By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Van Buren Township Board of Trustees unanimously rescinded a moratorium on DTE Energy Smart Meters at its regular meeting on June 18.
There was no discussion on the move, which was said to be the township attorney’s recommendation, and the item was included in the Consent Agenda, which approves items that don’t need discussion.
At the June 3 work/study meeting, about 120 pages of information was distributed to the board on the Michigan Public Service Commission and Smart Meter issues, but there was no discussion.
In the written request for action from Supervisor Linda Combs, she wrote, “Because the Smart Meter issue falls directly within the Michigan Public Safety [sic] Commission’s regulatory purview, it is recommended the Township Board of Trustees rescind Resolution 2012-10.”
Treasurer Sharry Budd made the motion to institute the moratorium “until further notice” at the May 1, 2012 meeting of the township board, with Trustee Phil Hart seconding the motion.
Trustee Jeff Jahr was the only board member voting against the moratorium and Trustee Denise Partridge was absent and excused.
The moratorium was passed while the Michigan Public Service Commission was studying opposition to Smart Meters, which are computerized electronic devices that allow for remote reading via radio frequencies and two-way communications.
VBT residents and those from other parts of Southeastern Michigan came to a VBT board meeting early last year to voice their concerns about health, safety, privacy and potential cost issues with the Smart Meters. Other communities had placed moratoriums on the meters.
The Resolution especially asked the MPSC to review the opt-out provision proposed by DTE Energy and to allow individual customers, instead, to decline Smart Meter installation in their homes without penalties or additional fees.
At the June 14 meeting of the Council of Western Wayne, representatives of the municipalities reportedly were told by DTE that they would begin Smart Meter installations in all the communities this fall and customers would pay a $67 fee upfront and then $9.80 per month if they didn’t allow the Smart Meters to be installed. The fee, approved by the state, would be to pay for a meter reader to come out to read the meter.
Opponents of Smart Meters have appealed the MPSC ruling.
On June 18, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he is investigating because he still thinks those who opt out shouldn’t have to pay a fee.
In other business at the 29-minute, June 18 meeting, the VBT board:
• Approved promoting interim DPW Director James Taylor to at-will Director of the Department of Public Works with a salary of $70,000, “a little less” than the previous DPW Director Tom McDonald, who retired. Taylor worked from 1989 through 2011 for the City of Dearborn’s Water and Sever Division and retired as its Water and Sewer Utility Manager. He holds an S-1 Waterworks Systems Operator certification from the State of Michigan. Supervisor Combs said there were 19 applicants for the position and Taylor was tops;
• Honored Ralph A. Nodwell for his service to the community for the 34 years he has lived in the township. The proclamation, which brought a standing ovation from those in the audience, was formally adopted by a unanimous vote of the board. The Resolution was read by Trustee Reggie Miller and presented to Nodwell. Supervisor Combs presented him with an ornate plaque;
• Helped the Fire Department honor Danny Wilson, who has served 30 years as a fire fighter and will retire as of June 28. “I spent exactly half my life as a fire fighter,” Wilson said. “I’m the last one of the group I started with. I’m glad I was a part of it.” He was presented with certificate of appreciations from the VBT board and from the VBT Fire department, along with a helmet purchased for him by the Fire Fighters Association;
• Heard Supervisor Combs announce a new program for the police department aimed at building trust with members of the community. The first “Coffee with a Cop” will run from 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 13, at Leo’s Coney Island. Captain Greg Laurain will be there, along with whomever he brings, she said. It is relaxed, one-on-one interactions to discuss issues. Supervisor Combs said the program is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice and Community Oriented Policing Services. The national project currently is held in 80-plus cities in 24 states, Combs said;
• Heard Supervisor Combs announce she has named her executive assistant Karin LaMothe as her Deputy Supervisor and LaMothe has said she is honored to serve in this capacity. Combs said LaMothe has a “wonderful vision for Van Buren Township.” Trustee Miller said this will benefit the township with an extra set of hands to go out into the community to represent VBT. But, she said she was disappointed because there was no communication on this decision and no discussion at any work/study meeting. “She is a great asset,” Miller said of LaMothe, adding she was disappointed that she wasn’t able to be present for her swearing in, since there was so little time between the announcement and the swearing in (one hour). Combs apologized, saying she felt it was necessary to “clarify her position in the township” because of comments she got;
• Heard Combs read two letters from Jessica Beasley praising employees Brenda Kurtz and Jeff Fondaw for being so helpful and prompt;
• Heard Miller ask about the Director of Public Safety position, which has been vacant since January. Combs said, “We are still looking at options.” When Miller asked what those options were, Combs replied “in house or go out for applications”; and
• Heard Combs announce the free Takin’ it to the Streets events for children from 1 to 4 p.m. on Fridays June 28 and Aug. 23 at Tyler Elementary School. Pre-registration is required, 699-8921.
There was no audience comment on any subject.
By Rosemary K. Otzman