Salted with Sharks

Posts Tagged ‘#VillageFinancialCrisis’

The Sacred and the Profane

In Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Politics, Village Money Situation on February 20, 2014 at 11:49 pm

By Emily Votruba

BREAKING: A special meeting of the Village Council will be held this Wednesday at 7 pm in the Community Building to deal with agenda items council didn’t get to at last Thursday’s meeting and to finalize the budget. A great deal of time was spent on 2/20 dealing with the expulsion-by-letter from Parks and Rec of Bill Soper, which several council members said they did not agree to. Reggie Manville promised at that meeting to expel Bill at a future meeting. Let’s hope Council uses its time wisely on Wednesday to deal with the Agenda items related to the state-mandated corrective action plan and the budget, two matters that must be squared away before March 1.

Regular Council Meeting, February 20, 2014—Council approved a budget for FY 2014–15. Full report to come. In the meantime, here’s some audio from this three-hour meeting.

The Manville–Soper Conflict

And here are some primary documents, obtained from Eric VanDussen, relevant to some dramatic public comment at the beginning of the meeting. Bill Soper, who was present at the meeting, declined to be interviewed at this time. I did not attempt to contact Laura Manville on the matter.

In a nutshell Read the rest of this entry »

Budget Fuss: A Choppy Start to Turning the Fiscal Ship Around

In Gov't Watch, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on February 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm

By Emily Votruba

During its regular board meeting this Thursday, February 20, the Village Council will review and most likely adopt the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014–15. At least one council member and budget committee member won’t be voting to adopt it.

“We’ve had no budget meetings,” says Jennifer Wilkins. “This budget has been prepared by the Village treasurer in conjunction with [DEP/CAP consultant] Chris Olson with no input from the budget committee, which is a violation of the internal controls policies we’re supposed to be following.”

Wilkins, along with other members of council, saw the proposed Proposed Budget 2014–15 for the first time when they received it as an attachment to an email from treasurer Laura Manville on February 12.

In the Treasury Report on Village Internal Controls, Read the rest of this entry »

Council to Review Corrective Action Plan for Village Internal Controls, Policies and Procedures Tonight

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Village Money Situation on January 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm

By Emily Votruba

Former Benzie County administrator Chris Olson, who was engaged by the Village Board of Trustees to help them create both a deficit elimination plan and an internal controls action plan as required by the State of Michigan, has come up with a corrective action plan (CAP) for the board to review tonight.

The deadline for submitting this CAP to the state is January 22, so council hopes to make a decision on this draft tonight so as to avoid another special meeting. Newly appointed president pro tempore Robin Rommell will preside over the meeting; Reggie Manville will be absent tonight, as will Diane Jenks. A workshop session prior to the meeting was held this afternoon with members of the CAP committee and Chris Olson.

The draft document below was sent to the Alert by trustee Jennifer Wilkins. In his email today to members of the board, Read the rest of this entry »

Finalized Deficit Elimination Plan Submitted to State; Calls for Sale of MiniPond/Farmers Market Park and Deep Cuts to Office and DPW

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Village Money Situation on January 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm

By Emily Votruba

Last night in a special meeting, council approved a deficit elimination plan to submit to the Michigan Department of Treasury. The penalty for failure to meet the revised deadline of January 6 (moved again to January 8 because of the weather) was a 25% reduction in revenue sharing and a surer path downhill toward emergency managerdom.

The most contentious aspect of the plan were cuts to employee hours, specifically office hours, with Ken Holmes and Robin Rommell arguing strongly that treasurer Laura Manville should be able to eke out her elected term at her current hours and compensation. In the end a compromise was reached to reduce the treasurer’s hours to 24 instead of 16 for the remainder of her term, to commence March 1, with an end to benefits. The hourly rate would remain at $16.96.

The clerk position has already been reduced, effectively, by Sharyn Bower’s returning to the job after her brief retirement at the rate of 16 hrs per week ($16.96/hr) and no benefits. During the policies and procedures portion of this effort to appease the State, Council will need to decide whether the clerk and treasurer positions are elected or appointed, and will need to formalize the hours and compensation rate.

The plan calls for cuts to the Department of Public Works, which may result in the departure of Ken Bonney and/or newly hired DPW assistant Corey Toms. I did not have a comment on this from Mr. Bonney or Mr. Toms at post time, but past comments from Bonney suggested that he might have to take other work. Mowing may need to be subcontracted, and residents may see a reduction in the truly spectacular level of plowing service the DPW has provided during this and previous winters, to name just a couple of the many tasks the DPW has performed in the past.

The plan also calls for the sale of the MiniPond/Farmers Market Park. It’s expected that concerned citizens will mount an effort to save the park by finding a way for it to begin generating revenue. Jen Whiting, the co-owner of the Mayfair Tavern, voiced her concern for the park when several council members and members of the public arrived at the Mayfair after the meeting. Whiting and another business owner, Jim Barnes, will hold a brainstorm gathering next Wednesday at 8 pm at the Mayfair. Several commenters on Facebook have voiced support for an idea, proposed by Reggie Manville and often discussed at Parks and Rec meetings, to rent the park to food trucks.

Water and sewer rates, which were already too low (though considered too high by many) will go up, and properties with larger-diameter pipes will see their ready-to-serve rates go up by an increment deemed appropriate by the American Water Works Association.

Other services provided by the office, such as garbage bag sales and, most likely, a good deal of the work involved in renting out the Life Saving Station, will end, and the Village council will need to seek workarounds for rental administration. The LSS remains one of the Village’s largest sources of revenue. The office will likely be open to the public only two days a week, with one day spent by the clerk and treasurer together but with the office closed to the public so they may work with concentration.

The final step in righting itself in the eyes of the state will be the Village’s Corrective Action Plan regarding its internal controls and policies and procedures. Chris Olson has been contracted to help with that is well. The deadline for that Corrective Action Plan is January 22.

Elberta fiscal analysis and deficit elimination plan, Council approved, 1-14

Elberta priority session results, 12-13

Elberta Village deficit elimination plan, transmittal to State of MI Treasury, 1-14

Elberta, deficit reduction plan and prioritization, Council approved, 1-14

Council to Finalize Deficit Elimination Plan Tonight

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Village Money Situation on January 8, 2014 at 4:57 pm

By Emily Votruba

Former Benzie County administrator Chris Olson, who was engaged by the Village Board of Trustees to help them create both a deficit elimination plan and an internal controls action plan as required by the State of Michigan, has come up with a DEP for the board to review tonight. The original deadline was January 6, but the statewide snowpocalypse caused state offices to be closed Monday and the finalization meeting set for that day to be rescheduled.

The following documents were sent to the Alert by trustee Jennifer Wilkins. Chris Olson prepared these documents for the board to consider and sign off on tonight. The penalty missing the state’s deadline is a 25% reduction in state revenue sharing.

Again, these documents have not been approved by council yet. I will post the finalized plan here as soon as possible.

In his email today to members of the board, Olson wrote: “It is unfortunate that some of the cuts in hours were as deep as they had to be, but unless there are some new, reliable ongoing revenues, that is what we are facing to achieve the zero deficit status within the 5 years.”

Olson, Elberta Village cover letter for deficit elimination plan, 1-14

Elberta fiscal analysis and deficit elimination plan, 1-14

Olson Presents Prioritization Results and Council Begins to Hash Out DEP

In Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Law & Order, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on January 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Full audio of the Dec. 30 meeting (2 parts):

Full audio of the Jan. 2 meeting: 

At the January 2 meeting, Chris Olson came back with the compiled results of the Dec. 30 prioritization exercise, in which, after a long discussion, council members and staff placed dots next to items in a list of options for cutting expenses and raising revenues. Olson also presented a sample plan, and council discussed details. The next meeting is Monday, 6 pm;  the new deadline for submitting the DEP to the Michigan Department of Treasury is midnight that day. Council will finalize the plan and it will be transmitted electronically.

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Deficit Elimination: A Proposal from Chris Olson

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Politics, Village Money Situation on December 26, 2013 at 6:23 pm

The following email and pdf was received by several council members and the Village office today from former Benzie county administrator Chris Olson, in response to president Reg Manville’s request for assistance with the Village’s deficit elimination plan. This information was forwarded to the Alert by trustee Jennifer Wilkins. Tomorrow (Friday) at 6 pm, a special meeting will be held in the Village Community Building to review this proposal. All are welcome to attend.—Emily Votruba


From: Christopher Olson <>

Good morning, everyone, and Merry Christmas to all:

Attached is a proposal to assist the Village of Elberta with achieving an approved deficit reduction plan as well as the corrective action plan for the items noted in the October 22, 2013 letter from the Michigan Dept. of Treasury.
At your convenience, Read the rest of this entry »

Alert Reader: Some Notes on Possible Actions the People of Elberta May Take According to the Village General Law and MML, and a Word on Village Tax Rates

In Alert Reader, Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Politics, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on December 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm
The Alert received the following by email from Elberta resident Teri McGregor December 20, 2013. Letters to the editor may be edited for length and minor typos/spelling issues. We welcome anyone’s input. Send letters to, subject line “Alert Reader.” Thanks for reading!
By Teri McGregor
The Elberta Village meeting was stimulating but not in a good way. There were many topics discussed but not much action, other than appointing committee members. Very disappointing. I thought we would get answers to some questions, but no luck. I am posting this lengthy document that outlines the points of interest discussed at the meeting. I have added reference to disincorporation of the Village and removal of an elected official for future discussions.
Powers of the council (handbook for General Law Village)

The GLV Act establishes the council as the legislative authority for the village. It is important to remember that this authority is granted to the council as a whole rather than to individual trustees. Most of the powers granted to the council are permissive in nature rather than obligatory. The act allows the council to:

• reduce the number of trustees to four. The proposed ordinance requires a public hearing, followed by a ten-day waiting period before adoption by a two-thirds Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Treasury Report on the Village’s Internal Controls

In Breaking, Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Village Money Situation on November 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

This report was given to me by two Village officials (on separate occasions). The officials asked not to be named. One of them said I should publish it on the Alert site and Facebook page, the other asked that I wait to do that until after the council meeting tonight, during which some points in the report will be discussed. I have decided to publish it now, the day of the meeting. This report was compiled by state officials in consultation with Village president Reg Manville, treasurer Laura Manville, and clerk Sharyn Bower (who has since retired); I have heard that Diane Jenks and Linda Manville, trustees, also attended a second meeting with state officials. The Village has been given a period of 90 days from the date of the report, October 22, to “create and file with the Department of Treasury a corrective action plan for those areas identified…and those findings as listed in the audit report for the period ending October 18, 2013…. Upon failure of the Village to respond within the 90-day period, the Department may perform the services as needed at the expense of the Village.”

In what I’ve been told is a separate matter (but for which I don’t have anything in writing), the Village has been given until December 5 (according to Laura Manville) to come up with a deficit elimination plan. I have heard that this plan will be the main subject of tonight’s council meeting.—Emily Votruba

Treasury Report on Village Internal Controls