Salted with Sharks

Coyote Crossing: November Council Meeting Reports

In Community Alert, Farmers' Market, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Politics, Public Safety, Village Money Situation, Water on December 7, 2016 at 2:22 am

By Emily Votruba

Regular Meeting, November 17, 2016

On the way to the regular council meeting, Linda Manville saw a coyote cross the road in front of her. The meeting was held at the Life Saving Station for the first time ever as far as anyone could remember. The room didn’t have a flag, so allegiance was pledged to an image of Old Glory brought up on someone’s phone.

A long pause was heard before the “second” on the approval of bills motion. Joyce Gatrell asked Ken Holmes if he had his hearing aid on. “Hah?” Ken said. Everyone laughed. Holly O’Dwyer said, “Ken hears better than most.”

The next quarterly meeting between Village officials and the Michigan Department of Treasury to check on the Village’s deficit elimination progress will take place January 4 at 10 am.

Clerk Cathy Anderson said she needed budget requests from Department and Commission heads by December 5.

Bid packets have been released for building the Penfold Park ADA compliant restroom. They are on the Village website and in the office. Bids were due December 2.

One bank account has been closed because the Flies and Vandenbrink sewer loan was paid off.

Noise Ordinance

Ken Holmes is still working on it. He’s modifying the state ordinance to suit our needs.

President Pro Tempore

On November 20 or as soon as possible after that each year, council is supposed to appoint a president pro tempore (pronounced “pro TEMporee”). In the absence of the president, the president pro tem presides at meetings and exercises the powers and duties of president. The longest continuously serving council member is chosen as president pro tem unless otherwise decided. Council will choose a pro tem at the December meeting.

Check Signatories

Ken Holmes was added by unanimous vote to the list of those who can sign checks; acting president Holly O’Dwyer isn’t always available because of her work schedule.

Planning Commission Recording Secretary

“People aren’t jumping up and down for this position,” said Holly. Council voted to appoint Cathy Anderson to be PC recording secretary at her clerk’s hourly rate for time at the meeting to the nearest quarter hour.

DPW Water Training for Ken Bonney

Ken Bonney, who was absent from this meeting, had requested to attend a four-hour Hach water analysis workshop in Cadillac. The cost was to be $100 for the class alone, or $400 for the class plus a portable Hach Colorimeter for measuring chlorine. Ken had said he did want the kit. Council wasn’t completely clear on what he used currently, but were sure it wasn’t portable; Cathy suggested it was attached to the chlorine injection system. Bill Soper said he’d ask Ken about the need for the Colorimeter. Cathy said there was sufficient money in the budget to cover it. Council agreed they would be pay Ken Bonney to drive to the class and sit in the class (6 hours total) and that he would drive the Village truck if he wished or be reimbursed for mileage.

DOW Grant Request

Hank Dow approached market master Sue Oseland at the Elberta Farmers’ Market in late September wondering if EFM needed any money. He was thinking of helping with the bathrooms. Sue told him she thought the project was fully covered with the USDA grant and the Village’s contribution, but as they were talking they were noticing the huge puddles in the gravel drive. The puddles appear in front of several vendors every time it rains. The Herbert and Margaret Dow Foundation awards grants December 1. Sue submitted a one page written proposal per the foundation’s guidelines. The foundation regularly gives grants to several entities within the county. Ken Bonney had gotten a bid of $9,800 for grading and graveling the drive, so Sue decided to request $10K in her application. No matching funds are required.

Sewer Rate Resolution

The sewer rates have been the same since 2010, but in order to finalize the USDA grant for the bathrooms at the Farmers’ Market Park, the Village has to provide its sewer rate resolution, and Cathy couldn’t find a copy of the resolution in the office. So Council passed a resolution affirming and continuing the existing sewer rates.

P&R Membership and Officers

The Parks and Recreation Commission elected its officers at their November annual meeting. president: Bill O’Dwyer (term ends November 2018); vice president: Bill Soper (term ends November 2018); secretary Emily Votruba (term ends November 2018); new member: Jason Soderquist (term ends November 2019); member: Andy Bolander (term ends November 2017); auxiliary member: Michele Cannaert. Council affirmed these appointments.

Time Clock and Village Policy 2014-004

Holly had written up a policy proposal for a time clock for employees. She wanted a more accurate documentation of hours worked, since she is now in charge of signing time cards. The clock she was suggesting costs about $210 on Amazon. Bill Soper agreed to install it. Council voted unanimously to order the clock and require its use by all employees, and adopted a policy related to the time clock.

Village Policy 2014-003 Regarding Village Vehicles

Holly drew everyone’s attention to this existing Village policy, which was signed on to by all current employees. Rule No. 1: Vehicles should be used for legitimate Village business. Rule No. 9: No smoking is not allowed in any Village vehicle or motorized equipment.

Pure Michigan Byway

MDOT has designated M-22 in Manistee and Benzie counties as a Pure Michigan Byway.

Lakes to Land Goal Setting Meeting

…was to take place November 29 at 1 pm at Blaine Township Hall. Cathy volunteered to go.

Village Policy 2014-005

This policy covers procedures related to overtime and excess hours. The policy states that overtime can only be earned for hours worked over 40 hours a week that have been approved by the president or president pro tem. Holly said she had heard that a differing policy for weekends was discussed at the September council meeting but she didn’t find anything about it in the minutes. She had seen that Ken Bonney had put down for 4 hours of overtime total for the previous Saturday and Sunday, but there was no explanation, and since Saturday is the beginning of his workweek, and she didn’t know if he’d had council approval for those hours, and she hadn’t been sure about signing the time cards. She asked council if they wanted to change the policy. Joyce asked if Ken Bonney normally works 40 hours a week. Ken Holmes said, “He’s supposed to.” No one was sure what his hours were. Holly asked again if anyone wanted to rewrite the policy or if she should follow the policy as adopted. No one responded.

Commissioner’s Report

Commissioner Sauer passed around a sheet of paper and said it was the license for the Maples. But it’s unclear whether that’s what it was. People applauded and cheered. He said, “This one expires in July…. It kicks them up to 78 beds, and they can use the new facility.” County Commissoners would be meeting on the first and third Tuesdays in December because of the holidays. The Veterans Memorial event drew more than 200 people. The health department has been working on remodeling their facility, including basement and exam rooms.

Ken Bonney was not present to deliver the DPW report

Planning Commission

Ken Holmes said they OK’d a project on Crapo Street. The Commission had forty pages of paperwork to review regarding the Cabbage Shed’s porch extension. Until recently there had not been enough people on the commission to have a quorum for meetings, hence the delay of over a year. The Shed will now have to wait until spring to build. The PC Commission plans to approve the project at their next meeting, in December.

Parks & Rec Report

The Thanksgiving Leftovers Party was to take place on November 27. Jason Soderquist said he would offer free professionally lit studio-style photographs during the event for use in holiday cards, etc. Live acoustic guitar music would be provided by Dan Kelly. A presentation with slides on the history of the Life Saving Station would be given by Andy Bolander. A silent auction of the Solstice Quilt would take place and the winner would be announced at 8. Bids could be made online through the Village website or in person at the Office. No bids had yet been received. The auction had been announced in fliers, on the Elberta Alert, on the Village website, and in the Record–Patriot.


As usual, the board was still waiting for JD to get his license. Holmes reiterated that JD has written the exam. Everything’s running fine and the facility is all set for winter.

Municipal Buildings

Ross Thorsen expected to finish insulating the crawlspace at the Life Saving Station and to rebuild the enclosures for the dumpster. He has a plan for the vertical siding above the windows, which is deteriorating; it will probably have to wait for spring, but materials can be bought and prepared. Scott Spencley finished installing the Community Building door. Jason Soderquist was nearly done painting the Amphitheater, but while sanding the overhang he discovered that the panels had been connected with joint compound and paper tape, not adequate for an exterior structure, and it had begun crumbling, so he needed to fix that. He thanked Bill Soper for lending the Village his scaffolding, which made the project possible.

Benzie County Master Plan

…is available online at the Networks Northwest site, Contact Sarah Lucas with questions or comments.

Public Comment

Sue Oseland thanked Jason for the great job on the Amphitheater, especially the sanding down and priming, which hadn’t been done before apparently. She asked if the no-smoking policy was enforceable and what the consequences would be. Holly said the disciplinary policy would be discussed at the December meeting.

Holly thanked all the local volunteers for helping things run smoothly. Thus ended the very short meeting, to everyone’s relief, at just over an hour.

♦         ♦         ♦         ♦         ♦

Special Meeting, November 21, 2016

Ken Bonney, Department of Public Works superintendent since about 2010, quit on Friday, November 18. Holly O’Dwyer had called this special meeting for November 21 at 6 pm. The meeting quickly became a group discussion with the public involved.

The meeting’s purpose was to begin examining options for how to fill the Village’s immediate and long-term DPW needs. Bonney had been tasked with performing all functions, Holly said, but the Village could “think outside the box” for how to structure the department in the future.

The Village has a backup contract with the county for plowing. Holly asked if council should advertise for a CDL-B operator for the Village equipment, and if so, should the new hire be compensated on an hourly basis or be offered a contract for the whole winter.

Rosemary Tanner asked if the Village truck was viable for sanding. Ken Holmes said the sander can be put on and should have been put on a month ago, give me a break. Holly said her understanding from Bonney was that the sand had already been mixed, the truck had been taken for a checkup, and the Village could “limp along” this season.

Bill Soper asked Dave Bissell, a water operator who works full-time in Frankfort, if someone from Frankfort would be able to do our plowing. Bissell said if they’re plowing they’re plowing all day so they probably wouldn’t have time to do Elberta too. Anybody can drive a truck, Bissell said, but it takes a special skill to operate a plow without doing any damage.

Sue Oseland suggested looking at the statewide payscale for what the Village needs to get a sense of what the going rates are.

The consensus was that the most immediate need was for a water operator. Holly had spoken with Scott Conradson of the DEQ, who told her the Village has an S4-D4 system with wells that must be checked by a licensed operator a minimum of 5 days a week. The minimum requirements according to Michigan Rural Water, a nonprofit advisory agency, however, seemed to be slightly different; they say a licensed operator must be on-site 2 days a week, and that other days an unlicensed person can take the chlorine readings. Dave Bissell is licensed and checks the water every day.

Holmes said two diesel backup generators for sewer and water must also be checked regularly and he wasn’t sure whether that was being done.

Woody Card said, “You’re asking someone to be responsible for your water system 24/7, 365 days a year. What’s in it for them? Obviously there’s a problem, because you’ve lost a man who was doing that. You have to address that situation or you’ll be in the same situation again.”

Holmes said, based on his experience in the DPW, that the Village has 5 miles of streets and it takes 2.5 hours to sand the streets and 2.5 hours to plow, and that was with the “junk” he had to work with.

Holly apologized for not knowing what was needed for the water system but said she’d asked questions of the DPW in the past and received inconsistent and unclear responses.

Woody said, “Whoever takes this position has got to love you all. You’re asking someone to give up his entire life to make sure your water is safe. If a water main breaks you could be in serious trouble. You have to come out of the 60s. It’s not that simple anymore.”

The discussion turned from short-term stopgap water needs to long-term ones. Holly suggested  hiring more than one person precisely because 24/7/365 is too much to ask. She suggested contracting with other communities. Michigan Rural Water has short-term backup people. “We might be able to afford one water operator full-time but we certainly can’t afford two.”

Woody said he was willing to work for the Village and that he has a CDL and is also a master mechanic. “I’ll do it for education because I’m looking to advance my water license, so we’d be helping each other.” He said he was willing to look at the plow truck and help the Village find plowing contractors. But said he needed to have an offer on the table before he would seriously consider it. He also said the fire hydrants needed to be drained.

Holmes said that Bonney had already flushed the hydrants for this year. (True.)

Holly asked Woody if he would want an hourly wage or a contract for the winter. Woody said he hadn’t given it much thought. “This is my kind of work but I don’t know if I can work with the council. I’m pretty blunt, and I’m kind of happy where I’m at right now. You’re asking a lot.”

Dave Bissell was asked if he could do the water work; he said he was too busy with Frankfort but he would remain our backup if needed.

Ken Holmes offered to show Woody the wells. Cathy asked Holmes if he had keys to the well house. Holmes replied that she could give him the keys and then he could give Woody a tour. Cathy remarked that this meeting was not a job interview.

Sue Oseland remarked that council was discussing showing our water system to someone we don’t even know.

Rosemary Tanner suggested having Card work up an application.

Woody pointed to Cody Bowers, sitting next to him, and said he was another possible candidate.

Cathy said, “We’re talking temporary stopgap measures. Council should determine a structure for the department going forward before permanent hires are made.”

Emily said, “Our village unfortunately has a bad reputation. The word on the street among the people who would be qualified to do this kind of work is that this is a crappy place to work. We have a little bit of a PR problem, so we need to pay some attention to marketing this job or jobs so that it appeals to the kind of people we want to attract. There are people out there who can do this work really well. It would be helpful for the council to try to identify why we’ve been losing people in the past. It’s not just a problem with the people who quit, it’s a management and working conditions problem. I wouldn’t want you guys to desperately just sort of grab someone because you think you’re not going to be able to find somebody good. We can get somebody good.”

Robin Rommell said, “We’re talking about water and plowing as if it’s the end all, be all. I hope you don’t get caught up in thinking that the first guy that comes along with the right license and the CDL is the guy for the job. That’s just a small part of what the DPW needs to be doing.”

Sue Oseland said, “DPW staffing for many years has been one person and an assistant who at various times were efficient or not. But there’s been no supervisory skills with most of the DPW supervisors we’ve had. You have to have someone who knows how to work with people, direct people, set outcomes. Those things were never established.”

Rommell said, “There was criticism of Santana [former DPW assistant who also left the job without giving notice or explanation a couple of weeks prior], but she probably did just exactly what she was asked to. And that’s a failure of leadership.”

Council decided to form a steering committee to create a long-term plan. Woody Card volunteered to be on the steering committee, but several people pointed out that that would be a conflict of interest since he seemed to be interested in applying for the job. Sue, Emily, Robin, and Holly volunteered. Holmes said a person familiar with operations was needed for the committee. Holly said, “OK, you’re on it then, Ken.”

Dave Bissell said he’d be willing to field phone calls from Holly to answer questions.

Woody suggested calling Thompsonville, which has a DPW and also contracts with Great Lakes Labs for water tests.

Bill Soper asked about the meeting that was set for the next day with Mike Engels, a trainer and circuit operator with Michigan Rural Water, a nonprofit agency. Cathy said she had called Engels as soon as she heard Bonney had quit. She said the Village needs to understand better what is involved in hiring a water operator, what kind of compensation would be expected, and what requirements the candidate should meet.

The meeting adjourned at about 7. The steering committee had its first meeting on November 28 and its second meeting December 7. Their goal is to research what is done in some other small communities, exhaustively assess the Village’s DPW needs, and to try to produce a proposal for how the DPW could be structured in the future by the December council meeting.


  1. NICE report, Emily!!! I’m REALLY glad to hear Hank may have stepped up to the Market b’room…I had asked him to consider…H may be helpful in other ways as well. I also asked Kurt Luedtke.

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