By Rosemary K. Otzman
After a lengthy discussion on whether to switch work-study meetings to Thursdays instead of the traditional Mondays, the Van Buren Township Board of Trustee was leaning toward keeping the work-study meetings on Mondays, after all.
The board held a special work-study session at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, to discuss the matter, as well as to consider items that were on the upcoming Feb. 6 agenda.
The board not only met on a different day, but also in a different room, the Denton Room, where they sat around a table in a more congenial atmosphere for discussions. Township attorney Patrick McCauley was present at the table and indicated to the Independent that he has been asked to attend all township board meetings for the present.
The idea of having more time between the work-study meeting and the regular meeting to discuss items further and to get more information was suggested by Clerk Leon Wright several years ago.
He told the board on Jan. 31 that the usual work-study session was “a dress-rehearsal” for the regular meeting.
“This is actually a true, dedicated work-study,” he said of his idea of a work-study, noting, “It will give you the opportunity to really discuss items before voting.”
At the beginning, it was proposed that the work-study session be held 13 days before the regular meeting to give extra time for consideration. Items on the work-study agenda would not necessarily be on the next regular agenda.
“Seems a little confusing right now,” said Deputy Clerk Kathy Cline, who would have to prepare two packets of information instead of the one meeting packet as she did in the past, “but it will work out.”
One suggestion was having a meeting every Tuesday, with those that weren’t regular meetings being work-study sessions.
Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Susan Ireland, who was in the audience, pointed out that the DDA met on a Tuesday, as did the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA), and the Water/Sewer Commission.
“We’re trying new things,” explained Supervisor Linda Combs. “We’re trying to be more efficient.”
Trustee Jeff Jahr wanted to go through the changes to the meeting policy that had been prepared and presented.
But, the board agreed the attorney who had been waiting for almost an hour for the executive session, had waited long enough since he is paid by the hour.
They voted to go into executive session to discuss strategy for pending Wayne County Circuit Court case #12-009286-AW, which is Louis Kovach vs. Terry Carroll, Tom MacDonald Linda Stevenson and The Charter Township of Van Buren.
The lawsuit concerns the township denial of lot splits for the former Coykendall Greenhouse property at the corner of Riggs and Bemis roads and is expected to be settled out of court.
The closed-door session lasted 1 hour and 23 minutes and then the board went back into open meeting for another hour to continue discussion the meeting policy.
Suggestions for changes included inviting the public to address the board for 2 or 3 minutes before the regular agenda on agenda items and then 2 or 3 minutes at the end of the meeting on non-agenda items, with the supervisor being able to extend the time.
Trustees Brenda McClanahan and Jeff Jahr pointed out that the board meeting is “our meeting” and there are no other participants, but if someone wants to add something it can be added at the beginning or the end of the meeting.
Trustee Reggie Miller said the Michigan Township Association teaches that board members are most productive in the first two hours of a meeting. She said there has got to be a better way than the long meetings.
“It’s our meeting, not theirs,” Jahr repeated, with Clerk Wright adding the citizens elected the officials to conduct the township business for them.
Jahr said the public should not “participate” in the meeting.
“I know you don’t want to shut anyone down,” Trustee Phil Hart said to Supervisor Combs.
“It’s hard for me to be rude and say your time is us,” she agreed. “I wasn’t raised that way.”
After more discussion on proposed new details of meetings, Trustee McClanahan said she will be teaching classes in Saginaw, two hours away, on Thursdays starting in September.
Trustee Miller said Thursdays would be a problem for her, too.
“We can do Mondays if it’s not the work-study for the next day’s agenda,” Supervisor Combs offered.
Everyone agreed Mondays seemed to work better.
After more comments, Supervisor Combs suggested adjourning the meeting, since it was 7 p.m., and consider the meeting policy to be a work in progress to be discussed again.
Attorney McCauley announced he has drafted a revised ethics policy which he has sent to the three full-time elected officials for comment.
By Rosemary K. Otzman