04-27-2017 Watervliet City Commission approves School Resource Officer agreement; Mayor and Twp. Sup

Watervliet City Commission approves School Resource Officer agreement; Mayor and Twp. Supervisor clash over terms

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet City Commission finally approved the three-party agreement for the purpose of providing a School Resource Officer, but not before lengthy and somewhat heated conversation that included Watervliet Charter Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins at their regular meeting held Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

City Manager Michael Uskiewicz asked for permission to sign the agreement after working out the details of the contract with the police chief, the township and the school system as directed by the city commission. He reminded them prior to the beginning of the discussion that they have already approved the concept and the funding and that this was simply the final piece needed to put the plan into motion that has been a long time coming.

It was in January that the city promised $20,000 toward the project that is being financially shared with the school for $30,000 and the township for $20,000.

It was Watervliet City Mayor Dave Brinker that invited Hutchins into the discussion and to explain his take on the agreement. Brinker asked Hutchins, “I need to ask you the question, where do you stand as to what was originally put forth?” Hutchins said that as he understood it, the city and the school didn’t have a problem with the original agreement and that it was the township that wanted more oversight. Hutchins said that he felt that with the hiring of a city manager the oversight would be there now for the program, but then in addressing Brinker stated, “You have someone in here now and if you’re not going to let the city manager do his job I don’t know what the hell you are going to do.” Hutchins said that he attended the meeting with the city manager, the chief, and the school to work out the final areas of concern with the agreement, and they did that. He said the mayor was invited to come but did not. “I don’t understand how we have come to this. You don’t like that the city manager, the superintendent, and I put this together. It has become political and I don’t like it,” Hutchins said.

Brinker asked Hutchins if he understood that the agreement puts the city in charge of this program. Hutchins responded, “I think I can work with the city manager or the superintendent to resolve any issues we may have.” Hutchins said this will be a great deal for the community if people will see it through. “The issue sits in this room, not in the community,” Hutchins said.

Commissioner Larry Hehl asked about the budget and the impact this would have on this year’s and next year’s budgets. Uskiewicz noted that the 2016 budget will not be affected and that the 2017 budget is not going to be introduced until May. He reminded the commissioners once again that back in January they committed the $20,000. Hehl insisted that they needed to get a look at the budget and the numbers going in and numbers going out.

Commissioner Bill Whitney was concerned that funding for the budget included training and if the School Resource Officer needed training that he gets it. Chief Tim Sutherland confirmed that training expenses were accounted for in the budget. Hutchins added that if the actual costs after the first year went over the original estimates that they could talk about it. “You have never heard the township say no to a good program,” Hutchins said.

There seemed to be some differing opinions over the cost to provide the program with Brinker stating that he believed the program can run for $70,000 but Chief Sutherland thinking that it could be done for a little less. Either way all parties have committed up to the $70,000 and Uskiewicz confirmed that the funds will all be kept separate and used only for expenses within the program itself. It was indicated that they would look at it, the budget, after the first year. Brinker questioned whether it was necessary to hire a full-time person when they would only be utilized at the school during the school year, leaving the summer open. Sutherland stated, “I think the most important thing for this program to be successful is to have a high quality, full-time person. I would like someone long term, that the kids will get to know and to help them trust the police,” adding, “I envision the kids in kindergarten growing up with this officer and respecting the officer with a trust so they can turn to them in the junior high years when things are harder.” Sutherland said if the city picks them up in the summer, that is the busiest time, and that position could help fill in for vacations, while helping to eliminate any overtime. Brinker said then that he would like to back up just a bit and wait to approve the agreement. Uskiewicz added, “I do believe you can do it for the $70,000. You already approved this program; you are just approving the contract. There are some time issues involved so that we can get an officer in place for the next school year.”

Commissioner Whitney made the motion to approve the agreement, with Commissioner Muth supporting the motion. As expected, the vote was not unanimous with Hehl and Brinker voting no, however the motion carried authorizing Uskiewicz to move forward with the School Resource Officer agreement.

Baseline Environmental Assessment

Uskiewicz presented a quote of $2,000 for a Baseline Environmental Assessment on the recently conveyed property known as the paper mill property. Last week the Berrien County Brownfield Authority authorized conveying the old mill site, west of M-140 to the City of Watervliet. In doing so, Berrien County waived the $92,000 that the city would have owed the Brownfield Authority. It was commented at the Brownfield meeting by Community Development Director Dan Fette that the city should get the environmental assessment. Uskiewicz then sought out the quote for that assessment to get the ball rolling. Prior to getting to a discussion of the city commissioners over the quote, Brinker chose to chastise the city manager for just grabbing the task and moving forward with it. Uskiewicz explained that the agenda was already complete and the quote had already been obtained before Brinker expressed that the city should wait on it. The quote Uskiewicz received was from Wightman & Associates, the city’s engineer but Hehl wanted to see it go out for bid. Commissioner Muth made the motion to approve the $2,000 to be paid for a baseline environmental assessment with support from Commissioner Cobb. There was some discussion following the motion being put on the table that the motion was made approving up to the $2,000 for the assessment but did not specify Wightman and therefore, if the city wanted to seek competitive prices they still could. The motion carried. However, then Commissioner Muth stated that that was not her intention. Muth said, “We do everything with Wightman, and I want to move forward with this. It does not seem unreasonable to me but that is my opinion.”

Before the city commission could iron all that out, Hutchins provided a piece of information that no one seemed to know. Hutchins said that the paper mill project and the spray field, was all dealt with in a consent agreement. He said that all parties had to agree (city, township, county) before anything could be done with any of that property. “None of that has been resolved,” Hutchins said. With that the conversation ended and Brinker said he would have a discussion with Fette to find out what was going on.

Other business

Following the acceptance of a union agreement with the Public Works Department that requires the city to provide uniforms to its employees, the commission reviewed the Aramark agreement for the public works uniforms. Hehl said he would like to see the city consider buying uniforms and providing them to their employees and suggested that it could save the city a lot of money. He based that on his experience at Factory Card Outlet. Someone noted that the quote also included floor mats at various facilities and the cleaning of those mats. Hehl suggested that someone who works at the city could be responsible for cleaning the mats. The agreement was approved by the city commission.

Uskiewicz presented a treasurer job description as a part-time position. This did not include a wage, the set number of hours, the applicants’ names, etc.; it was the approval of the job description. He stated that the description helps to segregate duties and covers what the treasurer needs to do. Because Muth has filled in as an interim treasurer she asked for clarification on whether she should abstain for voting on the job description because she was not sure. Her time in that position is over. Brinker said he didn’t have a problem with her voting on the job description but then point blank asked what she was going to do about the job. Muth said she was unsure at this point. Uskiewicz reminded the commissioners that he was just asking for the approval of the treasurer job description.

After Brinker couldn’t get any of the commissioners to ask questions, he stated, “I have questions, so I guess I’ll start,” Brinker said, questioning the job description and the extensive duties that were included. Brinker declared, “Am I wrong or is there a whole lot more work in here than what the treasurer does now.” Uskiewicz said that the job description mirrors things in the charter, referencing the job description on file as of 2010, and follows suit with what was recommended by their auditors. “Segregation of duties was noted in your audit,” Uskiewicz said.

Brinker responded, “Here is what I’m gonna tell you, the treasurer job is very specific to the charter and it feels like you are giving out more work. The budget, that is your job,” Brinker said. Uskiewicz responded that was a part of the treasurer job as well, according to charter. “I’m not adding another person, I am adding a part-time person that we already had,” Uskiewicz said. Though it received three no votes (Hehl, Strunk, and Brinker), the motion to approve the treasurer job description passed.

Even the clerk’s request for passage of the credit card policy (a requirement of the Credit Card Transactions Act 266 of 1995) involved discussion. Clerk Dena Yow explained that it has been around to the city commission before but the last time they did not like the number for the credit card limit. Yow said she reduced it to $2,500 vs. the $5,000 it was at before. The city is required to have a credit card policy because it uses credit cards in its natural course of business. The commission ultimately approved it.

Brinker had added a budget discussion to the agenda but at the end of regular business, decided against it.

HARTFORD MIDDLE SCHOOL 8TH GRADE GIRLS… recently visited the campus of Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac. The 2nd annual Girls Can Do It Day at SMC offers the young ladies an opportunity to explore what would be typically judged by society as non-traditional careers for women. Students par-ticipated in hands-on activities in robotics, IT, welding, ac-counting, graphic design, marketing, green technology, computer aided design and drafting, construction, architecture and automotive technology in addition to hearing personal success stories from SMC alumni ladies who have themselves broken barriers working employed in non-traditional fields.


Lakeland Hospital Watervliet Auxiliary fundraiser, May 4

 Lakeland Hospital Watervliet Auxiliary is holding a fundraising event on Thursday, May 4. They are selling baked goods including items from Suzie’s Goodies and South Bend Chocolates.

The fundraiser will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the hospital located at 400 Medical Park Drive.

Senior Services

Hartford United Methodist Church

425 E. Main St., Hartford

Monday, May 1 – Coffee & conversation, 10:00 a.m.; LUNCH, 12:30 p.m.; Cards, 1:00 p.m.; Special Mother’s Day Bingo, 1:15 p.m.

Tuesday, May 2 – Coffee & conversation, 10:00 a.m.; LUNCH, 12:30 p.m.; Cards & Computer help, 1:00 p.m.; Knitting & crocheting, 1:30 p.m.

Friday, April 28 – Coffee & conversation, 10:00 a.m.; LUNCH, 12:30 p.m.; Cards, 1:00 p.m.; Knitting, crocheting & needlework, 1:30 p.m.

Food Safety 101

One in six Americans get sick from food poisoning each year. And older adults are at an even higher risk of serious complications because of their weakened immune systems. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service is offering, “Food Safety 101” to seniors, caregivers and food service volunteers at the Paw Paw Center. Learn some great tips for keeping safe from food borne illness. Dr. Bryan Voetherg with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will be at the Paw Paw site on Monday, May 15 at 12:45 p.m. to give a presentation about the basics of food safety.

Fishing Club

Remember that rod, reel and tackle box gathering dust over the winter? It’s time to pull them out on Wednesday, May 10 at 10 a.m. at Maple Lake in Paw Paw. Senior Services will provide worms, water and snacks. Please bring fishing gear (or borrow the ole bamboo poles and hook) and don’t forget fishing license and sun screen.

Tennis in Paw Paw

Tennis has started up for the summer (weather permitting) and more players are needed. Please bring a tennis racket to the Paw Paw Middle School Tennis Courts (located next to the football field) by 9 a.m. on Tuesday mornings for fun, sun and exercise.

All seniors, age 60 and older, residing in Van Buren County are eligible to participate in these programs and activities.

Any questions or comments, please contact Senior Services Paw Paw office at 269-655-8000. Rides are available through Van Buren Public Transit with no less than 24-hour advance notice at (269) 427-7921.

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