A special meeting of the Belleville City Council has been set for 6 p.m. Monday, May 9, to discuss the city’s “financial woes.”
At Monday’s regular meeting, the public was presented with proposed budgets to study in advance of the upcoming budget session.
Council members have been meeting with department heads and city staff to get a handle on the financial situation because a balanced city budget has to be approved by the end of June.
There was little discussion Monday, except for City Manager Diana Kollmeyer saying there has been a 9% reduction in tax income and reduction in funds from the state leading to a $165,000 general fund shortfall.
Kollmeyer said she and the Plante Moran financial consultant have been working on the figures and their recommendations will be presented Monday.
“The recommendations are not being made lightly,” Kollmeyer said. “And the cuts will have impacts on various departments.”
She said the city fee schedule will have some revisions upward when it is presented to the council on May 16.
After the meeting she confirmed that among the recommendations is raising the city tax some .2 mill, the final amount allowed without a vote of the people.
Mike Renaud asked from the audience if they have taken the Governor’s guidelines into consideration and she said they had. He said in the real world they are sharing services.
Mike Foley said he was speaking as vice chairman of the Main Street Merchants Association in voicing concerns about the fee schedule and raising taxes.
Foley said other communities are cutting salaries and making other reductions, but Belleville seems to be isolated and has not asked for cuts.
He said the answer isn’t raising taxes and raising fees. He said they shouldn’t take it from the seniors and property owners and, “You can’t just take it from the residents.”
Mayor Richard Smith said on Monday they all “can talk about the financial woes of the city.”
In other business Monday at its half-hour meeting, the council:
• Unanimously approved applying to the Detroit Institute of Arts for its INSIDE/OUT program that brings reproductions of famous artworks to communities for outside display over a 12-week period, without cost to the community. Carol Thompson of the Downtown Development Authority attended a recent reception at the DIA to learn more about the program. She told the council that the DDA has been working on getting murals into the city and the DDA supports this project. She said five to seven artworks will be put in place in selected communities this year for a summer period or a fall period. The council asked Thompson to try to get the artworks for Belleville for this year. “Sounds wonderful,” said Councilman Brian Blackburn;
• Approved accounts payable of $83,292.75 and a departmental purchase over $500 to Jack Doheny Supplies for street sweeper repair, $1,230.63;
• Heard Kay Atkins complain about DPW Director Keith Boc telling her she could put up a sign for the art show at Five Points and then taking it down after it was put up. He said he did not recall having that conversation with Atkins and no signs are allowed in the right of way at Five Points – and none on the traffic islands. Atkins said she will be going to Lansing and asking for an investigation into the lack of accountability of the city staff;
• Heard Boc report that the keys to the burned-out Laundromat have been turned over to the owners and insurance company and they have hired a demolition contractor from Rochester. They are hoping to start demolishing the whole thing and need DTE and Mich Con to turn off the utilities, Boc said. He said they have asked about the footings and Boc said he told them that would depend on what they wished to build there. Boc said he hasn’t been inside the burned structure yet;
• Heard Mike Foley ask about the tire with poles on the vacant Pentamaki property at Third and Main. No one seemed to know who that belonged to. Foley said every time he goes by he sees that and, “It just jumps out at me”;
• Heard Tom Fielder report that the Parks and Recreation committee has changed its meetings to the third Monday of the month at 6 p.m., just before the 7:30 p.m. regular city council meeting and everyone is invited to attend; and
• Heard Police Chief Gene Taylor report that the police auction last Saturday was successful because the city hall garage now is empty, which was the goal. He said everything was sold but one piece of furniture. “People got good deals, trust me,” he said.
Councilwoman Tindall ‘disgusted’ over festival use of City Hall
By Rosemary K. Otzman
Belleville City Councilwoman Kim Tindall told the council at Monday’s meeting that she is “completely disgusted” with the way the Strawberry Festival Committee is using City Hall for its headquarters.
She said, “It’s a bad, bad, bad idea.” She said she wants them to cease using the city facility.
Councilwoman Tindall said she talked to the city attorney and he said it was a problem.
The festival gets its mail at City Hall and uses 6 Main as its address. She said they even meet with people at City Hall.
Mayor Richard Smith said he talked to the city attorney, too, and the city attorney said it’s not that big a deal.
Mayor Smith said the city will put up with the situation until after Strawberry Festival is over in mid June and then they will move.
“How is it not a misuse of city funds?” asked Planning Commission Chairman Steve Jones.
Mayor Smith said he supposed there were a few minutes of city time spent in sorting the festival’s mail from the rest but otherwise he didn’t see a problem.
He asked Strawberry Festival president Tom Fielder how long ago he started using City Hall and he replied it was last October or November.
Fielder said the problem started with the former Chamber of Commerce director.
“She had the idea the offices were just for her,” Fielder said, referring to when the festival and Belleville Area Council for the Arts were asked to vacate their offices in the chamber building.
Fielder said the chamber board recently voted to open the chamber facilities up for the use of non-profit groups again, “So this will be over.”