By Rosemary K. Otzman
Although four members of the audience voiced concerns over the proposed changes to the Meeting Conduct Policy, the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on May 7 unanimously approved the new policy.
One important change is that board meetings will begin at 7 p.m., instead of 7:30 p.m., as they have in the past.
Changes to the policy were discussed at length at the March 4 work/study session and then removed from the agenda of the March 5 regular meeting for more study.
VBT Supervisor Linda Combs said the board was listening to the people and would reconsider some of the changes proposed.
Members of the audience at the March 4 work/study session especially opposed cutting the time allowed to speak from the present 4.5 minutes (one 3-minute speech, followed by a 1.5-minute speech) to 3 minutes for one time only.
In the policy approved by the board, there are two times for public input: Public Comment on unfinished business or new business (right after Correspondence at the beginning of the meeting) and Non-Agenda Items (at the end of the agenda).
The public is to stay quiet for the rest of the meeting, which didn’t set too well with John Delaney, who had complained at length concerning public comment cuts on March 4.
He complained again at the May 6 work/study session and the regular meeting on May 7, but was unable to head off the changes.
The board also will have a separate agenda for work/study sessions and the audience may address the board on specific items under discussion with three minutes time limit per speaker.
Work/study sessions will be held in the Sheldon Room and some items will be discussed at the work/study session two weeks before being put on the regular meeting agenda. This is not in the written policy, but a general agreement of board members.
There also is a section on how to call an emergency meeting and provisions made for emailing packets to board members.
Supervisor Combs said the board will try the new policy and if it doesn’t work out, it can be changed.
There was a dispute between Delaney and CeJay Marshall on the policy, with Delaney critical of the change and Marshall supporting it.
Delaney said he obtained and read all of Marshall’s emails that have been sent to township officials. The two men were yelling at each other, but Supervisor Combs restored order and called for a police officer. Two officers arrived and she asked them to stay until the end of the meeting.
Resident Ernie Tozer said he was disappointed in the board’s attempt to limit comments by the public.
Tozer suggested putting the board packet on the internet so the people can go on line and study the information that will be considered by the board. That way, residents can print out the information they want, using their own paper and ink.
In other business at the 90-minute meeting on May 7 the board:
• Unanimously approved a resolution in support of a new Club Liquor License with Entertainment permit for the BYC which is moving into the former Moose Lodge at 831 E. Huron River Dr. BYC was represented by Scott Jones. The BYC requested skipping the preliminary application and the Planning and Economic Development Department (including Code Enforcement) and the Public Safety Department (including Fire Department) did necessary checks and gave their approval. The resolution will be forwarded to the Liquor Control Commission, which makes the final decision. BYC stands for Belleville Yacht Club, but the private club cannot use that name because it is legally owned by the owner of Johnny’s;
• Voted 4-2 to adopt a resolution accepting responsibility of the Belle Tire Storm Water System maintenance and repair agreement with the property owner and notifying Wayne County of this action. Voting no was Trustee Jeff Jahr, who has long opposed the county forcing the township to accept responsibility for a storm water system designed, permitted, and constructed by someone else and owned by someone else. Trustee Reggie Miller joined in his opposition. The two said they had nothing against Belle Tire, but opposed the county’s policy. Others on the board also opposed the policy, but didn’t want to punish Belle Tire, which couldn’t open without being hooked up to the county system. The board asked Supervisor Combs to take this issue to the Council of Western Wayne’s meeting on May 10 and she said she would;
• Approved an additional $49,968 in budget amendments for the supervisor’s office to complete action required to finalize the Jan. 8 hiring of Karin LaMothe as the supervisor’s assistant, and to complete the separation of staff between the supervisor’s office and the assessing department. This raises the approved 2013 supervisor’s office total to $236,348, up from the $186,407 approved by the board. Combs said this includes buying a new computer, since the old computer from the supervisor’s office was locked down as evidence in the court case. The case is over and the computer has been returned;
• Approved the grass cutting bid of Wiese’s Lawn Care, Inc., of Van Buren Township, who has provided these services to the township over the past two years. The grass cutting will be for private properties that have received notice of non-compliance. Arthur Mullen, interim director of planning and economic development, said Wiese’s cost increases from 2011 to 2013 are modest in nature. The other two bids were TMP Landscaping and Later Gator. Mullen said Later Gator of Sumpter Township was “not a local business” but had significantly lower bids on the larger parcels than the other two bidders and Mullen said he had concerns that they would be able to complete the work for these sums and remain financially viable, while their charges for extra work are significantly higher. Mullen said TMP’s bid is questionable since they have the least number of larger mowers necessary for typical township jobs. Delaney said 48111 is one community and it’s been said the “demigods in the north don’t recognize the communities to the south.” Combs stated, “We are three separate governments and we do partner with Belleville.” Delaney. Treasurer Sharry Budd said the purchasing policy gives the 5% break to VBT residents because, “…they pay the taxes and they get the break”;
• Unanimously approved a motion to follow the township attorney’s recommendation on the Gamble vs. VBT law suit, without specifying what that recommendation was. The law suit concerns a man who sued, saying police beat him up after he wouldn’t turn down his radio that was playing in his garage on Robson Road in 2009;
• Heard Delaney suggest the township require its ordinance officers to learn the ordinances and enforce them. He said there’s a lot of money out there to be gained by writing tickets because permits have expired, there is illegal dumping going on, and other problems. Delaney said there are very few ordinance violations being written by the township;
• Heard a man from River Park Condo complex complain about a problem his community has. He said he sent emails to all the board members. Trustee Jahr objected vehemently to what the man had written in the emails, which was accusing board members of being on the take and working for a developer. “I thought you were coming to apologize,” Jahr said to the man, who wasn’t apologizing. “You insinuated that any or all of us was on the take,” Supervisor Combs said. Trustee Phil Hart said the board members want to help people, but that’s hard to do when they’re “punching us in the face.”
By Rosemary K. Otzman