Three interviewed for Watervliet City Manager job; with no clear winner, Commissioners want to offer post to interim manager Bill Hodge
Candidate Daniel Antosik
By Annette Christie
Daniel Antosik was first of three candidates to interview for the Watervliet City Manager position at a special meeting Tuesday night. Antosik, from Adrian, is a recent Wayne State graduate with a master’s degree in public administration. He told the City Commissioners he had recently interned at the City of Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. He was also an intern for the Michigan Municipal League and also worked at a Ford Motor Truck Plant. What he lacked in experience, he told the Commission, he would make up with 100% work ethic and a willingness to learn. He readily admitted he had no budget background or finance experience but would learn the programs needed for the job. He listed his strengths as the ability to lead and work with people and resolve conflicts. He was sure the role of the manager was to attain goals set by the commission and report on the progress in meeting the goals. He said the most crucial aspect of the manager position was understanding the city finances, “the lifeblood of the organization.” When asked what he was looking for in the offered manager position, he said it was experience. “I’d like to gain experience and accuracy in city management. I would like to leave the community better than I found it.” He was asked if he had any grant writing experience. His answer was “no” and that he had not had any opportunity in school or the internships to work on grant writing. Mayor Dave Brinker asked what he would do if he needed information to write a grant for a police program. “I’d get on Google and look it up,” he replied. He added that he had a network of contacts at the Municipal League to assist in grant writing and that he had good writing skills. He admitted he had no experience with public works or water systems but offered he had done research on storm sewer issues for the City of Royal Oak. He told Commissioners, when asked what he would bring to the job that others would not, “I don’t lose my cool in a crisis; I have a work ethic that is second to none. And I’m thorough.” At the end of the interview he said, “I appreciate the invitation to apply. I realize my little experience is on your minds. I wouldn’t worry too much; I will put in absolutely 100% of my time on the job.” Kevin Gillette, who served as the City Manager from 2006-2007 was the second candidate interviewed. Gillette was also the manager for the Village of Cassopolis. He holds a degree in public administration and a secondary teaching certificate. Gillette is currently working as a substitute teacher, at a funeral home and at a winery. He states that his degree in public administration and his experience as both elected and appointed positions make him qualified for the position of City Manager. He spoke of having a team approach when asked about his management style and said he leads by example. Gillette told the Commission that you have to have confidence in your staff and you need to trust them. He views the role of the commission as that of policy making and the overall direction of the city. He told the Commission that he would like the opportunity to serve the City of Watervliet again and for a longer period of time. He described his in depth experience with Act 51, union negotiations, policy writing, and municipal finance when asked about it during the interview. He also noted that he has experience in every category of grant writing with the exception of public health. “I have extensive grant experience,” Gillette said. Gillette said that he has previous experience as a City Manager and that is what he can bring to the position that others may not. He noted that he was successful the year that he was in the position and that he knows enough about Watervliet that he could just jump in and get going. Heath Kaplan was the third and final candidate to be interviewed. He has a master’s degree in public administration and his resume describes his strengths as finance, accounting, operations, staff leadership, communications, project management, budgets, grant coordination, and financial modeling among others. He is currently doing temporary consulting and temporary work, which he has been doing since he left his management position with the City of Poplar Bluff in Missouri. He was in that position for a year. He has also served as a Finance Director for Muskegon County (2010-2014), City Manager for Crandall, Texas (2008-2010), and an Assistant Manager/Finance Director for the City of Wayland (2006-2008). Between the years of 2004-2006, he lists professional services for three different villages, an interim position with a city and an intern position for a city. Kaplan said he is married with kids and two dogs. He has lived in Wayland since 2006. He told the Commission that he has been in local government for 12 years. He explained that he is uniquely qualified for working in local government. “I was an intern and worked in every single department. I have had hands on experience in every department, police, public works, DDA, etc.,” Kaplan said. He describes his management style as something that evolves. “You can’t use the same management style for every personality. Make sure employees are supported and understood. You have to be adaptable and flexible,” Kaplan said. Kaplan said that if selected as City Manager he could do what his kids and his wife want the most, to stop moving. Now that he’s had almost 12 years’ experience, from smaller communities to larger ones like Muskegon County, he realizes that smaller communities is where he wants to be, and for the long haul. “I would like 20 years in one place,” Kaplan said. Kaplan added that he has experience with union negotiations, training employees, budgets, grant writing, planning and zoning, computers, B S & A, water billing, and the list goes on. He explained that while some might look at his resume and say that he job hopped and to that he says, “I wouldn’t have this experience if I hadn’t.” Upon Kaplan’s departure from City Hall, Mayor Dave Brinker said that the city’s attorney ran credit, criminal, and sex offender reports and all came back without hardly anything flagged. The Herald Palladium reported last week that Kaplan is under investigation at two of his last employers and that forensic audits are being done in response to actions he took when employed. Mlive reported that Muskegon County is suing Kaplan alleging that he breached his administrative responsibilities and was involved in a conspiracy with a vendor selected to do information systems work. The owner of ISI, the company in question denies any claims that he provided assistance with a mortgage and a cash payout to Kaplan while in his role as Muskegon County Financial Director. The Southeast Missourian reported that while in the role of management for Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Kaplan urged the governmental body to not take bids on a technology project because ISI (Information Systems Intelligence) would match state contracting pricing. The project was $3.5 million dollars. Kaplan was paid off to leave Poplar Bluff. The facts surrounding neither his departure nor the settlement are public. The Butler County Sheriff Department has since begun an investigation into purchasing practices according to the Southeast Missourian. During the discussion following the interviews Commissioner Muth defended the practice of going with a company that you have researched and know to be reputable. She said that the city has bidding practices in place and things like kickbacks can’t go on. Mayor Dave Brinker said he would look for motions to select the City Manager at their next regular scheduled meeting. A brief conversation was held about the possibility of hiring Bill Hodge, currently the interim City Manager, as the full time. Brinker said he has had some conversations with Hodge and if he was able to be the Bainbridge Township Supervisor and this, he thought he might consider it. Hodge won the primary for that position and faces no opposition in November. He is scheduled to take office November 20, which is why his contract with the City of Watervliet was in effect until the November 19. Hodge was instrumental in reviewing the applications for City Manager and he provided the three that he thought would be the best to be interviewed. It was the Personnel Committee though that made the final decision on who would be interviewed. Commissioner Barb Schofield said that she has had conversations with Hodge and that he noted that he lacked experience in city management and that he did not want to compromise the search for the position. Commissioner Dan Hummel made the motion that they offer Bill Hodge to be our permanent city manager. The motion had support by Commissioner Rick Kinzler. However, because taking action was not on the agenda of this special meeting, Hummel removed his motion from the table. Schofield said she was not opposed to having a conversation with Hodge about the position. Brinker and Schofield will have a conversation with Hodge regarding the position. Muth said she wanted someone who is all theirs. Commissioner Duane Cobb, who missed the first two interviews, added that he does not want to share the City Manager with anyone else. The next meeting of the City Commission is Tuesday, October 11 at 6:30 p.m.
LONG DETOUR… The “Road Closed” sign remains on Territorial Road in Millburg and will likely remain there until spring. Funding and DEQ demands along with permitting issues have delayed the work of the Berrien County Road Commission for this culvert that collapsed into the creek below in April. School bus routes, customers of the local businesses, and local residents alike continue to be affected by this detour. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)
Territorial Road work still not done: detour will run to spring
By Annette Christie
Road closure signs still block off Territorial Road in Bainbridge Township and will likely remain that way into the spring of 2017. It was in early April that Territorial was closed east of Millburg due to a culvert and road collapse. Traffic is being detoured onto North Branch and Park roads. Early reports were that it could take several months for the replacement to be completed on the over 70 year-old culvert that goes over Blue Creek. It is now looking like it will be over a year before it is final. The Road Commission tried to replace it 12 years ago but could not obtain the necessary permit from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which wanted a full bridge put in its place. The DEQ is requiring that the 42” diameter culvert must be replaced with a 7’ by 12’ concrete box culvert. The Road Commission has now acquired federal funds for the culvert replacement. However, with the project being completed with federal funds, the Michigan Department of Transportation now has the oversight. The plans are completed and are currently in Lansing awaiting their review. When they are finished with their review, they will advertise the project for approximately six weeks and then accept bids. Kevin Eyerly with the Berrien County Road Commission said they are anticipating a January bid date. “If all the pieces fall into place correctly, we have a completion date of May 26, 2017,” Eyerly said. Locals in Millburg are noticing a difference in business and traffic with the detour that some say is taking way too long. Holly Bradford who works at the Millburg Trading Post said absolutely, the detour has affected the store’s business. “Especially the summer months, it was really down,” Bradford said. Not only has it affected the business she works for but also in her personal life. Where before, she was able to easily travel just straight down Territorial to take her kids to the bus stop at Bainbridge Center Road, she now has to go all the way around. “It adds about 20 minutes to my daily trip,” Bradford said. The Millburg Trading Post has remained open for their regular hours of 7:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Monday – Saturday and 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Sunday. Residents at Chief’s Bar are fed up with the detour and the amount of time it is taking. One man commented that he lives less than a half mile away and daily he has to go all the way around out of his way to get to and from his home. While one of them recognized that it is due to the DEQ and the fish in the creek below, they still commented that it should not take this long to get something done. Employees at the gas station in Millburg have heard common complaints from many customers that nobody wants to take the detour and that the detour is very confusing. Unfortunately, it will more than likely be in place through the winter and into the spring.
Watervliet County Park $300,000 grant application receives good score
By Annette Christie
The Berrien County Parks Department has received good news about their $300,000 grant application for Watervliet County Park. While the official decision for the grant award has not been made, it is now known that the score the county received for the grant was considerably higher than a year ago with their first attempt. Berrien County has developed a park master plan for 52 acres in all of water-front property in the City of Watervliet that was acquired through its Brownfield Authority. The Phase 1 improvements include the park becoming a trail head for the Paw Paw River Water Trail with a kayaking and canoe launch, parking area, barrier free hard surface trails, a bridge to the island, fishing and viewing decks, landscaping and signage. The total project is estimated at $600,000. Berrien County applied to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for $300,000 toward the park improvements. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners in March of this year pledged up to the remaining $300,000 needed after an estimated contribution of $50,000 coming from friends and supporters of the park. Rick Rasmussen has been leading that fund drive and reports that $25,000 of private and business donations has been received. Parks Director Brian Bailey said that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund received 144 grant applications for this grant cycle. Berrien County received 380 out of a possible 520, topping last year’s score of 270. The grant awards should be announced in late November, early December. Berrien County has been very successful in receiving these types of grants and held an Open House last week at Rocky Gap County Park where park improvements were just completed. At Rocky Gap the County added barrier free access to the beach, restroom buildings, an overlook seating area, and a shade shelter with picnic tables on the lower level. On the upper level they were able to add a lake view overlook deck, picnic pods with tables, and a parking area.
Paw Paw River clean up continues
By Annette Christie
The continuation of the Paw Paw River clean-up is keeping organizers busy. Rick Rasmussen with the Friends of the Paw Paw River recently spoke at a City Commission meeting about the progress. Rasmussen said that with $7,000 that was raised privately, a company was brought in to work on the area of the Paw Paw River between Watervliet and Coloma. He said the company worked for four days at $1,500 a day. “They were worth every penny,” Rasmussen said. He added, “We are not aware of anyone doing this professionally.” The company worked on opening, clearing, and removing logs and debris from various areas in the river. “We were able to open nine sites from Watervliet to Coloma,” Rasmussen said. The company that was hired was following the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources guidelines in their work. Additional funding will be coming through the State of Michigan at the beginning of the next budget cycle. Representative Al Pscholka secured $100,000 for the river between Paw Paw and St. Joseph. Rasmussen said that our area was a pilot project that was done with funds raised from donations of citizens and businesses. The next meeting of the Friends of the Paw Paw River will be Saturday, October 8 at 9:00 a.m. at Coloma Township Hall.
WHS HOMECOMING 2016 KING & QUEEN CANDIDATES… are pictured, back row (from the left): Cameron Rendo, Tyler Brant, Spencer Goodrich, Devon Flowers and Bradley Yazel. Front row (from the left): Karli McClendon, Mercede Daugherty, Kaylee Chapin, Logan Mizwicki and Jade Miller.
WHS HOMECOMING 2016 PRINCE & PRINCESS CANDIDATES… are pictured (from the left): Juniors Zoe Smith and Zack Pickens, So-phomores Isabella Hook and Manny Guzman, and Freshmen Ashley Bumstead and Noah Weber.