A plan to hire a firm to handle the federal Community Development Block Grant housing rehabilitation projects was put on hold by the Van Buren Township Board of trustees at its Oct. 2 meeting.
At issue is the use of township union workers to do the clerical work instead of hiring outside help.
At a previous meeting, Terry Carroll, Director of Planning and Economic Development, brought forth two bids for the work and recommended Wayne Metropolitan Community Services at a cost of $45 per hour. The other bid was $55 and federal rules require the lowest responsible bidder.
At that meeting, candidate for supervisor Linda Combs said she had worked with Wayne Metropolitan when she was senior director and they didn’t do good work and some work was never finished.
The board took the item off the table at that time and on Oct. 2, Carroll brought it back. He said he has called municipalities that had used the firm and they got lots of praise.
Currently, Carroll has been doing the CDBG work and did two or three housing rehab projects last year. He said attending to the many details is a lot of work.
Trustee Jeff Jahr said the township should have a contract with the firm and not just a proposal. The contract should spell out what the firm would do, Jahr said.
Also, Jahr said, the township should check with its union.
Carroll said the work has not been done by union workers for the last year, but Trustee Denise Partridge said the clerical work for CDBG previously was done by a member of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees). During the time Partridge worked for the township she had been a president of the AFSCME local.
Carroll said the union certainly knows about this and has been in the loop on it.
Jahr said all the board members received an email from Jennifer Price who said since August the union has stated this is a union position and had asked for a meeting.
Jahr said he doesn’t have a problem with outsourcing this, but the job takes expertise. He said they certainly need discussions with the union.
Treasurer Sharry Budd made a motion to table the issue until the next meeting, if everything is in place by then. Trustee Partridge seconded the motion and, after some discussion, the board passed the motion unanimously.
Trustee Phil Hart noted the union asked for a meeting to handle this in August. He also wanted to make sure there is an opt-out portion in the contract in case the township isn’t satisfied with the work.
Supervisor Paul White said the CDBG work is done on an hourly basis as contracts come through for each house that needs to be rehabilitated.
Brenda Kurtz, an account clerk and president of the local AFSCME unit, stated this has always been union work and they have not had a conference.
She said she hoped they would table the issue until the township follows the contract and has a meeting with the union.
Combs said she appreciated the motion to postpone and noted that her questions about the bidder has been answered to her satisfaction by Treasurer Budd.
John Delaney stood at the podium and said Carroll is not telling the truth about a meeting and, as he walked back to his seat he softly said, “Liars, liars.”
In other business at the 54-minute meeting, the board:
• Approved on a 5-1 vote the Storm Water Maintenance and Repair Agreement for General Electric Corporation. Jahr voted against the agreement, stating it is his long-held opinion that the county does not have the authority to require the township to be responsible for storm water maintenance for businesses;
• Amended the township purchasing policy, since the federal government is requiring VBT to keep the 5% local vendor idea out of projects funded by federal money, where responsible low bidder is required;
• Approved the first reading of an amendment to the zoning ordinance to revise regulations pertaining to Wireless Communication to comply with new state laws, as recommended by the planning commission;
• Heard Clerk Leon Wright say the general election absentee voter ballots were anticipated to go out in the mail on Friday, Oct. 5. He stated it will cost 65 cents in postage for voters to return the two-page ballot, but people are free to drop off their completed ballots at the clerk’s office or the outside dropbox at township hall without having to pay postage. When asked about ballots arriving in the mail at township hall with insufficient postage, Clerk Wright said the township pays the postage due;
• Heard Carl Pederson, who is retired from an International UAW position, said he talked to the president of VBEST at the school district who said if the school bus driver felt she had an unnecessary reprimand, she should contact her union, which the president said she hadn’t done. This was in response to Cejay Marshall’s insistence that Clerk Wright get the driver’s letter of reprimand out of the bus driver’s file since Marshall claims it was Wright’s complaint of “road rage” that got the driver in trouble; and
• Heard Delaney complain about perceived violations of the Open Meetings Act and heard write-in candidate for supervisor Larry Fix warn Supervisor White that his name is attached to the co-gen plant and its toxic legacy. Fix also urged the board to contact the Attorney General about Wayne County’s requirement on storm water maintenance for businesses.
Absent from the meeting was Trustee Al Ostrowski.