GRAND BLANC – With over 30 years of service, City Clerk Bethany Smith, announced her retirement at a recent council meeting, and stated her office assistant, Sharon Morisette, would also be moving on in January. Smith was appointed as clerk in 2007 by then-Mayor Michael Matheny, when she had 21 years of service to the city as a clerk.
Smith is the primary coordinator of all elections and will be leaving in June of 2018. The council approved her request to start training a new person after Morisette leaves in order to make things transition more smoothly. She also stated she will bring council further details on the succession plan at a later date.
The council also approved replacement of Fire Station One’s main truck bay lighting for a cost of just under $16,000. Fire Chief Robert Burdette stated the bay’s lighting is original to the 1971 station.
Although the purchase was not budgeted, Department of Public Works Director Matt Wurtz’s review of the lighting implied the current system was not safe. Mayor Susan Soderstrom also queried the council prior to an upcoming fire commission meeting regarding the issue of “who pays for what”, which has been on the table for the joint fire department since Station One got a new kitchen last year.
In the last task force meeting Soderstrom was asked to verify the council’s position of things which stay with the building and which are the building owner’s responsibility versus things which are portable. Councilwoman Lisa Blondell took exception with that policy, as the firefighters all use the kitchen and the township uses all the firefighters, so she implied it should be an equal contribution in some cases.
The council consensus was to look at it in more detail at a later date. The lights will be replaced by LED fixtures by a local company, Owens Electric, and are expected to be more cost efficient.
Another issue brought up is the township wants the fire millage to be “tie-barred”, or in other words, if the city or township pass the millage and the other does not, the millage will go forward. The city is in opposition to this and according to its attorney, Walter Griffin, its ballot language sent for approval to the county will indicate that.
If the language is not approved by the county, the city intends to wait and see if the township election passes the measure before proceeding to hold its own election on the matter.
The council also approved a variance of fencing requirements for the Genesee District McFarlen library, which will allow the library to put a wrought-iron styled aluminum fence in what is essentially its front yard.
The exception was granted because the library entrances are on the side and back. Friends of the Library representative Bob Foote stated they recently needed to replace a very large window in the building and the estimate for that was $20,000. Instead they chose to add a door to the outside in the same area, which will allow access to the patio from the Childrens’ area.
The library originally requested a six-foot fence with a spiked top but went with the flat top and a lower fence based on recommendations by city officials. The variance was granted based on the evidence that the project would not alter the essential character of the area and all other standards were met.
The board also heard a presentation on the Michigan Municipal League (MML) representative Emily Kieliszewski who also presented City Manager Wendy Jean Buhrer with a certificate for its recent award from the MML’s Michigan Green Communities Challenge.
The council approved a fee schedule for electrical, mechanical, and plumbing inspections and a proposal to tie teal colored ribbons on city lampposts by the Tie Michigan Teal Campaign in recognition of October as National Ovarian Cancer Month.
In February, city employees’ job positions will undergo a comprehensive salary review costing $12,250, which will enable the city to ensure a fair negotiating position for upcoming labor contracts. The city also had to ‘forgive’ a $112,000 loan from the general fund to the streets fund due to a change in accounting regulations from the Michigan Department of Transportation. No money was lost, it was just not paid back into the general fund and will remain in the streets fund as a balance.