have to vote to discuss that with your council, or is that just your prerogative?”

RM, to Connie: “Anything else?”

CM: “From me, no.”

FARMERS’ MARKET

Bill said there was nothing to report.

BEACH

Ross Thorsen said a cleanup was canceled the previous weekend because of the high wind. “We called Elmer’s to ask about them donating some gravel for the [beach] road but we haven’t heard back.”

Bill Soper said, “On the Marina Park, we talked [at the last meeting] about the docks coming out and a walkway. I’d like to see Laura at least investigate a grant for that.” Scott Gest said something inaudible about connecting that project with the trail somehow.

RM: “I talked to Scott about his ongoing concerns about the dock removal project [meaning the car ferry aprons, not the Marina Park docks]. I talked to Kurt Luedtke to see how the project was going. I’ve been keeping in contact with Scott.”

Scott Gest: “The Army Corps will comment based on their own historical resources. Then we [ELHC] and the SHPO will comment. I don’t have a date on when that draft will be ready.”

RM, to EV: “I just want to remind you that any recommendations that your committee has will have to be approved by the council.”

PRESIDENT’S REPORT

RM: “I have not been able to speak about our permitting process with Mr. Putney because of ongoing litigation. I would like to say a few things in general. As a council we are to execute the will of the village residents, but we are also bound by federal, state, and local laws. In denying the permit we fulfilled both objectives. I would like to congratulate the council on their educated decision and the many hours they spent preparing for this case.

“I’d like to thank the Solstice committee: Michele Cannaert, Jennifer Wilkins, Sharyn Bower, and Laura Manville for their dedication and I hope everyone on the council will pitch in to help make this year’s festival a success. Congratulations to Ross on organizing the village party at the LSS.”

BUDGET COMMITTEE

Linda Manville: “Where are we with the audit? Usually it’s done in May.”

Sharyn Bower: “July. It’s happening in July this year.”

RM, to Linda: “All you have to do is ask Laura.”

[General expressions of amazement]

Linda: “I’m not supposed to go to the office.”

RM: “Well, if you’ve got a question…”

[More expressions of amazement. Linda and the entire council had been instructed by Reg during the March meeting to run their questions through him rather than disrupting the work of Sharyn and Laura in the office.]

RM: “Here’s the difficulty I have. Every time we have a meeting I have to have Laura here, because you have questions.”

Linda: “You told me I’m not supposed to ask Laura.”

RM: “No, that’s not what I’m saying. You’re presenting facts, and I have to have Laura here, to make sure the facts are right. She’s not here.”

Linda: “All I asked was where are we with the audit.”

RM: “I think it’s pretty obvious where we are.”

[More amazement]

RM: “Our audit is perfect. It’s never failed.”

Linda: “I wanted to know where we are with the process. Did we not do the audit in May last year?”

Sharyn: “We did it at the end of May, in the first part of June. We’ve been tied up with everything with this situation [unspecified], so that screwed up their [meaning the auditor’s] timing too.”

Linda: “As a member of the budget committee I thought it appropriate to ask [about the audit], and I think I should be able to ask that question.”

RM: “Are you happy now?”

[Gasps from public]

“… with the answer?”

Linda: “I would appreciate respect from the president at this table.”

Reg moved the discussion on to the Fire and Safety Committee.

FIRE AND SAFETY

“We haven’t had a meeting, of course everything is quarterly now,” said Ken Holmes. “We’re having a pancake breakfast this weekend and everybody who’d like to help out should come. On Saturday.”

EMPLOYEE RELATIONS

[No report]

MASTER PLAN/LAKES TO LAND AGENDA ITEM

Linda said she’d handed out information on the Alliance for Economic Success’s Lakes to Land Initiative to council members. “This first came to our attention a while ago. Marcia Stobie talked about it, and I think it came before our planning commission. At that time, it was a new thing and we were under the impression that it was to develop master plans. And indeed it is. There are two grants involved, one from the Michigan Economic Vitality Incentive program and an additional one from the C. S. Mott Foundation. Benzie and Manistee counties are combining and using this money to develop their master plans. We didn’t get on board because we had just adopted our master plan.” Linda had been to a meeting about the initiative the previous Monday and said a number of townships and the city of Frankfort who had recently completed master plans were participating only in other projects within the initiative, in order to develop a collaboration, which would be particularly helpful in terms of grant writing. “Governor Snyder is stressing collaboration among municipalities. I would like to make a motion that we jump on board with this in order to participate in the collaboration at the end.” She directed council to the Lakes to Land website, which she said was very helpful, and said she had spoken to someone in the AES and been told that the July 1 deadline for joining might be flexible.

Reg said he wanted to make sure participation wouldn’t interfere with the work already done on our own master plan. Linda said she’d been assured that it was not necessary to change our plan and repeated that Frankfort had joined with its own complete master plan. Diane said that when applying for grants, letters of support and collaboration are necessary. Membership in the alliance would be a sort of built-in source of support letters.  The motion was approved.

VILLAGE WEBSITE AGENDA ITEM

Jon Maue reported on the new village website (www.villageofelberta.com). He had posted fliers around the village asking for participation in gathering content (text, photos, information) for the site. “I was hoping for a little bit better of a reaction than I got. But we are still actively soliciting feedback. We’ve successfully merged the farmers’ market website and the Solstice Festival website. All that traffic now goes through villageofelberta.com. Google searches for ‘Elberta’ we don’t do well on. We do better on ‘Elberta, Michigan.’ That’s because we’re competing against ourselves. We knew it was going to be hard to beat the already established website (villageofelberta.org) hosted by your former provider. Providing content will help put us in the number one position on Google.” Jon started a Facebook page and at press time it had 89 “likes.” “I manage about 22 Facebook pages and Village of Elberta was the fastest to 50 that I’d ever seen.” He wants to add more businesses to the local businesses page on our site and simply needs business cards or logos and/or address and contact information. He said he still needed meeting minutes for posting. (At press time only the February minutes were up for 2012; all of the 2011 minutes are up.) Jon said they were yet to hold a training session for the employees to learn how to add/change content for the site.

Diane Jenks: “What about Emily’s suggestion for PayPal? Is that a difficult thing to arrange?”

JM: “It’s actually very easy. It takes about twenty minutes. The important thing to have is the bank account where the money goes to.” (Maue subsequently sent material to Laura Manville about what is required for him to set up PayPal buttons.)

Jon and council discussed the matter of arranging a transfer of the domain rights to the dot-org site to the village. Village Office e-mail is connected to the dot-org domain. Jon said he had some experience acquiring domains from Lou Gear and that it could be difficult. “I’m sure there’s tons of stuff tied to your [dot-org] e-mail addresses. We can change the e-mail to dot-com at any time, the problem is just informing everyone that the e-mail has changed. The preferred route is to gain control of the dot-org, to tell Lou that you’d like to own the domain or for him to direct the traffic to the dot-com site.” The village paid for the domain.

Sharyn: “Is it registered in his name?”

JM: “I believe so. That’s his common practice.”

Bill asked if Sharyn could be authorized to contact Lou Gear. Sharyn said she would discuss it with Jon and send a letter.

Bill said he hadn’t been on the new site yet, but that on the old site he objected to the fact that the village clerk and treasurer were listed under the President’s name, followed by the other members of the board of trustees. “I would like to see that changed to president, then the trustees, then clerk and treasurer. And any correspondence that has the village council on it should be the same.”

Sharyn: “I don’t agree, because we’re officers. Under the Village Law Charter—”

Bill: “But you’re not part of the village council.”

Sharyn: “If it makes you feel better…”

Bill: “It would make me feel a lot better. It seems like it would be better to have the village council as one unit.”

Sharyn: “We are officers of the village.”

Linda said she’d like to see the term “president pro-tem” added to that person’s title on the site (currently it’s Diane Jenks).

RM: “Should we do all the committees, and the whole shot? How far do you want to go down?”

Diane: “Contact information should be on there as well. If you’re going to be a council member you should be willing to give out your phone number. And Carl [Noffsinger, zoning administrator] should be on there. And down the road, a list of the committees, the chairs of the committees, a brief description. We’re always looking for volunteers, so people should know what there is to volunteer for.”

Jon: “I had said I wanted to complete the site by July 4. You can submit your info in the forms. I’d encourage you all to do it and let other people know how easy it is.”

FINAL PUBLIC COMMENT

Adrian Poulisse said he’s on the county planning commission and he could provide information about free education opportunities for planning commission members the village had any interest. He said Benzie County had also just joined the Lakes to Land Initiative.

Scott Gest said the bulldozers down by the West Slip and in the former Koch fuel site was Elmer’s doing some of the site restoration work that was supposed to be done during the site demolition and that it would be finished by the next day. “We uncovered a ship’s anchor by the [former fuel oil] tanks buried under a berm so we were kind of surprised. Regarding the trail, we’ve been having ongoing issues with the Crystal Lake Property Owners Association trying to make sure everybody’s happy with that.”

Emily Votruba asked Reg if the meeting regarding Park and Rec was going to be a council meeting and whether it would be noticed. RM said it would be a closed meeting to deal with a personnel problem within Park and Rec.

Jennifer Wilkins asked if all members of Parks and Rec were invited to this meeting. Reg said no.

Eric Van Dussen: “I think your statement that you’re going to have a closed meeting regarding personnel is problematic. If you’re going to have a closed meeting the personnel has to request the closed session for that purpose or else it’s s violation of the open meetings act. If this board went into a closed session to discuss personnel without that personnel being present it would be a violation. So I would advise you to seek legal counsel before you do that.

“I think it might be prudent for someone to make a motion that specifies with particularity what is going to be written to the internet domain guy. The letter is going to be sent out on your behalf and no one knows what it’s going to say. I would suggest you seek legal counsel before you send out that letter as well because this is a legal issue and you pay for the domain.

“I’m really perplexed as to how a council member is being prevented from going into the village’s own office.” [Eric then made a speculative remark about the reason for the prohibition.] “She’s a council person and she should not be prevented. Reggie treated her with disrespect, I agree with her.”

RM: “You’ve got 30 seconds.”

EVD: “This council treats each other with disrespect constantly and it permeates the entire body. Today Reg and Ken Holmes did not treat your council members with respect.

“Who is the beach committee, when are their meetings, and where are they noticed? I’ve never seen any—”

RM: “You’re finished.”

EVD: “15 more seconds—”

RM: “You have beat your drum, loud and long, for a long time.”

EVD: “Can I be granted 15 more seconds? It’s a board decision.”

Several on board: “No.”

EVD: “But I will say this—”

Several on board: “You’re done.”

EVD: “He [referring to Mike Smith] got 10 minutes at the beginning of the meeting. Where is the clock? Who is the timekeeper—”

The board adjourned.

EVD: “The gravel you’re contemplating getting from Elmer’s—I would suggest testing it for contaminants before pouring it all over the beach… Thank you.” Ψ

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