web analytics

Tag Archive | "cedar springs city council"

City gets second warning siren 


 

By Judy Reed

 

When the new siren was installed in North Park in 2011, the City of Cedar Springs  knew that although it could be heard as far as White Creek to the west, and Ritchie to the east, to the south it only reached to just north of Dio Drive. Former City Manager Christine Burns said at the time that the city hoped to one day qualify for another grant for a siren on the south end of the city.

That day has arrived.

The Cedar Springs City Council approved a second emergency warning siren for the community at its regular meeting last Thursday evening. According to current City Manager Thad Taylor, the siren would be placed directly behind the city’s lift station, near Cedar Springs Middle School, on Northland Drive, just north of 16 Mile Road. He said that West Shore Services, the siren provider, used computer modeling to determine that this site, in conjunction with the siren at North Park, would provide nearly 100 percent coverage for our community.

The total cost for the siren is $20,600, but the City will only need to pay for half of that. The Kent County Local Planning Team awarded the city a grant for $10,300 to assist in the purchasing and installation of the siren. The City had budgeted $10,000 for the project, and will move $300 from its Repair and Maintenance Supply Expense fund to its Capital Expense fund to complete the amount needed for purchase.

West Shore Services is Kent County’s preferred siren provider, and they also put in the siren in North Park in 2011.

While the siren in North Park goes off at noon per the city’s tradition, the new one on the south end of town will not. However, Kent County does test the sirens on the first Friday of every month at noon, so it will go off at that time.

According to Taylor, the siren has already been installed, but is not yet operational.

 

Posted in NewsComments (0)

Council reaffirms city manager contract


N-City-logo-web

By Judy Reed

 

The Cedar Springs City Council voted 4-2 in a special meeting last week to rescind the motion from Aug. 21 to go into closed session, and reaffirmed City Manager Thad Taylor’s contract (both in the same motion). Voting for the contract was Mayor Mark Fankhauser, Mayor Pro-tem Patricia Troost, and Councilors Ashley Bremmer and Ken Benham.

Jerry Hall and Bob Truesdale, who both dissented previously, cast dissenting votes. Council member Dan Clark, who also dissented previously, was out of the country.

The reason for the special meeting was to redo the action that caused a lawsuit to be brought against the city.

Truesdale, Clark, and resident Mark Laws filed the lawsuit October 7. They allege an Open Meetings Act violation occurred at the August 21 City Council meeting, when they went into closed session, believing there was a written communication from the attorney to consider. 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. They went into closed session at the tail end of the meeting, and when they came out, they voted 4-3 to renew the contract of City Manager Thad Taylor.

The lawsuit alleges that there was no attorney correspondence considered.

Those who voted against the contract—Dan Clark, Jerry Hall, and Bob Truesdale—noted that they had not seen it before, and did not have time to digest it. And, in fact, said they did not know they were going to be voting on it that night. They also noted that the evaluation was not recent.

City attorney Jeff Sluggett explained at the special meeting that one option the city had was to do a “re-do” by rescinding the motion to go into closed session, and instead, discuss the city manager’s contract publicly. Councilor Jerry Hall asked if that was an admission of guilt, and Sluggett said no. Hall then asked him if they violated the Open Meetings Act. “I’m not going to answer that,” answered Sluggett.

Truesdale then asked if there was any attorney correspondence, because he was told there was. “With all due respect, I can’t answer anything that has to do with the lawsuit,” explained Sluggett.

Truesdale also asked about the severance pay in the City Manager contract, and Sluggett explained that the six months severance in the contract only applies if they fire Taylor for no cause at all.

Truesdale asked why they had to rush and have this special meeting, when Dan Clark was out of the country. He told the Mayor that they had postponed a meeting for him (the mayor) when he was unavailable.

A few members of the audience spoke in favor of the City Manager, but many also spoke against the Manager and his contract.

Councilor Ashley Bremmer wondered whether the lawsuit would be dropped if they went with the motion. Truesdale said he wasn’t sure, that he had to check with his lawyer, who was out of the country.

Sluggett explained that if the lawsuit goes forward, and the judge awards the fees to the plaintiffs (for lawyer fees), that it would be the taxpayers paying the fees. He also explained that the minutes from the closed session could also be released.

Mark Fankhauser said the special meeting was an attempt to stop the lawsuit for the taxpayers.

Councilor Ken Benham said he was appalled at what had been happening, and referenced the recent announcement that Taylor is one of the top 3 chosen for the Village Manager job in Howard City. “You are running the City Manager right out town. He takes no health benefits, has no leased car. He’s a nice man.”

Bremmer wondered if postponing the meeting was really about going over the contract, or waiting for a new council to come in and get rid of the city manager.

Mayor Fankhauser noted that City Manager Thad Taylor may not be the most dynamic and outgoing, “but he was instrumental in bringing the Cedar Springs Brewing Company here—a million dollar business that will bring even more business to Cedar Springs. He kept me abreast of things, even when I was in Alaska…no one should be bullied into a position. He’s offered for everyone on Council to come in and talk with him about the way he is running the city, and his evaluation is above average.”

Then Council then voted 4-2 to reaffirm the contract.

According to the minutes of the closed session, which the Post received Wednesday from the city, the following occurred during the closed session of August 21:

Fankhauser reported he had correspondence from City Attorney Jeff Sluggett regarding the City Manager Contract. The City Attorney had reviewed the contract and was comfortable with the proposed changes. He passed copies of the proposed contract to Councilors, asking them to review the proposed employee agreement. He stated the contract fit within the terms of the current contract.

He provided comparable salary ranges for city managers in towns of similar size such as Greenville, Rockford, Allegan, Wayland and Lowell.

The proposed agreement changed the dates of employment as well as a new address for the city manager. It was a three-year contract providing a three percent increase the first year; a two percent increase the second and a two percent increase the third year bringing the salary to $75,000. It provides for vacation days an annual evaluation by the council and six months’ severance pay.

Fankhauser said this was standard language for the industry and reminded councilmembers that the city manager did not use a city vehicle or take advantage of the health care provided other city employees. He also had not received a pay increase in the two years he had been with the city.

The city manager had scored above average on all categories in his last evaluation, Fankhauser said.

Clark questioned the comparable figures that had been presented and wanted more time to check his own figures.

Fankhauser responded that he had gotten the figures from the Michigan Municipal League and told councilors to take all the time they needed to review the contract.

They then adjourned and returned to open session at 9:50 p.m.

After the election earlier this week, none of the Council members who voted for the City manager’s contract are left on the Council. Fankhauser, Bremmer, and Patricia Troost were all voted off, and Benham did not run. Four new members take the oath of office next month.

The contract may be a moot point if Taylor is awarded the Village Manager job in Howard City.

 

Posted in NewsComments (2)

Councilors file lawsuit over closed session


 

City calls special meeting for Thursday Oct. 30

Two Cedar Springs City Council members and a city resident are suing the Cedar Springs City Council over what they believe to be an Open Meetings Act violation. And now the City of Cedar Springs has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday evening, October 30, at 7 p.m. at City Hall to consider whether to rescind the motion that started the whole thing.

City Council members Bob Truesdale and Dan Clark, and resident Mark Laws, filed the suit October 7. They allege the OMA violation occurred at the August 21 City Council meeting, when they went into closed session believing there was a written communication from the attorney to consider. 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. They went into closed session at the tail end of the meeting, and when they came out, they voted 4-3 to renew the contract of City Manager Thad Taylor.

The lawsuit alleges that there was no attorney correspondence considered.

Those who voted against the contract—Dan Clark, Jerry Hall, and Bob Truesdale—noted that they had not seen it before, and did not have time to digest it. And, in fact, said they did not know they were going to be voting on it that night.

The Council had also not done a formal evaluation on the City Manager. Truesdale said it was based on an evaluation that he had put together as Mayor after Taylor had been here only a short time. Two of the present Council members were not on the Council at the time so had no input.

Council member Clark said a lawsuit wouldn’t be his first choice. “I have tried to reach out to the Council and to Thad  (Taylor) about the way we handle things related to the OMA,” he explained. “We have not aligned ourselves at all with the attorney general handbook on the OMA. Although I’ve encouraged the Council to align ourselves with it, they didn’t take any action. A major part of my job is to represent the citizens. So when a major part of the Council does something I feel is wrong, after talking with them, what are we left with to do? It’s an attention-getter.”

He said that the procedure used was irresponsible, careless, and unprofessional. “I feel like we can do better than that,” he remarked.

Truesdale feels the same way. “We saw it was something that needed to be addressed to prohibit illegal closed session of Council,” he explained. “I feel that we are the laughingstock of the surrounding communities, and we can do better. We should be a model.”

The City has scheduled a special meeting of the Cedar Springs City Council on Thursday October 30, to “consider a motion to rescind the motion to adjourn to executive/closed session as described in the minutes of the August 21, 2014 meeting (Item No. 11) and to affirm, approve, reenact and ratify the Employment agreement between Thad Taylor and the City of Cedar Springs dated September 10, 2014.” The Post called and left messages for Acting City Manager/Clerk Linda Christensen both Tuesday and Wednesday for clarification, but did not get a return call before press time. The special meeting will include a public hearing, Council deliberations, and a decision.

Mayor ProTem Patty Troost told the Post that while she didn’t think they did anything illegal, the meeting would allow them to discuss and discover whether they had done something wrong.

Truesdale feels the meeting was called to circumvent the pending lawsuit. He doesn’t want to see the City Manager’s contract reaffirmed. He says that one reason is because of the amount of money they would be giving Taylor if he were terminated: six months severance totaling over $35,000. “It just doesn’t sound like good business practice to me,” he said.

The contract does not allow severance, however, if he is terminated for reasons such as fraud, impropriety, dishonesty, neglect of duty, and violations of the law, and several other reasons.

Truesdale said he hopes people will turn out to voice their opinion. “Unless you attend this meeting and provide your support for wanting city leaders of higher integrity, these shenanigans will continue to happen,” he said.

 

 

Posted in NewsComments (0)

City Candidate Forum


 

About 30 people turned out Tuesday evening for the Cedar Springs City Council Candidate Forum hosted by the Community Action Network and The Cedar Springs Post newspaper.

Six of the seven candidates running for City Council were on hand to answer questions from the emcee and the audience. Candidate Ashley Bremmer was missing due to illness.

The Post and the Community Action Network would like to thank all who attended, and both Metron and Alpha Omega Coffee and Games for their donations of refreshments and other supplies for the evening.

Posted in NewsComments (0)

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.

Posted in NewsComments Off

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.”

 

 

 

 

Posted in NewsComments (1)

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.”

Posted in NewsComments (1)

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.

Posted in NewsComments Off

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.

Posted in NewsComments Off

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

 

Posted in From the EditorComments Off