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Tag Archive | "Pulaski Days parade"

Village Council asks President to resign


by Judy Reed

With less than a month left on his term, the Sand Lake Village council voted at their regular meeting on Monday evening to ask Village President Tom Norton to resign. The motion, introduced by trustee Danielle Hardenburg, passed 5-0.

Norton has been under fire most recently for taking a Sand Lake Fire Department brush truck on Saturday, October 6 without speaking directly to the Fire Chief about it first, and allowing it to be used in the Pulaski Days parade by the Curt Benson for Judge campaign. 

Norton told the Post last week that as President, he had a right to take it. “The Chief doesn’t run the fire department, the President of the Village does,” he said.

Hardenburg had told the Post she felt it was an abuse of his power, and she was going to ask for his resignation at the meeting.

Norton, however, was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting, due to a family medical issue.

Hardenburg introduced the motion at the meeting, and the council discussed it.

“There was some discussion on the part of the council that we can’t force him to resign,” explained President pro-tem Dave Dewey. “But as a council we sensed that there was no way people would be content unless we sent him a letter requesting his resignation. So we decided we would send a letter out to Tom, and he would say yes or no.”

Dewey said an email went out to Norton Tuesday morning requesting his resignation. If he does resign, the Village council would then need to appoint an interim to run the village until after the November election, when a new president will be elected. Hardenburg is running for that position as a qualified write-in candidate. Former trustee Nyha French appears on the ballot, but she moved out of the area and is no longer a candidate.

Norton decided earlier this year not to run for reelection in Sand Lake, but instead ran for Supervisor of Nelson Township against their current Supervisor Robyn Britton and lost in the primary election. He told the Post last week that he and his family would soon be moving out of the area.

The Sand Lake Village council has seen several of its trustees leave recently, and will have several openings on the November ballot. Dave Dewey is retiring after 13 years; his wife Jan resigned earlier in the summer; trustee Greg Wheeler resigned; and French moved out of the district. 

All write-in candidates need to file declaration of intent forms by October 26.

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Missing fire truck sparks controversy in Sand Lake


By Judy Reed

Some tempers are flying hot again in the Village of Sand Lake after Village President Tom Norton took a Sand Lake Fire Department grass fire/medical truck without discussing it with the Fire Chief and allowed someone in the Curt Benson for Judge campaign to drive it in the Pulaski Days parade last Saturday, October 6.

The Post got a tip about it from someone earlier this week, and then called Fire Chief Ed Holtzlander to verify what had happened. 

According to Holtzlander, he went into the fire station Saturday and saw it was missing. “We already had engines 6 and 7 reserved to go to Cedar Springs for the Red Flannel parade and now this one was missing. We use it for grass fires but it’s also our second medical truck,” explained Holtzlander. 

He said he found out that Norton had spoken with a DPW taking the truck. When Holtzlander saw it was missing, he immediately called Norton. 

“I told him to he had 20 minutes to get it back here or I’d report it stolen,” said Holtzlander. “He told me he didn’t need permission to take it.”

The pickup did arrive back at the building about 20 minutes later. But none of the firefighters recognized the guys who brought it back.

The Post spoke to Norton about it, and he verified that he did take the truck without calling Holtzlander. “The Chief doesn’t run the fire department, the President of the Village does,” stated Norton. 

When the Post asked why he didn’t call him and let him know, Norton responded, “The Chief never calls me back anyway.” He also said he had a new phone and didn’t have everyone’s phone number in it.

He assured the Post that it was completely legal. “Under a general law village, a president can do that.” 

“We were asked by someone to send a truck to the parade. An email was sent out on Friday evening to the Chief and Council,” he said. “I got no response. People have smart phones with emails popping up all the time. There’s no reason not to see it.”

The email was reportedly sent at 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

“One of the reasons I delayed the email was to see if we were going to have rain,” explained Norton. “We’d had three days of rain so knew we wouldn’t need it. The only time it’s used is during a grassfire so this is a complete non-issue.”

But Holtzlander said that’s not the case. It’s also a four-wheel drive vehicle with medical supplies and they just recently used it to get back to where someone had fallen out of a tree stand.

But who was driving it in the parade? Norton said he swore a guy into the village so that he would be covered by the village insurance and legally be able to drive it.

In the email that was sent out (which Norton read to the Post over the phone) it was mentioned that doing this would help with grants by making other community’s parades look bigger. The Post spoke with some other Village sources (not Sand Lake) who said that they knew of nothing like that. Instead, they said they don’t allow the use of Village property for political purposes to avoid the look of impropriety.

“I’m appalled,” said Sand Lake Village Council member Danielle Hardenburg. “I did some investigating and don’t like what I found out at all,” she said. 

Hardenburg is also a firefighter and said she understands Holtzlander’s frustration. “We don’t even know the drivers, or if they were certified to drive the vehicle. I had to take a course, and then a test, and then a driving test, and then an annual test every year just to be able to drive it. The fire chief also signs off on who drives it.”

Hardenburg said the vehicle should only be used for when the village is responding to a call. “We just had a conversation recently about who can use village property,” she said. She also doesn’t think it should be used to endorse a candidate. “We should try to stay neutral.”

“This was a complete disrespecting of the head of the fire department by not asking to use the vehicle,” she added. “It shows extremely poor judgment and a complete disregard for public safety. This is a serious matter. I think he should resign and let president pro-tem Dave Dewey take over, even though he only has a month left.”

Norton’s term will be up this fall and he will soon be moving out of Sand Lake.

Hardenburg, who will run for Village President as a write-in in the November election, said she plans to call for Norton’s resignation at the next meeting.

“I feel Tom is incapable of performing his presidential duties. He’s abused his power. It’s a dishonorable service to the community. It makes our board look unhealthy and it needs to stop. I am so floored. What if we had been toned out and showed up at the station and the truck wasn’t there? What would’ve happened?”

The next Sand Lake Village Council meeting will be Monday, October 15, according to the dates posted on their website.

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