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Hartford City’s new manager makes positive impacts in first month; Mike Prince named Police Chief

On Monday, Feb. 27, the Hartford City Commissioner’s business meeting was called to order promptly at 7:30 p.m. by Mayor Richard Hall, after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

The city officials in attendance were Mayor Hall, Mayor Pro-Tem John Miller, Commissioner Frank Dockter, Commissioner Terry Tibbs, Commissioner Helen Sullivan, Commissioner Jane Danger, City Manager Sanya Vitale, Clerk RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht, and Treasurer Pam Shultz. Absent from this month’s meeting was Commissioner Ramon Beltran.

With her performance standards at the ready, new city manager, Sanya Vitale hits the ground running as she started off her tenure by attending training with the Michigan Municipal Executives. She attended sessions pertinent to the City of Hartford, including those that covered hiring and training police; collective bargaining; understanding wastewater treatment plant operations; commission/manager relations.

Vitale met with Mickey Bittner, of Wightman and Associates, who got her up to speed with project-by-project updates of the work they are actively supporting. She also met with all of the Wightman project managers/engineers assigned to each project to get additional details about specific projects.

The manager toured the Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Department of Public Works, the Hartford City Fire Department, and the Iron Removal Plant. She also met with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), all in hopes to introduce herself, as well as familiarizing herself with operational procedures at these locations.

Vitale conferred with the city’s attorney, Harold Schuitmaker, on several issues, including the Interlocal Fire Agreement with Hartford Township, the neighbor dispute occurring at Main/Marion, human resources issues, collective bargaining and general city issues. Attorney Schuitmaker does not work on labor issues, so after discussion with and input from him, the city will be contracting with Kotz, Sangster, Wysocki for these services.

Lastly, Vitale voiced her concerns about properties located on 215 Shephard and 106 South Center streets, after both homes caught fire. She reported that these buildings became a blight problem after they burned down recently and the Building Inspector has issued a Condemnation Order on both homes.

She further commented that the home at 215 Shephard is becoming unstable especially after the ice storm that occurred. She announced that the city is taking proactive measures to take the structure down and will have to lien the property in an effort to recoup costs associated with these community safety measures. In order to offset some of the cost, she set up a meeting with the Landbank and she hopes to gain some knowledge of available blight elimination programs available to the City of Hartford.

Public comments

Miss Hartford 2023, Raven Ledesma and her Court of Honor were on hand at the Monday night meeting. They presented the council with a photo of the new royalty; as well as, asked for monetary support for their community float project for 2023.

Mickey Bittner, from Wightman and Associates, gave updates on all current projects within the city.

Also addressing the board was Mark Little. He asked if there was a future plan for the City of Hartford, and if so, where would he be able to look at that document. Little was informed that the city’s master plan can be found on the website.

Resident Bruce Pleyer questioned the new hike in his water and sewer bill that went into effect last month.

Van Buren County Sheriff, Daniel Abbott addressed the board and attendees. Sheriff Abbott wanted to introduce himself to the new city manager, as well as remind attendees at the meeting on how anyone could reach him.

Emily Hickmott, the Deputy Administrator for the Van Buren Conservation District, was on hand to provide an annual report. She also left printed material that informed the public of upcoming recycle events, including battery recycle in Hartford.

Resident, Michael Menck addressed the board with a follow-up to a phone call he received from City Manager Vitale. Menck questioned as to whether or not the other residents of Marion Street also received a phone call on the matter stemming back from 2022. He requested a copy of the lawyer’s decision on the suspected business being operated on a residential property at 517 West Main. Mayor Pro-Tem Miller suggested that the board provide the resident with a redacted version of the letter for their review.

Police and Fire Reports

Michael Prince has now been named the Hartford Chief of Police.

The ordinance officer has resigned so there was no January report at this time.

Hartford Fire Department reported 61 calls for January. The breakdown of the calls was for three fires, 41 rescue and emergency medical services, three hazardous conditions with no fire, four service calls, seven good intent calls, and three false alarms and false calls.

Hartford Fire Chief Robbie Harting reminded the board that the department is out of fire detectors but still has CO2 detectors. He told the board that they are waiting on the next shipment of fire detectors in order to start the program back up.

The chief also spoke of some community events that will be happening. Those events are Community CPR classes, a coffee and car wash fundraiser being held on April 16 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., as well as a first time ever Spring Pancake Breakfast in May.

Pride Care Ambulance had reported 21 calls within the city for January. The report reflected an average response time of 09:20 minutes. There were eight Priority I calls and 13 Priority II calls on record. The report also reflected that they were two extended response times and noted the reason being was because of distance from another county as well as weather conditions.

Public Works report

The Hartford Public Works Department’s Superintendent, Justin Ruan, submitted a report that reflected January was a time for general service and maintaining equipment, and repairing a leak at the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Hartford Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, Scott Stair submitted the January report that notified the board the State report has been submitted for November and the staff performed routine maintenance and daily duties for the month.

Van Buren County Board of Commission report

PICTURE THIS… Hartford Council meeting sparkled as Miss Hartford 2023, Raven Ledesma, presented the City of Hartford with an official photo of the new 2023 royalty at Monday night’s council meeting. Accompanying Ledesma was eight members of her Court of Honor. With their crowns and banners, each one introduced themself and the title they currently hold. (TCR photo by Angela Widdis)

Commissioner Mike Chappell spoke at Monday night’s meeting informing the board the Van Buren Conservation District requested the use of county property for the Paw Paw Recycle Roundup event scheduled to take place on June 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Van Buren Conservation District is requesting to also use the restrooms inside the building for their staff/volunteers. This request has been approved.

Finally, Chappell informed the board that Commissioner Randall Peat was elected as Chair and Commissioner Paul Schincariol was elected Vice Chair during the Jan. 10 Organizational Meeting.

Treasurer’s report

The board approved the paying of bills totaling $203,506.04, for January 2023, submitted by the city clerk, RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht.

City Manager’s report

The report, submitted by Sanya Vitale the new City Manager, included all current projects. She also informed the board that the planning commission will not meet until April due to lack of business to discuss as well as vacationing board members.

Vitale also provided an update on the roof project for City Hall. In her review of the contract as well as communications between city officials and the contracted company, Tichenor Inc., out of Battle Creek, she has secured a clear understanding of the verbiage of the contract and has made some positive changes to the upcoming repair.

All reports were approved as presented.

New business

Under new business, the board approved the following: Hartford Fire Department 2022/2023 operating budget; CSX agreement and protective liability insurance that is a mandatory rider required by the railroad to put the city infrastructure of a water main under the existing railroad tracks; and the purchase of 10 new trash cans.

The board was happy to approve the following sponsorships: Hartford Hispanic Heritage Committee - sponsorship for their Cinco de Mayo event that will be held this year in May; Hartford Lions Club concerts in the park for the 2023 season; and sponsorship to the Hartford Pageant Organization for their 2023 parade float.

They also approved a special use engagement permit for 301 Bowie Street, while revoking a Recreational Marijuana Facility License for BT Capital 3, LLC.

Introduction of Resolutions and Amendments

At the meeting, the board passed Resolution 2023–006 which designates a Street Administrator. They also passed Resolution 2023–007, which is the 2022/2023 Budget Adjustments (Number Two).

Additionally, they had the first reading of the proposed changes and updates to Ordinance 604–07, Anti-blight Ordinance and changes to the General Penalty. The lengthy document was reviewed, and some questions were presented. However, it was suggested that the board take more time to go over the suggestions before ruling. Therefore, it was table.

Having no further business, Mayor Hall adjourned the meeting at 9:14 p.m.

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