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Tag Archive | "City Manager"

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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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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From the Mayor’s Desk


By Bob Truesdale

 

Yesterday, on my way to church, we drove past a home on 5th Street, where a family was parking their second car on the grass, just off their single gravel driveway, leading to a one-stall garage. It has been that way since I was a kid.

But, it brought to memory, a former city manager, who rode with a uniformed police officer, in a marked police car, targeting these families, who were violating some type of a city code—families who were already struggling in our poor economy. We can only hope and pray these Gestapo tactics are now behind us.

I heard a present member of our planning commission say, “I liked it the way it was in the past,” which I took to mean he felt we had too many codes and it was not our business to regulate everything people do.

I agree with you. 2014 can be a year of healing. As for me, I can never have too many friends, as we move forward. Please join us at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) for our annual City Council meeting at City Hall. Some exciting projects are being proposed.

Humbly, your friend,

 the mayor

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Burns chosen for Spring Lake job


 

Christine Burns

By Judy Reed

 

Cedar Springs City Manager Christine Burns may be headed for the top job in Spring Lake.

The Village announced Monday that Burns was their top choice for the Village Manager position, with James Freed, who manages both the Village of Lakeview and the City of Stanton under a shared services agreement, as an alternate.

According to Bill Baldridge, the consultant to the Michigan Municipal League who ran the search, Spring Lake held interviews with their top four choices on Saturday, June 2. Afterward, the council discussed the candidates and narrowed their choices to their top two.

“It was very close between the two candidates, and what strengths they would bring the village,” explained Baldridge. “But Chris seemed to be the leader.”

The Post asked Burns how she felt when she got the call letting her know she was chosen for the job. “I was pretty excited,” she said. “Spring Lake is such an awesome community.”

But the thought of leaving her coworkers saddens her. “My staff rocks. I’ve never worked with a better group of people. They are hard workers, and they are friends. The hard part is leaving them. But I am excited for other opportunities.”

While negotiations have already started, nothing will be set until after June 11. That’s when a judge will rule on whether a petition to disincorporate the Village of Spring Lake is valid. The Village maintains it’s not valid, because they are a home rule village. According to information from the Michigan Municipal League, home rule villages have nothing in their charter that allows them to disincorporate. They would have to insert a provision in their charter permitting them to do so before they could disincorporate.

If the judge rules in the village’s favor, Burns can accept the position if she chooses to. If the judge rules that the petition is valid, it will appear on the August 7 ballot, and everything would be on hold until after the voters make a decision.

Meanwhile, Burns is meeting with department heads to work on a transition plan, and is not taking on any new projects. If things go forward, she will ask for an August 1 start date. She will also meet with the Mayor Charlie Watson and the city attorney, so they can begin to work on a replacement.

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Community cleanup gets wash down


The weather was not kind to the 30 people who showed up to for the annual Cedar Creek clean-up in Cedar Springs, Saturday, April 16.
According to City Manager Christine Burns, all the groups that signed up showed up, except one that said they would do some picking up at a later date. It was the least amount of volunteers they have had for the cleanup, but it didn’t dampen her spirits.
“Even in the rain we put a pretty good dent in it,” said Burns, who explained that they had an hour of cleanup before the rain started at 11:15 a.m. “It really stung,” she said.
She noted they had a good showing for the E-waste, with a container that was half full.
Burns noted that all costs associated with the event were defrayed through sponsorships, except the cost of the trash bags. Choice One Bank covered the cost of the t-shirts for volunteers and Independent Bank covered the pizza party afterward.  @Home Computers sponsored the E-waste portion of the cleanup. “We couldn’t do this without all of them,” she said.
Whether this event will return next year is up in the air due to possible budget cuts.

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