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New Hartford City Manager Vitale sworn in; Akinwale retired on December 30th after 23 years


NEW CITY MANAGER… Sanya Vitale gets sworn in Monday night Jan. 23, 2023 at Hartford City Council meeting. Pictured is Mayor pro tem, John Miller in absence of Mayor Rick Hall, due to illness. (TCR photo by Angela Widdis)

The city of Hartford held its monthly business meeting on Monday, Jan. 23. The Commissioners present were Ramon Beltran, Frank Dockter, Helen Sullivan, and Terry Tibbs. Jane Danger was absent.

Mayor pro tempore, John Miller opened the meeting promptly at 7:30 p.m. in the absence of Mayor Rick Hall, who was out due to illness.

In the meeting, a new Hartford city manager was sworn in, in front of the City Council Chambers. Sanya Vitale has been hired to the position after it stood vacant for only a few weeks. The appointment replaces Yemi Akinwale, who retired on Dec. 30, 2022.

In the brief ceremony, Vitale swore to faithfully execute her duties to the best of her ability as well as to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

While Mayor Hall is the ceremonial head of the city of Hartford, Vitale will oversee the organizational operations of the city, serving as the Hartford Chief Executive Officer. Vitale will be responsible for directing day-to-day operations, supervising, facilitating, and coordinating all city departments, preparing budgets, and more. She serves at the direction of the Mayor and city council members who appointed her.

Vitale, who holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Government Policy and Planning from Indiana University, South Bend campus, has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit and government operations and administration experience.

The new city manager states on her LinkedIn profile that her specialties are in Community Development, Zoning & Planning, Grant & Contract Research, Application, Development, Oversight & Compliance, Non-profit Strategic Planning, Program Development & Management, Database Design, Development & Implementation Data Collection Oversight, Analysis & Reporting, Leadership, Supervision & Management, and Budget Preparation & Cost Allocations.

She most recently served as the Housing and Transportation Director for Advocacy Links, LLC. based out of Elkhart, Indiana. Previously, Vitale has worked as a Community Development Block Manager for Benton Harbor and Community Development Director for the city of Niles.

Vitale is originally from South Bend, but now resides in the Niles area.

She was sworn in by the clerk, RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht. Vitale will officially start her employment with the city of Hartford on Monday, Jan. 30.

Public comments

Mickey Bittner of Wightman gave updates on ongoing projects.

Resident, Michael Menck addressed the board again expecting answers to a written complaint, which was presented on Oct. 31, 2022. Menck has been looking for a resolution to the multiple ordinance violations that are coming from the property located at 517 West Main. Menck, and the other residents noted in the complaint, are living within a residentially zoned area. They feel that the property owned by Charles Weeden is believed to be operating a commercial business, called Charlie Weeden Inc. in a residential zone, which violates multiple ordinances, as previously bought to the board’s attention.

Also addressing the board was Charles Weeden, stating that he is not operating a business on his property at 517 W. Main. Weeden told the board that he stores the tools of his trade at the location and further explained that there is no sign that signifies there is a business being operated at that address.

Lastly, Christina Morales addressed the board with the idea of hosting a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Further details of this proposed event will be forthcoming

Police and Fire Reports

Interim chief, Michael Prince of the Hartford Police Department had reported that December had one of the highest traffic accidents totaling 13 for the month. He attributed it to the weather conditions on Christmas weekend. There were 14 arrests made in December.

The ordinance officer’s report, from December, was submitted by Brandon Crossman. There were 16 property inspections, eight blight postings, and three sidewalk obstructions, with only one citation.

As a reminder, the council may require the owners and occupants of a lot or premises to remove all snow and ice from the sidewalks in front of or adjacent to the lot and premises, and to keep the sidewalks free from obstructions, encroachments, encumbrances, filth, and other nuisances.

Hartford Fire Department reported 61 calls for December. The breakdown of the calls reflected seven fires, 41 rescue and emergency medical services, nine service calls, three good intent calls, and one false alarm and false call.

Pride Care Ambulance had reported 17 calls within the city for December. The report showed an average response time of 12:08 minutes. There were eight Priority I calls, and four Priority II calls, leaving five Priority III calls on record.

The report also reflected that there were five extended response times on record. All but one of them was because all other ambulance vehicles were out on calls taking extra minutes to respond; however, one was because of distance.

Public Works Report

The Hartford Public Works Department’s superintendent, Justin Ruan, submitted a report that reflected that December was a time for snow removal, taking down the Christmas decorations, general service and maintaining equipment, helping when needed at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, and putting up the school banners in town. Additionally, they did some cold patching.

Hartford Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, Scott Stair submitted a December report that notified the board that the State report has been submitted for December. The report reflected that there was one water turn-on, one water service turn-off, and five meter readings per request. In addition, the staff performed routine maintenance and daily duties for the month.

Van Buren County Board of Commissions report

Mike Chappell spoke at Monday night’s meeting informing the board the County welcomed Tina Leary as the commissioner representing the 6th District. They approved a pay increase of 6% which 3% would happen in 2024, and then the remaining 3% happening in 2025.

Finally, Chappell informed the board that Nicole Handy joined the Public Transit Local Advisory Council, Paul Garrard was appointed to the Parks Commission to fill an open seat, Katie Hosier join the Remonumentation Committee, and Douglas Burleson was reappointed to the Van Buren County Road Commission.

Treasurer Report

The Board approved the paying of bills totaling $380,427.14, for December 2022, submitted by the city clerk, RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht.

City Manager Report

The December report submitted by Yemi Akinwale, the retiring City Manager, included the following topics.

Rural Business Development Grant:

Rural Development approved the streetscape project design for the south parking lot and authorized the advertisement for bids. The City will receive sealed bids until 10 a.m., local time on the 31st day of January 2023, at the office at which time all bids will be publicly opened. This project consists of the resurfacing of the South Municipal Parking Lot, including cold milling, minor storm sewer improvements, hand patching, HMA surfacing, signage, and pavement markings.

City Police Cruiser:

One of the police cruisers is in the repair shop leaving the department short one patrol car. The City of Bangor came through for the department by loaning the city one of its police cruisers. Furthermore, he wanted to express sincere thanks and appreciation to the City of Bangor for assisting HPD during a serious time of need. The report also stated that the HPD is waiting for the delivery of a new squad car and hope to reciprocate the favor in the future.

Police Chief Update:

Akinwale also informs the board in his last report that Tressa Beltran has retired from her position as the Chief of Police for the City of Hartford effective Jan. 16, 2023. Lt. Mike Prince will continue to serve as the Interim Chief until discussions are finalized.

1 & 5 West Main Street Update:

The plan to stabilize this building is still on the table and scheduled for the end of January provided there is favorable weather conditions. This project would take care of the roof and front entrance issues with this building.

106 South Center Street – Fire:

This building became a blight problem after it burned down on Dec. 16, 2022. The Building Inspector condemned the building on Dec. 28, 2022.

All reports were approved as presented.

Old business

An update on the Senior Services program was presented, and Larry Nelson has offered his property as a meeting location.

New business

The Board received a request for sponsorship from the Hartford Chamber of Commerce for the Strawberry Festival. The Board decided to approve their sponsorship of $500.

There was a question raised by Commissioner Ramon Beltran to see if a more economical solution to the cost of Christmas decorations for the 2023 season could be obtained. The Board agreed to look for bids.

Another update on the fire board arbitration hearing produced the Interlocal Fire Department Agreement. The general purpose of the agreement is to provide fire protection and other emergency services throughout the following described areas:

1. The entire City of Hartford.

2. The entire Township of Hartford.

The document was approved as presented.

Resolutions approved

The board accepted Resolution #2022–023 to approve the 2021/2022 fiscal year audit.

They adopted Resolution #2023–001 which updates the state-required poverty level income standards for property tax exemption guidelines for the tax year of 2023.

Also adopted was Resolution #2023–002. The law only provides for letters of protest for the March Board of Review for non-resident property owners, passing this resolution allows residents to protest by letter and gives the City Board of Review the authority to accept letters of protest for the March 2023 Board of Review meeting.

Adopted was Resolution #2023–003 to provide for the setting of alternate March, July, and December 2023 Board of Review dates.

Finally, Resolution #2023-004 by which 971 PA 140 requires that a Deficit Elimination Plan be formulated by the local unit of government and filed with the Michigan Department of Treasury when one occurs was adopted.

Having no further business, Miller adjourned the meeting at 8:54 p.m.

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