Community Complaints Take Center Stage At Tuesday Night Meeting

With all members present except for Councilperson Emily Stack-Davis (who was excused), Tuesday night's regular meeting of the Hillsdale City Council -- a day later than the norm due to Labor Day -- was punctuated by voices from the community on several issues, both pertaining to and separate from the items that were on the agenda.

Legality of City Clerk Ballot Question Remains Uncertain, Council Moves Ahead with Appointment

In the first public comment session, which is limited by council rules to agenda items only, this article's author, Josh Colletta, took the podium to address an issue raised previously in an opinion piece: the inclusion of an incorrect city charter section in the city clerk ballot language as voted on in the August 4th election.

Full disclosure: Hillsdale News Now considers itself a journalistic advocate for the people of the community we serve, and as such, we will alert you to events in which we take a position on an issue so that you know what point of view we're reporting from when we are, ourselves, a part of the story.

"The question presented to voters on August 4th was as follows," Colletta began.  "'Should Hillsdale City Charter Sections 3.7, 3.8, 4.9(b), 4.12, and 5.4 be amended to authorize the City to fill the office of city clerk by mayoral appointment, with the approval of Council; establish the city clerk's term of office as an indefinite period to be served at the pleasure of Council; and authorize Council to fix the city clerk's compensation and conditions of employment?'"

He then read Section 4.12 of the Hillsdale City Charter, as referenced by the ballot question: "'The City Treasurer shall receive such annual compensation as shall be fixed by ordinance. The ordinance fixing his salary may not be amended less than ninety days before any regular annual City election. Until the Council shall provide otherwise by ordinance, the salary of the City Treasurer shall be $1,200. per year.'"

"No, you didn't hear that incorrectly," Colletta said.  "Section 4.12 of the city charter is related only to the city treasurer's position, not the the city clerk's position, yet it was included in the ballot language to change the nature of the city clerk's position.  In fact, you'll find that the ballot question regarding the city treasurer's position is exactly identical to the ballot question regarding the city clerk's position.  Don't believe me?  Just check the ballot; it's still available on the state web site."

Screenshots of that sample ballot are included in this article's gallery at the bottom of the page.  As of September 14th, it is no longer available on the Secretary of State's page.

Colletta continued: "This leads me to believe that former city attorney Lew Loren quite literally copied and pasted the ballot language from one question to another, and in his haste to provide job security for his daughter [current Interim City Clerk Michelle Loren] as he made his way out the door, he didn't bother to check the one thing that would invalidate the entire scheme.  I would add that this and other little quirks in the process beg the question: did he actually submit this language to the Attorney General's office for approval as he told this council that he did?  Or did he 'neglect' that part of his job, just like he 'neglected' to tell this council until after you had approved the ballot language that he had changed the date of the election?"

Colletta asserted that the council is obligated to invalidate the result of the vote on the City Clerk ballot issue and hold a re-vote in November, "the election in which it was supposed to be held until Mr. Loren unilaterally and illegally defied this council's orders and moved it to a date reserved for primaries, which we did not otherwise have any reason to hold."

"The people of the City of Hillsdale were lied to and cheated of their right to self-governance," Colletta said, "and it is this body's responsibility to convey to the state what has happened and rectify the problem."

Pam Osmun, who was a write-in candidate for the city clerk position, also approached the podium to ask -- acknowledging that this would likely be discussed in the course of the meeting -- what the next steps were in the appointment process and what steps she needed to take to be considered for that appointment.

Later in the meeting, as these issues were being discussed, Councilperson Adam Stockford asked newly-hired City Attorney John Lovinger to address the concerns Colletta had raised earlier.

"I have not reviewed in detail each step of the process that was undertaken," Lovinger said, "but I am informed that the ballot language was indeed submitted to the Attorney General for review, and that, in fact, the decision to place it on the August ballot was a direct result of a suggestion by the Attorney General that, if we wait until November, you're gonna have a little problem on your hands, because you've got conflicting ballot proposals.  You've got people running for the position and you've got a ballot proposal that now says it's going to be appointed.  If you have an election, you may have somebody elected, but you may also have an election result that nullifies the election by saying this is now an appointed position."

You may recall that these were exactly the explanations given by former city attorney Loren as he attempted to defend his actions to the City Council at the regular meeting on June 1st.  The questions raised by council members at that time went largely unanswered, and the election was allowed to take place on August 4th.

Lovinger added a point that was also repeatedly made in support of the ballot measure earlier this year: that most municipalities in the State of Michigan have made these positions appointed rather than elected.

"Again, I haven't done all the research -- I wasn't asked to do the research -- but I am told that it was sent to the Attorney General, and it wasn't just cut and pasted.  I guess if I receive a request from the mayor or the city manager to look into that in more detail, I'll do that if I receive that request."

When Stockford asked if the Attorney General specifically checks ballot language for consistency with other ballot language or if it's instead checked for conflicts with the city's existing charter language, Lovinger replied that he didn't know the answer to that question, but he could find out.

Councilperson Bruce Sharp asked if Stockford was requesting that Lovinger look into that process.

"I don't understand the law one-hundred percent, myself," Stockford said.  "I want to make sure that we're not breaking the law in any way, so I don't think that's an unreasonable suggestion, especially if the accusations are being publicly made, then I think that it would be prudent to look into it."

"I concur with him," Sharp told Mayor Scott Sessions.  "I think it should be looked into just to be on the safe side."

Councilperson Brian Watkins asked the City Attorney if the Council has the authority to overturn an election.  Lovinger answered that the process would require a court order as a result of litigation of the issue.

"Council might have the power to resubmit the matter to the ballot again," said Lovinger, "but you couldn't by resolution tonight say 'we nullify that election.'"

"Well, I-- I don't think anyone was suggesting that we should," Stockford laughed.

"That was suggested during public comment, was that council should nullify the election," Watkins said, "and I just wanted to clarify that we didn't have that power."

As a point of clarification on our part here at Hillsdale News Now, that was not Colletta's suggestion, nor is that our editorial position.  You can read a separate editorial to better understand our position on that process here.

"We're not asking to do that," Sharp replied to Watkins, "we just want to find out the legal opinion; be sure that we're doing the right thing, or the right thing has been done.  That's all we're asking."

Later, when Councilperson Stockford reiterated his request for the city attorney to look into the validity of the ballot language, Lovinger confirmed that the request has been made, and he will research the issue.

"Obviously," Lovinger said, "if we come to the conclusion that the election was flawed, we're not gonna talk about appointing anyone, okay?  Because if we come to the conclusion that the election was flawed, we're gonna come back to the recommendation that you need to take steps to get something back on the ballot -- if you even can -- or what steps we need to take to have some official proclamation that the ballot-- that the election was somehow invalid."

Asked about the details of the motion on the table, Mayor Scott Sessions recommended that a committee of the whole, similar to the approach taken to the appointment of the new city attorney, be utilized to appoint a new city clerk.  The job posting would be made public by the end of the week, and applications would be accepted until Friday, October 2nd.  A packet would then be assembled for the meeting on October 5th, and a special meeting would then be held on October 12th to review that packet, set a salary and give recommendations to the mayor to make the appointment.  The newly-appointed clerk would then work with current clerk Michelle Loren to transition during the two weeks between the appointment and the end of Loren's term in November.

However, Lovinger said that the overlapping terms may pose a problem.

"It's almost tentative then," said Lovinger.  "I don't think you can make an appointment until the position is vacant."

Upon Mayor Sessions' request, Lovinger agreed to research the issue.  Councilperson Watkins, who had already moved to vote on Sessions' proposal, then amended his motion to start the process as recommended by the mayor, but now as a tentative process that could be halted if the city attorney returned with the conclusion that the appointment must wait until Loren's term ends.  That motion passed unanimously.

After the vote, Councilperson Patrick Flannery requested that Lovinger check if it would be legally possible to make the newly-appointed clerk a deputy clerk until the termination of Loren's term, at which point the newly-appointed clerk would officially become the city clerk.  Lovinger agreed.

That was followed by a vote on Sessions' recommendation to retain Julie Beeker in the city treasurer's position with her current salary.

Councilperson Watkins voiced his support for Beeker.  "We went through a process to get her there, it wasn't just someone who fell into the job.  Taxes have been collected, and as far as I know, there haven't been any issues.  I've not had any complaints or comments from anybody.  I think, at this point, to try to go through both processes once we've got someone qualified in there that's pretty much met the standard we're gonna hold them to anyway, it'd just be overkill."

Councilperson Stockford added his agreement.  "I think it would be wise for us to remember that Julie was the only one that submitted to be on the ballot for November, as well, so ultimately, no matter how this unfolded, Julie was going to be in the position of treasurer.  So I certainly support her appointment."

Councilperson Flannery concurred.  "I've actually had three compliments about her work; one from my assistant [at Hillsdale College] who wholeheartedly is in support."

Lovinger once again reminded the council to be careful about their timing on the treasurer issue, as well, and Mayor Sessions confirmed that this also would be a tentative appointment.  At that point, there was some confusion as to whether this was something that needed to be put up for a vote or if it could be tabled until Lovinger's opinion on the city clerk timing came back.  Councilperson Watkins recommended tabling it until that information was presented, which Sessions agreed to, and no further action was taken on the matter.

College Noise Complaints Raise Questions About Ordinance Variance

Sally and Steve Wood, who live on Barber Drive just outside the city limits, told the council in the second public comment session that noise coming from the Hillsdale College campus over the past two weeks has made their house "uninhabitable," referencing the city's noise ordinance found in Chapter 14 sections 68 and 69 of the municipal code.

Full disclosure: the author of this article, Josh Colletta, is an employee of Hillsdale College.

"Last night," Sally Wood began, "I tried to put our six-year-old grandson to bed.  Today was his first day of kindergarten.  We could not get him to go to sleep because the music was playing so loud from the football practice, and it was so inappropriate.  Yes, it was appropriate for college students.  It was not appropriate for a six-year-old to be listening to in his bedroom.  7:30, we put him to bed; 8:30, he came out and said, 'Grandma, can you call anybody?  I wanna go to sleep.'"

"I did," she continued.  "I called security.  The said there wasn't anything they could do.  The day I met with the athletic director [Don Brubacher], he didn't think there was anything he could do.  There's got to be a way the college can turn that sound system around in today's technological society so that our house isn't bombarded."

"A week ago Monday night was the welcome back to campus party.  We work.  We farm.  We're up at 6:00 in the morning.  When that party went on until 12:30 at night, you couldn't be in the back part of our house; it was too loud.  We're asking for help.  There is a city ordinance.  We called the police; we called 911 twice that night and asked for help.  We went up to the college and met with police.  We were told that the city had given a waiver, allowing on a Monday night -- when most people work on Tuesday -- they could have a party until Midnight with loud music and screaming.  Once again, songs inappropriate for young children to hear."

"We don't know where else to turn," she said.  "We've been to the State Police, we've been to the Sheriff's department, we've met with the city police, we've met with attorneys.  We need help to get this taken care of so that we can enjoy our home again, and that's what we're asking; whatever can be done to enforce the ordinances that you already have on the books.  You say it's there.  Live by it.  We have other homes in Hillsdale.  You certainly live by [it when you deal with] the landlord-- come out and tell us when we do anything wrong there.  If we're gonna follow that municipal code, let's follow this one too, please."

Steve Wood stepped up to the podium to concur with Sally, shouting into the already-amplified microphone to demonstrate how loud it was.  You can hear audio of that demonstration here.

"We try to be good neighbors," he continued in a normal tone of voice.  "We have livestock.  We don't get screaming calves when there's gonna be events at the college.  That would be disruptive.  We don't clean our barns [when there will be college events] because it stinks!  We want to be good neighbors.  We value our neighbors.  We're not dirt under the feet of Larry Arnn and Hillsdale College."

He raised a question about the college's relationship to city government, as well.

"I'm sure that the variance for that midnight music was worked on by college employees.  That is a conflict of interest.  If those college employees voted 'no,' they would have their walking papers the next day.  Last time I spoke of conflict of interest in front of the city council, this went to Richie Pewe, who sat on City Council and was voting for college programs at what is now Hayden Park.  [Former City Manager] Mr. Vagle, [former City Manager] Ms. Brown and [former City Attorney] Lew Loren ignored me.  They did not ignore Mike Cox, [then] the Attorney General."

"The direction that you take," Wood concluded, "in the conflict of interest and the noise will determine if we do anything else."

Penny Swan also concurred with the Woods, saying that the noise at the college "has gotten out of hand."

"I have dealt with construction noise as late as 10:30 at night and as early as 5:45 in the morning.  If they would just follow the rules, we could get some rest.  I would like to enjoy summer, but I don't get to enjoy summer anymore up there.  Can't have the windows open, can't sleep in, don't get any rest.  I've been dealing with this for two years.  I've talked to Mr. Stockford about it; I think he's talked to you, Mr. Mackie.  We'd just like to be good neighbors!  I mean, yes, they bring a lot to the city, but they need to respect us."

In the council comment session, Councilperson Stockford said that he lived in the same area and understands that this time of year can be "very disruptive" for residents in the neighborhood.  But in a turn that might not have been expected by most in the room, the councilperson said he wasn't aware of any such variance.

"Last time I knew that we approved a noise variance for a college party was the end of the year last year.  I don't remember -- and I've never missed a single council meeting -- I don't remember approving any noise variances for any parties this year; this school year."

Stockford then addressed Swan's comments, saying that "Mr. Mackie and I did talk about the construction starting early mornings, and I hope that we have gotten that all straightened out."

Mackie, asked for confirmation, said "I believe so."

"Just so you guys do know," Stockford continued, "I do absolutely sympathize with you.  I've got young kids, myself; a first grader and a fourth grader, and at this time of the year, it's really tough when they come in and play.  My wife and I try to deal with it until, usually, within a couple weeks of the semester, things calm down quite a bit.  But that's also cyclical.  Some years are different than others.  So hopefully that'll all stop very soon."

Councilperson Sharp was definitive in his comments on the matter.

"As far as the waiver for the college thing, no, there was nothing brought to us.  I never read anything about it.  I heard music, but I work third shift, so I was on my way to work, so I was going away from it.  But other than that, no, there was no waiver to us, and there is an ordinance."

"Scott-- the police chief told us he had it in his hand," the Woods interrupted from the gallery.

"There is an ordinance on hand that says 11:00 is quiet time," Sharp continued, by council rules unable to address the Woods directly as they were out of order during council comment.  "It's always been that, I understand, that's the way I was always informed.  Hopefully we will get that addressed.  Because the citizens, the people who live here 365 days of the year, have rights.  They pay taxes in this community, they support this community more than anybody else.  They should be treated with respect.  That's the way I believe it should be and always will be.  And we will have to look into that."

Amusingly, it was immediately following that comment that Sharp welcomed the city's new law firm, Marcoux Allen.

"We're gonna work you guys to death.  We've already started.  It's gonna be more and more for you, trust me.  But welcome."

Wolfram's Involvement Questioned Again

Just weeks after facing criticism from members of the Hillsdale County Farmer's Market for attempting to influence county commissioners, Economic Development Director Mary Wolfram was again brought to the council's attention by market vice president Glenn Froebel for her activity in attempting to change the way the market does business.

"I did not wanna come down here again, as I have much to do.  As Apollo 13 told Houston, 'we have a problem.'  And I'm here to tell you that the City of Hillsdale, you have a problem.  The problem is a non-elected government official that has been going to downtown businesses, attempting to misrepresent our market."

"In my opinion, the economic development person for the City of Hillsdale is really wasting the people of city's time and money in trying to misrepresent the Hillsdale County Farmer's Market; a successful entity on county property."

"Catch on to that, folks;" Froebel emphasized, "it's county property."

"With the amount of empty storefronts in the city," he continued, "in my opinion, as a city council, it is time for you to make government smaller and end the economic development position until you can find someone who can tell the difference between an empty storefront in the city! ...and a going concern on county property that the downtown business owners appreciate and support."

"I don't wanna come down here again, but if I have to, I'm gonna," he concluded.

Councilperson Sharp responded during the council comment session.

"I was up there this Saturday.  I was up there at 9:30, and it was amazing how many people were up there at that time.  There's a lot of college students that came down there that were all shopping and looking around.  I noticed that they were carrying coffee cups in their hands, so I asked them where they got their coffee from.  Some from Checker Records or Jilly Beans.  They're supporting our local businesses.  The Blossom Shop-- Cathy Newell just rants and raves about how great it is to have the Farmer's Market there, because they park at Midtown and go through her business to go there.  And then, when they're done, they'll shop downtown, go look around, because they've got a reason to be downtown now.  I know some people who went to the Farmer's Market actually went to Trevathan's."

"It's beneficial for us to keep it there and support it," said Sharp.  "As a city, I hope we have no interest in interfering with what they do there, and keep our hands off it.  The old saying 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' should apply to this.  It's not broke.  It's a good thing for the downtown; it's a good thing for the community.  It brings people downtown at that time.  Watch what happens when the Farmer's Market's closed up in November and see how the downtown looks then.  Because it'll be less people down there."

"It's a good thing, and I've been hoping we'll just keep our hands off it, and that'd be the end of it."

Sidewalk Amenities Ordinance Passes

The City of Hillsdale already had an existing sidewalk policy in place, but it was not an actual ordinance on the books.  After Zoning Administrator Alan Beeker was approached by several downtown business owners with complaints about that policy, the Planning Commission held a public meeting to discuss it and the idea of making a revised policy into an ordinance.  Beeker, addressing the council, said these changes would make compliance easier to monitor and enforce while also alleviating some burden from the affected businesses.

Councilperson Sharp asked Beeker about the new ordinance's removal of an existing policy that requires businesses which place items on the sidewalk to purchase an additional liability insurance policy at an estimated $2 Million.

Beeker explained: "What we did was, we took out the requirement to have an additional policy.  What will be asked of the business owners now is, if they place anything on the city walks, we're asking that they add the city as a name insured on their standard policy.  According to the insurance agents that I have spoken to, most carriers don't charge a fee.  Those that do, it's usually under $20.  So whatever liability insurance they carry normally on their business insurance, that would cover whatever the ordinance requires."

Councilperson Stockford asked Beeker what the complaints from the business owners were, and Beeker replied that most of the complaints were regarding the previous requirement for that additional insurance policy, but a minority went further.

"There were a few that didn't think that they should be required to submit anything when they put anything on the sidewalks, but since it is city property, we decided that it should still be monitored, mainly because there are requirements that are necessary for ADA compliance; the fact that there has to be a certain width maintained on the sidewalk for those who are physically impaired."

"So is this designed to make it easier for the local businesses or make it easier for enforcement?" Stockford asked.

"Both," Beeker replied.  "The application is the same, because the application really wasn't difficult to begin with.  You basically mark down your address where your business is located and give us a little plan that shows what you plan on putting on the sidewalk.

"What you used to have to do," he explained, "is then you have to take out a $2 Million policy and name the city as an insured [entity], and you have to submit all of that information to me, and I have to verify that you do actually have a policy.  With the additional policy removed, it'll be much easier for me, and it'll be much cheaper for them."

Councilperson Watkins chimed in, saying that the only complaint he had heard from business owners was the requirement for the additional policy, and said that the new ordinance was a marked improvement.

"I think it makes sense.  It's spelled out very clearly; a lot easier to understand now than it was just when it was kind of a guideline.  Like [Beeker] said, it makes it easier for businesses to understand what the process is, and it takes the burden of the extra insurance off.  It also makes it very clear what's allowed and where it's allowed and what its requirements are, so it should be easy to eyeball something and say, hey, you need to move that sign back here."

"I don't think anything in this is trying to encroach upon businesses' ability to advertise or put tables on the sidewalk or flower pots or anything like that," Watkins said.

"No," Beeker confirmed, "in fact, we're hoping that this will actually encourage them."

The ordinance passed unanimously.

Other Business

In addition to the bills and meeting minutes, the night's consent agenda included a use agreement for the Indiana Outboard Association for facilities at Owen Memorial Park on Baw Beese Lake pending the insertion of a temporary campsite.  The agenda also included a use agreement for a wedding to take place at Mrs. Stock's Park on September 12th.  The entire consent agenda was passed unanimously.

The council, by unanimous vote, set a date of September 21st for a public hearing on a commercial rehabilitation exemption certificate to be issued to the Roger Lee Boyd Family Trust for renovation of the Market House store at 210 W. Carleton Rd.  That will take place during the regular city council meeting on that date.

The council also unanimously approved the new Master Land Use Plan as prepared by the Planning Commission under the leadership of Planning Commisson Chairperson Laura Smith and Zoning Administrator Alan Beeker.  Smith voiced her pleasure with the how the plan turned out.  Councilperson Bruce Sharp said that it's very long-winded, but interesting to read, to which Smith replied that it's "shorter than the old one."  Councilperson Adam Stockford said that it looks superb and is highly informative, encouraging residents to pick up a copy.  Councilperson Brian Watkins and Mayor Scott Sessions both thanked Smith and Beeker for their work on the project.

Copies of the new plan will be available at City Hall.  Currently, the only digital copy available is in this meeting's agenda packet, but it will be placed on the Planning Commission's page on the city web site in near future.

Police Chief Scott Hephner urged the council to approve this year's city bow deer hunt.  Hephner said that this is the fifth or sixth year that the city has held such a hunt, and all that's required is a permit to participate, and while huntable land has slightly decreased on Barber Drive and in the industrial park, the interest is good.

He added that while only 17 deer were reported killed last year, more were taken but left unreported because the hunters were afraid that their successful locations would be made public.  He assured those in the Council Chamber that those locations will not be made public, and reporting will be more heavily enforced this year.  Additionally, landowners may continue to give permission for hunting on private property within the city, and the 15 permits that will be issued by lottery for the bow deer hunt will not be necessary for those who have such permission from the owners of the land they'll be hunting on.

Those participating in the bow hunt will be required to display a dashboard placard and call dispatch when they arrive at their hunting location, a plan designed to more efficiently address safety concerns and handle complaint calls.

Approval of the bow deer hunt passed unanimously.

Councilpersons Sharp and Watkins asked if a cull hunt, as took place several years ago in the city, was also planned.  Hephner said it was not at the moment, but due to the fact that such a hunt required coordination with the state, he had called the DNR and learned that the window to apply for approval is still open.  He also suggested contacting the Hillsdale Community Foundation in regard to a grant to fund the cost of applying for the cull.

The council unanimously approved a city-funded extension to the college-funded retention-type storm sewer under the northern portion of N. West Street between College and Galloway Streets.  This is in relation to Hillsdale College's Searle Center construction project, for which the college agreed in the spring of 2014 to reconstruct the portion of the street adjacent to the new building, along with a new sewer to capture stormwater runoff.  College officials recently approached the city with an offer to complete the additional asphalt paving at the south end of the block, add a sidewalk on the east side of the block where none currently exists, and reconstruct segments of sidewalk and curbing on the west side of the street.

The intersection of College and West Streets has been on the city's list of "Historic Flooding Areas" since 2003, and as such, city staff consulted with City Engineer Matt Taylor and Parrish Excavating of Quincy -- the same contractor that constructed the northern portion -- to develop plans and pricing for extension of the new sewer to the southern portion of the street in advance of the additional paving project.

According to the item in the agenda packet, "The quote received for this storm sewer extension from Parrish Excavating totals $23,039.80 for 260 LF of pipe.  The City's portion of this project also includes curb and gutter work estimated at $7,000, which is based off the College's contractor pricing."

The amount approved for expenditure was up to $30,000 from the General Capital Improvement Fund.

The council also unanimously approved a loan to fund construction of Hillsdale Municipal Airport's parallel taxiway and entrance road project.  While the city has been approved for grant funding from federal and state sources over the next two years, portions of that funding will not be available to the city until 2016 due to another municipality giving up their claim to it.  Meanwhile, the Michigan Department of Transportation's Airports Division has agreed with the city to move forward with construction this year to take advantage of cost savings and not delay future improvement projects.

The city's share of funding for the project originally amounted to $83,334, but due to the choice to move forward early, the amount of federal funding unavailable at this time is $158,333.  The Airport Improvement Fund would be used to make up the difference until it can be reimbursed by the grant funding next year, but that would leave the airport cash-strapped, and costs could potentially run over into the city's General Fund.

This loan is from M-DOT's Aeronautics Airport Loan Program for up to $100,000 at 3.6% interest.  It will be repaid from the Airport Improvement Fund out of revenues generated by hangar rentals, fuel sales and lease agreements.  City Finance Director Bonnie Tew told the council that she anticipates the loan being repaid in full by the federal funding once it is received in the coming year, and that would eliminate any threat of impact to the city's General Fund.

Councilperson Stockford asked why the other municipality gave up the funds, and Tew explained that there are certain federal requirements that an airport must meet to receive them before the project begins.  The airport in question was unable to meet those requirements, so they lost their qualification for the funding.

Stockford also asked if the airport manager and the Airport Advisory Board had given their approval of the plan, and Tew said that because this is an administrative decision, neither had been notified.

Councilperson Watkins classified this plan as a "payday loan," to which Tew agreed, and stated immediately upon being asked that it will be paid off immediately, saying that she doesn't like to have debt.  She added, however, that if necessary, this loan can be repaid over ten years.

Councilperson Sharp asked when the federal funding will come through, but Tew didn't have an exact date; only that it would be some time next year.  Sharp also said that he visited the airport and met a college family flying in who were pleased to have the resource available.  He also mentioned the need to renovate the terminal, which he classified as being out of date.

City Manager David Mackie thanked the advisory committee for the work that they've done, and said that this upgrade will greatly improve an already great facility, which is a tremendous asset to the community and county.

The city unanimously approved a new contract agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, as the previous contract expired on June 30th.  City Manager Mackie explained that this is a one-year settlement that would allow the city to look at the overall financial picture with all city employees on a similar contract cycle.

One notable change in this new contract is the elimination of the city's contribution to employees' healthcare savings accounts, as this was the only union to which the city was contributing that funding.  The new contract also raises the pay rate for electrical workers to move them away from the bottom of the range upward by $3 per hour, and it doubles life insurance from $20,000 to $40,000.  It also includes a one-time lump sum of $750 to employees to compensate for the lack of pay increases in the past.  Mackie categorized that additional payment as a "bonus."

Councilperson Stockford said that he wasn't particularly in favor of the bonus, but he did support the hourly increase, saying that these are skilled positions, and they're leaving for almost twice as much pay at Consumers Energy, so he saw it as important to pay more to keep them here.

In his report to the council, City Manager Mackie informed the council of several development since the last meeting:

  • The Emergency Management land sale has closed.
  • On Monday, September 14th at 3:30 PM, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a giant check presentation from state Economic Development officials to Mar-Vo Mineral at Stock's Mill.
  • The paperwork for 42 Union Street has been finalized and construction should begin by November.
  • Hillsdale has been chosen to be one of ten cities in a state economic development project called "Rising Tide."  The state EDC will provide promotional help to the city as well as bring in other parties to help the city with various projects.
  • The Board of Public Utilities Review Committee has met twice and is gathering and reviewing data on the electric utility in order to determine if it's best to retain public ownership or privatize the city's power.
  • Requests for proposals on various contracts will be coming before the council in the coming weeks.
  • Hillsdale Community Health Center is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month.  Mackie congratulated the hospital staff, CEO Duke Anderson and the hospital board for the service they provide to the community.
  • Mackie will be out of town for the Michigan Municipal League conference on September 17th and 18th.

The next regular meeting of the Hillsdale City Council is Monday night, September 21st at 7:00 PM in the Council Chamber at Hillsdale City Hall.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that Councilperson Bruce Sharp was "legally unable to address the Woods directly as they were out of order during council comment."  While the Woods were, in fact, out of order at the time, the issue is not exactly a legal one but one of rules that the city council has set for themselves preventing the council from directly replying to the gallery during public comment and vice versa.  The sentence has been edited to reflect this.

The Secretary of State has also updated the sample ballot page to reflect the upcoming November election as of September 14th.  A link to that page as evidence of the sample ballot showing the August language has been removed from this article.