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Tag Archive | "cedar springs city council"

LOCATION CHANGE FOR CANDIDATE FORUM


 

Tuesday, October 28, 6:30 p.m. at Hilltop Admin building, 3rd floor boardroom

The November election is right around the corner, and there are seven people vying for four positions on the Cedar Springs City Council. There will be a candidate forum open to the public on Tuesday, October 28, at 6:30 p.m. in the 3rd floor boardroom, at the Hilltop Administration building (corner of Main and Muskegon). The forum will be hosted by the Community Action Network and the Cedar Springs Post.

The candidates will be asked several questions, and the public will also have a chance to ask some questions through the moderator. There will also be time to talk one on one with the candidates at the end.

Ken Benham, who served for 8 years, is not running again, so his position his open, along with incumbent Mark Fankhauser’s, who is running again. Fankhauser, former council member Pamela Conley, and DDA Chair Perry Hopkins, are all competing for those two seats. As part of the recall side of the election, incumbent Ashley Bremmer is running against Molly Nixon, and incumbent Patricia Troost is running against Rose Powell.

To check out candidate info click here.

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Candidates for Cedar Springs City Council


 

There are seven people running for four seats on the Cedar Springs City Council. This year’s ballot will look a little different, however. It is the first election under the new law dealing with recalls. There will be three people vying for two seats, and then the two candidates facing recall, Patricia Troost and Ashley Bremmer, are each running against another opponent. The voter simply votes for one or the other.

Running for two seats:

Mark Fankhauser

Mark Fankhauser

Mark Fankhauser was appointed to finish out another councilor’s term in 2012, and is now up for election. He has served as mayor for the last year, and is seeking reelection to continue serving the people of Cedar Springs. Fankhauser has lived in the district 33 years, and is a Captain-EMS Coordinator for the Grand Rapids Fire Department.

The Post asked, what previous experience/skills do you have that you could use in this office? He said he has attended multiple Michigan Municipal League Conferences, which are designed to educate public officials. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the Rockford Community Credit Union for the last 14 years. He has also been active with the Labor movement, holding several officer positions within the organizations he has worked for.

Fankhauser feels the most important issue facing the City of Cedar Springs is proactive improvement of the infrastructure, which protects the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Cedar Springs.

The accomplishments he is most proud of in his term on the Council are: First, seeing a dynamic re-purpose of the property at 95 N. Main Street, now the future home of the Cedar Springs Brewing Company. This was once a vacated building/lot in need; now a unique business that will complement the other businesses within Cedar Springs. Second, would be the recent transition to the Kent County Sheriff Department providing police service. Albeit unique changes, yes; these changes were based on facts, not opinions or emotions.

Perry Hopkins

Perry Hopkins

Perry Hopkins has lived in Cedar Springs since 2010. He is a naturopath, therapeutic body work practitioner, Dr of Metaphysics, and owner/operator of Kin of Hope Natural Health & Perry’s Place llc for herbs, teas, and more…!

The Post asked what previous experience or skills could he use in office? He is involved with multiple boards/ committees in the Cedar Springs community, including a trustee on the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, a trustee on the Kent Theatre Board, the Community Action Network Board, Cedar Springs Planning Commission, and Chairman of the Cedar Springs DDA. He also serves on various event committees in Cedar Springs. He said he is most proud of being a part of the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and bringing more events and happenings to the Cedar Spring Community.

Hopkins said he was prompted to run for office when he noticed there was a shortage of nonbiased citizens running for city council.

Hopkins feels the most important issue facing our district is being divided. “As a community we need to work together and help the community as one entity grow and become strongly united. The only way to make this happen is to work with every person, business, committee, board, group, or organization that has the community’s best interest in mind,” he said.

Pamela Conley

Pamela Conley

Pamela Conley has lived in Cedar Springs 15 years. She is a teacher and coach at  Forest Hills Central High School. The previous skills and experience she brings include one term on the City Council, as well as terms on the Cedar Springs Board of Education, Cedar Springs Library board, PTO Board of directors, and the Cedar Springs Garden Club.

Conley said she is running for office again because she feels a strong responsibility that citizens need to participate in local government, and she was asked by a large number of neighbors and fellow citizens to seek another seat.

What does she think is the most important issue facing the community? “We have the perception that the local citizens are not being including in the decision-making process in our community. Decisions about the image of the community as well as the control of and management of Skinner Field have been made with little or no opportunity for input from the citizens.”

What was she most proud of accomplishing while on council previously? “During my term on the council we established Veteran’s Memorial Park and made substantive improvements to the water/sewer system,” she said.

Running for one seat:

Ashley Bremmer

Ashley Bremmer

Ashley Bremmer, one of the council members named in the recall, is running for her seat. She has lived in Cedar Springs 9-1/2 years. Previous experience/skills include serving on the Council since 2011, and serving on the planning commission prior to that.

Bremmer said she initially decided to serve on council because a member resigned and there was a seat that needed to be filled for the remainder of that term. “I decided to apply and I was the only applicant. That November I ran, unopposed, for the election. I decided to be on city council because I wanted to see the direction of where the city was going, be a part of the positive changes for the city, and make sure that the city was a good and safe place to raise my family. I had no, and still have no hidden agenda to be on city council. I take each issue as it comes, and try to make the best decision at the time, for the city.”

Bremmer says there are many important issues facing the city. “We have a tight budget, the streets and sidewalks need work, we have a new contract with Kent County Sheriffs Department that are all important. I think the really important issues that are facing the city are being sidetracked by personal agendas, hidden motives, hurt feelings, and people that are making a mockery of our council and city.”

There are several things Bremmer is proud of accomplishing while serving, including the bathrooms at the staging area, the Cedar Springs Brewery coming to town, and the sidewalks that did get replaced. What she is personally proud of is “representing my city and the council in a respectful and dignified manner. I have not lashed out when lies were spread, the council became divided and even took part in recalling me. I have been present for council meetings when there were tough decisions to be made. And most importantly, I respected the diversity of our council, without trying to influence them or use outside sources to get my way.”

Molly Nixon

Molly Nixon

Molly Nixon is running against Ashley Bremmer. She graduated from Cedar Springs High School in 2001, and moved back to Cedar Springs in 2008. She is living in a home her family built in the 1800s, and that she grew up in. She is a Central Station Dispatcher at EPS Security, and a nursing student at Grand Rapids Community College. She says that her interactions with the general public through her employers for the last 15 years have given her skills she can use on the council. “I have learned to keep my professionalism and hear what is being said in the face of anger, fear, and character attacks. I bring a civility that the council has lacked at times. In the event that I do not persuade other council members to see things my way we are still neighbors, and we will leave the meeting respecting each other. I believe that facts, not people, are up for discussion.”

What prompted Nixon to run for Council? “I have been in support of coming to an arrangement with the Red Flannel Festival since it was first an issue. In the time that I have been engaged with the political process, I have noticed that the council operated on pride and secrecy. Calling closed meetings in situations that are questionable at best. They also rely too heavily on attorney client privilege. In sorting through the council documents I found property bought by the city for no reason other than it was a good deal, decisions against the express wishes of residents, placing restrictions on parking vehicles on private property, and property that was bought with the purpose of building a new library left vacant for reasons that I still do not fully understand. Some of these issues have been resolved, but that is only because the public has been voting in council members who are accountable.”

Nixon thinks the most pressing problem is that City Hall is “a place of secret meetings and make it up as you go rules.” But she sees another problem as well. “I also seek to reclaim Cedar Springs as my home. It always was, and always will be Red Flannel Town, USA. I want to put that back on every street corner of this town. The personal pride of a few people alone erased that. Feelings were hurt and the discussion was ended prematurely to suit the personal comfort of the city officials involved.”

Running for one seat:

Patricia Troost

Patricia Troost

Patricia Troost one of the council members named in the recall, is running for her seat. She is currently serving as Mayor Pro-Tem. She has lived in Cedar Springs for five years, and is a Paralegal, at Reisinger Law Firm, PLLC . She said that skills and experience she brings to council include, “Research knowledge and being able to look at both sides of an issue and not holding a grudge if I don’t agree or if there are different of opinions.”

What prompted her to run for office? “The code ordinance officer came to my home and told me I couldn’t park in my driveway- front of my garage as my drive-way was gravel at the time with weeds/grass growing and according to the ordinance that was considered my lawn. I asked who made up this stupid rule and was told the planning commission and then City Council made the final ruling and I stated that I needed to run for city council then.”

What does she believe is the most important issue facing the community? “A lot of our residents are still trying to recover from the recession and meeting basic needs.  I believe that we as a community can come together and help each other where we can and not just me it’s an US. There are resources that residents may not know about and we as leaders can assist in getting them.” She is working with The City of Cedar Springs Area Chamber and North Kent Community Services with their Seats and Feet’s Campaign (and personal items). They are collecting underwear, pajamas, socks and items you cannot get with a food stamps card with drop offs of donated items at various businesses. “The Chamber and business owners care about Cedar Springs and are here 365 days a year and I think it is great how they have agreed wholeheartedly to help me promote this campaign, as well as with North Kent Community Services…they are a great resource.”

Troost said she is most proud of when a young Eagle Scout came to City Council with a plan and idea for a new pavilion at Morley Park and asked if the City would partner with him. “It was amazing to see this young man wanting to give back to his community at such a young age and I believe that my fellow council members and I encouraged young Kevin to look outwards at others and see a need and that if we all work together we can make a difference and that he carries that with him as he grows up and continues it as well and passes it on.”

Rose Powell

Rose Powell

Rose Powell is running against Patricia Troost. Powell has lived in the City of Cedar Springs since November 1970, and has been a registered voter since 1971. She is recently retired. She graduated from Cedar Springs High School, as did her husband Chris, and their children, Gina, Brynadette, and Christopher. Powell said that previous experience includes serving on the Cedar Springs board of elections, DDA, planning commission, Chamber of commerce, and being a Rotarian. She was also a downtown business owner, and also employed as an office manager/sales person for 2 other Cedar Springs businesses.

Powell is running for council because: “I decided to get involved again, when I realized our City council voted to take down our Cedar Springs City flag and destroy it. I trusted our councilors to do what was right for the citizens, tax payers, and voters of Cedar Springs and surrounding community. The destruction of $4000.00+ of our people’s property, paying a law firm $11,000 to defend those actions, while telling us it was for the good of our city was appalling. After spending many…many hours studying CS. city Budget, I came to one conclusion. There’s something rotten in Red Flannel Town.”

Powell says her goal is, with the help of fellow citizens, to “guide our CS City policies, finances, and reputation in a positive direction. There will always be problems to solve. Together our community can do it, and do it well.”

 

 

 

 

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City approves contract with Sheriff Dept


N-pull-quoteBy Judy Reed

 

This time next month, officers in the Cedar Springs Police Department will be wearing Kent County Sheriff Department uniforms.

The Cedar Springs City Council voted unanimously Thursday evening, October 9, to approve a contract with the Kent County Sheriff Department for police services. Council member Jerry Hall was absent, and Council member Ashley Bremmer asked to abstain, since she is employed by the Sheriff Department.

Undersheriff Jon Hess and Chief Deputy Michele Young were on hand to explain the contract and answer questions from the council. Sheriff Larry Stelma was also there, as was Sgt. Kelley, who will be the transition sergeant and most likely the supervising sergeant once the transition takes place.

Young said she expects the savings to the City to be about $119,000 for 2015. She explained that by using the township pool, their costs would be lower, since there will be 34 officers in the pool. Our five would make up about 15 percent of that. “They are joining us at a mid-range (on the pay scale),” explained Young. “That’s a minor raise for them. But with the pool you won’t see those high spikes.”

Kent County Sheriff DeptThe five full-time officers were given welcome packets, which also contained an application. The Sheriff Dept. hopes to give them an offer of employment by the end of this week. The target starting date is November 7. Those officers will stay in the Cedar Springs unit unless they decide they want to move elsewhere. Many residents did not want to lose their officers, and with the offer for the full time officers to stay here, residents will still see familiar faces. 

While the part time officers don’t get that same offer, Undersheriff Hess said they have a lot of part time positions open. “We have some openings we have purposely kept open in case they want to apply,” he explained. He also mentioned that there are opportunities for the reserves as well.

The Cedar Springs unit will use the current Cedar Springs Police offices at City Hall. Officers will begin and end their day there. The sergeant will be there daily, five days a week, and serve as the supervising officer for the patrol deputies. A sector lieutenant will also give oversight to the unit.

There will be on deputy on patrol each 12-hour shift. If Cedar Springs decides they need to add a deputy for a short time period, they can do that, but there would be a charge.

The officers will enforce all the city ordinances, like they do now, as well as all other laws. They will also respond to private property accidents, help unlock cars, and respond anytime an officer is requested, the same way they do now. Those were some things Cedar Springs specifically asked for.

All police equipment will be turned over to the KCSD and used for half of the allocation costs. The other half are being waived for the 5-year agreement.

The agreement can be rescinded anytime with 60 days notice.

The city and the Sheriff Department have worked on this agreement for several months. The City Council asked the City Manager to look into possibly contracting with the Sheriff Department after Police Chief Roger Parent announced his retirement earlier this year.

The City thanks our police officers for their years of dedication to the community, their patience and understanding during this difficult time and most importantly, wishes them well going forward,” said City Manager Thad Taylor.

This is the first time anything like this has been done in Kent County.

“The city manager and the city council took a bold, innovative and progressive step as they seek to collaborate with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services,” said Sheriff Larry Stelma, who also lives here in Cedar Springs. “I thank them for the trust and faith that they have placed with us and we look forward to serving the Cedar Springs community.”

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City to vote on police contract Thursday night


N-City-logo-webby Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council will vote Thursday evening on whether to contract with the Kent County Sheriff Department for police services.

Both the Kent County Corporate Counsel and the City Attorney approved the form of the draft agreement.

According to City Manager Thad Taylor, the agreement covers the specifics the City asked for, including hiring their full-time officers, and leaving them in the Cedar Springs unit. “They didn’t use the word ‘guaranteed’ but they are basically saying, ‘if you meet the criteria, we’ll hire you.’ They are accelerating the hiring process for them and they won’t have to go up against 400 other officers.”

Under the contract, Cedar Springs would have police coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They would supply one sergeant five days a week, eight hours a day, to supervise deputies. One deputy would patrol each eight-hour shift. Shifts would begin and end at the Cedar Springs Police Department. A Lieutenant at the Kent County Sheriff Department would help oversee the Cedar Springs unit.

Officers will still respond to calls for unlocking vehicles, private property accidents, and for any other reason a person calls requesting for a police officer.

One thing that did not come out quite as estimated was the cost savings. Initially, the cost savings were estimated at $100,000 to $120,000. In the agreement presented to the City, expenses used were estimated using actual Byron Township billing, and an estimated 6 percent inflationary factor. This brought the savings down to $57,809. However, Chief Deputy Michele Young wrote that she thinks they could still realize a savings of $111, 176 by changing the way some of the costs are calculated. She will be on hand Thursday evening to help explain that to the City Council.

Taylor said that he had spoken to Chief Deputy Young, and that the lower savings was a worst-case scenario. “She has shared some more realistic costs, and I have full confidence she will explain it,” said Taylor. “It’s made more difficult to estimate because they are on a calendar budget year (January through December) and ours starts in July.”

If Cedar Springs transfers equipment (such as vehicles, weapons, radar units, etc.) to the Kent County Sheriff Department, they will face no allocation costs in the initial five-year agreement, but they will in subsequent terms. “That’s a pretty standard accounting practice,” noted Taylor.

The agreement can be rescinded anytime with 60-day notice by either party.

The City Council meets Thursday evening, October 9, at City Hall. Workshop at 6:15, and meeting at 7 p.m.

You can download the agenda packet, which includes a copy of the contract at the city’s website www.cityofcedarsprings.org. Click on meetings, then 2014 council documents, and scroll down to 10-09-2014 and click on agenda packet.

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City Council renews City Manager’s contract


 

By Judy Reed

 

The Cedar Springs City Council renewed the contract of City Manager Thad Taylor at a City Council meeting August 21. The vote was 4 to 3.

Under the terms of the agreement, Taylor was given a raise from $70,000 to $72,100 this year, and it would increase to $73, 540 next year, and up to $75,000 in 2016. Vacation days stayed the same at 30 per year.

Those who voted against the contract—Dan Clark, Jerry Hall, and Bob Truesdale—noted that they did not have time to digest it. And, in fact, did not know they were going to be voting on it that night. It was not on the agenda. Mayor Mark Fankhauser told the council during the workshop portion of the meeting that they needed to go into closed session because he had correspondence from the attorney, and it was added to the agenda that way.

No formal evaluation was released with the contract.

The Post read a letter to the council last Thursday evening expressing concern over the process they chose to get the contract approved. Read the letter here.

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From the Editor’s Desk


 

By Judy Reed

 

Late last month, the Cedar Springs City Council went into closed session without being specific on what it regarded. When they came out, there was a vote on a new contract for the City Manager. It was approved 4-3. (click here for story.) This is a letter I read to the Council at their last meeting, September 11.

 

Cedar Springs City Council,

I have spoken with the Mayor briefly about this, but wanted to make the council aware of some concerns I have regarding the procedure used at last month’s meeting to approve the new contract for our city manager.

Please understand that I am not disputing the contract. It’s nothing personal regarding Thad. He is our City Manager, and if you have evaluated him and decided that he met his goals and will continue as our City Manager, then he does indeed need a contract.

My concerns, as I said, are with the procedure:

First, why wasn’t it on the agenda as approval of the City Manager’s contract? Instead, it was added to the end of the agenda to go into closed session to discuss “attorney correspondence.” And when you (the council) actually adjourned to closed session, the minutes read that you motioned to go into Executive Session, (which is a term used by the private sector and not a municipality) “to discuss a written, legal opinion of the City Attorney.” No mention of the City Manager contract. The language should have been more specific.

That presented two problems: One, it left the public in the dark, and gave them no time to comment on it. And two, even the council members did not have a copy of the contract, or know what was to be discussed, so had no time to digest the information before voting on it.

My second big concern is that the Open Meetings Act only allows specific things that you can go into closed session for. Discussing a city manager’s contract is NOT one of them. You can see the list in Sec. 8 of the OMA. Attorneys Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC, of Michigan, who wrote “Dealing with Employment Issues and Complying with the Open Meetings Act,” specifically stated this in their conclusion. They said:

CONCLUSION

Closed session is permitted under certain circumstances for discussion of:

dismissal, suspension, or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, or to consider a periodic personnel evaluation;

collective bargaining; or

applications.

However, not every employment-related issue falls into these exemptions.

For example, a city may not meet in closed session to negotiate a new employment contract (except for a collective bargaining agreement) for a city manager. Similarly, a village may not meet in closed session to discuss budget cuts that may result in layoffs or the reduction of employment benefits.” (http://www.fosterswift.com/publications-Employment-Issues-Complying-Open-Meetings-Act.html)

I do understand that Thad’s contract was to expire yesterday, Sept. 10 and you were under the gun to get it done. But since it was already late in the game, I think it would have been better to give Council members some time to digest the contract, and the public some notice, and then either approve it in a special meeting or at tonight’s meeting, even though a day late. Otherwise, it appears to people like it was something railroaded through. And I don’t think you want that or meant for it to be that way.

I believe that each one of you wants what’s best for this city, although you may have different ideas of what that is. The other thing you have in common is that you all want people to be more involved in their city government. But they can’t do that if you shut them out and disregard the Open Meetings Act, whether by accident or by design.

Thank you,

Judy Reed, Editor

The Cedar Springs Post

 

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Policing issue to be discussed tonight


N-City-logo-web

Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma and/or his team will be at the Cedar Springs City Council meeting tonight at 7 p.m. to give a presentation on a proposal for contracting with the city on police services.

Under the proposal, the Cedar Springs Police Department would be dissolved, and the Sheriff Department would take over policing the city. The city’s current full time officers would be given the chance to apply to the department.

Currently, the Cedar Springs Police Department has six full-time officers (not including the Chief), four part-time officers, three unpaid reserves that work special events, one unpaid chaplain, and a part-time clerk.

Currently, three officers work 10 hours each, with two officers on duty during 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. Chief Roger Parent works during regular business hours daily, and is a backup for officers during the day shift.

Under the proposal, the Sheriff department would provide one full-time deputy on patrol 24 hours a day, and either a sergeant or a community police officer in the office during regular business hours. It’s not known whether that person would also function as a backup officer.

According to Chief Parent, there is sometimes a great need for two officers on in the evening. For example, on June 4, there were 16 calls between 5 p.m. and midnight for the two officers. The next night, there was only six. “It’s hot and cold. It’s a busy town,” he said.

The Sheriff Department projected a savings of over $120,000 for the City if they go with what they are proposing.

Parent, who worked for the Sheriff Department for many years before coming to Cedar Springs, is retiring in August. “I worked for the Sheriff Department so can’t say anything bad about them. There are a lot of good deputies. But what we have here is good and works for Cedar Springs,” he said.

He noted that with three current officers having over 10 years in and one at top pay, it would definitely affect their career paths, as well as service to the public. “I understand there would be a cost savings, and there would be police coverage, it would just be different. I feel like we give more personal attention, more follow up than some deputies could.”

He also noted that these officers chose to work here and dedicate themselves to our community. “Is it fair that one council decides this for them?” he asked.

To hear more about the proposal and possibly dates for a special meeting with the public, attend the meeting tonight at Cedar Springs City Hall at 7 p.m.

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City to study Sheriff proposal for policing


N-City-logo-web

By Judy Reed

 

With Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent retiring in September, the Cedar Springs City Council has a choice to make: either hire a new police chief, or contract with the Kent County Sheriff Department to provide law enforcement for the city of 3,500-plus residents.

Last month the City Council directed City Manager Thad Taylor to ask Sheriff Larry Stelma to provide a cost for the same level of service the current police provide. The Sheriff and his team presented Taylor and Chief Parent with a proposal last week that contained two options to consider.

“It’s not quite apples to apples but as close as they can get,” explained Taylor.

Currently, the Cedar Springs Police Department has six full-time officers (not including the Chief), four part-time officers, three unpaid reserves that work special events, one unpaid chaplain, and a part-time clerk. The police provide 30 hours a day of patrol. Three officers work 10 hours each, with two officers on duty during 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. There is then one day per week where they are all scheduled, although not all are usually working. “It’s a day where they can take vacation, or comp time,” explained Taylor. “It’s just the way the schedule falls so they get an 80-hour pay period.” That equals 10,140 hours of patrol per year.

The Chief works 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. That equals 1,980 hours yearly.

The clerk works 20 hours weekly, for 1,040 hours.

That is 13,160 hours of law enforcement accountable to the City. Last year’s police budget came in at $681,190. The 2014-2015 budget is projected at $685,511. (According to Chief Parent he gave back some of his budget to the city last year.)

Under the Sheriff Department proposal, option 1, they would provide one patrol officer on duty at all times—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to the patrol officer, they would provide a Sergeant to work a 40-hour week. The Sergeant would provide supervision and command staff support, and work with the City leadership to establish the agenda and direction of the patrol officers. The Sergeant would also provide additional services, which could include neighborhood watch, business watch, presentations, communications to city officials, working with the schools, and some zoning enforcement.

Detective services, scientific support, record management (an $11,000 savings), management reports, IT and radio service support for mobile equipment, dispatch services ($35,537) would all be included.

Vehicle costs would be provided free of charge for the regular patrols, but the city would be responsible for the sergeant’s at $350 per month. They would provide a vehicle credit for the current police cruisers.

All uniforms, equipment, supervision, liability and training costs would be provided at no additional charge. Cars and uniforms could look the way that Cedar Springs wants them.

The patrol officer would provide 8,760 hours of straight patrol. The sergeant would provide the same amount of hours as the Chief—1,980.

While it appears to be less patrol hours, according to the Sheriff, they would actually provide 338 hours of more patrol time, because the detective bureau would compensate for approximately 16 percent of the city officer’s patrol time—the time they spend following up on investigations for felonies, warrant processing, and other follow up. Based on 2013 calls for service, that would equal 1,718 hours of service.

Clerical support would be provided at no charge and would include things like sex offender registration, gun permits, records checks, freedom of information reports, etc. Clerical support is available in Grand Rapids or at the north substation. The part time clerk that works two days a week could be at the north substation, or possibly relocated to Cedar Springs City Hall.

This entire option would cost $560,384, a potential savings over last year of $120,806.

Option 2, would be exactly the same, except instead of a sergeant to provide supervision, they would provide a community policing deputy. The deputy would provide the other services such as neighborhood watch, business watch, working with city officials, schools, etc. That option would be $548,306 per year.

While it looks like the Sheriff proposal would be a savings, there is also the human element to consider. All of the city’s full time officers—six of them, several with 10 to 14 years of service—would all have to reapply for their jobs.

“The Council has to decide what the current officers bring to the community,” said Taylor. “They give us a good level of coverage, similar to what the Sheriff proposed, but double coverage between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. These are officers that have made a commitment to the community—they work here because they want to be here. They know the community, and that’s very important in law enforcement. And people know them. How do you quantify that? They’ve made a commitment and are very dedicated. That’s not saying anything against any deputy; we just don’t have the certainty that they would be here any longer than a year or two. It’s difficult to imagine one being here for 14 years, like Officer Chad Potts has been.”

Taylor also noted that the current clerk is at City Hall 5 days a week to help people if an officer is not in. That might not be the case under the new options.

Another point to think about is if the Council decides to go with the Sheriff Department to save the money formerly spent on law enforcement, what will they use that money for? To lower taxes? Make road improvements? New sidewalks? Something else? “People will want to know how it’s going to impact them,” said Taylor.

He explained that the Sheriff department proposal would be a new way to provide law enforcement to the community, but he thinks the City Council needs to engage the public and find out what they want. “It’s a huge decision,” he remarked.

The Sheriff Department will have representatives at the June 12 City Council meeting at 7 p.m. to answer questions from Council. The Council is also expected to announce at that meeting a date for a special meeting just to hear comments and questions from the public on what they want.

In the meantime, you can contact City Manager Thad Taylor with comments at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org, or one of the City Council members. Just go to www.cityofcedarsprings.org, and click on council. Choose one of the names and click on it. It will give you a bio of the council member and an email address.

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Apology


 

My apologies: It was brought to my attention at the April Council Meeting, that I needed to apologize to others for my private e-mail sent to Patricia Troost, which was read by a citizen of our community at the public forum. I had thought that an earlier e-mail apology to Patricia was received by her in good truth and that my mistake in judgement had been forgiven. It was never my intention that this e-mail would be made public and ultimately involve hurt feelings to those who were mentioned in the e-mail.

Therefore, I am asking that those involved please forgive my mistake in judgement.

 

Bob Truesdale, 

Cedar Springs City Council

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Investigation into open meetings violation will go on


Cedar-Springs-new-logo

By Judy Reed

 

The Cedar Springs City Council voted last month to conduct an investigation into whether a violation had occurred under the Open Meetings Act last July, when the Council voted to take Mayor Bob Truesdale into closed session to hear complaints against him.

The Michigan Open Meetings Act states that a closed session may be called to hear complaints against a public officer, when the person requests a closed hearing. It can also be rescinded by the individual at any time.

According to Truesdale, he did not ask for the closed session, but was instead told by two of the council members that they were going to do this in closed session. Truesdale said he voted with the council figuring he had nothing to hide, and was not aware of his rights to end it at any time.

Two of the council members—Patricia Troost and Ashley Bremmer—are up for recall and the alleged open meetings violation is one of the reasons listed.

While Councilmember Dan Clark originally voted for the investigation, he began to have second thoughts last week, after reviewing two opinions by former State Attorney General Frank Kelley in connection with recalls and using public funds to defend the members up for recall. So he asked to have the matter revisited when the council met last Thursday for a special goals workshop session.

“I voted for it (the investigation) last month because I was not a councilmember at the time it occurred and did not want to interfere, “ he explained. “But when I realized that there was a conflict with an attorney general opinion, I tried to have them change the language to take it away from the recall.”

At the workshop, Clark proposed that they delay the investigation until they could find out whether the two opinions he read would cause the council to do something illegal. “In connecting the investigation with the recall, we are putting together two areas that should not be—the electoral and the judicial,” he explained.

The two opinions he cited were from former State Attorney General Frank Kelley.  In opinion 6704, dated March 22, 1991, Kelley answered the question on whether a municipality can use its funds for the purpose of paying expenses incurred by its city commissioners in the defense of a recall petition arising out of their performance of their duties as elected officers. He answered that no officer has any duties regarding the…outcome of  a recall election, and that his opinion was that the township may not expend public funds to challenge the sufficiency of  recall petitions.

The second opinion, no. 6715, dated March 17, 1992, also addressed public funds to pay legal fees of village council members who are subject of a recall. He again stated that a village may not use its funds for the purpose of paying legal fees to legal counsel opposing a recall petition.

Clark likens those opinions to what he sees the council is now doing—performing an internal investigation using public funds to exonerate the two members under recall. But Mayor Mark Fankhauser sees it differently. He says the investigation is not on behalf of Troost or Bremmer.

“We rely on our lawyer to act legally on our behalf. The recall was the catalyst that caused the entire to be compromised, and I felt it was important to address whether the council had done anything improper. It will be a small impact financially.”

City Manager Thad Taylor told the council that he had asked City Attorney Jeffrey Slugget whether they were using the funds improperly, and he told them that the city’s charter says they can use public funds as long as they are using it for a public purpose. He explained that the city must do the initial gathering of information, then show any evidence they gather to the prosecutor. If the prosecutor feels there is a case, it gets turned over to the Michigan State Police for further investigation.

Fankhauser said he felt the investigation should continue so that the public knows whether or not something illegal has been done.

Troost agreed, saying the investigation would tell them if five of them still on the council did something wrong.

Clark said the real issue is that they shouldn’t spend money on an electoral process.  “I want us to have a good image. I don’t want to spend public money on this. As a public body, we are influencing the electorate unintentionally.”

He said if there had to be an investigation, he felt it should come from a private source, not one funded by the city.

Clark also took issue with lawyer Sluggett’s response when asked at a previous meeting about who can call a closed session. “Mr. Sluggett said over and over that anyone can call a closed session and it is not so. I would like to have more than his opinion. As a council I don’t want to be diametrically opposed to what the attorney general says.”

Clark moved to amend their motion to investigate and asked for Taylor to stop the investigation and not restart until further info was gathered. It was defeated 6-1, with Truesdale saying he accidentally voted no when he meant to vote yes. That may have been true for one other council member as well.

Mark Laws, the Cedar Springs resident who has filed the recall petition, has also filed a complaint against the Council under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. Under that act, a public body must maintain strict neutrality in each election and not attempt to influence the outcome of an election.

 

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