09-29-2016 Watervliet City Commissioner seeks self-funded festivals; Watervliet offers part-time Cit
TEAM LEADS GYM CROWD IN NATIONAL ANTHEM… When the public address system failed in the Watervliet High School Gym for a volleyball game September 20 the Panther team started singing the National Anthem and was soon joined by the opposing team and the audience. Pictured are WHS Panthers (from the left) Logan Mizwicki, Katie Schultz, Zoe Smith, Kara Liles, Mercede Daugherty, Maggie Lynch, Madalyn Hutchins, Katie Clark, Grace Smith and Ariana Rowe. On the day of this game, renovation work in the gym was near completion and all the team banners and the American Flag were not yet back on the walls. As it was, the American Flag was at center court, held by coaches when the PA malfunctioned. After a few moments, the WHS Girls Volley-ball Team began singing the anthem and was soon followed by their opponents, the Saugatuck Girls Volleyball Team and then the entire gymnasium. A video of the spontaneous demonstration of team spirit and pride quickly appeared on Facebook and soon went viral. The video was picked up by the TV news feature “Inside Edition” and aired earlier this week. (Photo by Gloria Reeves)
Watervliet City Commissioner seeks self-funded festivals; nearby communities have different ways to support events
By Annette Christie
Watervliet City Commissioner Dan Hummel spoke out as an individual at the last Watervliet City Commission meeting recommending that their local festivals become free from the use of tax dollars. Hummel commented that he is very much against tax dollars being spent on local festivals, beyond an in-kind sponsorship of public works and police involvement.
Hummel also believes that the in-kind donation should be planned for, capped, and budgeted. He stated, “I am completely against such a business-as-usual approach to taxpayer funding of local festivals.” The volunteer group that he plans to facilitate will be stand alone, having no direct financial ties to the City. Hummel states that this proposed group would foster community partnerships, business cooperation sponsorship, and most importantly, volunteerism. Hummel spoke of this proposed committee as being staffed by area professionals that share a common desire for general festival excellence and a required passion for volunteerism. He plans for the group to become a 501c6 or equal certification with their own insurance and legal coverage. “Such a foundation of detailed support and professionalism will greatly reduce the complications of individual festival generation and continuance, while ensuring the effort is fun and successful for organizers alike. This approach will establish an overall favorable reputation of Watervliet festivals in the surrounding areas, will encourage a destination aspect of the Watervliet community, and propagate a new-found propensity for volunteerism throughout,” Hummel said. The contribution to the Watervliet’s annual Independence Day Festival held this past July 4th came under discussion when the previous City Manager questioned the contribution. Hummel’s opposition to city funding of the festival is not new. In April when the City Commission finally voted to provide $5,000 for a particular item of the festival (i.e. Fireworks), Hummel said that the funding of festivals is not usually done this way and he would like to see the funding for the community festivals come from sponsorships and get away from taxpayers’ dollars being used for it. Historically, the City of Watervliet has provided funding for the Independence Day Festival and the Ice Festival when it was held. The neighboring community, Watervliet Charter Township, was ready to provide some funding for this year’s event even prior to its home community. In fact, in April when the communities were considering the donation, the township had approved it pending city action. At the Watervliet Business Association organization meeting held around the same time, Supervisor Dan Hutchins was there and ready to present a check. This is the case of most area communities when asked to contribute to the very promotional events that bring people to their communities, helping to financially support businesses and making people familiar with the cities and townships. According to Clerk Patt Bambrick, Watervliet Charter Township supports their community events that fall within the guidelines set by the State of Michigan. Keeler Township Clerk Carl Davis states that their township does not provide funds for any community events and they do not have any festivals. They do however, provide $300 to the Sister Lakes Lions Club for the July fireworks display around the holiday. Coloma Charter Township is a very active supporter of the community events held there. Clerk Sandy Kraemer said the township provides $300 for the Halloween in the Park; $2,000 for the Glad-Peach Event; $1,000 for the Medley in the Park; and $300 for the St. Patrick’s Day event. The City of Coloma donates to its city events through its Downtown Development Authority. The amounts of the donations are the same as the township. The City of Hartford provides in kind donations from its police and public works departments for the Strawberry 5K Run event. They assist with providing items such as a location, electricity, the stage, and various equipment for the Strawberry Festival. The city also bears the responsibility of the clean-up following the event. Through the Downtown Development Authority, a donation of between $250 and $500 is made for the holiday program in the park held in December. The city does help support the community Blossomtime float through a donation of $500 to the school district. Hartford Township did not reply to a request for their donations amounts and information. While Hummel made the statement at a public meeting, he did not ask for action on behalf of the City Commission. The overall consensus was in wishing him luck in his efforts to create this totally volunteer festival committee free from any tax dollar use.
Watervliet offers part-time City Clerk and Deputy Clerk full time positions at special meeting
By Kristy Noack
The Watervliet City Commissioners met on Saturday, September 24 for a special meeting. The commission reviewed the status of hiring a city manager and the positions of City Clerk and Deputy Clerk. On August 9, the commission voted to dissolve a part-time office position at the city which was being filled by Crystal Bartel. The commission also moved to create two part-time temporary office positions in which the employees would work 29 hours a week at $16.50 an hour. Former Watervliet City Clerk Dena Yow was hired for one position and current City employee Bartel was moved into the second position. Saturday’s meeting was held with the intent to review those two positions and determine if the jobs should be posted to the public at large. With questions looming as to whether the positions had to be posted, acting city manager Bill Hodge said, “There is no evidence in the 2007 and 2011 current handbooks dictating a posting must be made.” Hodge said he also reviewed city ordinances and found no evidence of any policy in place requiring the job postings. After discussion, the commission voted to change the two part-time temporary positions at City Hall into two full-time permanent positions. A second motion was made to offer the position of City Clerk to Yow and Deputy Clerk to Bartel. The motion passed. Hodge intended to offer the positions to both employees on Monday. The wages for the positions were not set and will be reviewed by Hodge. The board commended the action saying the continuity the employees would provide, as well as the training they have undergone, would be a benefit to the city and its residents. One city commissioner expressed interest in the full-time position. The interested commissioner’s name was not disclosed. Also on the agenda was a review of the applications submitted for the position of city manager. Hodge is temporarily filling that role until a suitable replacement can be found. Hodge stated he received nine resumes for the position of city manager. Of those, he found four were “considerable.” The names of the applicants were not disclosed as the personnel committee had yet to review the resumes. Hodge advised the applicants included a former city manager who worked within Berrien County. Other applicants were from Marquette, Wayland, and Royal Oak. The personnel committee will review the applications and conduct a first round of phone interviews. During Saturday’s discussion, Hodge noted how difficult it was, at times, to work with the commission. He said, “It’s monumentally important this commission has to realize what kind of governance we want to maintain. That is the ultimate decision you have to make.” He followed that by stating, “I’m going to tell you how to fix this. We have to establish by-laws to help the commission with their roles and responsibilities. This commission is a policy making commission. It is not a governing commission.” Hodge also said, “There are too many personal agendas going on.” He will continue in his role as acting city manager for an indefinite period of time. Absent from the special meeting were Commissioners Duane Cobb, Melanie Marvin, and Deah Thornton.
Rhonda Jones, former Watervliet Postmaster and owner of Wishing You Well, died last week. Her obituary is on Page 6
Watervliet City Commission renews Shared Services with Watervliet Township; turns chronic flooding problem over to County Drain Commission
By Annette Christie
The Watervliet City Commission renewed a contract that was currently in place with Watervliet Charter Township but was not being used. The city had previously entered into a shared services agreement with the township for it to provide rental inspections, ordinance enforcement, building permits and inspections. That contractual arrangement was halted under the direction of the previous city manager. However, at Tuesday’s regular meeting, the city commission put it in place. Interim City Manager Bill Hodge presented the information and suggested that they make a decision. The old rate for those services was $2,800; however, the township has now offered the lower rate of $2,000 a month. “This is the offer on the table. We’ve talked about this for months and we are done talking about this at the township,” Watervliet Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins told the commission. The City Commission also took another big step at their Tuesday, September 28 meeting in voting to move forward with a drain project that could help solve a longstanding water problem near Lucinda Lane, Park Street, South Pleasant Street, and Summit Drive. This involves the South Watervliet Drain, a district that extends from just beyond Lane Automotive to almost Red Arrow Highway. In July 2015 the city passed a resolution to petition the Drain Commissioner to make the necessary repairs and or replacements as needed understanding that it was possible for assessments to follow. City Engineer Alan Smaka of Wightman & Associates told the city commission that the Board of Determination was held and it was so deemed necessary to facilitate the drain project. Smaka explained that this drainage district would include 276 parcels, both in the township and the city. In addition, there would be funding coming into the district from the township, the city, the road commission, and MDOT. Smaka said the estimated project would be a $1.25 million dollar project. It would be a 15-year bond project. While Smaka said he would not typically encourage a municipality to give up part of its infrastructure; he noted that for the last 10 years, there has been confusion over who maintains what. A project like this would establish that, will spread the cost over a larger number of those paying, and spread it out over 15 years. The city commission approved moving forward with the drainage project. The city commission approved invoices and payables as standard business but did have some donations to announce. There was $2,100 to be deposited and noted as reserved for the skate park repairs, as well as $2,268.85 for the Christmas Santa comes to town event. Commissioner Deah Muth announced that city resident Donna DeMay had secured $2,500 from Whirlpool for the city’s skate park repairs. The commission thanked DeMay for her efforts. Following a Saturday meeting and the city commission determining to hire a full time clerk and deputy clerk, the personnel committee provided a recommendation for the wages for those two positions. Personnel Committee Chairperson Barb Schofield said she and the other members (commissioners Dan Hummel and Vick Kinzler) recommend an hourly rate of $16.50 for the clerk and $16 for the deputy clerk. Schofield said that performance reviews will be done but may not necessarily be an automatic increase depending on budget. The motion carried despite Muth voting no and Marvin abstaining. Marvin said she did not have to state why she was abstaining and she did not. Commissioner Duane Cobb expressed his dismay that a special meeting had to be held on a Saturday. Brinker said he circulated information about having a meeting on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and reached out to the commissioners to see which one he could get a quorum at. Brinker said he did comment on Saturday that he wished that more could have been there because not everyone was represented. Cobb, Muth, and Marvin were not present. Following a request driven by the DDA, the commission voted to provide a cost share for the water installation needed for irrigation at the Library Park being renovated. The city will pay 1/3, the library will pay 1/3, and a donation of 1/3 is also being sought from Watervliet Charter Township. DDA Chairman Bob Becker said they got involved when noticed that the irrigation is in but questions remained as to who would actually hook up the water. A local irrigation company said that they could do it. In the approval, the city will be paying $1,000 toward the project. The DDA donated $10,000 to get the landscaping done in the Library Park. “Part of our program in the DDA is to beautify downtown. There was a stalemate between the city and the library on how to get the water hooked up so we got involved,” Becker said. Schofield said that the applications for the city manager have been reviewed and the personnel committee has it narrowed down to three. Schofield said she would recommend that all three are interviewed by the full commission, not one interview with the committee and one with the commission. The interviews are set for Tuesday, October 4 at 4:15, 5:30 and 6:45. This is of course, pending the confirmation with the applicants.