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Tag Archive | "City Manager"

City approves manager contract and others


Michael Womack

Michael Womack

By Judy Reed

As of August 1, the residents in Cedar Springs will have a new City Manager. That’s the day that Michael Womack officially begins his new job in Cedar Springs.

The City Council approved his contract at their regular meeting Thursday, July 14. Womack was on hand to take the oath of office.

Womack has been serving as an Executive Intern, for the Village of Lake Orion, Michigan, which is located on the east side of the state.

He is also currently a Graduate Assistant, in the City Manager’s office in the City of Eastpointe, Michigan; and an Attorney at Womack & Womack P.C., in Shelby Township.

The contract calls for a salary of $72,000, with a 2 percent increase annually at the anniversary of his start date; five days vacation to start; insurance; and other benefits. The entire contract can be found in the agenda on the city’s website at cityofcedarsprings.org.

The City also approved the contract for interim City Clerk Christine Witt. She started Monday July 17. She will work part time until the City Manager can hire a new, full time clerk. She will be paid $16.00 per hour for up to 25 hours of work.

The City also approved the contract for property assessing services with Grand Rapids Township. The township will provide property assessing services to Cedar Springs for approximately $24,600, which is about the same as was budgeted for the prior assessor, Jason Rosenzweig. The City Council fired Rosenzweig after a vote of no confidence resulting from a dispute over whether the City should pay taxes on their own property.

Bryan Jager and Robin Rothley will do the work, while Jager will be signing the assessment role on behalf of the city. There have been no conversations yet on whether Jager feels the city should be taxed on its own property.

The Council also approved an amendment to current interim City Manager Barbara VanDuren’s contract. She was originally scheduled to stay until August 31, but since Womack starts August 1, her contract will be revised to that date. But it also states she may continue her assignment here to assist in the transition if that’s acceptable to both parties.

Each of the contracts voted on at the meeting were approved unanimously.

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Cedar Springs chooses new city manager


Michael Womack

Michael Womack

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council met Friday, June 17, to interview candidates for the City Manager position.

They chose Michael Womack, Executive Intern, for the Village of Lake Orion, Michigan, which is located on the east side of the state.

Womack is also currently a Graduate Assistant, in the City Manager’s office in the City of Eastpointe, Michigan; and an Attorney at Womack & Womack P.C., in Shelby Township.

He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Oakland University; his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and his Masters of Public Administration from Central Michigan University.

The vote was 6-1, with Councilmember Dan Clark dissenting.

So how does Womack feel about relocating to the west side of the state?

“I am very excited for the opportunity to come to Cedar Springs and contribute to the community,” he told the Post. “I grew up vacationing on the west side of the state and I spent many summers in the area when I was younger. I look forward to reacquainting myself with the area and the chance to help Cedar Springs grow and improve. I hope to make many new friends and good working relationships in the next several months and hope to provide the skills and energy needed in the city managers chair.”

The Michigan Municipal League has been in charge of the interview process, and they are currently doing a background check on Womack. No start date has yet been set.

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City to hold City Manager interviews


 

The Cedar Springs City Council met on Monday, June 6, in closed session to choose four more people to interview for the City Manager position. The names were released on Thursday, June 9, after the nominees agreed to be interviewed. However, two of those selected pulled out on Tuesday, June 14.

The interviews will be held at Cedar Springs City Hall on Friday, June 17. There is a possibility that two more candidates will be added to take the place of the ones who pulled out. The ones currently interviewing will be:

12:30 p.m. Michael Womack, Executive Intern, Village of Lake Orion, MI; Graduate Assistant, City of Eastpointe, MI; Attorney, Womack & Womack P.C.

2:00 p.m. Nancy Stoddard, Tax Collector, City of Wyoming, MI

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Meet Barbara VanDuren: new interim City Manager


Barbara VanDuren

Barbara VanDuren

By Judy Reed

The new interim City Manager for Cedar Springs is someone who likes to spotlight the good things going on in a community. And she hopes to bring some positive things to Cedar Springs.

Barbara VanDuren, of Wyoming, was hired last Thursday evening and started work this week at Cedar Springs City Hall.

She retired in 2015 as deputy city manager for the City of Wyoming, a community of 72,000 people, with a budget of $105 million and 350 employees. She was responsible for economic development, downtown development, and working with local governments and citizen groups for the betterment of West Michigan. She held that position for 15 years. During four years of that time, she also taught undergraduate public administration courses in local politics and administration, and public personnel policy.

Prior to that, she was City Manager for the City of Wayland from 1996 to 2000, and assistant city manager before that for three years.

Cedar Springs is her first interim assignment. “When I retired 18 months ago, I thought I might like to try it,” she remarked. “A couple of communities called, but I was busy at the time and couldn’t do it.”

It’s not the first time she’s seen Cedar Springs. She and her husband, John Crofoot, live in Wyoming, but are avid bike riders, and sometimes ride the White Pine Trail to Rockford and Cedar Springs. “The White Pine Trail is a beautiful trail,” she said. They belong to a trail riding group, and do some recreational biking on the weekends. This fall they plan to take a bike tour through Vermont. “It was one of those things on my bucket list for when I retired,” she explained.

The couple has two grown children, Eric and Kevin. Both are married and live in the Grand Rapids and Grandville areas. They also have a 5-year-old grandson, Elliot.

Other than bike riding, VanDuren does promotional work for the City of Wyoming, by producing 1-1/2 minute commercials about good things going on in the city. The commercials are called “Wyoming Moments.”

“I have always seen positive things happening that don’t get publicized,” she explained. “But I think that local government and schools have a heart for their city, and it feels good to be on the other side and tell those stories.” She works with WKTV on those commercials and they are also put on the city’s website.

So what is VanDuren’s mission here in Cedar Springs? “Well, I’ve only been here a week, but I would like to work on improving communication between council and staff, and getting council and staff prepared for a new city manager. And help, if I can, to bring in a new manager that’s just right for Cedar Springs. I would like to keep things moving in a forward direction,” she said.

VanDuren said that her door is always open if a resident wants to talk. She will usually be in the office Monday through Thursday, 8:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The City Council will meet Monday, June 6, in closed session, to review candidates for the permanent position.

The former City Manager, Thad Taylor, left for a position in Manistee in November. City Clerk, Linda Christiansen was acting City Manager from that time until VanDuren was hired.

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Cedar Springs to hold City Manager interviews 


N-City-logo-webThis is a reminder to citizens of Cedar Springs that the Cedar Springs City Council will be holding interviews on Monday, May 9, to select a candidate to replace former City Manager Thad Taylor. These interviews are open to the public and will be held at Cedar Springs City Hall.

They will interview five candidates starting at 9 a.m., with their last interview scheduled for 3:30 p.m. After the last interview, they will break for dinner, then come back and narrow it down to their top candidate that evening.

The following individuals were chosen from a pool of 45 candidates:

9:00 a.m. Steven Buter, Budget & Management Analyst for the City of Greensboro, NC

10:30 a.m.  Andrew Potter, Downtown Development Authority Executive Director/Main Street Manager, Holly MI

12:30 p.m.  Kurt Perron, Veterans Service Community Coordinator, Altatum Institute, Ann Arbor, MI, self-employed contract investigator for MSM Security Services LLC, San Antonio, TX and former Village Manager of Baraga, MI

2:00 p.m.  Michael Burns, Assistant City Manager, Fenton, MI

3:30 p.m.  Richard Marsh, Jr., former City Manager, Inkster, MI

The Michigan Municipal League has been conducting the City Manager search. Clerk Linda Christensen has been doing double duty as both the City Clerk and City Manager since Taylor left last November for a job in Manistee.

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CS City manager takes job in Manistee


Thad Taylor

Thad Taylor

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs City Manager Thad Taylor has accepted an offer for the City Manager position in Manistee.

Taylor came to Cedar Springs just a little over three years ago, after serving in Alpena for several years.

“I just thought it was a great opportunity,” Taylor said, about the Manistee job. “My wife and I spent 20 years in Alpena, and when I would go down to Manistee, I was always struck about the two communities were really mirror images of each other—they both are on great lakes, they have rivers bisecting the communities, they have commercial ports and marinas. Manistee is an older community, with a traditional downtown that is doing well. The opportunity came up and I wanted to take advantage of it.”

The three years here has not been easy for Taylor. He started his tenure as City Manager when the City Council and the Red Flannel Festival were in turmoil, and he has seen a complete turnover over the City Council. His contract was renewed a year ago, by a 4-2 vote.

Taylor said what he is most proud of during his time here are the efforts he and his staff put forth to work with businesses who wanted to come to town. He named several businesses, including Display Pack, Family Farm and Home, the new Retirement Living Center moving in where the Horowitz house was, and the new Cedar Springs Brewing Company. He said they were also working with AmericInn, the hotel chain, but nothing has been finalized with that.

“Some people think the city is hard to deal with, and that’s the farthest thing from the truth,” remarked Taylor.

Taylor remarked on the seamless transition of going from our own police department to contracting with the Kent County Sheriff Department.

He also noted that they had dissolved the local finance authority, which returned money to several organizations, including the city, where $175,000 went towards unfunded pension liabilities. “That gave us more financial stability,” he said. Taylor also talked about the capital improvement plan going out to 25 years, and mentioned the $2.6 million sanitary sewer project they are finally completing. “With that project, groundwater infiltration may go down as much as 30 percent at the Waste Water treatment plan,” he said.

Taylor said he drove through downtown the other night and saw the brewery lights, with people all around. “It was amazing. There are a lot of good things going on here.”

One of the things he’ll miss the most is the people. “I’ve made some good friends and relationships. Those will be hard to leave,” he said.

“It’s been my honor and privilege to serve in this community,” remarked Taylor. “I’m a lifelong public servant—almost 38 years. I don’t tire of it. I like helping people the best I can. In local government, you better like helping people because that’s what it’s all about.”

Taylor said his last day will be November 20, and then he will use some vacation he has coming.

The City Council is expected to act on his suggestion Thursday evening to appoint City Clerk Linda Christiansen as interim City Manager, and to contract with the Michigan Municipal League to hire a new City Manager.

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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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Railroading


The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

 

 

In the “good old days,” railroads and lumbering played a big part in the historical planting of small villages along streams in West Michigan. I am happy to see this theme highlighted by the visionaries of our Community Development Team. Everyone should get on board. It’s exciting.

We all know that railroad tracks are now history, but the article by the Post’s Editor, on September 11, seemed to bring the word railroading back to our minds.

Question: how can a City Council, with no input from the citizens of Cedar Springs, make an intelligent decision in 20 minutes, using a performance review form that I, as your Mayor, had fellow Council Members fill out over a year ago, regarding the performance of our City Manager, Thad Taylor, when he had only had about 6 months of track record?

Our newest Council Members, Dan Clark and Jerry Hall, never had an opportunity to fill out a performance review.

Some of us might have been born in the night, but it wasn’t last night. But with God’s help, railroading can become history. I made the following statement in council session. “I will not and I know many others will not be happy until we have an all new Cedar Springs, which can happen if everyone votes wisely in our November election.” Please, please, please send your message, and I promise you, we will listen.

 

Bob Truesdale, City Councilor

Cedar Springs

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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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