By Rosemary K. Otzman
Van Buren Township Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Susan Ireland explained the situation that had her requesting a future raise and a training class for her newly hired assistant.
At its regular meeting on Jan. 27, Executive Director Ireland explained that she recently learned that the township no longer provides for payment “in lieu of health care” which she had put into the contract for her new Assistant Executive Director Lisa Lothringer.
She said in lieu of health care, the contract approved paying $2,000 a year. She doesn’t take the township’s health care.
“In the spirit of support, I would ask that the DDA Board consider payment in an amount of $1,750 to Monroe Community College to obtain OMPC (Online Marketing Certified Professional) certification and after satisfactory completion of this course work and subsequent certification that the DDA Board approve a merit increase of $998 for an annual salary for calendar year 2015 of $49,998,” she wrote in a Jan. 20 memo.
At the meeting, Ireland said, “It would be a benefit in taking the class. It’s not right to have an increase in pay. It’s more like a merit thing.”
The board approved Ireland’s proposal for the class and the pay increase and approved Addendum 1 to Lothringer’s employment agreement that took out the paragraph on the Employee Benefits Plan.
Ireland said the OMCP certification is a comprehensive overview of online marketing. All of the courses must be completed within six months and upon successful completion, application can be made for certification.
Lothringer began work on Jan. 5 at an annual salary of $49,000. She has a Bachelor of Business Education degree with a concentration in marketing. The OMCP work is being considered continuing education.
In other business at the Jan. 27 meeting, the DDA heard reports from Ireland on:
• Belleville Road and I-94 North Service Road sidewalks. Ireland said Wayne County is again reviewing the sidewalk plan which includes a French drain north of Tyler Road. She said it is still anticipated construction will occur this spring. Dave Nummer of Wade Trim engineers said that the plan with the French Drain at the mobile home park has a backup plan that the county wanted. If the French drain doesn’t work, they will have to put in ditching and culverts, with about a 6” bump in the driveways to go over the culvert. DDA member Ron Blank, who owns the mobile home park at that part of the sidewalk, said that he couldn’t vote for this because he would file a restraining order if that is being done because he can’t have the only ditch on Belleville Road at his property. Nummer said he asked the county, “We have to fix your problem, your road, your right of way?” and the county said, “Yes.” Nummer pointed out the DDA is buying right of way to allow the county to widen Belleville Road. DDA member Mark Laginess pointed out the French drain would be a short-term fix for the drainage there. No vote was needed on this project at the meeting. Nummer said, “I don’t think you’ll ever see a drop of water out there … There was never water there before”;
• Belleville Road Signalization Project: This project is essentially closed out, but the State of Michigan will keep the file open for about 24 months to make sure nothing extraordinary materializes. The county said they always had just yellow traffic signals and so they will replace the black signals at their cost, but may ask the DDA to pay a very small amount;
• Belleville/Ecorse Road Landscape: The final landscape plans have been submitted to Wayne County for approval. The county has a concern with the area in front of Stack’s. Because of safety concerns, the county was requiring that the DDA include MDOT Special 99 fencing from the guard rail on the east, to the entrance to Stacks on eastbound Ecorse Road (about 218’ of chain link fence with reinforced wiring running through the fence, at a cost of $4,360). The goal of the fencing is to prohibit vehicles from exiting Stack’s directly onto Ecorse Road. The DDA voted unanimously to pay instead $10,900 for a decorative, wrought iron type fence, 3’ high, that the county approves of;
• Winter Holiday Decorations: The new decorations were very nice, but there was a problem with the electric service. When it rained or snowed, the ground-fault circuit interrupter would blow and the electrician would have to be called out to replace the GFI. It is apparent some electrical upgrades will have to be done this spring/summer. Also, Ireland would like to see the lighted figures spread out because she thinks they were too bunched together;
• Region Detention Pond: Wade Trim has completed the final draft of the preliminary analysis. A meeting with Wayne County for comments has been requested and a meeting has been held with the RV dealership property owner. The property owner supports the project but doesn’t want to lose frontage on the North I-94 Service Drive. The pond has been proposed to be built along the county drain east of his business. The drain easement is 50’ wide now and the pond plans would make it 100-200’. From there, the drain shoots under the freeway heading toward Belleville Lake. Wade Trim has earned the $30,000 approved by the DDA for preliminary work on the regional pond, so the DDA approved another $20,000 for Wade Trim only if Wayne County says the project is possible. The extra work would be postponed until they get a yes from the county, Laginess said;
• Communication Associates: Assistant Director Lothringer and Ireland met with Communication Associates, the DDA’s public relations contractor, to review what has been done and make suggestions for the future with regard to the web site, social media, etc., since this will be a primary responsibility of Lothringer. She has reviewed their initial proposal and has begun investigating in order to begin formulating a plan with goals and objectives. Ireland said they hope to come up with something “a little more solid”;
• DuPont Imprelis Claims Resolution: Ireland said she has spent many, many hours on this. A few trees planted by the DDA died as a result of the Imprelis spray, but Imprelis cannot send the $715.30 to the DDA because they are not the property owner of record. They have to send it to Applebee’s. Ireland received a call from Applebee’s Corporate not understanding why they were being contacted. Ireland said she told them what had occurred and told her if they did get a check for $715.50, they could endorse it and forward it to the DDA. She said she has heard nothing since that conversation. DDA member Ron Blank told Ireland, “If Applebee’s signs over the check, fine, otherwise don’t spend any more time on it”;
• Emergency Sirens: Van Buren Township is moving forward with the installation of emergency sirens throughout the township. Besides the DDA, the project is being funded through CDBG funds in the low to moderate income area, and the Van Buren Civic Fund. VBT Supervisor Linda Combs said they have run into some electrical problems and need to upgrade the service in a few locations; and
• Property Acquisition: The DDA is now owner of 10101 and 10151 Belleville Road. The Harris family is pleased that the DDA acquired the property and it would not be turned into a commercial business. Supervisor Combs and DDA member Carol Bird volunteered to be on a sub-committee to work out where the DDA might like to go with this project. Combs said it is “a nice piece of property.” Ireland said the honeysuckles on the property are 100 years old.
Ireland also asked for a subcommittee to assist in project prioritization and a review of budget allocations. Volunteers were DDA members Mark Laginess, Craig Atchinson, and Helen Foster.
A request by Ireland for $1,000 to pay for her registrations to two workshops and a Lansing Day conference by the Michigan Downtown Association was unanimously approved. Ireland serves on the board of the MDA.
By Rosemary K. Otzman