06-06-2019 City Manager presents leaner, cleaner budget vision

THESE KUTE KIDS ARE… James (left) and Leonie (right) Schall born June 2018 in York, Pennsylvania. Their proud parents are Sarah and James Schall. Herb Taylor of Watervliet says they are his 3rd and 4th great-great-grandkids! They were born last June along with another great-great-grandchild.


WATER QUALITY MEETING… Hartford residents and local legislators gathered Wednesday, May 15 at the Hartford Bible Church (formerly the Federated Church) for updates on the PFAS contamination found during testing at the site of the former Du-Wel plant, 520 Heywood St. Additional testing of nearby resident wells is in process as officials from the state search for further contamination. Hartford Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik commented that “The folks from the state are not wasting any time in addressing the issue.” A late report from TV station WXMI states that 11 of 60 private wells tested demonstrated some level of contamination, the highest being 900 ppt, well above the federal standard of 70 ppt. The state’s health department has been giving filters to residents with wells that tested positive. Those households have also been provided with bottled water. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)


City Manager presents leaner, cleaner budget vision

By Annette Christie

Watervliet City Manager Tyler Dotson provided a vision to the City Commission at their Tuesday, June 4 meeting, a vision that will provide leaner, cleaner, city operations. In preparation for a special meeting at the end of the month to hold the annual budget hearing, Dotson painted the picture for what has been put in place to give the Commission the numbers for their consideration.

Dotson said he has re-designed the budget process. In March or April he provided a new format to department heads so that they could make their budget requests. Dotson said that information will provide the basis for a capital improvements plan. He said an example of that is the expense to update the city’s Parks and Recreation Plan, in order for the city to qualify for grants.

Other ideas he has are to remodel the offices, moving the treasurer’s office down to the main office area so that a conference room can be made in that space. “We need a conference room which will give a private space for meetings to be conducted,” Dotson said. In addition to that change at City Hall, Dotson said that if the City Commission plans on staying in this building, it will be necessary to slowly invest in the building. While the Commission meeting space was remodeled not too long ago, other updates and remodeling will need to be made to maintain and enhance the facilities for the future.

Dotson said that he will be looking to cut a percentage of the budget from every fund. “I want to put money away in the fund balance,” Dotson said, adding, “I am hoping to bring a leaner operation to the city. That is my goal.” He noted that the upcoming budget will have much more accurate figures for all lines that more reflect actual expenses and revenues. Mayor Dave Brinker said he would like to see money in the budget to clean up the water tower, re-seal or at least re-stripe the basketball court, and to power wash the outside of the building.

The City Commission will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, June 26, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. for the budget hearing, truth in taxation hearing, tax rate millage approval, and master fee schedule approval. In addition, they will approve budget amendments and the closing out of the 2018-2019 budget and approving the 2019-2020 budget.

As part of the budget discussion, the City Commission did consider their annual contribution to the Watervliet 4th of July festival. Tom Gear asked for a total contribution of $8,000 between the City Commission and the DDA. The funds are used for the fireworks and the payments are paid directly to the entities that they buy the fireworks from. The request is $500 more than what the City gave last year. While the City Commission did not officially approve it, all indications were that they would as a part of the budget approval process.

Accessory Structure Ordinance

While the City Commission has discussed an amendment to the Accessory Structure Ordinance previously, at this meeting they approved sending it to the Planning Commission for review before they take action. This would give the Planning Commission time to review and research it before giving it back as a recommendation to the City Commission. The subject came up a couple of months ago when a city resident constructed an accessory structure fully within the regulations and restrictions that were in the ordinance, however, some city residents believed that the size allowed by ordinance was too large.

Once the Planning Commission is back to the numbers needed to conduct business, they will be asked to take up the subject. Another member is expected to be named at the special meeting being held on June 26.

Social media guidelines

As the city plans to move forward with making a social media presence officially, Dotson presented a City Social Media Policy that provides direction and guidelines for that presence. The community guidelines for city social media accounts provide guidance on the city’s expectations regarding the use of social media which is maintained and monitored by city staff. All posts and comments shall be subject to review by city staff. Dotson and Commissioner Jennifer Helms researched various policies from other municipalities, as well as working with City Attorney Jessica Fette.

“The goal of our social media use will be to become more transparent, improve communication to the community, and provide an additional method for folks to engage, understand, and potentially participate in the democratic process,” Dotson said. The use of social media is also a required element for the Redevelopment Ready Community certification that the city is working on achieving.

High View Street drain project

The City Commission has previously discussed and given permission for the use of funds to fix the High View Street drain project which is often referred to as the Morlock project due to the drain problems’ effect on the Morlock family and their property. The city had accepted bids to remedy the problem, however, all the bids came in much higher than expected or budgeted for. Brinker stated of the process, “I don’t think we were all on the same page for which way we wanted to go with it.”

The city engineer from Wightman as well as Dotson have both recommended not accepting the bids at this time, and instead, waiting until the city’s Asset Management Plan gives a better picture, allowing for more efficient planning and prioritizing projects needed. In addition, Dotson thought that it would be better suited to include a project of this magnitude into the USDA loan that the city will be applying for in October.

The City Commission provided consensus to delay the major project as long as a temporary fix could be completed. Commissioner Luke Strunk stated, “Alan suggested temporary measures, if it is enough to satisfy the Morlocks then I’m ok with that.” Brinker added, “I don’t see why we can’t do something that gets what everyone wants, we want to do it right at some point. I also feel that we need to do something as we are three city managers in on this project.”

Brinker suggested a simple solution to block that storm drain off and divert water elsewhere. With that the City Commission approved to reject all bids and instead roll the project over into the USDA-RA funded project planned for 2020 and provide a band-aid fix immediately.

Police officers

Dotson introduced two new full-time police officers for the department. Having lost two full-time officers during the month of April, Chief Sutherland sped up the process to bring the department up to full force.

BOVO


WESTRA


The two officers hired were Carmen Bovo and Tyler Westra. Bova is from Stevensville and spent 18 years with the Buchanan Police Department. Westra has recently served in Jenison, Michigan. He is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University with a degree in Criminal Justice. He graduated from the GVSU Academy in 2018. Westra currently lives outside of Grand Rapids and plans to re-locate here.

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