Salted with Sharks

Pointing Figures: Regular Council Meeting November 21, 2013

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Village Money Situation on November 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm

What follows, in bold type, are the official minutes for the meeting, respectfully (and very quickly) submitted by volunteer clerk Sharron May. Thanks, Sharron! My interpolations appear in regular type.—Emily Votruba

The regular meeting of the Elberta Village Council was held on Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at the Community Building, 401 First Street in Elberta.

The Pledge of Allegiance was recited and the meeting was called to Order at 7:03 p.m.

Present were R. Manville, Jenks, L. Manville, Homes, Wilkins, Gatrell; none were absent. Guests were Eric Cline, Local Government Operations Specialist and Roxanne Nichols, Senior Auditor, from the Michigan Dept. of Treasury. Public roster attached.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES Motion to approve Special Meeting of October 10, 2013 moved L. Manville, 2nd Holmes; all ayes; motion passed. Motion to a) strike statement “and call the State’s bluff ” and replace with “and await report from the state to help with decision” and b) to add correspondence from State Department of Treasury to the minutes moved L. Manville, 2nd Jenks, all ayes, motion passed. a) Change Agenda item 2, page 2 in last 3 sentences. Statement not worded as such by Trustee.

APPROVAL OF AGENDA Motion to approve agenda moved Jenx, 2nd L. Manville, all ayes, motion passed.

AGENDA CONFLICT – None

PUBLIC COMMENT Emily Votruba thanked Sharron May for volunteering to record the minutes for tonight’s meeting. L. Manville welcomed guests Roxanne Nicholas and Eric Cline from Michigan Dept of Treasury.

PUBLIC HEARING: RECREATION PLAN Motion to open Public Hearing moved Jenx, 2nd Manville, all ayes, motion passed.

PUBLIC COMMENT Emily Votruba introduced Recreation Plan which can be found on the Village website. This is the end of the public comment period. She hopes that the council sees fit to adopt the plan and thanked those who helped with the process.

Cheryl Gross commented that Wilkins and Votruba met with a lot of outside constituents (trail, beach development, conservancies, etc) to make sure that the plan was integrated and meets requirements for additional funding; it was very well done. Mike Jones pointed out missing dollar figures. Motion to close Public Hearing and proceed with regular meeting moved Jenks, seconded Holmes, all ayes, motion passed.

CORRESPONDENCE: 1. Resignation Letter received from Clerk Sharyn Bower dated 11/15/13 was read by R. Manville (see below). 2. Letter from Robert and Michele Cannaert dated November 1, 2013 was received regarding the acquisition of the ‘Duck’s head’ property was read by L. Manville (Cannaert Letter Regarding Purchase of Duck’s Head) 3. Letters of application to fill Council vacancy received from Robin Rommel and Holly O’Dwyer. 4. Correspondence from Edgar Roy, legal counsel

Letter from Sharyn Bower announcing her retirement as Village Clerk, read by R. Manville at the November meeting.

Letter from Sharyn Bower announcing her retirement as Village Clerk, read by R. Manville at the November meeting.

APPROVAL OF BILLS L. Manville reported October 2013 receipts of $23,018.68; expenditures for General Accounting $27,734.99; Payroll $14,307.20; and Parks and Recreation $587.66 for a total of $42,629.85. Motion to recognize that payment of the bills has already taken place prior to review by Council moved by L. Manville and 2nd by Wilkins failed. Discussion: R. Manville asked if this was the process as it has always been done. L. Manville replied that this is a process has been brought to her attention through the State Treasury Department. Wilkins questioned why 3 council members were paid in October. R. Manville responded that anyone who wants to get paid for a meeting can request it. (Jen later told me she had been told by Linda that council members were paid in December and then again at the end of the fiscal year, in February, so she hadn’t made a payment request. Then she saw that three members [Reggie, Joyce, and Ken] had been paid in October. Jennifer so far has been paid once, in February 2013, for her first three months in office.) Laura Manville read a Resolution adopted on May 21, 2009 supporting the acceptance of bills that had already been paid. Linda said she wasn’t aware of this resolution because it was before her time.

REPORTS DPW – Superintendent Bonney reported on winter activities (pumping out fire hydrants, removing life rings, etc.) and reminded public that no street parking is allowed from 12 a.m. to 7a.m. November 1 – April 15 for snow removal. Discussion about process for showing Life Saving Station to prospective renters. Call Village Office.

WATER/SEWER/BLUA Ken Holmes reported on leachate and that benefits were awarded to the new employee after 90 days. Holmes didn’t agree with the decision although he thinks employee is doing a good job.

PARKS AND REC/ MARINA PARK/FARMER’S MARKET– Wilkins reported that the committee had its annual meeting. They discussed raising Farmer’s Market booth fees to $180 per season or $12 per day and new hours of 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Other topics: signage, playground equipment removal, Recreation Plan, Xmas tree fundraiser. Revenues and expenses for 2012-13 are available for the Farmer’s Market. Bonney reported on beach: boardwalk stored; going to court for beach trespassing ticket. Tattered flags have been replaced.

ZONING ADMINISTRATOR – Bonney has one variance request, from Richard Becker.

PRESIDENT’S REPORT – R. Manville met with State on Policies and Procedures to bring the village up to standards.

BUDGET COMMITTEE – Linda Manville requested that Laura Manville check on a wage compensation ordinance and provide a YTD budget to actual report at future meetings.

FIRE/SAFETY – Ken Holmes – The fire board discussed buying a used ladder truck from California with a boom and 4-person capacity that can pump 1500 gal. water per minute.

MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS – Discussion about putting a For Sale sign in the library window; appraisal has been done.

EMPLOYEE RELATIONS – R. Manville wants to call an employee relations meeting for next week to discuss the employee handbook and make a recommendation to the full council.

PLANNNING COMMISSION – L. Manville reported that next meeting is January 7, 2013 at 7 p.m. regarding Zoning map and by-laws. Bill O’Dwyer accepted position as temporary chair position due to Marcia Stobie’s resignation.

AGENDA 1a. D/A RECREATION PLAN – Manville wants to see the finalized copy before approving. Motion to table adoption of Recreation plan to December meeting moved Gatrell, seconded Holmes, all ayes, motion passed.

AGENDA 1b. D/A DEFICIT – A letter was received from Harland Goodrich, Manager of the Local Audit and Finance Division approving the request for deadline extension for deficit elimination plan to Dec. 5, 2013. If not filed by that date, 25% of state revenues will be withheld. R. Manville emphasized the two areas and deadlines: 1) Deficit elimination and 2) employee procedures. Members were asked to present their plans.

R. Manville – Cut DPW position created this year which he feels is responsible for the budget problems. A motion to cut the full-time DPW position created this year was not seconded.

Linda Manville – Based on the Dec. 5 deadline and in anticipation that the Council would not be capable of coming to a conclusion, she took steps to meet with Tim Ervin of the Alliance for Economic Success and Josh Mills, Frankfort’s City Superintendent. She read a letter by Ervin suggesting that with Council’s approval, they solicit the help of Mills to craft a game plan and scope of work to implement the plan, working closely with Roxanne Nicholas and Eric Cline of the State Treasury Department. Ervin is not seeking compensation. He has over 30 years experience in government, business and non-profit development and funding and was confident he could secure funding to compensate Mills. Manville presented a 2-year plan. Year 1: reduce office hours to 20 hours per week, 20% cut in health insurance premiums, eliminate miscellaneous office expenses such as cleaning, Pitney Bowes stamp machine rental, uniform and rug cleaning for a savings of $58,139.40. Her rationale for office hour cuts was a comparison to the Village of Beulah [Linda Manville Proposed Deficit Reduction Plan]. Year 2: payroll every two weeks, quarterly S&W bills; electronic payments; Trustees reduced to 5; appointing rather than electing a combine Clerk/Treasurer on salary vs. hourly wage, 3 days a week with P/T office person 4 hours a week. After the sale and closure of library, asking Gilmore Township to share office operating expenses and possibly rent community building for elections.

Discussion: R. Manville objected to Linda’s meeting with Ervin and Mills without his or the Council’s knowledge. L. Manville responded that the meeting was part of her effort to create the plan he requested they present tonight.

Diane Jenks – doubting the ability of council to agree on a plan, she supported the idea of seeking funding for qualified, objective outside help. Her recommendations for cutting expenses and increasing revenues totaled $77,918.44. Expenses cuts: DPW: no over-time (make up hours), paying flat rate towards insurance of $300/mo. each; cutting office hrs to 20; eliminating garbage bag sales, dumpster at Village, and onsite gas [diesel, actually, according to Laura Manville; did you know we have a diesel tank in the Village behind the office? Rumor has it that various people have been fueling up their personal vehicles there for years]; gas cards for DPW staff only that are put out to bid; cell phones for DPW staff only; Wi-Fi price shopping, bids for computer and repairs. Increasing revenues: renting community building, marina and waterfront pavilion. $5 honor-system boat-washing fee; donation stations at beach and parks with information on website; raising permit fees; fire pits; enforcing ordinances; sharing office space with Gilmore Township to offset expenses and be open more hours.

Discussion: Ken Holmes agreed with revenue plan, but Lifesaving Station should be under village control at all times and not rented during winter months. Ken Holmes attributed much of the deficit to non-enforcement of ordinances costing many thousands of dollars; that every home torn down costs the village $500. He supported the idea of having someone come in and give them a hand but disagreed with cutting the few services the Village provides. “Does anyone know how much  work and how many hours it takes?” Jenks provided comparisons with surrounding communities according to population size, similar assets and services. Holmes responded that the only other community that makes the same or less revenue is Thompsonville and that Benzonia and Beulah are run by people who are in the money business. Jenks responded that is why she is suggests seeking help from someone with more qualifications and expertise. Holmes conceded that when Mills writes grants, he gets them.

Wilkins (a member of the Budget Committee) wanted the public to know that she has contacted the president to arrange budget meetings without success. She feels that they need outside help to solve problems and need to adhere to Conflict of Interest practices. She volunteered to be put on a DPW and office oversight committee.

Discussion: R. Manville responded that Wilkins approved the budget and Wilkins denied it. [Jen was the only trustee to vote no on the 2013–14 budget.]

L. Manville said that Council is responsible for going over the budget and that the motion would be that pending funding, to go forward with seeking outside assistance. Holmes stated that the problem started 10-15 years ago when the revenue coming in took a nose-dive—they’ve been over budget ever since. “If we can get someone who can push a pencil better than we can, I would like to see Reggie talk to these people.” L. Manville was unaware that previous deficit elimination plans were declined by the state and that is the reason she asked to receive budget to actual reports.

Eric Cline from the Department of Fiscal Responsibility asked if he could speak and gave a brief introduction. Their job is to act as advisors and consultants. He has held various roles in local government for 15 years. Roxanne, with the local audit division, analyzes conditions on the ground and generates information to work from. He said that Elberta’s situation is not unusual from some of the other communities and actually may even be better. He clarified the 2 needs: create a deficit reduction plan and address internal control and budget issues. He emphasized that Treasury wants to assist the village in addressing these issues “but this is your community and our intent is not to tell you what to do.” They are wiling to devote time over the next 6 months with site visits and working with the village to get things addressed and organized. He suggested using the budget committee as a vehicle to develop recommendations or forming a special committee of 3 council members and other people to develop recommendations to bring to the Council. While it was not their place to comment on the other help being offered, he suggested having potential consultants give a presentation and calling a couple of special meetings. With holidays coming, time is running thin. Roxanne Nichols gave similar advice and asked for questions.

Holmes asked their opinion on getting outside help. Cline suggested listening to a presentation if the majority is comfortable with it. “It’s creative and thinking outside the box” added that it sounded like they made the initial contact and it was appropriate that it was investigated and brought to the Council tonight. R. Manville asked about the potential of an Emergency Manager and where they might fall in that process. Cline responded that they are several steps away before that even can become a discussion point. There are 19 different triggers in the act. If a community violates any one of them, the state can send in a team to do a preliminary review. The lengthy process of determining fiscal distress can take several months. The four choices a community can take, including an emergency manager, are outlined in the law. Council would get to vote on what they want to try first. He left a copy of PA236 of 2012 for Council to review, adding that while the law is out there, he suggested not dwelling on it.

Holmes moved that they have a special meeting with Mills and Ervin. Jenks agreed “It’s time to think outside the box but we’re in the box.” R. Manville acknowledged Mills as “a good man and a friend of Elberta.” Motion for R. Manville to contact Tim Ervin to set up a council meeting with them for advice moved Holmes, seconded Jenks, all ayes, motion passed.

2. D/A EMPLOYEE POLICY AND PROCEDURE (P&P) MANUAL – R. Manville would like to have employee relations committee meeting. (With departure of Matt Stapleton, committee now consists of only R. Manville and Joyce Gatrell.) They have input from the state and need to come up with a P&P manual by January 15. Holmes recommended referring to the 2002 manual that was adopted in February [when? not this past February or the one before, and no one besides Ken seems to have a copy of it], although there was some question about that. Wilkins requested that Jenks be included in the committee since she put so much work into the proposed manual manual and could answer questions. [Jenks first submitted her proposed manual to council in August. At the September meeting Joyce and Ken said they needed more time to look at, and it was not discussed at the October meeting.]

R. Manville replied that he had already appointed Holmes [when did this happen?]. A motion that the employee relations committee meet to review the two manuals, discuss state regulations and give a report to council so the council can decide on policies and procedures failed.

3. D/A CLERK’S POSITION – L. Manville said that duties and job description are spelled out in the Village General Law book but state regulations need to be added. Wilkins asked how people should apply for the position. Eric Cline suggested putting out a notice to submit an application to complete the elected term of office and specify what they want. Then interview candidates and make a selection. As the process could take weeks, he suggested they consider appointing an acting clerk on a temporary basis because of the need to sign payroll and other checks. They may have to adopt a resolution to change the signatory on checks to avoid chaos at payroll. One of the Council members could be appointed as temporary clerk, he said, and advised them to keep a deputy position in back of their minds as well. A discussion followed about whether the temporary person must reside in the village limits, rate of pay, whether it could be changed during a term, etc. Cline offered that the rate would stand unless they elect to change it. Compensation is supposed to be determined by an ordinance. It is uncertain whether there is a Wage Compensation Ordinance. He suggested that a temporary clerk from another township might be an option, but to contact legal council.

Motion to post temporary position of clerk and list that the person needs to be a resident withdrawn.

Motion that the Village president contact neighboring municipalities for clerks who are available for a temporary position and for Emily Votruba to contact interested party, for a temporary clerk position @ a pay rate of $16.96/hour moved L. Manville, 2nd Jenks, all ayes, motion passed. (I contacted the interested party via the Alert Facebook page and put out a general call there.)

4. D/A COUNCIL APPOINTMENT – Holly O’Dwyer and Robin Rommell read their letters of application. Discussion: L. Manville felt that both were qualified, but recommended O’Dwyer due to her current participation level and willingness to come on the ZBA board under a time of stress. Motion to appoint Holly O’Dwyer to the vacant council seat to the end of the term moved by Jenks, 2nd by L. Manville failed.

5. D/A Zoning Variance (Becker) – L. Manville suggested that that there should be a form for him to apply to appeal and request a variance. It would be for a dimensional, not a use variance.

PUBLIC COMMENT – Sue Oseland provided Tim Ervin’s phone number and was glad that they are considering talking to him. She worked in Manistee for 4 years and Ervin has been able to procure vast amounts of money for the County. He was instrumental in the Explore the Shore project and is a good person. She was disappointed in the process for voting in another council member. “It’s a very embarrassing situation that council couldn’t come to some resolution on this. How long do we, as the public, go on working and watching an incomplete board and council?”

Terry McGregor – You have two very willing and capable people to come on this board and get something done. I don’t understand why this happened. It’s a shame. She asked if there are 2 people who can sign checks. It was determined that Reggie Manville and Laura Manville can.

Emily Votruba – The fact that the president and the treasurer are signing checks is a conflict of interest. They are married and share a household. It is also a conflict with the employee relations committee, given he’s married to one of the employees. That is a pretty clear conflict of interest and spelled out in the report from the state. We need a Conflict of Interest policy. I would like to see that resolved. I was also disappointed that there was no meeting set for the employee policy and procedure manual as that is one of the first things that needs to happen to meet our requirements of the state.

Don Tanner, County Commissioner commented that Chris Olson was interested in helping. He did economic forecasting for the county and put together a budget that could look 3 years in advance. He has a certain expertise in difficult projects and seems to enjoy a challenge. Tanner also announced that the village would be seeing 1) an economic development plan in conjunction with the county board, EDC and Chamber and 2) a Hazard Mitigation plan. He gave an update on the regional mental health affiliation, which has hired a director.

Art Melendez also endorsed Chris Olson as a very detailed and amazing young man.

Vicki Mix, Gilmore Township asked if something could be put out with the address to the council members in theElberta Alert for suggestions, letters of recommendations, or applications.

Wilkins commented that since decisions didn’t pass tonight they should consider having a special meeting to address Employee Policy and Procedures, the Employee Relations Committee, Conflict of Interest and Council appointments. These things need to be addressed or we will not go forward. It’s really tiring…

Reggie Manville – There are 6 people on this Council with different viewpoints. I’m not saying what’s right but there are 6 people who have the right to vote their conscience.

Sue Oseland – I took Jen’s suggestion differently. We have been coming to meetings for the last few years and not a whole lot gets done. Either it doesn’t get voted on or, as we’ve seen in the last couple of months, there’s a split. And that is going to continue. And it’s really frustrating for us and I would imagine some of the Council. For instance, when is another Council member going to be selected? Having timelines is not a bad idea.

Reggie Manville – it is frustrating for me to be the president of this council. I can’t lead this council.

Oseland – Actually, you aren’t the leader. You are a facilitator.

R. Manville – I beg to differ, I’m the president.

Oseland – That’s a facilitator. And it’s a great role. If you could facilitate when these things are going to be voted on, that would be great.

R. Manville – This council is divided because of the election that took place 3 or 4 years ago. Some people ran on an agenda that was completely different than the people that were on the Council. Consequently, that agenda has stayed. The village elected me and my wife. I am sick and tired of people saying there is a conflict of interest. They are questioning my integrity and that is upsetting to me. The only place that we have cut in 3 years is the office with the girls. Past councils have given our employees cost-of-living adjustments. We no longer do that. For two years they also cut their benefits, saving the village thousands of dollars…they have cut the money that we’ve spent. Where are the facts that I am favoring my wife? The facts do not support these allegations.

Art Melendez – This is just my opinion as a taxpayer and being involved with village politics. I could put it in street language but I won’t do that. But you got to get your head out of something and do your job! That is what we elected you for. I know and respect all of you, but as a group something has to change.

Holmes- Weren’t you the president of Parks and Rec? What happened? The same thing. They threw you out because you were honest.

Votruba – You asked for examples of Conflict of Interest. At the August meeting Linda Manville made a proposal that employees pay 20% toward the health insurance premiums and Reggie Manville, who had a financial interest in the vote, did not abstain and voted against the village reducing this cost. Two months later he is calling meetings about an Emergency Manager is coming in. If I were Village president in the same situation, I would have abstained from that vote, as it was an obvious conflict of interest.

R. Manville – Were you at that meeting? This is how I responded. This has nothing to do with my wife. I was born in Flint, the home of the UAW; my great-grandfather was in the sit-down strike, a union person my whole life. I don’t care who it is; I would be for the workers. That’s the way I was brought up. That’s my viewpoint.

L. Manville – The fact is that there are laws against that, Michigan State statutes. If you have a financial interest, you must abstain.

Holmes – My brother-in-law worked for the village and dozens of people screamed. MML said it was legal.

Christeen Kibby Crawford – You are supposed to be working for the residents of Elberta.

Mary Link, Frankfort – I don’t think we [in Frankfort] are in much better shape, so I don’t know if hiring Josh Mills is a good idea, as much as I like Josh. Can you even have a legal vote with a council that has an even number? 

Don Tanner – I am the Democratic chair of 6 Republicans on my board and often they don’t agree with my viewpoint. What you can do to get past your impasse and be perfectly legal is to take the applications of the people who are interested and throw them it in a hat. The proper procedure for a Conflict of Interest is to state any conflict or perceived conflict and let the board vote on it.

Art Melendez threw his cap on the council table.

Motion to have applicants put their name in a hat and draw for the vacant Council position moved Jenks, second L. Manville 5 ayes, 1 nay (R. Manville); motion passed. Colin Merry was asked to draw and pulled Robin Rommel’s name from the hat.

Rommel – Thank you for the vote of confidence!

Motion to adjourn moved Jenks seconded Gatrell all ayes, motion passed. Meeting adjourned 10:36 p.m.

  1. Wish I knew I had a volunteer editor! Thanks, Emily, for filling in the blanks. It was an honor to be of service in the small way that I could. When there are differences sometimes it helps to shift the focus on the commonalities. It was clear to me that everybody in that room – from the public, to the Council, to the Treasury Department representatives, to the outside offers of help – cares about the future of the village of Elberta. Progress was made and more steps have been taken since. That’s one more thing to be thankful for!

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