By Rosemary K. Otzman
When the Van Buren Township 2014 proposed budget was passed in December, it had a part-time Human Resource Manager on it with a $35,000 allocation.
The three full-time board members hired a part-time person from Snelling employment agency to do the HR work, but then at the March 17 work/study it was proposed that a full-time person hired by the township would be better, with an allocation of $85,320 in the budget.
But, that idea didn’t fly because board members objected to hiring a full-time person with benefits and legacy costs when all they had approved was a part-time person.
At the VBT board work/study session on March 31 and at the regular meeting the next day on April 1, the issue of the Human Resources job description was vigorously discussed.
After discussion at the work/study session, board members informally agreed the item should be removed from the April 1 agenda until it could be better studied by the board.
But, on April 1, Clerk Leon Wright, who has been pushing for an HR person for several years, wanted the board to move forward so it could hire a person soon. He wanted to keep it on the agenda for a vote.
After much discussion, the item was pulled from the agenda on a 4-2 vote, with Trustee Phil Hart, Treasurer Sharry Budd, Clerk Wright and Supervisor Linda Combs voting yes to pull it; Trustees Reggie Miller and Jeff Jahr voting against pulling it and to put it on the agenda so they could vote No on the proposed job description; and Trustee Brenda McClanahan absent.
Supervisor Combs said it wouldn’t come back to the board until the April 14 work/study meeting.
On March 31 while discussing the proposed part-time job description, Treasurer Budd wanted to make sure the person took direction from the township board.
Trustee Reggie Miller said she thought they needed more time to study the description that should be tightened up, and didn’t think it should be on the next day’s regular meeting agenda – especially since Trustees Jeff Jahr and Phil Hart were unable to attend the March 31 meeting.
“We’re giving the impression we have a divisive board …” said Trustee Jahr on April 1 after the vote, emphasizing he is just trying to get back the board’s power.
“It seems like the board is being ignored … We’re not going to just rubber-stamp things,” Jahr said.
“I am frustrated … not divisive,” Clerk Wright responded. He had explained he wanted the HR person to take over all the HR duties his office had assumed, so the clerk’s office can focus on the coming elections, which is a lot of work.
In other business at the April 1 meeting, the board:
• Approved increasing by $15 Election Inspector wages to $160 per day for Precinct Chairperson, $150 per day for Electronic Pollbook/Co-Chairperson, $140 per day for Precinct Inspectors, $15 per session for training (no change). Clerk Wright pointed out election days often are 16 hours long and this raise in pay would help increase the pool of election workers. The last pay hike was in 2002. A chart showed the City of Belleville and Sumpter Township both pay between about $8 and $9 per hour;
• Approved a three-year Professional Services Agreement with Hydro Designs, Inc. to provide inspection and other related services for enforcement of the SDWA-mandated Cross-Connection Control program. The Water Fund will pay $1,065 per month over the next three fiscal years totaling $38,340;
• Approved a six-month personal leave of absence for three-year, paid-on-call fire fighter Jeffrey Schulz, who has been hired full time by the City of Ypsilanti Fire Department. He will be in intensive training for his new job and will be unable to continue VBT work until after his training is complete. At its Feb. 18 meeting the board approved a six-month personal leave for Bruce Van Gemert who also had been hired by Ypsilanti. Both have been hired using Ypsilanti’s funds from a federal SAFER grant;
• Heard Fire Chief Dan Besson say that fire fighters Josh Werth and Greg Kowalski were recently called at 6:31 a.m. to help a female in labor on a front porch in Parkwood, with contractions 20 seconds apart. Jeff Stanton and Andrew Vernier joined them and they moved the woman inside. At 6:56 a.m. a baby girl slid into Kowalski’s arms. The mother and child were taken to University of Michigan Hospital in good condition, he said;
• Heard Supervisor Combs read a letter from Leslie Mitchell who said in December she was driving on Ecorse Road by the trash dump when she hit something that blew her tire. She said Fire Chief Besson stopped by to help her and began to change her tire and then VBT Police Officer Amy Smith arrived. She said their clothes got dirty, but their public service was exceptional and she wanted to thank them; and
• Heard Chief Besson announce his department’s first fire academy, run by Ron Folks and beginning in October, has been completed. He said there were 13 graduates, nine who were Van Buren Public Safety employees. The course was 250 hours of classroom and practical time.
At the end of the March 31 workshop meeting, the board went into closed-door session to discuss an attorney’s opinion letter on the begging ordinance with attorney Chris Hogg.
He presented an amended version for the board to consider that includes making it unlawful to engage in Aggressive Begging, Fraudulent Begging, or Begging on Private Property.
The township had been threatened with legal action by the ACLU concerning enforcement of its present Begging Ordinance.
By Rosemary K. Otzman