Concerns over potentially circumvented bid process surface in Hagar Twp. meeting
By Jon Bisnett The Hagar Township Board has no answers to Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio’s inquiry as to what appears to be an absence of a proper approval for G.I.S. Mapping work on the township cemeteries in process by Wightman and Associates. While there is no contention as to the benefit to the township or the quality of work by Wightman, DiMaggio’s concern comes from several attempts to verify who approved Wightman to proceed following a presentation to the entire board in March of 2019. The work in excess of $25,000 well exceeds the township’s bid policy requiring sealed bids for any expense of goods or services in excess of $5,000. DiMaggio’s inquiry at the township board meeting Nov. 11 triggered a firestorm from Trustee Andy Ulleg, “…for a least the sixth time… it was approved at the annual budget meeting…” The supervisor’s concern stems from a lack of any documentation; further questioning if this is a legal matter they need to pursue. Should work be stopped? How can the recently presented invoice be paid without a project approval? Ulleg adamantly responded that it would be “totally unethical to put this out for bid after Wightman gave us their price.” Further he called it “inconceivable and untenable that the township not pay for the work done thus far.” Regardless of his conviction, Ulleg failed to answer the direct question as to who authorized the work. Treasurer Marlene Davis was not in attendance, thus unable to shed any light on the issue. Davis earlier in 2018 championed an ad-hoc cemetery committee for resident input. Davis is also a full-time employee for the Wightman firm and in the past typically recuses herself from matters involving her employer. Prior inquiries to the board as a whole from DiMaggio have resulted in nothing more than blank faces and shrugged shoulders. DiMaggio added that he as Supervisor signs many agreements over the course of the year, often for amounts significantly less than the G.I.S. project, but has never signed anything for the matter in question. Diffusing Ulleg’s volatile responses, DiMaggio stated he and Clerk Rodriguez have scheduled a meeting with officials at Wightman and Associates in hopes of resolving the question at hand. Guests County Commissioner Dave Vollrath reports the County budget is complete. No commission meetings are held in November and December. Also noted is the coming of a Berrien Bus route from Coloma to Benton Harbor, with details to follow shortly. Supervisor’s Report Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio began with previous tabled reimbursement process for the Berrien County Highway Department work in regard to the Bundy Road project. Additional documentation has been provided to the Township Clerk to her satisfaction. BCRD’s Director Jason Lathum was on hand to answer questions as to the FEMA process for the township grant which totals $89,442. The balance of the $143,000 project was assumed by the BCRD. The board unanimously approved moving forward on the FEMA grant with assistance of the BCRD. The township newsletter will be going out soon. DiMaggio stated he had asked for updates in regard to the new township website and cemetery mapping, but since none had been provided by the publishing deadline, the newsletter would go out without them. Updating the new Kayak Park, DiMaggio stated that at the conclusion of the DDA meeting held Wednesday, October 23, the DDA voted to declare the park open for use. The picnic pavilion is awaiting shipment and since that time is over 50% complete. He added that consideration may want to be given to removing the floating dock annually as does the Berrien County Parks at the close of their fall season. Approximate cost was $700 for the seasonal work. Both the Berrien County Sherriff’s Department and Michigan State Police are aware of the new facility and will make a regular drive-thru to keep an eye on the new park. Clerk’s Report Clerk Sarah Rodriguez again reminds residents that anyone with questions regarding new election rules or absentee voting should contact the clerk directly. Area Director Steve Lauder of Pride Care Ambulance was on hand to report activity for the prior month. He reports there were four Priority I calls in October with the average response time of 13:05 minutes and 18 Priority II calls in October with the average response time of 16:37 minutes. A total of twenty-two calls were run in October with an average response of 15:58. Fire Report Supervisor DiMaggio reported the North Berrien Joint Fire Department responded to just 22 calls during the month of September with 11 runs in Hagar Township, four in Coloma Charter Township, and four in the City of Coloma with structure fires. DiMaggio added that the specifications for a 2021 Rescue Engine for Station 2 are in the works with an estimated cost in the neighborhood of $670,000. A forecast of equipment needs for the next 10 years is also in process. Building Inspector Butch Kelley was absent without notice. No report was forwarded. Parks Parks Director Beth Raiser reports the parks are quiet with porta-pottis to be removed by the end of the week. Raiser went on to say Roadside Park work will be delayed until spring to determine the best course of action after what additional issues winter weather may inflict are fully evaluated and interaction with EGLE, (formerly the DEQ,) can take place. Planning Commission Trustee Andy Ulleg reported work towards satisfying requirements under the Planning Enabling Act which requires all local ordinances to be in compliance with the local 5-year Master Plan. The Planning Commission has a proposal from Williams and Works for an amount not to exceed $10,000. Supervisor DiMaggio reminded that, due to the amount of the expense, bids must be sought. Old business Addressing the matter of the delinquent township audit, DiMaggio said that in his most recent communication with the township’s accounting firm Gabridge & Company, indicated that the Treasurer had since provided the documentation they had requested and while that data was still being vetted, felt that the audit should be able to be completed in compliance with the revised date with a draft expected to be available the week of Nov. 18. Having no further business, Supervisor DiMaggio adjourned the regular business meeting at 8:13 p.m.