MAIN STREET 10-13-09

Serving the Communities of Belleville,
Sumpter, and Van Buren Michigan - USA


published May 19, 2011:
Van Buren Twp. Police seek man in connection with three armed robberies

   The same black male, with the bottom half of his face covered from the nose down with a cloth mask and brandishing a revolver, is believed to be one who recently robbed three Van Buren Township businesses.

   On Tuesday, VBT Police issued a call to the public for information on a black male described by witnesses as 5’10” to 6’ tall, with a thin face, high cheek bones, and possible moustache and goatee. The suspect getaway car is believed to be a dark blue passenger vehicle.

   VBT Police Captain Ken Brooks said it is believed that all three robberies may be related and/or committed by the same person.

   Captain Brooks detailed the three robberies in a press release.

   The first robbery occurred at about 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, at the Burger King restaurant on Belleville Road. The robber was a black male armed with a revolver who took money from the cash drawers and safe. Witnesses saw the suspect walking to and away from the restaurant.

   At 11 p.m., Thursday, May 5, the Belleville Road McDonald’s was robbed by a black male with a revolver. He was seen parking his vehicle in front of Hungry Howie’s and then walking to McDonald’s. He took money from the cash drawers and safe and ran back to his vehicle at Hungry Howie’s. Witnesses saw him drive out the main entrance/exit onto southbound Belleville Road.

   At about 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, a black male with a revolver robbed the Check-N-Go in Belleville Square. Surveillance video from Walmart showed the man walking from the rear of the businesses between the opening near Asian Gardens and a few minutes later running back through the opening in a southwest direction and out of sight.

   Captain Brooks said it is believed a vehicle was parked near the rear of the former Farmer Jack building and that is how he left the area.

   Anyone with information is asked to contact VBT Detective Alex Schulz at 734-699-8938.

Sumpter Township residents warned

about wild dog pack

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   On Tuesday, Linda LeBlanc of Harris Road in Sumpter Township called police about a pack of wild dogs that was in her yard.

   A few years ago, LeBlanc had to put down a miniature pony after a pack of wild dogs chewed the pony’s stomach. The dogs also threatened a tenant on her property.

   On Tuesday, she saw four dogs: two white, one black, and one brown. They definitely were not coyotes, she said.

   She ran the dogs off and they scooted through an opening in her neighbor’s fence.

   “I have been missing a few chickens, but I thought it may have been from raccoons or skunks,” LeBlanc said. “But, then I saw them and called police.

   “I want to warn the public because the dogs could attack small dogs or even children,” LeBlanc said.

   She said she didn’t know if it was the same pack that attacked her pony, but one of the dogs looked familiar.

   Police Lt. Eric Luke said he saw the four dogs and they ran through the fence and into a wooded area. He said none of them had collars and they definitely were wild.

   Lt. Luke said police would try to put out some live traps on Wednesday, but he’s not sure what to do with them if he traps them. They couldn’t take them to the Humane Society because they are wild animals.

   He said he doesn’t like the thought of shooting them, but that might be what it comes down to because they are dangerous.

   Lt. Luke said homeowners can shoot such wild animals that come onto their property.


Two Model T Clubs to bring vintage cars to Belleville, VBT

By Rosemary K. Otzman

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The 24th-annual CANAM Tour will bring about 32 Model T Fords to Belleville and Van Buren Township this weekend, May 20-22.

   The 24th-annual CANAM Tour will bring about 32 Model T Fords to Belleville and Van Buren Township this weekend, May 20-22.

   The cars will be on display from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at Victory Park at Five Points in Belleville.

   This is a combined tour of two Model T clubs, the Casual T’s of Southeast Michigan and the Ontario Region Model T’s. They both are chapters of the Model T Ford Club International.

   For the tour, the cars’ owners are about evenly split: half Americans, half Canadians.

   Each year the clubs take turns hosting the event. This weekend is celebrated as Victoria Day weekend in Canada with Monday as a holiday.

   When the clubs tour in the U.S., the Victoria Day weekend is chosen so the Canadians have an extra day to get back home.

   On the alternate years when the tour is in Canada, they choose the Memorial Day weekend, so the Americans have an extra day for travel.

   Event chairman Fred L. Verbridge of Brighton said this year’s tour will be held in Belleville, with the Holiday Inn Express on the North Service Drive as the host hotel.

   He said adventurous members will be camping at the Wayne County Fair Campgrounds on Quirk Road, just around the corner from the hotel.

   Members of the two clubs will travel from their homes – some arriving in their Model T’s and some bringing the vehicles in trailers. They will meet at the hotel on Friday and parade to Victory Park in Belleville. There is no charge to view the vintage vehicles.

   The Saturday tour has a short route of 89 miles or the long route of 103 miles.

   It starts off driving into Belleville on Main Street, turning on High Street and then heading onto West Huron River Drive.

   The route goes to Saline, with refreshments at Mill Pond Park, and then on to Chelsea, with lunch, shopping and a tour of the Teddy Bear Factory. Then, on to Dexter and a visit to the Dexter Historical Museum, and then to Ann Arbor and stops at the Leslie Science and Nature Center Raptor Display.

   Then, it’s on to Ypsilanti, with stops at Depot Town for shopping, the Automobile Heritage Museum and Firehouse Museum and back to the Holiday Inn Express.

   Verbridge said club members won’t be able to fit in all the stops and will have to pick and choose.

   On Sunday, the tour leaves around 9:30 a.m., going north on Belleville Road heading to Mill Race Village in Northville. The 57-mile tour goes through Farmington Hills, and Northville, before heading back to the Holiday Inn Express in Van Buren Township.

   Club members said the management of the hotel has been very accommodating and plans to invite the public to the Holiday Inn Express to look at the parked vintage cars.

   Jerry Van Ooteghem, president of the Casual T’s Chapter, said most club members own more than one Model T. He said if the weather is nasty on Friday, he’ll bring his sedan, with roll-up windows. If it’s nice weather, he’ll bring his two-seater roadster, an open car. He plans to drive to Belleville from his home in Grosse Pointe Woods by way of Michigan Avenue.

   Van Ooteghem said each year they pick a different town and they hadn’t been to Belleville yet, so they chose this area. He said Belleville is somewhat rural once you get out of town and they can ride the back roads without bothering too many people.

Arts Council sets Victorian Tea during Model T visit Friday


   The Belleville Area Council for the Arts invites the public to a Victorian Tea at 6 p.m. Friday at Victory Park, Belleville, being held in conjunction with the Model T Club visit.

   The fund-raising event will include tea and treats for $5 per person. The menu is tea, coffee, finger sandwiches, cookies, and scones.


City of Belleville sets public hearing on balanced 2011-12 general fund budget

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

Independent Editor

   At Monday’s regular meeting, the Belleville City Council set a public hearing for 7:30 p.m., Monday, June 6, to consider the 2011-12 city budgets.
   At Monday’s regular meeting, the Belleville City Council set a public hearing for 7:30 p.m., Monday, June 6, to consider the 2011-12 city budgets.

   The new fiscal year begins July 1 and so a balanced budget must be adopted by then.

   At the end of the council’s final budget workshop on May 11, City Manager Diana Kollmeyer said, “It’s fair to say a balanced budget has been presented … But in the future, there will be changes and amendments in the figures.”

   “I’d like to see the capital expenditures reevaluated,” said Councilwoman Kim Tindall at the May 11 session. “Buying a new DPW vehicle is not necessary now.”

   At Monday’s meeting, the general fund budget that will presented to the public on June 6 showed revenues of $1,980,325 and expenditures of $1,979,828, leaving a positive $497, which will be added to the present fund balance for a proposed fund balance of $182,364.

   The budget originally had a deficit of $165,128, but that was eliminated through cuts worked out in a series of budget workshops.

   Increases of $47,000 in revenue was brought through:

   • Increase in tax levy by 0.226 additional mills to the maximum allowed by law without a vote, which will bring $13,500;

   • Increase in certificate of occupancy fees (based on 50 a year), which will bring $5,000;

   • Statutory shared revenue expected, $20,000;

   • Reimbursement for fire service on hazard waste calls, $2,000;

   • Police Department charge for vehicle release (based on 150 per year), $4,500; and

   • Grass and weed cutting related to abandoned homes, $2,000.

   The cuts to expenditures included:

   Elimination of a permanent part-time position that served both the police and treasury departments, $47,000, reduced by $10,000 because of potential unemployment associated with layoff;

   • Employee health care contribution of 10%, $23,125;

   • Retiree health care contribution of 10%, $3,000;

   • Police contracted services, $4,200;

   • Police reserves, $2,500;

   • Volunteer fire services, $4,800;

   • Fire department misc. expense, $300;

   • DPW misc. expense, $2,000;

   • Reduction to city museum contribution, $8,000;

   • Senior transportation, $20,000;

   • Eliminate janitor services, $7,200;

   • Reduce cemetery part-time wages, $6,500;

   These reductions total $118,625, leaving the budget $497 in the black.

   The proposed budget is based on a property tax levy of 18.126 mills.

   At the May 11 meeting, Police Chief Gene Taylor said the females in the police department office discussed taking a cut in their pay to save the job of their co-worker. He said with the job eliminated, this will bring more stress on the two clerks left and will also periodically pull him off the street for clerical work, leaving fewer officers on the road.

   Council members discussed leading by example and foregoing their pay or giving it back. Or, instituting furlough days. Kollmeyer said all the employees already are taking a $2,000 pay cut to pay for their portion of health care.

   The city will continue to look for ways to save money, including asking the school district to renegotiate the school resource officer.

   In other business at Monday’s meeting, the council:

   • Approved closing High Street from noon to about 4 p.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, for the seventh-annual Thunder Rolls in Belleville event that honors veterans and brings many motorcycles to town;

   • Approved the Downtown Development Authority’s request to proceed with registering with the Wayne County Register of Deeds the easements for the Streetscape Project;

   • Voted unanimously to support Councilwoman Kim Tindall’s new job as a freelance writer for The View. She said she will write only “fluff articles” and nothing to do with city council. She said she goes to events and takes pictures and earns extra money and won’t be covering anything to do with city government. Mayor Richard Smith said he does not feel it’s a conflict of interest. But former mayor Tom Fielder said the council can’t give blanket immunity to Tindall because something might come up that they would consider a conflict, like a vote on something she has published an opinion on. Fielder said they have a right to say it would be a conflict of interest for her to vote. City Manager Kollmeyer said Tindall will not divulge any confidential information. View Editor Austin Smith said Tindal is “wonderful” and he is enthusiastic about having her write for him, since he can’t attend all events;

   • Heard Fielder say that during the Recreation Committee meeting that just ended Muriel Lyman volunteered to write a series of articles on city parks which they hope will be printed in local papers to let the people know what is available locally;

   • Unanimously approved paying $51,675.91 in accounts payable and departmental expenditures in excess of $500: ICMA membership at $598.40; Michigan Municipal League dues at $2,389; and Valentine Tree for trimming the lake bank at Horizon Park, $1,750;

   • Was informed the last meeting of the Strawberry Festival Committee before the festival is June 7 at 5:30 p.m. and the public is invited to attend; and

   • Learned besides having the budget on the June 6 agenda, the council will be asked to give approval to a parade of military vehicles in conjunction with Thunder over Michigan at Willow Run Airport and sidewalk vendors for the upcoming Garden Walk.

DIA will bring outside art to Belleville for 12 weeks starting in September


   At Monday’s City Council meeting Mayor Richard Smith announced that the Detroit Institute of Arts has officially selected the City of Belleville to display outside artworks.

   Mayor Smith said the DIA selected 22 communities this year. Belleville is one of 11 that will have art for 12 weeks starting in September. The other 11 communities will have art in the summer.

   Downtown Development Authority Coordinator Carol Thompson was present in the audience and confirmed the DIA had selected Belleville and that DDA members would be helping the DIA select sites for the art.

   The framed, vinyl reproductions will be mounted on buildings or erected on freestanding displays. There is no cost to the city, but the city is expected to advertise the art so people will know about it.




published: May 12,  2011:
VB School Board may decide to have stare-down with State of Michigan

   At Monday’s regular meeting, Mike Dixon gave the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education an update on the proposed 2011-12 budget that must be balanced and approved by the board by June 30.

   There are several options and at the end of his report, he forecast what probably will happen – and it includes a stare-down with the State of Michigan.

   Dixon, the district’s financial consultant, said the district probably will make some cuts – about $1.5 million worth -- but that won’t be enough to reach the $3 million or $5 million more needed to balance the budget. The actual figures will depend on what action are taken at the state level by the Governor, House, and Senate.

   But, no matter what is decided in Lansing, the Van Buren Public Schools approved budget – that’s supposed to be balanced -- will not be balanced.

   “We will be filing a deficit reduction plan,” Dixon said, noting the plan is due Nov. 15, after the final audit for the previous year is conducted, so the district has the real numbers.

   He said Van Buren will turn in its plan at the last minute -- on Nov. 14.

   Dixon said at least 100 school districts in the state will be in deficit and will have to file plans, too.

   “He’s going to get swamped,” Dixon said of the man in charge of that department.

   “I can’t see them sending an Emergency Financial Manager before giving you a chance to work your plan, but I don’t know,” Dixon said.

   He said he recently learned there were just six people in the financial department of the Department of Education.

   When parent Diane Forrest asked about employees taking cuts, which is being done in private businesses throughout the state, Dixon said the district is negotiating with all of its collective bargaining units, except the teachers, who have one more year on their contract. He noted the Van Buren Education Association does not have to agree to reopen its contract now.

   Toth said VBPS teacher salaries now are not competitive. Forrest replied with school districts throughout the state in the same situation, teacher pay will end up on a level playing field.

   “We’ve known for a while we’re not going to get there by June 30,” Dixon said referring to a balanced budget.

   “There are so many variables and we don’t know what the figures will be.”

   In his report to the board, Dixon pointed out that 83% of the district’s $53 million budget is tied up in salaries and benefits.

   Dixon had put together a study to find a Minimum Operating Threshold, but said if it was put into place it would only hit $4 million and would pretty much massacre the district’s program.

   The True MOT called for cuts of 17.5 teachers throughout the district, cuts in art, music, physical education, high school security, counselors, media specialists, athletics, 5.5 secretaries, all general student transportation, and no athletics or extra-curricular programs.

   He said there would still be a short-fall of from $684,231 to $2.9 million, depending on what the state does. He stressed the district isn’t going to make all those cuts.

   Dixon said the most likely cuts, that will amount to $1,526,316, will include the 17.5 teachers, one administrator, 5.5 secretaries, four operations/maintenance employees, and reduction of athletics and extra-curricular activities by 15%.

   He said he expects the district to start sending lay-off notices soon.

   Dixon said the district can’t make the cuts to balance the budget without cuts to salaries and benefits.

   “We’re waiting for the Governor, House, and Senate to let us know what we’re going to have,” Dixon said. “We’ve got some work to do.”

   School Board President Martha Toth said the MOT was a useful exercise because it showed, even with cuts, “We can’t make enough …” to balance the budget.

   Trustee Scott Russell said when a Downriver community cut busing, there was a big uproar and busing had to be reinstated.

   Trustee Toni Hunt said that in Kalkaska busing was eliminated and students had to drive 25 miles one way to get to school.

   Dixon said Kalkaska lost 200 students from just one building and eventually had to start busing again.

   “The state is forcing us to get significant cuts from our salary and benefits,” Toth said, noting a corrections officer makes $58,000 a year. She asked why the state was targeting teachers, who are “not overpaid.”

   In other business at Monday’s meeting, the board:

   • Approved the retirement of North Middle School Principal S. Dianne Tilson, after 38 years, as of June 27; and Judith Hollister of Edgemont after 37 years, as of April 27. The termination of bus driver Robert Krause for personal reasons after three years of service was approved as of April 26;

   • Approved the BHS Marching Band field trip to Orlando and Tampa for Dec. 28-Jan. 3 to enjoy Disney World and play in the Outback Bowl at a cost of $850-$1,000 each. Plans call for 240 students to travel by chartered buses;

   • Approved $135,595 in field change orders for BHS construction, including replacing the whole stage floor with hard wood, elevator sumps (new state code requirement), and gypsum above walls to improve acoustics;

   • Approved site changes for the Team Building not to exceed $71,761, which includes more sidewalk, a ductbank, additional communication cables, fencing;

   • Approved change orders #12-22, which includes icemakers for the concession stand, metal bins, signage, electrical circuits, increase feeder size to chiller A1, AHU receptacles and lights, horn/strobe (recommended by Belleville Fire Department), and unit H occupation sensors;

   • Approved holding a summer school program for Bright Beginning Tuition Preschool for six weeks starting June 20. Dr. Susan Fleming said there were about 10 children projected for the program, that pays for itself. Tuition is from $60 to $70 per week for four days of five hours. There is no residency requirement;

   • Approved a 60-month copier lease agreement with Ikon Office Solutions for up to 50 copiers with a monthly lease payment of $7,910.97. Dixon projected a savings of more than $100,000 over the five years of the lease. Dixon also estimated an additional savings of $30,000 a year in printer supplies. This is the first time the school copiers will have color availability and Trustee Russell urged the administration to lay down rules for use of the more-expensive color option only when necessary. The copiers will be networked and will have staplers and fax;

   • Heard an update from Cathy Bandy of the Parent Involvement Committee on the Senior Citizen Volunteer Program organized to assist in Kindergarten classrooms. The pilot program was held May 4 at Edgemont Elementary with four seniors and the senior director from Van Buren Township;

   • Approved changing the way state and federal funding is used at the high school, to make the most of the funds available under the conditions imposed. BHS will no longer be a Title 1 High School, but will use state 31A funds, instead and the 31A funds will go to the elementary and middle schools. BHS Principal Michael Van Tassel said it is difficult to follow the rules imposed with the funding. Pam Smart of the business office said two years ago $250,000 was taken back by the government, “because we didn’t follow the rules”;

   • Discussed those running for the Wayne RESA board in the June 6 election and tabled the discussion and a decision on the district’s vote until the May 23 meeting;

   • Agreed to set up a Data Workshop for 7 p.m., May 24, at the Administration building, unless the expected participants make it necessary to move the session to a larger location. School staff is being alerted to the free workshop where Dave Sargent of J.D. Powers and Associates will present information; and

   • Was reminded that on Sunday, May 15, the joint Distinguished Graduate/ National Honor Society ceremony will be held; on May 16 is the board’s policy workshop; May 23, the next regular meeting; May 24, the Data Workshop; and May 26, graduation day for seniors.

Gleaners to teach cooking to students, distribute free food

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Cathy Bandy of the Parent Involvement Committee told the School Board on Monday that the Gleaners Food Service will put on a six-week pilot program at South Middle School to teach cooking and nutrition.

   Students will do cooking themselves and learn more about what’s best to eat.

   Also, the Gleaners will bring in their food pantry on Tuesday, May 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to distribute free, fresh food to 200 families.

   Bandy said the Gleaners, who got a grant to service school districts, will set up their Mobile Food Pantry, in a refrigerated semi-truck, at the warehouse behind the Vo-Tech building on Sumpter Road. Seven pallets of food will be unloaded.

   She said families from South Middle School, who have signed up, will drive through and volunteers will put the food in their vehicles.

   She said the only qualifier for the food is that the family qualifies for free and reduced lunch. Bandy said half the families at South Middle School qualify.

   She said the free food will include non-perishable items, frozen chicken, and fresh fruit and vegetables. She said they plan to make a food drop once a month, but will expand that to twice a month if  there is a need. While they are starting with 200 families, it could be increased to 250, if needed, she said.

   Bandy said there were 300 who signed up at South Middle School and so the first 200 were chosen.

   Bandy told the board she needed volunteers to check off the names of those pre-approved for pickup as they get their food.

   She said the local food closets have been overwhelmed with those needing help and so this will fill a need.




VBT Public Safety Committee discusses end of police/fire reports at meetings

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   At its May 4 meeting, the Van Buren Township Public Safety Committee was told it no longer will have police and fire reports, as in the past, because of a decision by Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan.

   Director McClanahan said he, Fire Chief Darwin Loyer, Fire Lt. Ken Floro, and Community Policing Officer Adam Byrd gave a private presentation, instead, for Cable Channel 12.

   McClanahan said the program was recorded on April 19 and had played 35 times to date.

   “Let me get this straight,” said committee member Raymond Bailey. “If we want a briefing on police and fire, we have to watch Channel 12?”

   Committee members wanted to know who decided that, since the committee has been getting monthly reports for many months.

   McClanahan said he decided and, “It doesn’t mean there won’t be briefings at Public Safety Committee meetings,” but they won’t be at every meeting.

   At the April meeting McClanahan said it took too much time to prepare monthly reports for the committee.

   Under “New Business” on the May 4 agenda was an item “Recommend to the Board that Police and Fire Briefings be standard agenda items for monthly Public Safety Committee Meetings.”

   Since the item was put on the agenda by committee member Reggie Miller, and Miller was unable to attend the meeting, Vice Chairman Ramone Crowe made a motion to table the item until the next meeting when Miller was present to speak on the subject.

   “There are people who don’t have Comcast,” said resident John Delaney, noting some have dishes or no cable at all. He said those who are interested could come to the Public Safety Committee meetings in the past to hear the reports.

   “It’s the decision of the Public Safety Director to record it and stream it,” said Trustee Phil Hart, who is a voting member of the Public Safety Committee. (Actually, it was being shown as a program on cable TV, not being streamed.)

   “If we object, we have to talk to the [township] board?” Delaney asked, and Trustee Hart replied the public can bring any concern to the township board.

   “We are not totally eliminating briefings. We just won’t have them on a monthly basis,” said Crowe, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of chairman Michael Miazga. (The May meeting was the second monthly meeting without a report from the Public Safety Department.)

   The committee met May 4 with a bare quorum of four: Crowe, Bailey, Hart, and Richard Wardwell, with Miazga, Miller, and Diane Madigan absent.

   Resident Alan Babosh said that not everyone has cable and could they stream the reports on the internet?

   McClanahan said he didn’t know if the township has that technology or that capability, but it would be something “down the road.”

   Crowe said the goal of the committee is to listen to residents and determine “what we can do to support the community.”

   “We’re not shutting down communication,” said McClanahan. “We’re adding a different communication. We’re interested in giving budgets…”

   Changing the subject, Officer Byrd said he would like to see an updated ordinance on loud noises in the township, since the current one requires a warning that lasts 24 hour hours.

   With summer coming up and people playing loud music in cars and homes, he said he would like the committee to work on a noise ordinance, so police can write citations.

   “Can we do anything about loud noises with children in the car?” asked Bailey. “They are ruining their ears.”

   Byrd said in Detroit, where he used to be an officer, if there is sound 50 feet from the device, police can write a citation.

   He said the current ordinance requires a complaining resident to go to court and miss going to work that day, but if they update it an officer alone could go to court.

   Byrd asked how soon they could get done and suggested a month or two and Crowe said that’s about right.

   Resident Cortez Brown, vice president of Pine Forest Homeowners Association, said he does not have Comcast and in a lot of places where Comcast is, it’s a monopoly.

   “To eliminate people who don’t have Comcast? That’s ugly to me,” Brown said.

   Committee member Richard Wardwell said AT&T carries the township cable channel on 99.

   “I have Comcast and I don’t like it because of the cost of it,” Bailey said, adding his wife likes it because she works in the gift shop and likes to see what’s going on in the township.

   Brown suggested they look at the original contract with Comcast and what was offered to the community.

   Concerning the noise ordinance, Delaney said Canton Township gives a warning that stays on the record for 180 days and they keep track of it.

   Byrd said the police shouldn’t have to give a warning. “We shouldn’t have to deal with people who are disturbing every day,” he said, noting if the same person is playing loud music and it’s more than 24 hours from the last warning, they have to start all over with a new warning.

   Crowe said they would get a copy of the Canton ordinance to study and Byrd suggested they also get Detroit’s ordinance to review.

   In other business at the 30-minute meeting, the committee:

   Agreed to send condolences from the committee to Madigan, following the recent death of her mother;

   Removed from the Old Business part of the agenda an item called “Purpose of the Public Safety Committee,” since it wasn’t old business. It will be placed on the next agenda as New Business;

   Heard Wardwell ask for a briefing on Nixle at the next meeting and McClanahan said he would give a report. McClanahan said Nixle has placed the township on notice that it will start charging, over $1,000 this year and more than $3,000 next year. He said there are slightly over 500 subscribers to Nixle in VBT and the cost isn’t justified;

   Heard Crowe note that VBT doesn’t have a warning system in place. He said he’s been told it’s better to get a weather radio. He wondered if there was any program to reimburse people for their radios and was told no. “My radio was $15 and it works fine,” Wardwell said; and

   Set the next meeting for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 1.


Editor’s Note: Ally McCracken, VBT Cable Director, said she has set a permanent schedule for the new Public Safety Report on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. She said it also will be seen in the time slots called “PROGRAM” from time to time. The cable schedule is posted on the VBT web site, but as of Saturday noon there was no posting of Public Safety Report.


BHS honors three distinguished graduates in Sunday ceremony

   On Sunday, May 15, three graduates of Belleville High School will be inducted into the Distinguished Graduates Hall of Fame. Their portraits will be hung with other honored graduates in the entryway of the BHS Auditorium.

   Those being honored this year are Reginald Grantham, Gregory Cooper, and the late William Gage.

   The Distinguished Graduates induction ceremony will be held in conjunction with the National Honor Society induction ceremony for high school students. The induction for the students will be expanded this year to include information on each student honored.

   The joint event, which is open to the public, begins at 2 p.m. at the BHS Auditorium, 501 W. Columbia Ave., Belleville.

   Because of construction at BHS, guests are asked to enter the campus by way of Davis Street, park at the rear of the building, and use the three blue doors marked for the pool for entry.

Reginald Grantham

Class of 1982

   Reginald (Reggie) Grantham, Class of 1982, is honored as a distinguished graduate in the field of education.

   As a student, Reggie was a stand-out member of the BHS basketball team.  He received a full scholarship to Fort Hays State University for his skill and team leadership.

   Reggie led his Fort Hays State University team to an NAIA championship and hall of fame induction. He transferred to, played basketball for, and graduated from Missouri Southern State University earning a Bachelor’s Degree in general studies in 1987.  He earned his Master’s Degree from Walden University in 2005.

   Grantham is the principal at Romulus Alternative High School. He had previously served as a Youth Specialist at W.J. Maxey Boys Training School and a Youth Specialist for FIA. He was an educator and principal for Romulus Community Schools. Reggie also coached varsity basketball for Ecorse High School.

   As an educator, mentor, and coach, Reggie serves his community by building strong relationships with young men and women to guide them in developing, maintaining, and achieving goals.

   Romulus Community High School was MAEO School of the Year when Reggie served as Dean of Students. He worked with the Service Learning project for Romulus Schools. He is involved in Habitat for Humanity and is a Mason. Reggie is involved in BHS activities through his nieces and nephews.

   Reggie is one of 11 children, all of whom graduated from BHS, and he was the second in his family to receive a college degree. His family had little financial means, but provided the love and support for him to achieve his goals. It is that support that Reggie provides to youth today. He is a champion for young men and women working to make and attain goals, he serves as a model of success for students who have obstacles to overcome, and he continues to pass along his family’s lessons of love and support. 

   Reggie shares his life with his wife, Mia, and their daughter, Raven.

Gregory Cooper

Class of 1980

   Gregory J. Cooper, Class of 1980,  also is honored as a distinguished graduate in the field of education.

   Gregory (Greg) Cooper had many positive experiences as a Belleville Tiger.  Influential educational figures at BHS helped fuel his desire to teach and lead others. By sharing his experiences, he has helped young men and women develop strong work ethics and achieve their goals.

   While attending BHS, Greg competed and lettered in football and swimming.  He was selected as the high school football player of the week twice in 1979. He lettered in swimming in 1978, 1979, 1980 while serving as the team co-captain his senior year.

   Greg attended the University of Wyoming, Wayne County Community College (Western Center), and graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in biology and a minor in chemistry in 1989. He earned his Master’s Degree in Secondary Curriculum from Eastern Michigan University in 2000, and is completing his Doctorate in Educational Leadership. 

   Greg currently works as the Executive Director of Curriculum Development for Wayne-Westland Community Schools. He previously served as the Executive Director of Secondary Education and the Director of Secondary School Development for Wayne-Westland.

   Prior to those positions, Greg was a middle school and high school science teacher in both St. Joseph Public Schools and Wayne-Westland Community Schools. Additionally, he served as a science department chair in Wayne-Westland Community Schools.  Greg also coached swimming and diving for Belleville, St. Joseph Public Schools, and Wayne-Westland Community Schools.

   As a coach, teacher, and mentor, Greg has served his community and several school districts in many ways. Greg served on the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) ethics committee and was a MI CLIMB trainer. He was a member of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) State Assessment and Accountability Committee and helped develop and review the MI BIG project in science. 

   Greg shares his life with his wife, Tara, and many family members who bring him great joy.

William Gage

Class of 1978

   William G. Gage, Jr., is honored, posthumously, as a distinguished graduate in the field of community service and protection.

   William (Bill) Gage, Jr., graduated from Belleville High School in 1978.  As a student, Bill was a member of the BHS Band Program and performed with the symphony, marching, and jazz bands. He also participated in cross country and was a member of the National Honor Society.

   Bill graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology in 1983.  While studying at U of M, he was a trumpet player for the marching band and, after graduation, for the alumni band. He graduated from the Eastern Michigan University School of Fire Staff and Command in 2010.

   Bill Gage served both the Van Buren Fire Department (Lieutenant) and the Brighton Area Fire Authority (Captain and Inspector). Bill served as an emergency dispatcher and in the Police Reserves.  He had previously worked as a teacher, soccer coach for the Van Buren Soccer Association, member of the MIS fire crew, owner of a Ziebart franchise, and manager for Atchinson Ford. 

   As a leader and mentor, Bill served his community in many ways, but he most enjoyed giving his time to young people. By listening, advising, and leading by example, he helped many secure stronger futures.

   He was a member, and served as president, of the Belleville Lions Club and was the treasurer of the Van Buren Soccer Association. He taught fire safety in the local schools. He was honored as Fire Inspector of the Year in 2010.   

   Bill shared his life with his wife and best friend, Tamara, and their two sons, Adam and Aaron. Bill Gage passed away on January 13, 2011. As a model of honor, compassion, and service, he touched many lives.

   In his final words to his wife: “I have lived a full life. I have done many things and enjoyed life. Please tell everyone to celebrate my life and to not be sad. We will all meet in heaven again. I just had to go earlier and prepare a place for us.”






published: May 5, 2011:
Sumpter Township voters support
1 mill more for police operations


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Sumpter Township voters approved 1 more mill for police protection with a margin of 15 votes at Tuesday’s election.

   The vote was 527 yes and 512 no. There are 7,350 registered voters and 1,039 went to the polls, for a turnout of 14%.

   The mood was tense at the clerk’s office as a small group of police officers and township officials paced waiting for results.

   Trustee Peggy Morgan called contact people at the six precincts to get unofficial totals from poll workers at the voting machines after the polls closed at 8 p.m.

   Morgan was the first to declare the victory – and later the clerk’s unofficial numbers agreed.

   “Oh, God. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Sumpter people. Thank you, Sumpter people,” Morgan yelled out as she spun around with her arms out like a helicopter.

   A relieved Police Chief Jim Pierce phoned Supervisor Johnny Vawters to give him the good news. Supervisor Vawter was sick in bed from the stress of township financial matters and the uncertainty of this election.

   “This is the greatest thing to happen to Sumpter Township,” Vawters said to the Independent. “I want to thank everyone who voted, and especially those who voted yes.

   “I know it is tough for some people and times are hard – and they voted for us anyway,” Vawters said.

   Trustee Morgan said Vawters hadn’t slept for two days and had to go home to bed earlier that day because he felt sick.

   After phone calls were made to a series of friends and supporters, the police officers at township hall got down to the business of planning the menu for the victory celebration that was being scheduled for another day.

   Last November voters approved a renewal of 2 mills for public safety by a 3 to 1 margin. Then it was found not to be enough because of falling township revenue.

   Supervisor Vawters said he had to give the residents a chance to vote on an additional millage, instead of everyone just sitting back and watching the township go into receivership.



VBT Trustee seeks PPO for police officer following death threats


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The day after a Michigan State Police detective completed an investigation of a Van Buren Township police officer and turned the evidence over to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for review, VBT Trustee Al Ostrowski filed a request for a Personal Protection Order against the officer.

   Last summer, Trustee Ostrowski had been the target of a series of harassing calls on his home telephone, which escalated to chilling death threats on his cell phone.

   The calls were saved and taken as evidence by MSP Detective/Sergeant Robert Weimer who investigated the case in great detail.

   “I have a fear of retaliation,” said Ostrowski who filed his PPO request on April 13 and was before 3rd Circuit Court Judge Charlene Elder in Detroit on April 26.

   When Judge Elder asked him why he waited so long to seek a PPO, Ostrowski said he was waiting for Weimer to complete his lengthy investigation.

   Also in court April 26 was the object of the PPO request, VBT Police Officer Marc Abdilla, who stood mute as his attorney Gregory Graessley, of the Michael Vincent law firm in Ypsilanti, explained to the judge that his client would not be talking or answering any questions.

   Before court began, Abdilla’s attorney Graessley asked for a conference out in the hallway with Ostrowski and Diane Madigan, who also was in court seeking a PPO against Abdilla.

   Ostrowski and Madigan refused to meet with Abdilla and his attorney, with Madigan explaining to the attorney, “I don’t want to ever talk to him again, after the death threats.”

   She referred to the death threats received by Ostrowski on his township cell phone. The last and most vicious of the calls was electronically manipulated to give Madigan’s name on the caller ID with her phone number. Actually, that phone number is in her husband’s name and his name comes up on a legitimate caller ID.

   The threat that was supposed to have originated with Madigan’s phone was, “Keep pushing a-- hole and you’re gonna be dead.” The call came at 4:06 p.m. on Sept. 16, just hours after Ostrowski made a request of the VBT police department about when the Drug Enforcement Authority agent would be at the township for a review of drugs used by the animal control officer.

   In Madigan’s official PPO request against Abdilla, she told of an incident that happened in the first week of February 2010 when Abdilla “cornered me against wall with [his] arm by my head” in front of a witness. She told the judge that Abdilla was very agitated and confrontational and she felt threatened.

   This incident happened after Madigan gave a report on fatigue, written by a former police chief and associate professor of criminal justice, telling how fatigue negatively affects the work of police officers and fire fighters.

   She gave this report in connection with a discussion on blended rates and how some cross-trained police officers go straight from their police shifts to their fire shifts. Abdilla is a cross-trained officer and the person with the second-highest income in the township.

   Judge Elder asked if Madigan filed a police report after she was confronted by Abdilla and Madigan replied, “He WAS the police.”

   Also, in her PPO request, Madigan wrote, “Because of my appointment to the Van Buren Public Safety Committee and my report on salary/overtime issues at township meetings, reports on citizens’ concerns about staffing levels and animal control operations, Officer Abdilla has on more than one occasion accosted me and made me and my family feel threatened.”

   The judge adjourned the proceedings briefly and went into her chambers. When she returned, she said she could not grant the requested PPOs because there was “no imminent threat” because the threats were more than six months old.

   She recommended the two retain an attorney and issue a subpoena for Det./Sgt. Weimer to come to court and testify. Ostrowski and Madigan said Sunday that they have retained an attorney and will be determining what their next steps will be.

   The judge gave a verbal order to Abdilla, telling him not to contact the two complainants in any way or to get anyone else to do it for him, including not to call them, drive by their houses, send emails, or anything else.

   She said Abdilla could attend open meetings, since they are public, but was not to interfere with Ostrowski’s duties on the township board or Madigan’s duties on the Public Safety Committee.

   The judge stated if he did any of these things, there would be no waiting period and the PPOs would immediately be granted.

   Ostrowski and Madigan were told by Judge Elder to leave the courtroom first and they were under the impression the PPO requests were left open. But, the court records show the PPO was denied because of the length of time since the threats.

   “I can tell you two are very scared,” the judge said to Ostrowski and Madigan when they stood before her.

   Ostrowski said Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan was also in the courtroom, sitting with Abdilla. Ostrowski said McClanahan did not greet the two complainants.

   Ostrowski, who was one of the board members that voted to hire McClanahan in a split vote, said he called Township Supervisor Paul White as soon as he got out of court.

   Ostrowski said he asked for  McClanahan’s resignation for not being there to support the victims, but to support a police officer, instead.

   He said Supervisor White told him McClanahan was at court so if Abdilla had a PPO against him, McClanahan could go into a side room with the officer and Wayne County Sheriff’s deputies to relieve Abdilla of his gun, badge, and police ID.

   In his PPO request, Ostrowski wrote: “Considering the time line, the only thing left to do is for him (Marc Abdilla) to actually carry out his threat. I have feared for my life since the calls started coming in and have been seeing a psychiatrist since they began.

   “It has affected my decision-making process regarding matters that come before the Board of Trustees, of which I was duly elected to.

   “I fear that Marc Abdilla has the means to carry out his threat and may possibly do so in the near future,” he wrote.

   Later he said he is in fear of retaliation not only from Abdilla, but from other members of the police department.

   Details of the MSP investigation will be released if the Wayne County Prosecutor signs official warrants in the case. Ostrowski said the prosecutor’s office has assured him a warrant will be issued.

   Under Michigan law a person is entitled to seek a Personal Protection Order (PPO) through Circuit Court. It is intended to allow police to prevent a crime before it happens by preventing the other person from purchasing a fire arm or interfering with daily activities.

   A lawyer is not a requirement to seek a PPO and Ostrowski and Madigan appeared at court without counsel on April 26. Abdilla had his attorney Graessley and what appeared to be another attorney with him at the court hearing.



$2-million-plus project: BHS cafeteria turning into ‘The Commons’


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   After a lively discussion during its special meeting on April 26, the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to proceed with an upgrade to the current Belleville High School cafeteria to make it into “The Commons.”

   Cost of the project is more than $2 million, which would include raising the roof to improve acoustics and removing interior pillars that now block the sight line.

   The vote directed engineers to create specifications for the project and go out for bids so the exact price of construction could be determined. The actual approval of the project would come with the board’s acceptance of the bids.

   Architect John Davids of Fanning Howey said plans call for replacing the hard tile floor with rubber flooring, which would reduce the decibel level in the cafeteria. Pillars would be removed, which would increase the seating capacity and take away the blockages to sight lines.

   “I’m not as interested in the acoustics if it’s just a cafeteria,” said BHS Principal Michael Van Tassel, who said if the room was just for eating they could plug their ears and bear the noise during lunch time.

   But, he said, this space is the last piece of the puzzle in the new school  building and would provide a setting for 21st century learning.

   “Educational leaders are more interested in the learning environment,” Van Tassel said, noting that Eastern Michigan University has a true commons area, which is used for many different activities, especially group learning projects.

   He said the BHS commons space could be used for many different community activities.

   “Often this high school has ignored the community relationship,” Van Tassel said.

   Davids said the 12,000 square feet of room with a low ceiling “makes it feel flat to me.”

   Van Tassel said the bank of windows will bring in natural light. Davids said studies show teachers and students perform better with lots of natural light.

   “We are so close to a world-class high school in every respect, we don’t want to cheat this,” Van Tassel said.

   Davids said the auditorium and cafeteria are old buildings that are remaining and their update will improve the image of the building, so it’s not like a huge addition to an old building.

   He said they will take out the little strip of windows on the south side of the cafeteria, which now faces the classroom towers, and replace them with big windows to the north.

   He said people going by outside will be able to see the students inside. He said the new media center will be next to the cafeteria on the north side of the complex and it also will have large curved windows.

   Davids said with the addition of new bolstering trusses in two places, they will be able to take out the support columns to have one, big, open space.

   Van Tassel said the current cafeteria cannot be used for state testings of students because the lines of sight are blocked and tests cannot be properly monitored.

   Van Tassel said he hopes the Rotary and other community organizations will come in and use this space.

   “I hope the community would use it every night,” Van Tassel said. “The community is dying for a place like this.”

   Davids added that being at the front of the building with the media center, it will be one of the public hubs.

   Van Tassel said this goes along with the concept of an extended day, where German can be taught after school by Eastern Michigan University, with credit at EMU. He said BHS will have a college campus environment.

   Davids explained the furniture that has been chosen for the commons. Some tables will be at standing height rather than sitting, and there will be counter tops so students can eat together in groups, standing or sitting. There also will be tables.

   “We’re trying to get away from the prison tables,” Davids said, adding that most students have some form of undiagnosed ADD and can’t keep from moving their feet and hands.

   Davids said other furniture for the new school is ergonomic in design.

   Davids said the big atrium extension to the east of the commons will seat from 150 to 200 additional students. He said the new servery (food counter) on the south wall will have soups, salads, and other items.

   Van Tassel said for September, October, and November of 2012, when the cafeteria is being transformed into the Commons, students will eat in a temporary lunchroom in the auxiliary gym. The new wooden gym floor will be stored and the students will walk on the sealed concrete floor.

   He said the food will be cooked and brought in from South Middle School.

   Kenric D. Van Wyk, an acoustics engineer, told the board the BHS cafeteria is one of the noisiest cafeterias he’s ever measured. He said the upgrades will make a clearly noticeable change of noise levels, bringing the decibles from 85 to 75, which sounds half as loud.

   After all the discussion on the upgrades, resident Jane Kovach noted that this project is something that has been well-studied.

   “I’m inspired,” said Kovach, who had opposed the “raising of the roof” on the cafeteria. “I’m surprised I’m talking like this.”

   The board tabled the agenda item called “The Belleville High School Commons Proposal,” because it was vague and should have been just an informational item.

   Then, after much, discussion, the board approved directing engineers to make construction drawings and go out for bids on the $2-million-plus project that includes kitchen work.

   The Commons’ HVAC, cafeteria roof and interiors, estimated at $418,418, were added to the estimated $1,632,845 for raising the roof, glass, acoustical treatments, etc. bringing the total to over $2 million.

   Trustee Sherry Frazier chastised the architects and engineers for breaking the project into two parts, accusing them of not being straightforward.

   Board President Martha Toth said the board members had asked that the projects to be broken into two parts. Trustee Scott Russell said he did not recall any vote on that.

   Trustee Russell’s motion to table the vote on the project for two weeks to get public input failed 5-2, with Frazier being the only other board member supporting his motion.

   He said the people in the community were under the impression that the cafeteria work was to be $1.6 million and now it’s $2 million. He said he couldn’t see how holding off for two weeks could hurt the project, which was scheduled for late 2012.

   That evening’s meeting was held on a Tuesday, instead of the regular Monday meeting night (because of the Easter Monday school holiday) and at the cafeteria instead of the regular meeting sites. Only two members of the public attended: Kovach and Reggie Ion.

   The board also approved locking in up to $243,421 in bids for the roof replacement for the theater and low-roof kitchen area, hoping to get ahead of rising commodity prices due to climbing oil costs.

   In other business at the April 26 meeting, the board:

   • Heard an update on the BHS bond project and noted a board tour of the site will be arranged for sometime in May. The guaranteed maximum price of construction is $60,638,628 and the project is on schedule and 5% under budget. The total bond cost is $79,050,131;

   • Approved a resolution opposing the Governor’s proposed budget cuts, noting the Van Buren Public Schools budget is already down $6.3 million since 2008. Trustee Kevin English said that 100 other school districts have already adopted similar resolutions; and

   • Heard Treasurer Toni Hunt and Secretary Brenda McClanahan report on their two days in Lansing where they were trained as Emergency Managers to find out all about the process. McClanahan said an EM can dissolve a union after just 30 days if no consensual agreement can be reached and bargaining has come to an impasse. “We have to do everything in our power to avoid it,” Hunt said, noting a lot of other school board members were being trained of the 340 that received certification in her class. Hunt and McClanahan stressed the people trained as EM’s weren’t professional managers, but from all walks of life. School Supt. Thomas Riutta said, “They’re just warm bodies.” McClanahan said the EM’s would bring in forensic auditors and other consultants with the expense borne by the community. Hunt said the Emergency Managers come if a community or school board refuses to make the hard decisions.

Community Design forum for new library draws overflow crowd

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   More than 50 people crowded into the Belleville Area District Library meeting room on Saturday morning to give their opinions on what a new library should look like, when and if it is approved by voters.

   Architect Daniel Whisler said the sites for the main and the satellite libraries should be determined by the library board within in the next two months and then the concept designs should be done by December. That’s when a budget will be worked out and a price tag determined.

   He said the public will be educated on the project over the next year, with a vote on millage for the new building planned for the November 2012 ballot.

   Whisler said the timeline is subject to change.

   A 2005 study showed for 50,000 people in the 72-square-mile area covered by Belleville, Van Buren, and Sumpter a 47,000 square foot library would be needed. This is four times the size of the current 11,150 square foot library now in place.

   The Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments estimates that from 50,000 to 53,000 people will live in this area in 2035. The library will be planned to serve the local community for 20 years, Whisler said, but hopefully will be in service for 100 years.

   He said an update to the 2005 study is part of the district library agreement between Belleville, Van Buren, and Sumpter. It calls for one large and one smaller library within the service district.

   The agreement says if the main library is built north of Hull Road, the branch would be to the south. If the main library is located south of Hull, the satellite would be north of I-94.

   The estimated sizes would be 43,000 square feet for the main library and 3,500 square feet for the satellite.

   Whisler said Sumpter Township has 9.5 acres of land with the former health clinic it obtained from Wayne County and that is considered a good site. The present building is not suitable to bear the weight of books and so a new building could be constructed on the site.

   But, he stressed, the sites are yet to be determined by the board. After the regular board meeting in April, the board went into closed-door session with its attorney and Whisler to consider property acquisition.

   After a lively discussion on a library’s use now and in the future, Whisler and architect Seth Penchansky presented 153 slides of libraries throughout the world and asked those present to grade each slide on how much the person liked it and then how suitable it is for a library in Belleville. He said he would flash each slide just 20 seconds, but actually lingered on some.

   The two architects are with the firm of Penchansky Whisler of Ann Arbor, which has been chosen by the board to design the new library.

   Whisler said the slide exercise was to find out what Belleville likes. He made disparaging remarks on some library designs shown – “This is crazy stuff … They must have got a deal on tile…” -- leading the public in its grading.

   Barbara Miller asked from the audience, when the exercise was at about slide 53, if they couldn’t put it on the library web site so people could look at the buildings and make proper comments.

   Whisler ignored her remark and continued with the slides. Miller left the meeting in frustration. One reporter from a local newspaper fell asleep in the darkened room during the exercise and a second reporter left the meeting.

   The community forum lasted 35 minutes longer than the advertised noon closing time.

   Members of the public commented on various things they would like to see in the new library, and one young man asked for things that could be done immediately, such as improved parking and opening the library on Sundays when most people don’t work and could use a library.

   Library Director Deb Green said there were staffing problems and, “We can’t afford it.”

   Whisler agreed that the days the library is open is an operating budget issue and all libraries would like to be open seven days a week.

   Whisler said Belleville is a practical community and wants good value for its investment. He made that comment after several people said they would like to see a library design that is simple, yet functional, without a lot of fancy designs.

   “I’m a minimalist,” agreed local architect George Craven, adding, “Too much is going on” in many of the slides that were shown.

   Whisler said the design should embody the Belleville community, and members of the audience suggested the design should include the feeling of the lake, its farming community, automotive history, the Bomber Plant and forests, green grass and fields – a more traditional design.

   Penchansky scratched his head when considering the Bomber Plant part of a design and Tom Fielder suggested they could put an old plane from the Yankee Air Museum on the lawn, or a model hanging from the ceiling in the children’s room.

   Whisler suggested those with suggestions to give them to staff members at the library because this phase of the project is continuing. There will be other public meetings in the future as the library design is worked out, he said.



Published April 28, 2011:
U.S. Judge Sean Cox dismisses pat-down

law suit against VBT, police officers

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   On April 8, U.S. District Court Judge Sean F. Cox signed an order dismissing the law suit brought by Ahmad Kasham of Ypsilanti, against the Van Buren Township Police Department, the township, and four officers.

   The dismissal was “with prejudice,” which means a case is dismissed for good reason and the plaintiff is barred from bringing an action on the same claim.

   Kasham’s attorneys of record are J. Geoffrey Lahn and David A. Shand of Saline, who could not be reached by the Independent in time for this report to learn if they will be appealing Judge Cox’s order.

   Kasham was arrested by VBT Police on July 10, 2009 for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Upon his arrest, a female officer conducted a pat-down search of Kasham and Kasham sued, stating he was a Muslim man and she should not have touched, or even looked at him, between his knees and waist by a woman.

   In his deposition, Kasham said the arrest in front of his friends, who were in the car with him after leaving Diamondback Saloon, made him look like a bad guy, “… and instead of leaving with a good impression with these friends of mine, they just looked at me like I’m this big retard that just got in trouble…”

   He filed suit on May 25, 2010 naming as defendants Van Buren Township Police Department, Van Buren Township, Officer Jessica Shippe, Officer Michael Papin, and two unnamed officers.

   He claimed the other police officers laughed at him while he was being patted down by Officer Shippe which humiliated him further.

   Following the close of discovery on Dec. 27, 2010, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Because Kasham’s attorneys did not file a response to the motion within the required time, the Court ordered him to show cause why the unopposed motion should not be granted.

   In response to that order, Kasham’s counsel filed a brief on March 18 and on April 8 Judge Cox dismissed the case. The trial had been scheduled to begin in September or October.

   There was no monetary settlement and the judge ended the suit with his order.

   Ethan Vinson of Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho represented the defendants.

   The patrol car was equipped with a camera that recorded most of the traffic stop and the defendants submitted the video recording as an exhibit in support of their successful motion to dismiss.

   Last June, after the Independent filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the dash-cam tape of the arrest, the newspaper was denied by Clerk Leon Wright because, he wrote, the tapes are “personal and confidential” and exempt from disclosure.

   The appeal to Supervisor Paul White” also was denied, based on advice from township attorney Stephen J. Hitchcock who stated, in part, “We are of the opinion that there is very little benefit to the public by disclosure of this video. The individual who is the subject of the stop has already expressed concern about embarrassment and humiliation over events that occurred during this stop and certainly considers the actions to be personal and confidential, particularly in light of the fact that there was no subsequent conviction on the matter for which the arrest occurred.

   “While the arrest was made on a public road, it was in the evening and no one could see or identify the individual who was the subject of the arrest. The fact that public equipment was used or public employees were involved does not waive the personal nature of the event …”

   The Independent had already obtained a copy of some of the still photos from the federal court files but it was not as clear as the original tape would have been for reproduction. Eventually, the township submitted the whole tape as part of the evidence, which then put it all in the public domain.

VBT Board turns down negotiated police contract in 3-4 vote


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Having the Sept. 3, 2008 letter of understanding on take-home cars become a part of the formal contract between Van Buren Township and its police officers would take away management’s rights.

   This was the reason four members of the VBT Board gave for voting no on the two-year, negotiated contract presented to them at its April 19 meeting.

   The local unit of the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC) for police officers and dispatchers had already ratified the contract, which was to run from Jan. 1, 2010 through Dec. 31, 2011.

   Trustee Phil Hart made the motion to approve the contract and Treasurer Sharry Budd seconded the motion. Trustee Jeff Jahr joined them in yes votes. (Hart and Budd represented the township board on the negotiation team.)

   Voting no were Trustees Denise Partridge and Al Ostrowski, Clerk Leon Wright, and Supervisor Paul White.

   The motion failed 3-4.

   Resident Carl Pedersen, who had spoken against the take-home cars at previous board meetings, said he had researched the situation and wanted to give the board some facts before they voted.

   He said there are 10 take-home cars allocated to the VBT police department: four for the Special Investigation Unit, three for investigators, one for each captain, and one for the director.

   Pedersen said he got information on the nearby Canton Police Department with a Freedom of Information Act request. In Canton there are five unmarked cars, one take-home car for the on-call detective, to be used for business only, and one for the director of public safety. All costs for the cars come out of the police budget.

   He said the agreement on the Canton cars was dated Jan. 26, 2011.

   Pedersen said there are 43 sworn officers in VBT and a population, as of the 2010 census, of 28,821, which amounts to 670 people per police officer.

   In Canton, there are 85 sworn officers with a population of 90,173, for a total of one officer for every 1,060.86 residents.

   Pederson said the cost of the VBT director’s vehicle, a 2011 Ford Taurus, is $14,000. Captain Kenneth Brooks’ vehicle cost $16,421.68, Pederson said and he did not get the cost of the vehicle for the other captain.

   The detective bureau and SIU cars are purchased with state forfeiture funds, but there is no information kept on gas use of any of the vehicles, Pedersen said.

   Pedersen, who has many years of experience in union negotiating, said the letter of understanding, spelling out take-home cars for officers, is “taking away from your management rights.”

   Trustee Denise Partridge, who when she worked at the township was active in AFSCME union and served as its president, stated, “I believe the letter of understanding is in direct conflict with management rights.”

   “We followed the process for bargaining,” said Trustee Hart. “We worked out an agreement.” He said it was discussed in executive session to get direction from the board.

   “The process was followed and we’re here,” Hart said.

   “I’ve been against these take-home cars from the start,” said Trustee Ostrowski. “I’ll be voting no.”

   After Hart made the motion, Clerk Wright said, “It’s not an issue with take-home cars. My wife has a take-home car from the State of Michigan.”

   He said the administrator (public safety director) should approve who takes home cars, not have it written in the contract.

   “I don’t remember TA’ing that letter,” Clerk Wright said, using the abbreviation for “tentative agreement.”

   “I agree with Trustees Ostrowski and Partridge and Clerk Wright,” said Supervisor Paul White. “I don’t think we should sign any contract that negotiates administrative rights.”

   After the 3-4 vote was taken and the contract was rejected, Hart said to fellow board members, “My advice is to pay attention in work-study” sessions.

   Supervisor White said the board was told the letter of understanding had already been TA’d.

   “The preservation of manager’s rights is … critical,” White said.

   Hart said Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan has the right to assign cars by giving the positions that rate cars to the officers.

   “By giving that position, he does administer,” Hart said.

   “There’s no discretion at all under the letter,” White insisted.

   “Everyone knew the letter of understanding was included,” said an irritated Treasurer Budd. “We always go to four years (for a contract) and we shortened it to two because that was going to be addressed. But, it was too late… I’m very disappointed.”

   Clerk Wright said once the letter was entered into the contract, it would have to be negotiated out.

   “It is already a part of the contract,” Budd stated.

   The 2008 letter was signed by former Supervisor Cindy King and former Public Safety Director Jerry Champagne in the September after King was ousted from the Democratic ticket in the August primary.

   Supervisor White asked if there was a motion to approve the contract without the letter of understanding and Budd blocked that request.

   “You can’t do it,” Budd stated.

   Under the non-agenda items discussion, John Delaney said it is estimated that the 10 take-home cars added the equivalent of $10,000 per car to each officer’s income. Delaney said the township could save some money by not letting all those cars be assigned.

   CeeJay Marshall said he doesn’t have a problem with the cars and it “should have been resolved before it got to the table.” He said Supervisor White has a take-home car and, “When I call 911, he doesn’t come.”

   Community Policing Officer Adam Byrd reminded everyone that two police officers were shot to death the day before in Texas and Kalamazoo and six police officers were killed in the U.S. since the last board meeting. He said when he looks at the amount of narcotics and guns taken off the streets by the VBT police, he is proud.

   Larry Fix said the turn-down of the contract was “a slap in the face to bargaining units on both sides.”

   Officer Byrd asked if because the contract was turned down, does this mean the union can go back to the table and negotiate raises?

   Supervisor White said the board could not address negotiations at the table.

   “We had a bargaining team and it came to us in closed session,” said an irritated Trustee Jahr. “I thought we were all in basic agreement … Yesterday (at the work/study session), I said we should go back into closed session (to discuss it) and nobody wanted to do that… Frankly, this is an embarrassment to the community.”

   Clerk Wright said earlier that day he asked to have it taken off the agenda and that didn’t happen. He said he had to vote his conscience and he had a problem with that letter becoming a part of the contract.

   “The Director deserves the right to manage it and he can’t manage it if it’s part of the contract,” Wright said.

   “It’s a heck of a way to run a ship,” sputtered Jahr.

   Hart wanted to know why Wright seconded the motioned to approve the agenda with the contract on it and Wright said he asked the supervisor at the work/study session to take it off the agenda.

   “This has been an area of contention in executive session,” White said and an angry Budd stated, “That’s wrong.”

   In presenting the contract to the board at the workshop session, Director McClanahan said there were 11 material changes to the contract, which included the term of two years, rather than four.

Contract provisions

   There was to be a wage freeze, with step increases continuing.

   Bereavement leave was to be expanded to be available for the death of a spouse’s child, grandparents and grandchildren. One day of bereavement leave would be available for the death of an uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece.

   As to discipline, an oral reprimand of an employee may be considered for purposes of imposing discipline for a period of up to two years. A written reprimand may be considered in imposing disciplinary action for up to three years.

   As to job assignments, if an officer with less seniority is given an assignment, an officer with greater seniority who submitted a notice of interest will have the right to speak to the Director or his designee to be advised of any areas of concern and/or improvement relevant to the assignment. The Director or designee’s response would be in writing.

   Pay upon separation: employees that are separated from employment due to normal or disability retirement shall receive pay for one-half of their unused sick time. However, these payments will not be considered for retirement purposes.

   Transfer of sick time: employees may, at their option transfer unused sick time to another employee for an exceptional bona fide medical situation.

   Maximum sick time accumulation would be 400 hours. Compensatory time accumulation shall be a maximum of 72 hours.

   During the April 18 workshop session, Budd said the negotiating team was told by the attorney that the township could be accused of unfair labor practice if the letter of understanding was not included in the contract and, “We would lose.”

   She said the union wanted a four-year contract and the township gave a two-year contract in exchange for the letter.



Sumpter Twp. Police operations depend on May 3 election results

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Although they haven’t been saying what would happen if the 1 additional mill for police operation doesn’t pass in the May 3 election, Sumpter Township Police officers and supporters indicate it would negatively affect the level of service township residents now have.

   Police Lt. Eric Luke, speaking as a citizen, has led two public forums and spoken at mobile home community meetings and elsewhere to explain what is at stake.

   The 1 mill of additional taxation is expected to bring in $335,000 for the first year it is levied: 2011.

   It would run concurrently with the 2 other police mills for five years, 2011-2015, that were renewed last November. This would make a total of 3 mills levied for police protection, operation, and maintenance.

   Lt. Luke recalled that last November voters passed the 2-mill renewal by a vote of 3 to 1. Since the police department had had cost-cutting measures in 2009-10, they thought the 2-mill renewal would be all they needed.

   But then the landfill royalties went down substantially, some $1.4 million over two years.

   Police, and other unions of the township, agreed to a 5% cut in pay and to pay more out-of-pocket for health care.

   The police budget went from $2 million in 2008-9 to $1.5 million proposed for 2011-12.

   When the board voted on the ballot language in February, Township Supervisor Johnny Vawters said he didn’t want to sit at the board table and watch the township go into receivership without giving the voters a chance to decide on the millage.

   He estimated the additional mill will cost the average Sumpter resident 15 cents a day more in taxes and conceded that some residents may not be able to afford that 15 cents. He said the township has to ask.

   Sumpter Township residents also pay 1 mill for fire protection and .7 mill for the district library, along with the 1 mill township tax and other county levies for a total of 35 mills, with only 4.7 mills coming back to the township.

   Vawters said police and dispatch could be severely impacted if the millage doesn’t pass and reminded everyone that the police department is the township’s first line of defense.

   Vawters said Sumpter is in serious negotiations with Huron Township to consolidate dispatch services, which would cut the dispatch costs for Sumpter about in half.

   The police department is down four officers, Lt. Luke said at the forums.




published April 21, 2011
Belleville Planning Commission hears presentation on BYC clubhouse

By Bob Mytych, Independent Special Writer

   At its April 14 meeting at city hall, the Belleville Planning Commission got a first look at a proposal by the BYC (Belleville Yacht Club) to build a 6,000 square foot, one-story clubhouse on a vacant lakefront parcel of property, located on North Liberty Street.

   At its April 14 meeting at city hall, the Belleville Planning Commission got a first look at a proposal by the BYC (Belleville Yacht Club) to build a 6,000 square foot, one-story clubhouse on a vacant lakefront parcel of property, located on North Liberty Street.

The project would consist of a 3,000 square foot dining area, among several other club rooms and 10 parking spots.

Lance Warden, architect for Davenport Brothers Construction, presented the conceptual plan and told the commission that details of the proposal is in the infancy stage and the presentation was to give the group and the public a first look at the plans.

Warden said the clubhouse consists of a combination of concrete block and glass to offer outstanding views of the lake as well as from Liberty Street. Warden said that the large dining area would allow events like receptions, parties and other functions to be used by member and those available to access the facilities through members.

Warden said the charter of the organization allows for a hundred members and currently there are 52 and therefore warranting the ten parking spaces as required by the city ordinance.

Warden added that there’s a drop-off area on the plans and the site is landscaped heavily in the front, both sides of the property as well as the side facing the lake.

Warden said that there would be no full-time employees staffing the facility and that workers would consist of members and families as volunteers.

Warden said that the he would like to utilize some of the offsite parking across the street -- meaning the city-owned parking lot behind the drugstore and the Bayou Grill.

BYC Commodore Scott Jones answered questions regarding the boat slips and gave an update on where the plan is.

“We’ve applied for 45 slips but we don’t know where we’ll be,” Jones said.

One audience member questioned with the 45 slips and 10 parking spaces would that create a demand that could possibly cause an overflow of the city-owned lot so much as people aren’t going to be able to get prescriptions and they’re going to want to go somewhere else.

When asked, Warden didn’t know how many spots were available across the street

Lakeside resident Jeff Riggs produced a hypothetical scenario where the parking lot will be maxed out during special events like holidays, festivals, and air show weekends.

“Those are the days that are going to be the most crowded at the Bayou and for public parking for the rest of the citizens,” Riggs said.

Jones said that the ordinance requires one parking space for every five members.

Warden also said that that rezoning to OS-1 would also be required on the parcel.

Planning Commissioner John Juriga asked Jones to provide an overview of the organization and its function.

“July will be our second year and our main function so far is community based events, like Winter Fest, Strawberry Festival and our real intention is to introduce people to the water,” Jones said.

Jones said they have sponsored boater safety classes and provided ice skating, six events so far.

He said the group is organized under a 501c7 and is a social club.

Juriga pointed out the BYC logo has a martini glass for the Y.

Jones stated that the organization has not applied for a liquor license at this time and that they’ve purchased single day licenses for past events.

Planning Commissioner Mike Renaud asked Jones what or how much of the site plan is dependant on the 45 slips.

Jones answered that the 45 slips is going through the review process with the township, the DNR and other agencies and the BYC is going forward with the clubhouse regardless of the number of slips.

Van Buren Township determined it had no authority to grant the 45-slip marina requested by BYC and so the club is appealing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that has jurisdiction because of French Landing Dam.

Jeff Riggs brought up concerns by himself and nearby neighbors that aren’t directly affected by the parcel, but are concerned about noise generated at the location, especially during weekdays.

Ray Sinkiewicz, who lives two doors from the parcel on Liberty has concerns about alcohol being brought in the area and the sound level, even a mild manner of talking travels a long way, he said. Sinkiewicz added that an example of a crying baby in the late hours would be intrusive, along with the amount of boats that the docks would generate.

Warden added that the project is still in the preliminary stage of design and regulations and that the hours of operation, landscaping, screening, noise mediation, and other site plan requirements have yet to be finalized.

Riggs said that he visited the parking lot across the street last week on a rainy, gray day and found that there were a little over 30 cars in the lot for the businesses there, out of a total of 89 spaces, and that another assessment should be conducted in the summer when the community is more active.

Under commissioner comments, Planning Commission Vice Chairman Thomas Smith read a letter he prepared supporting the BYC project.







Belleville City Council approves slightly shortened Strawberry Festival


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Rather than closing down Main Street on Thursday afternoon of Strawberry Festival, the amusement rides will be set up after 9 p.m. Thursday and the vendors will arrive to set up at 8 a.m. on Friday and crafters at noon.

   The festival will open at 4 p.m. Friday instead of noon as in previous years. (The St. Anthony Church part of the festival will continue on its own schedule, as in the past, with the carnival starting on Thursday.)

   This was the schedule approved by the Belleville City Council at Monday’s regular meeting. The festival is planned for June 17-19 on Father’s Day weekend.

   The Strawberry Festival Committee noted the new schedule will allow the Main Street businesses to keep their regular hours on Friday and the city will not have to close Main Street at 6 p.m. Thursday or provide security on Thursday night, as in the past.

   Also, the vendor area will be pulled back to First Street on Main, with the area between First and Five Points to be filled with inflatables for children. This will mark the beginning of the festival area. The inflatables will be moved so the parade can pass by on Saturday.

   On Sunday, some of the vintage cars will be on display in that part of Main Street, leading visitors to the annual car show at Victory Park.

   Tom Fielder told the council that a Chrysler dealership also will be displaying some of its new models at the festival.

   Instead of spray painting booth areas on the new Main Street and streetscape, the festival committee said it would use the marked parking lane for booth areas and use tape or chalk to mark booth numbers. DPW Director Keith Boc said he hopes the new lines will be painted by then.

   After discussion, the council unanimously approved the Strawberry Festival’s annual Administrative Policy and its Responsibility Policy.

   In other business at Monday’s meeting, the council:

   • Approved the transfer of a Class C liquor license being held in escrow to Charhouse LLC at 524 Main Street from Pizza Hut of America at 14550 Fort, Southgate. The Liquor Control Commission makes the final decision on the license. John and Cindy Dakis, owners of the Charhouse, said they are waiting for the Health Department to make a final inspection and give them the OK to open, and they will open as soon as possible;

   • Approved the third-annual Freddie Harris Memorial 2k walk/5k run to benefit the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, as presented by Freddie Harris’ daughter Melissa Varney. The event will begin at Horizon Park at 8 a.m. Sept. 17, which necessitates closing part of High Street;

   • Approved the request of the First United Methodist Church, as presented by Dee Stansifer, to use the gazebo and lawn at Horizon Park for a community worship service at 9 a.m. Aug. 14;

   • Approved the request of the VFW and PLAV to sell Buddy Poppies at various locations along Main Street on May 7-9. The proceeds are used for worthy causes in the community;

   • Approved accounts payable of $126,787.24 including a purchase in excess of $500 to the Oakland County Treasurer’s office for the CLEMIS service for the police department, $1,962.75;

   • Heard City Manager Diana Kollmeyer announce that City Hall will be closed on Good Friday, but open on Easter Monday;

   • Heard Fielder announce that Parks & Recreation is planning a fun run/walk on June 4 to highlight Village Park, which is the largest park in the city with the most amenities. He said also the Belleville Historical Society is coming to visit Belleville on May 7 and the Belleville group will visit Wyandotte the following weekend;

   • Heard Fielder also announce that the Central Business Community decided to cancel last Saturday’s Easter party for children at Victory Park because of the weather and because of the sensitive digital cameras and printers. Flop E. Bunny will be at the park at noon this Saturday, April 23, and the activities for children will proceed;

   • Heard Fielder also announce that a group of local non-profit groups are working together to develop a community calendar so events can be coordinated. Currently there are many events planned for April 30, he noted; and

   • Went into closed session to discuss the status and strategy of pending union negotiations.

Van Buren School administrators wrestle with ways to trim $6.9 million


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Michael Dixon, business office consultant to the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education, gave a brief report to the board April 11 on cuts that have been considered in order to trim $6.9 million from next year’s budget.

   The budget has to be balanced by the end of June when it must be approved.

   There are many unknowns as legislators and the governor work on ways to cut the state budget, and some details involve education.

   He said the state thinks Van Buren will lose more than the 93 students projected.

   Dixon said the Van Buren Public schools budget being considered is a “rollover budget” at the moment with the same programs as last year as they discovered the Minimum Operating Threshhold (MOT).

   He said they discovered the shortfall won’t be covered by going to MOT and the board will have to look at salaries and benefits. A special board meeting was set for April 13 to discuss contract negotiations in closed session.

   Dixon said preliminary discussions suggested cutting 15.4 teaching staff, cutting one administrator and 5.5 clerical positions in support services, and cutting four custodians (with a plan to do cleaning on alternate days).

   Eliminating transportation for general education students would save some $1.455 million ($1.9 million if athletic transportation is included) and eliminating athletics would save $472,000.

   He said these cuts only amount to about $3.2 million, half of what is needed to balance the budget.

   “We have to look at salaries and benefits if we intend to be balanced for the next fiscal year,” Dixon said. “We’re still working on this.”

   In other business at the April 11  meeting, the board:

   • Voted 5-2 to turn down a motion by Trustee Sherry Frazier to hire a three-hour paraprofessional until the end of the school year for the Kindergarten classroom at Edgemont that is being taught by a permanent substitute. Trustee Scott Russell, who put the item on the agenda, supported the motion and Frazier and Russell were the only yes votes;

   • Voted 5-2 to turn down a motion by Russell, supported by Frazier, to recommend in writing that Plante Moran CRESA, the owner’s representative for the $79 million Belleville High School project, dissolve its private bond committee and the school board organize instead a public bond committee subject to the Open Meetings Act. The work of the bond committee is almost complete, since most of the bids have been let and plans made, but Russell wanted more transparency for the recommendations left. Board members were concerned about added costs and delay in the project if the committee was disbanded and then appointed. Trustee Kevin English stressed that the committee only made recommendations and the board voted to spend money. Frazier said the board was skirting the real issue and Board President Martha Toth said former Board President David Peer has not been back to the bond committee meetings. “He got the message you didn’t want him there,” Toth said to Frazier. English referred to a mysterious “conflict of interest” by a board member, but said it should be revealed “in your own time”;

   • Voted unanimously to set up a pilot data seminar as suggested by Russell. He said since the district wants to be “data driven” a no-charge workshop would teach how to represent data accurately. He said he could arrange for an expert in the field to present it to administrators, board members, and other interested teachers. He said it would be strictly educational and there would be no sales pitch;

   • Approved Plante Moran CRESA bid package #4 for wheel chair lifts from low bidder Acton Rental & Sales in an amount not to exceed $45,000;

   • Approved Plante Moran CRESA/ Granger Construction field orders recommendations, at a net cost of $5,777. The changes include $4,532 for four inches of masonry because walls didn’t match up due to a dimensional error in the drawings;

   • Approved Plante Moran CRESA recommendation for additional services by Fanning Howey of $36,080 for approved alternates relating to athletic bleachers, cafeteria seating expansion, interior finishes updates, and theater equipment;

   • Approved Plante Moran CRESA bond project alternate of $14,800 to Fanning Howey to study a 3,000-pound acoustical shell for the auditorium and if the building structure can support this shell. When the asbestos ceiling was removed from the auditorium, it ruined the acoustics and musicians can’t hear each other playing, Toth said. “We may come back and tell you it can’t support the shell,” said Sid Dotinga of Granger Construction;

   • Approved renting for two years the 20.2 acres on Denton Road owned by the district to Jamie Robson to grow field corn at a fee of $1,132 per year, paid in advance each year. Robson outbid Albert F. Block, who bid $900 per year, who has been renting and farming the property for years;

   • Agreed to participate in the schools of choice program, with the exact number of seats open in each grade to be determined by the mid-August deadline, when public notice is required;

   • Agreed to award the bid for the district’s $2.3 line of credit to PNC bank at interest of .3%. The loan is necessary for cash flow purposes for April-August, when state aid funds will arrive;

   • Agreed to cut tuition fees for Bright Beginnings preschool to make it more affordable and increase enrollment. The board was told the program was making more money than it should;

   • Agreed to ask the attorney to fashion a contract with Community Care Services to lease space in the portable units previously used by alternative education classes at 416 Sumpter Road and bring the contract back to the board for consideration. Community Care Services has been at the corner of Sumpter and Owen streets for 25 years and the landlord wants to sell the building. This is the second community services tenant for the portables;

   • Agreed to hold a special board meeting on April 13 to consider union negotiations. Most of the meeting was to be in closed session, but there was a possibility a decision could be made in open session following the closed meeting;

   • Reminded everyone that a special meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 26, at the BHS cafeteria to discuss the construction schedule, phases of the work, and alternate projects that could be paid for with the bond money, including raising of the cafeteria roof;

   • Approved requested terminations of teachers Robert Boudreau at BHS, after 39 years of service, for retirement; Patricia Matkovic of Edgemont, after 17 years, for retirement; Katherine Murphy at BHS after 16 years of service, for retirement; Therese-Ann Eldredge at BHS after three years of service, for personal reasons; Jennifer Masterson, BHS, after one year, for personal reasons; David Palay of BHS after one year of service for personal reasons; and Christine Vandenberg of North Middle School after one year of service for personal reasons;

   • Approved hiring Gary Kowalske as a bus driver starting March 29 and Tamarra Getty as a food service worker at BHS starting April 12; and

   • Was informed of tenure status for certificated staff members. Teachers recommended for continued probation and eligible for tenure in April 2011: Sarah Emerson, Tamara Hanaka, Elise Harrison, Michelle Kinsey, Felecia Lasenby, James Parcha, Sarah Sierota, Jake Sweets, and Sara Taylor. Eligible for tenure in November are Melissa Lloyd and Kristen Horchem. Eligible in April 2012 are Constance Testorelli, Gary Stevens, and Angela Albany. Eligible in April 2013 are Megan King and Jessica Schwartz-Olma. Eligible in November 2013 is Brookly Dobis.


VBT Board approves PRD, final prelim. plat extensions for ELRO's development

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The Van Buren Township Board of Trustees, on a 4-3 vote at its April 5 meeting, approved the four-year extension of the approved Planned Residential Development Agreement for ELRO Corp.’s Bedford Cove -- with stipulations.

   This is the first PRD the township has been asked to extend. No construction has taken place since its approval.

   Richard Schoener of ELRO has provided a document promising not to build anything for the first three years because he was told the township already has 791 vacant lots to develop.

   Elro has 95 acres, the former Girard Produce farm on West Huron River Drive, and plans for 201 free-standing, single-family homes with 30% open space.

   He said between the land purchase, taxes, permits, and engineering work, Elro has more than $4 million invested in the project and doesn’t want to lose that. The PRD was expiring in April.

   Schoener also is the developer of Mission Pointe, which board members praised, noting he always did what he said he would do.

   “He shouldn’t be punished for the economy,” said Clerk Leon Wright.

   Voting for the PRD extension were Trustees Al Ostrowski and Phil Hart, Treasurer Sharry Budd, and Clerk Wright. Voting no were Trustees Denise Partridge and Jeff Jahr and Supervisor Paul White.

   In making the motion to extend the final preliminary plat for Bedford Cove subdivision for five years, Budd noted that this was on the recommendation of the attorney, because it goes with the PRD. This passed on a unanimous vote, with Supervisor White changing his vote to yes after first voting no.

   In other business at the April 5 meeting, the board:

   • Approved an agreement with Detroit Edison to supply electrical power at meter pits for the water tower project at a cost of $3,810. The water meter and control valve pits are located on Hannan and Haggerty roads;

   • Adopted a resolution continuing the Downriver Wastewater Treatment System Joint Management Committee until the end of the year, while negotiations continue to replace the current service agreement between Wayne County and the Authority which expires March 1, 2012;

   • Approved an intergovernmental agreement with Wayne County for $60,000 in parks and recreation funds from the quarter mill paid by county residents to be used for an upgrade to the gymnasium floor and agreed to go out for bids on a scissor-interlocking maple hardwood flooring with foam underneath. This will raise the floor 2” so hoops will have to be raised and doors trimmed at the bottom, as well as a ramp installed. The floor was installed in what was the old DPW garage in 1996. The township will pay for the project and be reimbursed by the county; and

   • Approved naming longtime township attorney Patrick McCauley as principle township attorney with his law firm of Gasiorek, Morgan, Greco and McCauley, P.C. He has left the firm of Giarmarco, Mullin and Horton. McCauley said his present rate, in effect since November 2006, will remain for calendar years 2011 and 2012 at $136 per hour for general legal work and $156 per hour for litigation. McCauley said he has worked for VBT though Supervisors Jacokes, Foster, King, and White. At the workshop session, Trustee Hart pointed out that McCauley has been involved in law suits that cost the township a lot of money.

   The Keystone Academy Daisy Scouts led those present in the Pledge to the Flag.

   The board held a closed-door session after its workshop on April 4 to discuss negotiations with the Police Officers Labor Council Command Unit, a slip and fall occurrence before the insurance providers, and “to review attorney client privileged communication.”


published April 14, 2011
Wal-Mart Greeter acts quickly when customer has heart attack

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Walmart Greeter Doug Hill is being credited with saving the life of customer Stephen Collins in the early morning hours of April 5 when Collins stumbled into the store, clutched his chest, and fell to one knee, grabbing the metal post at the door.

   “He was having a heart attack. He had all the symptoms,” said Hill, 58, who grabbed an electric cart, put Collins in it and called 911.

   A Van Buren Township police officer arrived almost immediately, with the fire department at his heels. Huron Valley Ambulance had been staging nearby, waiting for a call in the parking lot next to Walmart and arrived at once.

   Meanwhile, Hill was directed to give Collins four baby aspirins and a Walmart employee ran down the aisles of the store to retrieve a bottle.

   Within minutes, Collins, 60, was on his way to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital where a team of doctors opened up his arteries with a stent.

   “This is very fast,” said cardiologist Dr. Al Dodds, who worked on Collins. He said Collins had a blood pressure of 50 when EMS got there and he would have had a cardiac arrest within minutes had he not had prompt attention.

   “I think the greeter truly saved Mr. Collins life, as the outcome would have been very different had he progressed to cardiac arrest.

   “Mr. Collins had his artery opened 1:15 hours after onset of symptoms, which is very fast.

   “It allows the heart to heal with minimal damage, compared to someone who comes in several hours after symptom onset,” Dr. Dodds said.

   Dr. Dodds told store general manager Dan Alstead that Hill should be named Employee of the Year for his quick thinking that saved a man’s life.

   Store officials indicated Hill has been nominated for the honor and there will be a celebration. Hill also will get a gift card.

   Hill of Westland retired from the Ford Motor Company after 37 years of service. He ran the Fitness Center at the Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne and had been trained in advanced first aid.

   Hill seems a bit bewildered at all the attention, since he did what was the right thing to do.

   He said after 911 was called, all the emergency people were at the store at the same time, he figures about two minutes.

   It all started when Collins woke up in his Westlake apartment and put on the kettle for some decaf instant coffee. He said he has been an early riser for the past 20 years, rising between 5 and 6 a.m. This time it was a little earlier.

   He noticed that he had run out of creamer. He said he drank coffee black in the Navy and he refuses to drink it black now.

   He likes the hazelnut-flavored Coffee Mate that he gets from the dairy case, so he walked over to Walmart, just across Belleville Road from his apartment.

   Collins said it was about 5 a.m. when he walked in the door and got a sharp pain in his chest. He recalls grabbing his chest feeling pressure that was like an elephant standing on his chest.

   He said the greeter told him, “You’re having a heart attack,” and things started happening. He said he felt clammy, nauseated, and short of breath.

   He remembers the greeter was very cool and handled him with assurance.

   Collins recalls an emergency person putting an intravenous line into his arm, giving him a shot, and a ride in the ambulance. He said during the ride, a bright white light intruded into his consciousness, while an EMT slapped him on the hand to keep him awake.

   After the stent was put in at the hospital, he said he felt weak, but the next day he was up and around at the hospital like nothing had happened.

   He was admitted early on a Tuesday and was discharged the following Thursday noon. He went to Walmart to fill his prescription and talked to employees there about his experience.

   “I feel better than I did before the heart attack,” Collins reports, saying he now can sleep through the night.

      He said he is grateful for the compassion shown to him by everyone involved in saving his life.

   Greeter Hill said after he retired, he put on about 35 pounds from sitting around, fishing and not having much physical activity. About a year and a half ago, he became a greeter at Walmart, working the 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. He is married with four children.

   Collins is an unemployed aircraft engine mechanic, who worked on planes in the Navy. He was honorably discharged in 1973. He has three grown children, all in Virginia.

   He moved to Michigan in 1999 to try to get a job as an aircraft mechanic, his profession his whole adult life, but besides contracting work, he has been unable to find the full-time job he seeks and is living off his savings, which are shrinking. He is thinking of leaving the state to find work elsewhere.

   Meanwhile, he is re-examining his life and wondering why he was saved from death.

   “I think God is saying, I’m not done with you yet,” he said. “It was a wakeup call.”


VBT Public Safety Committee does re-vote for officers

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Although Michael Miazga lost the chairmanship of the Van Buren Township Public Safety Committee at the March meeting, at the April 6 meeting there was an unprecedented re-vote that put him back in charge.

   Miazga began the meeting by saying, “Our township lawyer determined we needed to re-do the election because last month’s election was null and void.”

   When vice chairman Diane Madigan asked who put the re-vote on the agenda, Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan said he was not sure who put it on.

   Trustee Phil Hart, who sits on the committee, said he put it on.

   Madigan said when something like this is put on the agenda, she would like to have supporting documents to study before the meeting.

   Miazga said the last meeting was not conducted correctly.

   That was because Miazga had announced sternly that Robert’s Rules of Order would be strictly followed, which led to the determination that if he was running the meeting he couldn’t vote, except in case of a tie, so he did not vote and lost his position.

   Committee secretary Pam Fleming acted as parliamentarian for that meeting, consulting the Robert’s Rules book in a recess during the voting. Fleming was not at the April 6 meeting and fill-in secretary Kristina Harmon took notes.

   Miazga got his position back on a 4-3 vote with Hart, Raymond Bailey, Richard Wardwell and Miazga voting for Miazga and Russell Crowe, Reggie Miller, and Madigan voting against.

   Crowe, who was voted in as chairman at the March meeting, was unanimously elected vice chairman.

   In other business at the two-hour April 6 meeting, the committee:

   • Heard a committee year-end report read by Miazga and compiled by him, Miller and Madigan;

   • Heard a report read by Madigan about her activities on behalf of the committee over the last year. Miazga reluctantly allowed her report, “to get it over with”. He had denied her requests in the past to read it aloud;

   • Agreed to set a workshop on Hoarding Ordinance issues, as requested by Madigan. Later the workshop was set for April 11. Madigan said she would like discussion on whether the state ordinance is enough or if a township ordinance needs to be enacted to work in concert with state law. She referred to 97 dogs being taken from a home in Haggerty subdivision and many euthanized without any restrictions or citations written on the owner that would get this person the help that she needs and prevent mistreatment of animals;

   • Approved proposed revisions to the leash law to be sent on to the township attorney and then the township board for consideration;

   • Heard Van Buren School Board President Martha Toth ask about when the public safety millage renewal will be on the ballot and McClanahan said that would be this November. She said the 18 mills renewal for non-homestead school tax will also be on that ballot;

   • Heard McClanahan say he decided to do away with police and fire briefings for the meeting since they are so time-consuming to prepare and there is “no requirement to do that.” He said, “Everyone knows the Public Safety Department is running well as shown over the last year and two months”;

   • Heard Police Officer Adam Byrd, who until this meeting sat at the committee table in uniform and gave friendly reports as the community policing officer, say now he was speaking as a citizen from the audience. Dressed in plain clothes, he criticized the committee and challenged members to ask what good they have done, noting they haven’t done their jobs. He pointed at the board members and said they haven’t followed their bylaws;

   • Heard resident John Delaney say that it used to be teamwork with Byrd and the committee, but now it is adversarial because they want to delete this committee;

   • Heard private-citizen Byrd respond to Director McClanahan as an officer when Byrd was directed to explain the new driving law for teenagers. Officer Byrd said the new law is ambiguous and Sgt. Fred Yono is asking the township attorney for clarification; and

   • Heard Delaney ask Director McClanahan about whether, in the last 120 days, one of his individual investigators has been investigated by the Michigan State Police. Delaney had asked the question at the township board meeting the night before and McClanahan had said his department was not being investigated. Delaney clarified his question to ask about whether an individual is being investigated. McClanahan said it was an internal matter and a personnel issue and, “I won’t comment.” Delaney said that’s how McClanahan should have answered the night before instead of giving a flat no. “You do not lead me by the nose, Mr. Delaney. You will get no answer from me,” McClanahan said. Later after some discussion, McClanahan apologized to Delaney for his comments. “It’s difficult to police a free society and it’s difficult to administer an agency that polices a free society,” he said.

   The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee will be held at 5:30 p.m., May 4.




VBT approves landfill-gas-to-energy plant on 4-3 split vote

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Over the plaintive protests of the neighbors surrounding Visteon Village, the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to approve a landfill-gas-to-energy plant on the west end of the Visteon property. The action was taken at the board’s regular meeting April 5.

   The first motion, by Trustee Al Ostrowski, was to deny the special land use needed for the project and that failed 4-3, with Partridge, Ostrowski, and Budd voting yes and Jahr, Hart, White, and Wright voting no.

   Then Trustee Jahr made a motion to approve the special land use and it passed 4-3, with Wright, Hart, White, and Jahr voting yes and Partridge, Budd, and Ostrowski voting no.

   The 19 neighbors, who expressed deep disappointment with the vote, planned to meet with an attorney this week to begin a law suit that may morph into a class-action suit if residents of Canton Township and Romulus, downwind of the plant, decide to join in.

   The neighbors are fearful of the tons of pollutants, allowed in the exhaust under Air Quality regulations, that will be intruding into their breathing space.

   Neighbor Shari West, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, told the planning commission many times that the fumes from the plant are sure to kill her. She said she and her husband moved to VBT from Canton and bought their dream home from Visteon, who did not tell them about the electrical generation plant that was planned in their back yard.

   The landfill-gas-to-energy plant was first planned at the east side of Visteon Village, adjoining the backs and side yards of homes. After the residents resisted the development in their residential area, the project was moved to the far western side of the Visteon property, adjoining I-275.

   The neighbors still object to the project, since many worked hard on the Office-Technology zoning for the Grace Lake area that assured the area that became Visteon Village (and now is called Grace Lake Corporate Park) would be like a college campus.

   Grace Lake is the newest incarnation of a gravel pit that used to be a magnet for trash dumping. During construction of Visteon Village, the number of buildings planned had to be reduced because of a large quantity of broken cement found buried in the unstable ground surrounding the pit.

   That OT zoning was approved in 2001 and the neighbors said they were confident they had nothing to fear because of the wording in the ordinance.

   At the end of the April 5 meeting, neighbor Sandy Croswell, who worked on the OT zoning as the planning commission hammered it out in 2000, said she was disappointed in the vote and, “I don’t know how we can trust Visteon.” She said while the neighbors worked to get the OT zoning that would put a beautiful college-campus-like development in their back yard, now it’s “an industrial park with smoke stacks.”

   She was referring to the four (and maybe five) 60’ stacks that will be visible from I-275, although there have been attempts with a wall and some tree screening to hide that view from the public.

   The project will use the landfill gases from the Waste Management Woodland Meadows Landfill that will be piped in an underground route to the Grace Lake campus to be turned into electrical energy that Hoosier Energy cooperative of Indiana will sell to the electrical grid. The electricity will be sent out of state and is not for local use.

   Ameresco, the developer, purchased the rights to the landfill gas from Waste Management about seven years ago and has been sending some to the Ford plant in Wayne and burning off the rest in flares.

   The project will provide the hot water produced by the process to Visteon buildings, saving them some $300,000 a year in heating. This hot water is the lease price for Hoosier using the 1.2-acre Visteon plot for the co-generation plant.

   The planning commission studied the new project for many months and then voted 5-2 to recommend the special land use to the board of trustees, with Commissioners Carl Johnson and Robert McKenna voting no.

   There were 10 planning commission stipulations, including that Visteon Way be turned over to the county as a public road, as Visteon promised a decade earlier and has not done, and that certain privately owned properties would have access to Visteon Way when they wanted to develop. Now only Visteon-owned properties have access.

   When it looked like the project might be torpedoed by those two stipulations, Visteon worked out the details of what it said was holding up the Visteon Way quit claim deed to the county. Visteon Way’s quit claim deed was executed in the hours before the April 5 meeting, after hanging loose for a decade.

   Also, the access to Visteon Way was not actually solved, but Visteon assigned someone “new” to the project who promised to “work with” the township to promote development along Visteon Way, which seemed to satisfy some board members.

   The “new” contact is Craig Medlen who is well-known to the board and serves on the VBT Local Development Finance Authority. He is credited with building Visteon Village as project manager.

   Medlen trotted out the projects that had been suggested for Visteon Way vacant lots years ago, including a cancer research center, data center, medical facility, child care center, etc. None of these are going forward because of the economy, he said.

   Ernie Tozer, a neighbor, objected to the way the board ignored provisions of the OT zoning ordinance. He also spoke for former planning commission member and Visteon neighbor George Deverich, who was on vacation in Spain.

   Tozer said there were 10 items in violation of the ordinance that Deverich had listed and presented to the board previously.

   Tozer said the marketing agents for the project were “overstepping the bounds of rationality” in their comments.

   John Delaney pointed out the first 17 minutes of that evening’s meeting were devoted to marketing for the project and the public was allowed to comment only in three-minute presentations.

   Delaney also accused Hoosier Energy of removing brush and trees without a permit to show off the property to the Hoosier investors last fall. The Hoosier newsletter said groundbreaking had already occurred, falsely insinuating the project had been approved.

   “I’m concerned this will set a precedent and open the floodgates for a lot of deviations to the regulations,” Tozer said of the special use permit being granted.

   He said the OT zoning specifically prohibits manufacturing from raw material, which the board is granting.

   He suggested the board pack up all the ordinances and throw them away, or maybe have a bonfire in the parking lot.

   Alan Babosh pointed out that the township would be getting about $300,000 in tax money from the project, which supposedly would bring 25 new jobs. Visteon will be able to charge higher rent because of the free hot water, he said.

   It was learned there actually will be four full-time jobs at the plant, with the 25 jobs being those temporary jobs for construction and the support jobs that are estimated by percentages.

   Babosh asked what’s in it for the township and suggested Visteon/ Hoosier give a 10-year grant to the new Belleville High School for technology.

   Supervisor Paul White, who had told neighbors that they would be pleased with his vote but then voted in favor of the project, said he got word from Hoosier Energy that they would be a good corporate citizen and contribute to the community.

   Trustee Al Ostrowski said he went out to the property and saw the cutting Hoosier had done without permits.

   “I’ve been against this project from the beginning,” Ostrowski said. “The aesthetics in that area will go down the toilet.”

   Trustee Denise Partridge agreed, adding, “This will jeopardize the tranquility of the neighborhood. They worked on an OT zoning and we should honor it.”

   Treasurer Sharry Budd said she doesn’t see how the co-generation plant fits in an OT zoning, which was designed to be like a college campus.

   “I really don’t think it fits the OT zoning,” Budd said. “We want what was planned for OT.”

   Trustee Jahr said the board has received opinions from attorneys and the planning consultants and it appears to be a permitted use with special conditions and “not a detriment to the community.”

   He said he didn’t decide how he was going to vote until 4 p.m. the day of the meeting and the “decision is not taken lightly.”

   Trustee Phil Hart said he has studied the project and, “I can support this.”

   Members of the audience asked the board to check out places Hoosier had developed before to see if they did things for the communities.

   “The nonprofit [Hoosier] is going to make oodles and oodles of money,” said Don Schoenberger, referring to Jeff Stander’s statement at a previous meeting that Hoosier had “oodles and oodles of integrity.”

   Stander represents Ameresco/Hoosier and has been selling the project to the township for more than a year.

   Schoenberger said, “They’ll tell us whatever they want,” adding, “They treated us like Andy of Mayberry, patronizing us.”

   Treasurer Budd, who sits on the planning commission and voted in favor of sending it on to the board, read the 10 stipulations imposed by the commission, noting Visteon won’t commit to the four access points, but are “willing to work on the right of way.”

   Sandy Croswell said, “A lot of those conditions are based on promises. What are you going to do if they don’t comply? Tear the building down?”

   The next step is for Visteon/Hoosier to return to the planning commission for final site plan approval and tree removal permit.







VBT Board hires Terry Carroll as Director of Planning, Ec. Development


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Terry Carroll, who has been acting as Van Buren Township interim Director of Planning and Economic Development, has been put in the position permanently.

   Carroll, 60, was a contract employee through planning consultants McKenna & Associates, who made him available for the interim position after former Director Dan Swallow left in January to take a similar position with the City of Monroe.

   Supervisor Paul White recommended the hiring of Carroll and at the April 5 township board meeting the board voted unanimously to follow White’s recommendation.

   White said Sally Hodges of McKenna continued to be responsible for the overall guidance and quality control and Christopher Khorey of McKenna assisted during the transition.

   White said he advertised for the position for 30 days through the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Township Association, Michigan Association of Planning, and the township web site. He said he received more than 25 responses and after reviewing them, chose Carroll.

   “Mr. Carroll is a skilled manager and has the talent necessary to become a permanent member of our executive staff,” White wrote in a memo to the board. “In the time that he has served as Interim Director, he has shown leadership and organization of the department. He is up to speed on the issues facing Van Buren and as an experienced administrator will bring stability to the department.”

   Base salary will be $77,500 and if he elects to take health care coverage he will pay 20% of the cost. In order to meet the budget requirement for the salary, $2,650 was moved from the allocated fringes line item to the salary line item.

   The pay is higher than the $72,000 paid to Dan Swallow, who he replaced.

   The revised job description took away the responsibility for environmental matters, which was a surprise to board members.

   Trustee Jeff Jahr, at the April 4 workshop session, asked White if he was increasing Carroll’s pay for fewer duties. Jahr, who sits on the Environmental Commission, wanted to know who would be looking after the environmental matters.

   White said Carroll would have been taking a cut from his prior employment if he didn’t get the higher salary and White planned to hire a part-time assistant who has environmental skills for Carroll.

   Carroll said this would put the township position back to where it was before it hired Swallow, who had environmental background so the jobs could be combined.

   “This should have been discussed before now,” Jahr said to White, who apparently made the decision on his own to separate the jobs.

   “I don’t think environmental quality was in the resumes of any of the candidates for the planning and economic development position,” White said.

   After much discussion at the April 4 workshop session, White put the environment responsibility back in Carroll’s job description because he would be overseeing it.

   When asked, Carroll said there are 7.5 employees in his department.

   He said he is “cleaning up quite a few messes from six years ago” and added that there is too much occupying his time to respond to lake complaints.

   Treasurer Sharry Budd said Swallow had used college interns in the summers and maybe Carroll could look into that.

   Carroll’s resume shows that he worked for the U.S. Census Bureau from March 2009 to Oct. 2010 as an assistant manager for quality assurance in his hometown of Livonia.

   Before that he served almost four years (March 2004 to January 2008) as Executive Assistant to the Mayor and Director of Housing & Community Development for the City of Westland.

   In March 2008 Carroll interviewed unsuccessfully for the city manager position at the City of Belleville. After three candidate searches following the hiring and firing of Walter Mears, the city council decided to promote city Clerk/Treasurer Diana Kollmeyer to the position, where she continues to serve.

   Carroll’s resume shows he was Director of Community Relations for Garden City Hospital, August 1995 to March 2004, Wayne County Director of Community Development (directing administration of the Community Development Block Grant program in 32 communities) January 1992 to July 1995, Garden City Director of Community Development May 1985 to January 1992, and Federal Programs Coordinator for Canton Township August 1978 to May 1985.

   He earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Wayne State University and began work on a master’s degree in public administration, but did not complete it.

   At the regular meeting on April 5 when Carroll’s job was being considered, resident David Frankling said that many companies do not hire from their contractors since it causes stagnation in thinking. There is too close of a relationship with the contractors, he said.

   Frankling said Sally Hodges of McKenna attested to the validity of an oversize garage next door to him and “falsified records,” inviting anyone to sue him for that statement since it was already proven true in court.

   “It cost the township $400,000 for a garage project because of McKenna,” Frankling said, adding Bryce Kelley was hired by the township’s planning consultant McKenna after he resigned from Van Buren Township.

   “I was shocked to see the township put a McKenna employee as our interim director,” Frankling said. “I didn’t see any of this coming.

   “My point is we should not hire from our consultants. This relationship is too cozy,” Frankling continued. “You’re putting all your marbles in one basket – not a very good basket.”

   Resident John Delaney said McKenna caused the township to lose $800,000 after a law suit concerning the Columbia residential project in the Martinsville/Hull area.

   Delaney pointed out that earlier Trustee Partridge had asked if there were any union grievances involving Carroll and White said there weren’t.

   Delaney said in fact there are grievances against Carroll. Delaney also claimed that Carroll misrepresented a telephone conversation with the Andy Hartz of the MDNR concerning the landfill-gas-to-energy plant.

   White disagreed with Delaney, who insisted, “There are some character issues.”



published April 7, 2011
Belleville District Library sets April 30 Community Forum

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The Belleville Area District Library Board invites the public to breakfast at the library at 10 a.m., Saturday, April 30, to talk about building a new library.

   The menu will be fruit, muffins, quiche, bakery items, hash-brown casserole, coffee and other enticements to lure the public in to ask them what they would like to see in a new library.

   District Library Board Chairman Mary Jane Dawson said everybody wants to know, “Where, when, and how will a new library be built?” She said the board wants to get public input on this subject.

   The session is expected to be an hour-and-a-half to two-hours long and will include a brief history of the library, an introduction of the architects and their slide show, public input and handouts, and brain-storming.

   A question-and-answer session is sure to bring up the question of where the library will be built and the board will provide the parameters set by the library agreement addressing the site.

   The public forum was discussed briefly at the March 8 meeting of the library board.

   In other business at the March 8 meeting, the library board hired Gerald Kruse as a financial consultant at a cost of $40 per hour which is expected to total under $4,000 over the next six months.

   Kruse will help identify and assist in installing appropriate accounting software, help establish procedures which will insure appropriate internal control over financial assets, help train accounting personnel, and help frame policies and assist in selection of an audit firm.

   Kruse came recommended by board secretary Joy Cichewicz, since she knew his work with the Ypsilanti District Library, where Cichewicz is a librarian.

   Kruse said he started over 50 years ago in public accounting consulting, achieved his CPA in the 1960s and kept it until the ‘70s when he went into the education profession and put his CPA designation into escrow. In the 1990s he was teaching about Certified Management Accountants and a student asked if he was a CMA. He wasn’t, so he qualified for that designation, too.

   He said he taught eight years at Wayne State University and then went to Sienna Heights and taught every class in the business department. He retired in 2001 and began a part-time practice working with non-profits.

   Board treasurer Elaine Gutierrez said the finance committee met with Kruse in a three-hour marathon session and, “He’s divine intervention. He came when we needed him desperately. He answered our questions and listened to our woes.”

   She said later, “He’s just lifted this huge weight off my shoulders.”

   In the past the library’s books were handled by the City of Belleville, but now with the large millage proceeds, they will be brought inside.

   Later in discussing the accounts payable, it was noted checks 1210 and 1211 had to be voided since the city made them out from the Belleville District Library to the Belleville District Library, when they should have been made out to the Friends of the Library.

   In other business at the March 8 meeting, the board:

   • Reviewed the district library’s first balance sheet, which they plan to have quarterly. Gutierrez said the district has $438,963.51 on hand and it needs to be invested appropriately. She said that the library is really going over its budget, especially with the newsletter, and they will have to do an amended budget at the next meeting. She noted $10,100 is in the “library construction fund” and was told that was from two donations, but they were not actually restricted to construction by the donors;

   • Discussed the job offering for Student Technology Assistant at a salary of $7.40 to $9.50 per hour;

   • Approved paying $225 for five webinar courses for board members;

   • Was informed the district library has requested $2,135 from the Belleville Downtown Development Authority for performers for the Summer Reading Program. The library would pay the balance of the $8,520 cost of the activity;

   • Learned there were 51 applicants for the administrative assistant position and library officials will be choosing candidates to interview and expect to have the new hire on board in April;

   • Learned the Friends purchased four different eBook readers for the library and patrons will be able to try out, in the library, a Kindle, iPad, Nook (color), and a Sony; and

   • Discussed the problems at the Romulus Library, which may close, and questions about whether patrons from Romulus and Huron Township could use the Belleville Area District Library. Library Director Deb Green said she is trying to keep up with the unfolding events in Romulus and the library is still open. “We do not sell library cards at this point,” Green said. “We cannot provide library service free to other communities and charge our own [with taxes].” She said there have been questions about whether other communities could join the Belleville district.

Family gets new home, new job after losing everything in fire

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Life has become much sweeter for Harve and Candy Oliver and their two sons Daniel, 14, and Dylan, 5 – and they are very grateful to everyone who helped.

   They have a new home of their own and on March 8 Harve got a full-time job transporting cars for Ford Motor Co.

   Things had been bleak for the family, with Harve having no job and the family having no home.

   They have been helped by St. Vincent dePaul at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Belleville and an anonymous Van Buren Township donor who plunked down $25,000 to buy a home for the family.

   Reg Ion, a volunteer with St. Vincent dePaul, had written a letter to the Independent asking readers for whatever donations they could afford to help the family get on its feet. He said they were close to having to live out of their van.

   Ion said he was stunned when a woman called to say she wanted to give money to the Olivers, through Ion, so they could buy a house and not live out of their van. She has not met the family and doesn’t wish to be thanked.

   Ion helped the family find a foreclosed home in Wayne for $22,500, leaving some money for insurance, taxes, and a Realtor’s fee. Ion said he learned that the home had sold for $130,000 when it was brand new in 2003 or so.

   It took a long time for the sale to be finalized and the certificate of occupancy approved, but finally they were home.

   Ion got involved with the family after the Oct. 24 house fire in Sumpter Township that destroyed all of the family’s personal belongings.

   The family had lost their Westland home in June and moved in with Candy’s parents in Westland for a while and then in with Harve’s parents Janice and Harve Oliver, Sr. at 19831 Sumpter Road.

   That was the house that erupted in flames while the elder Olivers were at church and the younger family was visiting Candy’s parents for a couple of days. Only the dog, Lady, was at home and Sumpter fire fighters saved her.

   The family had a few pieces of furniture in storage, but all their personal belongings not taken for the brief outing to Westland were lost in the fire. The Jr. Olivers’ things were not covered by the Sr. Olivers’ insurance.

   Sumpter Township Fire Chief Les Powell said everything in the house was lost and the cause was considered accidental, having started near the water heater.

   While the Sr. Olivers were put up in the Van Buren Township Hampton Inn by their insurance company, the Jr. Olivers were at the Super 8 in Canton, courtesy of St. Vincent de Paul which was able to pay for their housing for a short time.

   Harve Oliver, Jr. said St. Vincent de Paul also made arrangements for some clothing and the Clothes Closet at the Kmart shopping center provided a few things for the children. Another generous reader took the family out for a shopping spree at Kohl’s to buy them all some new clothes.

   Harve Oliver, Jr. was a self-employed roofer, who went into business for himself more than four years ago after working as a contracted employee for Barnett Roofing. Lately, he had been trying to get whatever work he could.

   He said this was the worst time of his life since Easter Sunday, 1995, when his two oldest children were killed in a traffic accident in Dearborn.

   “I compare 2010 to that year,” he said, noting that he doted on his older children who would be 18 and 19 now.

   Harve got his new job after Ion urged him to pray about it. Ion also helped it along by giving Harve an excellent reference, explaining that Harve is a very hard worker.

   Now everything is falling together for the family, Ion said.

   Ion also points out that the family’s new home, appropriately, is on Grace Street.


Public hearing set on expansion of VBT hazardous landfill

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   A public hearing has been scheduled for 7 p.m., Monday, May 2, at the Van Buren Township Hall to consider a request for expansion of the Wayne Disposal, Inc. hazardous landfill.

   The landfill is located at 49350 North I-94 Service Drive in Van Buren Township.

   WDI has filed an application with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Resource Management Division.

   The application is for a license to expand their operations by constructing additional landfill disposal capacity for hazardous waste at the facility.

   The WDI facility currently accepts solid hazardous waste and PCB waste from off-site generators for disposal in their landfill.

   This application is required because WDI plans to expand these operations beyond the original authorized design capacity and area specified in its existing hazardous waste management facility operating license.

   The DEQ has reviewed the application and determined that it is administratively complete and has begun a technical review to determine if the proposed activities comply with Part 111, Hazardous Waste Management, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended.

   The application may be viewed at the VBT Hall, 46425 Tyler Road, or on-line at http://www.michigan.gov/deq (click on Waste, Hazardous and Liquid Industrial Waste, Hazardous and Liquid Industrial Waste Management, and look under Information).

   The public hearing is so people can give oral or written comments on the application. The public comment period runs through May 16, 2011.

   For more information, contact Terry Carroll, VBT interim director of planning and economic development, at 699-8913.


Published: March 31, 2011:
Carroll: VBT lacks authority to approve BYC marina on Belleville Lake

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Because of a 1987 license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for French Landing Dam, Van Buren Township doesn’t have the authority to approve a marina project on Belleville Lake, as requested by BYC.

   On Nov. 19, 2009 the private club, BYC, applied to the township for permission to construct docks on Belleville Lake to go along with a planned club house on North Liberty Street in the City of Belleville, yet to be approved or constructed.

   On March 23, Terry Carroll, interim director of VBT Planning and Economic Development, sent a letter to BYC Commodore Scott Jones detailing the denial. Carroll said BYC may appeal to FERC.

   The 24-page license from FERC for the French Landing Hydro Water Power Project prohibits approval of such a project on page 9. The agreement is between VBT, FERC, and Adirondack Hydro Development Corporation.

   Carroll said Jones had asked him to research how other commercial docks could be located on Belleville Lake if the FERC license contains this prohibition.

   “I have been told that they were grandfathered as being in place when the FERC license was issued,” Carroll wrote.

   Carroll said although the dam is at the far eastern end of the lake, an impoundment of the Huron River, the hydro-power project area includes the whole lake.

   As backup documentation, Carroll also sent a copy of a review letter of the request completed by planning consultant McKenna Associates, dated March 21, 2011.

   The BYC request is described in the Nov. 19 letter as: “In summary, our plan is to construct docks for use by our members and guests to enable them to dock their boats, per the attached plan. In doing so, we believe the BYC will enhance our community and bring needed revenue to the down town and township businesses.

   “The construction of our BYC docks prior to the start of construction of our club house will reduce our cost of the club house construction.

   “As you will see from our drawings, we will construct and maintain a high quality, aesthetically pleasing dock site,” the letter reads.

   Plans call for the docks to extend 145’ from the shore into the lake on the east side, plus 105’ into the lake from the shore on the west side for 45 boat slips. The property width is 140’ at the street and 145’ at the lake.

   Article 412 (b) of the license outlines the types of use and occupancy of project lands and waters for which the licensee (VBT) may grant permission without prior approval from FERC:

   (1) landscape plantings; (2) non-commercial piers, landings, boat docks, or similar structures and facilities that can accommodate no more than 10 watercraft at a time and where said facility is intended to serve single-family type dwellings; and (3) embankments, bulkheads, retaining walls, or similar structures for erosion control to protect the existing shoreline.

   Also, “to the extent feasible and desirable to protect and enhance the project’s scenic, recreational, and other environmental values, the licensee shall require multiple use and occupancy of facilities for access to project lands or waters…”

    The BYC, originally named the Belleville Yacht Club, was established on July 4, 2009 by Jones, Steve Davenport, John Hughes, Dave Marvin, and Ted Mull.

   It turned out that Marash (Mike) Nuculaj of Johnny’s Grill in Belleville has the legal rights to the “Belleville Yacht Club” name, so the group calls itself BYC.






Community forum explains 1-mill ballot proposal to Sumpter Township citizens


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Sumpter Township Police Lt. Eric Luke led a community forum last Thursday to explain the reason the township is seeking an additional one mill of taxes for police operations.

   The question will be on the May 3 ballot and Lt. Luke said he will hold another community forum at the end of April to inform voters who couldn’t attend the March 24 session.

   Luke was in uniform, but explained he was appearing as a private citizen and was in uniform because he had just gotten off work for the day.

   About 40 people attended the forum, with about half of them township employees.

   Luke gave a power-point presentation on the situation, while members of the audience in the community center gym pondered printed handouts on the millage.

   Luke said last November voters passed the two-mill renewal for police operations by a vote of 3 to 1. Each mill brings about $300,000.

   Since the police department had had cost-cutting measures in 2009-10, they thought the two mills renewal would be all they needed.

   But then the landfill royalties went down substantially, some $1.4 million over two years.

   He said police are negotiating a pay cut and they are in the process of negotiating a steep increase in out-of-pocket cost.

   Luke said Sumpter employees have no health care for them and their spouses after retirement, but Belleville does, as do other communities.

   He said they had talked about it over the years, but it was not negotiated and, “The ship has sailed on something like that.”

   He said since March 2009, there have been many cuts. The ordinance department is completely gone, but the dog pound is run better than ever. The department is down by four officers and they’re still able the get the job done.

   The police went from a $2 million budget in 2008-9 to $1.5 million proposed in 2011-12.

   Luke said he looked at the 2009 Benchmarks set by Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) which determined the best practice as paying $197 per capita for police costs.

   He said it is determined by dividing the police budget by the population.

   He said Sumpter Township’s cost is $172 for 2010 and would be $140 for 2011.

   Other nearby departments have the following per-capita police costs: Belleville $333; Van Buren Township $255; Huron Township, $209; Grosse Pointe, $630; River Rouge, $462; and Highland Park, $242.

   Luke said Sumpter’s millage is 35, with only 4.7 mills coming back to the township and the rest going for various county uses. Sumpter now pays 1 mill for the township, 1 mill for fire, 2 mills for police, and .7 mill for library.

   During the discussion a man said the voters have another thing looming before them: millage for a new library.

   “Voters have to choose what’s more important to them,” Luke said.

   Randy Brown asked what would happen if this millage request doesn’t pass and Luke said they would have to start cutting people.

   “It wouldn’t look good,” Luke said.

   “It would be ugly,” Brown agreed.

   “It’s scary,” Luke added.

   Jim Posegay pointed out that not very many people were at the forum and so everyone has to get the word out to their friends and neighbors about the need for the millage.

   “I hear people saying too many cars, too many officers, too many trucks, too many firemen,” Posegay said.

   Luke said he’s heard that about the cars before and you can’t run cars 24 hours a day because it wears them out.

   “When police diminish, criminals take over. Why wouldn’t they?” Luke asked.

   He said those with questions on the millage may call him at the police department for answers, 461-4833.

   He said the same yard signs used last fall for the millage vote will be reused for this vote, with a cover over the “renewal” part.

   “We thought we’d put them away for five years,” Luke said of how they felt about the signs after last fall’s successful renewal vote.





Sumpter Township approves proposed budget -- down by $800,000


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   When asked to explain the declining revenues in Sumpter that has led to seeking one more mill of taxes for police operations, Sumpter attorney Rob Young called it a “perfect storm.”

   At the March 22 township board meeting, Karen Mickens asked, “Why should we let our houses go into foreclosure for this?” referring to more taxes to pay.

   “We had a perfect storm in this state,” Young replied, adding that Sumpter had, in addition, the reduction in landfill royalty fees.

   Young said the township residents had a resistance to growth and wanted the country atmosphere with city services, which they were able to keep because of “the monstrosity, the landfill” which brought in money.

   He said the people fought against having the landfill, but it was shoved down their throats by the state. He said the people even approved a millage to fight the landfill. When the landfill was a reality, they used the host community agreement impact fees to improve their township.

   “We tried to do the best we could and keep the atmosphere rural,” he said, adding in the last few years, the landfill royalties diminished substantially.

   “Big banks didn’t see it coming; Sumpter Township didn’t see it coming,” Young said of the financial downturn.

   “There were less assessments coming in; less landfill royalties coming in,” he said. Young said the royalties have been cut in half and everybody is being asked to do more with less.

   “I’ve watched the agony; I’ve watched the sweat; I’ve watched the tears,” Young continued.

   He said it was suggested that maybe the citizens would see fit to spend a few dollars more a year to help, thus the May 3 millage proposal.

   Mickens was not impressed with the lengthy explanation.

   “I speak mainly with seniors. Give me a short answer to give to them to support the millage,” Mickens said, pressing for a single sentence.

   Young said it couldn’t be explained in one sentence.

   During the public hearing on the amended 2010-11 and the proposed 2011-12 budgets, accountant James Glahn explained that next year’s budget of about $3.4 million will have $800,000 less in it.

   “A number of things happened: Canadian trash cutoff hit us hard,” he said, noting the income from the landfill came down from $2.5 million last year to an estimated $1 million this coming year.

   Glahn said he could see hard times coming in the 2008-9 fiscal year and the township cut almost $1 million in expenditures that year.

   “If we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have been able to survive this far,” he said.

   Glahn said new budget cuts are taking place right away. He said all employee compensation is being reduced 5% as of April 1 and all employees will pay 10% of their health care cost.

   Board members will receive 50% of what they were receiving for fringe compensation, he said, although some wanted elected part-time officials to get no benefits because they were part time.

   “I started in October informing the board members we’re going to have problems and we called a closed-door session in December, after the last regular meeting and before Christmas,”

Glahn said.

   He said there is sure to be a consolidation of dispatch services with another community and he is so sure of that that the budget item for dispatch has been cut in half for next year, from the current $325,000 to $175,000.

   Also, administration of the Community Development Block Grant funds have been brought in house and former consultant Curt Boeller is out.

   Glahn said they sat down with the seniors to discuss cuts, but, “I tried not to have them hit.”

   “We decided to make the senior coordinator part time and the union member part time,” Glahn said, noting that the senior coordinator used to be a part-time position in the past.

   Denise Droulliard, senior coordinator, did not want to be part-time and decided she would be better off taking unemployment compensation and insurance from the state, so she took lay off, he said.

   Glahn said Sumpter is discussing closing some of its buildings, including the PNA Hall, the water building, and the recreation building. Decisions on this and other cuts are expected to be made at the April 12 board meeting.

   Glahn said he agrees with Young calling this the “perfect storm.”

   “I could see this perfect storm occurring here. We knew it was going to happen and we wanted to get in front of it.

   “We would have been fine if the trash hadn’t been reduced to the landfill,” he said.

   He said when Republic bought Allied and all its landfills, they found tipping fees were higher than what Republic had been charging and so they were getting less trash.

   Glahn said he thinks the economy is as far as it’s going down and, “We’re coming out of this trough…. If we can get through this Japanese thing, we’re going to be all right.”




Roger Mayfield agrees to retire from Sumpter Twp. Police Dept.


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Roger Mayfield, who has been a police officer in Sumpter Township since 1994, left the police department as of March 22.

   Mayfield, who suffers from a medical condition, is seeking retirement through the Michigan Employment Retirement System and the township agreed to supply whatever documents necessary to help him with MERS.

   At the March 22 meeting of the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees, negotiations continued in a back office between Mayfield’s attorney and Sumpter Township attorney Rob Young.

   Finally, after much going back and forth by the attorneys during the meeting and delays in addressing an agenda item on “Separation of Employment for Roger Mayfield,” the final t’s were crossed and the document was ready.

   The board unanimously accepted the retirement and the separation agreement.

   Attorney Young explained that Roger and his wife Sherry Mayfield, with their attorney, had submitted a retirement request. He said Mayfield suffered from a medical condition, with his health deteriorating over the years.

   “Because of problems with his neck, he is not able to do his job as a police officer,” Young said, adding that Mayfield has made a big contribution to Sumpter Township over the years.

   He said that Mayfield and Lt. Eric Luke were hired the same day. The two have known each other all their lives.

   At one point, the Sumpter community put on a fund raiser to help the Mayfields with their medical bills.

   Mayfield got up to speak. “I’ve loved the contribution I made to Sumpter Township over the past 17 years.”

   He said with his 10 operations, he has contracted an incurable blood disease and an incurable bone disease and his health will only go down from here.

   Young said Mayfield’s insurance through the township will continue until the end of June.

   “There is no job available for Roger, given his medical condition,” Young said.

   Mayfield was initially reluctant to seek retirement, but after a lengthy closed-door session on March 8, between Mayfield and his attorney and the township board and its attorney, apparently he reconsidered and the document was ready to be fine-tuned during the March 22 meeting.

   In other business at the March 22 meeting, the board:

   • Approved the second reading and adoption of the Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority’s ordinance amendment on water supply and sewage disposal, an update required by the state;

   • Approved on a 6-1 vote with Clerk Clarence Hoffman voting no, the lay-off of Senior Coordinator Denise Droulliard;

   • Approved a new, non-refundable charge of $50 for rental of pavilions at Graham and Banotai parks, starting immediately. Trustee Peggy Morgan asked that the money stay with the Parks & Recreation Dept. and the issue will be returned to Parks & Rec for discussion;

   • Approved advertising for bids for re-blacktopping the basketball courts at Graham Park, paid out of the Wayne County Parks grant;

   • Approved advertising for bids for installation of two drinking fountains at Graham Park paid out of the Wayne County Parks grant;

   • Approved re-bidding a one-inch water tap for the drinking fountains at Graham Park, paid out of the Wayne County Parks grant;

   • Approved advertising for bids for grass-cutting for seniors who qualify, paid out of Community Development Block Grant funds;

   • Approved obtaining a liquor license for beer and wine for the Sumpter Country Fest on Memorial Day week end;

   • Heard Trustee Alan Bates repeat that the padding under the play equipment needs to be put in place as soon as possible this spring. He said bare concrete is showing which opens the township to liability and claims of negligence;

   • Heard Trustee Bill Hamm announce that a new pump for the grass truck was needed at an estimated cost of $3,500, but Chief Powell and Fire Fighter Sliwa rebuilt the old pump and saved the township that money;

   • Heard Mary Ban ask why the township is asking voters to approve 1 additional mill for police operations on May 3, since the tax can’t be collected until December. She suggested they wait until the August or November elections. Trustee Linda Kennedy said if voters approve now, it will demonstrate stability to the state, and the township will be able to plan on the extra funds coming;

   • Heard Ban ask about the Bemis/Elwell sewer project, noting the first principal payment on the bonds will be for $125,000 in November. She wanted to know why Elwell Elementary School hasn’t hooked up, as hoped. Supervisor Johnny Vawters said the board was told all the houses on Bemis would hook into the sewer, but only about 10 did. “If we had known, we would have made a different decision,” Vawters said. Trustee Morgan pointed out that the trailer park is hooked up and owner Bruce Knight kept his word;

   • Heard resident Karen Mickens demand to know what she can tell senior citizens who want to know why they should vote for the millage. After a lengthy reply by attorney Young, Mickens said she wanted a short, one-sentence reason to give them;

   • Heard Belleville Area District Library Board member Michael Boelter invite everyone to a 9 a.m. workshop session at the library on April 30 to discuss building a new library. “We apologize our regular meeting is the same night as yours,” Boelter said, noting that the second Tuesday is the only night all the members could come. “We were hoping you could change,” Trustee Morgan said; and

   • Heard Crystal Harris ask for use of the PNA Hall on May 14, just before Sumpter Fest, for a fund raiser for the Progressive League. The hall reservations will be checked.


Mayfields heading to California
to spend time with grandchildren


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   “This is the happiest day of my life,” said Roger Mayfield, 42, on Monday, after retiring from Sumpter Township Police Department as a detective last week, after 17 years of service.

   He and his wife Sherry just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Now they are free to head to California to live near their daughter Holly (Jake) Laginess and their two grandchildren.

   Mayfield had hoped to be able to return to work in Sumpter after two years on disability, but his health isn’t getting any better.

   He said after ten surgeries, he ended up with MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphloccus aureus), spinal stenosis, and RSD (restrictive sympathetic dystrophy). He said as strange as it is, his identical twin brother has none of those conditions, including the underlying genetic condition.

   The Mayfields report that their twin daughters, Tara and Tiffany Mayfield just celebrated their 21st birthdays.

   The newest member of their family is Emily, who was born to the Mayfields after Holly and when the family was in dire straits, unable to take care of another baby.

   Emily was put up for adoption, since abortion wasn’t an option.

   Two years ago, Emily found them on Facebook and she has been a treasured member of their family ever since.

   “It’s nice to have our family complete,” Sherry said.

   Roger said there was a time he could not keep his head up at work because it kept flopping down.

   “I worked six months with a broken neck,” Mayfield said. Doctors discovered that his spine had broken down from MERSA and couldn’t support his head. More surgery.

   “They were good to me,” Mayfield said of Sumpter Township, referring to help with getting his medical retirement through the state.

   He said it’s a relief to not have to worry about getting well enough to go back to work, which is what he really would have liked to have done.


Published March 24, 2011:
Monday fire destroys city’s coin laundry


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Belleville fire fighters called for help from Van Buren, Pittsfield, and Sumpter townships and the City of Romulus to fight a fire Monday night at Belleville Coin Laundry on Main Street.

   Witnesses saw flames inside the front, north window at about 9 p.m. The origin of the fire is yet to be determined.

   Belleville Fire Chief Lee Grant said he called in the Michigan State Police to investigate because it was a large commercial loss and the MSP was due to be at the scene on Wednesday.

   Main Street was shut down to traffic from the bridge to Fourth Street as all the fire equipment set up on the street with fire fighters and hoses everywhere.

   Chief Grant said he called for help from Pittsfield and Romulus, mainly because he needed their ladders. Chief Grant works nights at his real job, but he left work early to take over command of the fire-fighting efforts.

   “My guys did an awesome job,” Chief Grant said. “The fire fighters kept it contained to the laundromat. I wish everyone could work together as well as the fire fighters from different departments work together.”

   The fire spread to the upper floor in the cement block building and the ladder trucks from Van Buren Township and Romulus sprayed the roof from above.

   Belleville Mayor Richard Smith said Van Buren Township called him and Mayor Pro Tem Rick Smith, and the two, with their wives, went to the scene. Mayor Smith said he didn’t get home until about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

   John Dakis has been renovating the former Red Beans and Rice restaurant in order to open his own restaurant, Belleville Charhouse, just two doors down from the fire.

   He couldn’t resist entering his storefront to check on it during the fire and he was scolded by fire fighters when he emerged. He reported the smell of smoke inside, but no damage he could see.

   The man who regularly vacuums out the dryers reportedly had completed his task at 5 p.m. that day and the laundromat usually closes at 8 p.m.

   A woman playing in a pool league at Lakeview Tavern said players were advised to go outside and make sure their cars were all right in the parking lot, which is next to the laundromat lot where some of the fire fighting was taking place. She said when it was time to go home, she couldn’t drive to Sumpter down Main Street, as she usually does, and was directed to the I-94 South Service Drive and Haggerty.

   During the fire fighting, the water put on the building made a large lake in the adjoining parking lot where the drain couldn’t handle it all at once, according to witnesses.

   Chief Grant said that the scene finally was cleared at 5 a.m. Tuesday. Balfour came to board up the building within an hour of being called, he said.

   He said he went to bed and wondered why the news media weren’t calling him. Later in the morning he realized that he left his cell phone in his turnout gear and there were many messages waiting.

   At about 9 a.m. Tuesday City DPW Director Keith Boc walked around the building, checking out the damage. He said eventually he will be able to get inside and inspect the building to determine if the building has to be demolished or can be repaired.




Confrontation erupts after VBT meeting over bonds sold for Visteon

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   A challenge to Van Buren Township Board Trustee Philip Hart by resident Charles Tackett caused Hart to lose his cool after the March 15 board meeting and charge into the audience to confront Tackett.

   The two exchanged words, with Hart leaning in close to murmur a taunt in Tackett’s ear and Tackett ordering him to get out of his face.

   After more back-and-forth verbiage, the confrontation ended, but several members of the audience milled around commenting to each other on how the trustee started the face-to-face part of the disagreement.

   Hart’s temper started to rise when near the end of the meeting, Tackett addressed the board concerning the some $32 million in bonds that the former township administration had approved to help build Visteon Village.

   Tackett said he has been discussing the action with his attorney and there is a question on the legality of the board’s action.

   He directed a question to Hart, since Hart was one of the former board members voting in favor of approving bonds for Visteon.

   “By what authority did you use our full faith and credit to give money to a private company?” Tackett asked.

   “It was done legally,” Hart said, adding the board had the advice of three attorneys.

   Tackett pressed for the names of the attorneys involved and Hart said he didn’t have the names.

   “You don’t know the name of just one?” Tackett asked and Hart said he didn’t.

   “Who’s your attorney?” Hart demanded of Tackett.

   Tackett replied his attorney is the law firm of Williams Williams Rattner & Plunkett and, in particular, Ernie Essad.

   Tackett said Essad told him to request three things under the Freedom of Information Act: the bond counsel’s opinion, a copy of the specimen bond, and the prospectus for the bond issuance.

   Tackett read the state law to the board and then said, “You cannot use our full faith and credit for private purposes.”

   Tackett said he has filed the FOIA requests, but has yet to receive the documents.

   Clerk Leon Wright, who is responsible for FOIA requests, was not present at the meeting, so Supervisor Paul White responded.

   Supervisor White said the township is trying to resolve Tackett’s “FOIA issues.” White said there were several bonds sold in 2002 and the township has to determine which ones are needed so they don’t print off copies of large documents that are not needed by Tackett.

   Tackett said all the bonds benefit Visteon and not the township. He said, for instance, the township paid $4 million for pilings that are “on-site” costs and should have been paid for by Visteon.

   He pointed out that “this bond goes sideways in 2016,” which means the income from Visteon being used to pay the bonds will no longer cover the costs beginning that year.

   This is when the full faith and credit of the township might have to kick in.

   Tackett, who has many years of experience as a builder and financial person, also served on the Belleville Planning Commission. He is a Vietnam veteran and VFW Chaplain.



Van Buren School District leaders seek input from employees on cutting deficit


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Van Buren Public School officials are asking their employees to suggest ways to cut some $7 million in a projected deficit for the 2011-12 school year.

   Mike Dixon, the district’s financial consultant, gave an update to the school board on Monday. He said that directors and administrators at each school are being asked to suggest ways to cut their expenditures.

   The suggestions are starting to come in and Dixon said they are very good.

   He is aiming for the “minimum operating threshold” while balancing the budget by the end of June.

   He said the suggestions will be put together in a booklet so board members can see what those making the suggestions were thinking.

   “By April 13 I hope to have a compilation of the minimum operating threshold for discussion purposes,” Dixon said, that will include a gap analysis between what the district is doing and what it needs to do.

   Dixon presented a chart that showed what 10% cuts in salaries and benefits for everyone would bring, along with 15% and 25%.

   “It’s hard to cut without salaries and benefits,” Dixon said.

   “If all the bargaining units took 15% in salary cuts, we would save $4.3 million and $1 million more for health/dental/optical,” said Trustee Sherry Frazier. “If we could get all units to agree… It’s going to be difficult to get $7 million without salary and benefits.”

   Dixon pointed out that Van Buren has been identified as one of the “declining enrollment districts,” since it has lost students every year since the 2007-08 school year, with population now at about 5,582. This designation will cost the district $105,655.

   State foundation allowances are expected to be cut by $470 per pupil, a cut of $2.6 million to the district.

   After an hour-long discussion on Lansing politics and finances, Dixon said, “What are we going to do? I don’t have these answers right now, but we’re working on it.”

   In other business at Monday’s special meeting, the School Board:

   • Approved the purchase of a gooseneck trailer with brakes at a cost not to exceed $6,030 for the Building and Grounds Department to transport the big new #4610D Toro mower that has been delivered. Low bidder was USA Trailer Sales of New Boston;

   • Tabled the proposed purchase of a $13,863 portable sound system for the primary use of the board, since Trustees Frazier and Scott Russell wanted to explore other options, including using Wayne RESA bid prices. Russell questioned the timing of the purchase, as the board is asking bargaining units for concessions to help balance the budget. “We’re not a rock-n-roll band here,” Russell said;

   • Approved Special Services Digital Record conversion by AmeriScan Imaging Services for $12,951.25. The special services office maintains student files on microfilm and the microfilm machine is outdated with replacement parts not available. The board originally approved conversion to digital records in 2009; and

   • Approved the New Tech High School contract, which had been reviewed by school district attorneys. The project was given the go-ahead at the Feb. 16 board meeting, with the stipulation that the contract be fine-tuned. The contract with New Tech Network will cost up to $450,000 over the next 4.5 years and will introduce a school within a school at BHS. Supporters hope this will improve education there, starting this fall.



Belleville DDA votes to go out for bids for new Gateway sign

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The Belleville Downtown Develop-ment Authority voted unanimously to go out for bids for a new Gateway sign for the front door of the city.

   At the March 16 DDA meeting, Dave Vallier of Spicer Engineers presented a drawing of how the sign would look. He said they took a picture of the site, on Main Street near Hayward’s where a sign is now, and superimposed the proposed new sign design.

   The sign will be dedicated to the memory of Chesley Odom in a ceremony after the annual Bridge Walk on Aug. 18. Ever since the sign was first discussed, DDA member Gary Snarski had pushed to give Mr. Odom credit for his work.

   Mr. Odom, a local, prize-winning designer, had drawn the welcome sign several years ago, but did not note the specifications. Mr. Odom had said the sign was estimated to cost about $40,000 to put in place.

   But, the sign that will be put up is not exactly as Mr. Odom rendered it. The size of the sign is reduced from 10’ to 7.5” to fit the concrete pad that has been installed.

   Instead of the teal color that Mr. Odom used on the Belleville Bridge amenities, the Community Events sign, and presumably would use on this sign, the DDA Streetscape Committee chose black and gold, to match the Fourth Street Square sign. Instead of the brick for the columns, the committee decided on cobblestone to match the streetscape.

   Vallier said the sign will be made of powder-coated steel plate, a piece of limestone with letters etched into the limestone and painted, limestone caps on top of the columns, retaining blocks at the bottom like the streetscape, three to four lights in the planter, and a sprinkler system.

   Following the prerequisite “Welcome to Belleville,” instead of “Home of the National Strawberry Festival” as Mr. Odom thought it might say, it will say “Downtown on the Lake.”

   “I like it because you look through it to the lake,” said DDA member Ken Voigt. “Chesley did a good job.”

   “Yes, he did,” Vallier agreed.

   Chesley Odom died suddenly in 2008 as he was preparing to run for Van Buren Township Trustee as an independent candidate.

   In other business at the March 16 meeting, the DDA:

   • Reviewed with Molly and Vicky from Plante Moran the 2009-10 DDA Audited Financial Report, which is a part of the city budget. The income was down 3% from the previous year, (with the City of Belleville being 7-8% down). As of June 30, 2010, tax revenue was $1,043,108, proceeds from the 2010 Capital Improvement bonds were $4,202,775, and interest/other was $8,888. After expenditures the total unrestricted fund balance was $867,532, an increase of $100,000 from the previous year;

   • Heard Vallier say that he met with Davenport earlier that day and once the frost laws are off the roads Davenport will be working on the punch list to complete streetscape work. Also, Pamar will be fixing road problems near the bridge and in water catches by Second and Fifth streets. Step work will also be done at the Masonic Temple and restriping of the street will take place. (Vallier said the weather was colder and the concrete didn’t stick to the paint.) Vallier said they plan to have everything done by Strawberry Festival in June. DDA members also said they would like to have the Five Points work extend as far out as possible from the intersection and Vallier will look into the cost and if Wayne County will allow it;

   • Was introduced to Evan Pratt, a new member of the Spicer team who will be in the Belleville office every day, according to Vallier. DDA chairman Kerreen Conley expressed pleasant surprise at seeing Pratt, since she knew him;

   • Discussed the project list developed in January 2009 that put waterfront projects to improve public access to the lake as a high priority, followed by the Gateway sign, and City Centre new development. “We put the infrastructure in and now we have to move forward,” said Conley, noting there are grant opportunities and the DDA knows its priorities. It was suggested the merchants be surveyed. “We don’t want to regress, so they don’t think we don’t care,” Conley said. When suggesting the merchants be contacted by email, DDA member Gary Snarsky said, “Mike [Windidate] has a list of emails. Somehow, someway, we have to get their emails and tell them we want to survey you.” Conley said getting a list of emails without the people’s permission is “a credibility, a trust issue.” She suggested doing a newsletter;

   • Heard Voigt report the Marketing Committee discussed promotions for this summer like last year to get some synergy for the events going on. “We’re also prepared to put together a promotional film for downtown and continue the shop-local campaign.” He said the committee had no specific recommendation at this time;

   • In the absence of Sabrina Richardson-Williams, Voigt presented her two-page Murals & Public Art Proposal for Downtown Belleville, with a subhead of “Belleville by the lake, the city with the beautiful murals!” Her proposal has two tiers, one for temporary murals for events this summer and one for putting a committee together to find sites for permanent murals and seek out professionals or talented amateurs. “We have some good mural artists locally; Bob Mytych is one,” said Voigt. Volunteering to serve on the mural committee were Voigt and Mayor Richard Smith;

   • Heard Conley say the downtown needs a deep cleaning after the winter. Carl Thompson, DDA coordinator, said there is an issue with using the fire hoses to clean the pavers, as planned, because the pressure is too strong. Mayor Smith said the court workers were to be helping on Sunday, March 20;

   • Directed Thompson to get a price for how much it would cost to replace the railings at Doane’s Landing with aluminum fences like those at the city parking lot. Thompson said they already have unit prices. Conley said it would cost $25,000 to repaint the present fence and $60,000 to remove, paint, and replace. Painting over the water is not good, Conley said. “If we did it in aluminum, we wouldn’t have the rust issue,” Voigt said;

   • Heard Voigt say he wants to get Thompson a new phone so she can send and receive text messages. Thompson will look into the cost; and

   • Heard Mayor Smith say when the parking spaces are striped, the Strawberry Festival wants to use the marked parking spaces for the vendors, instead of spray painting on the new streetscape.




Published March 17, 2011
Officials explain why former School Board president still on team

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   A school district attorney, the owner’s agent for the BHS project, and school board members explained to the public at Monday’s meeting why former school board president David Peer is still a member of the Bond Team.

   The newest members of the board, Sherry Frazier and Scott Russell, said members of the community had questioned why Peer was still helping to direct construction at BHS.

   Peer was unseated by voters in November’s election. He had served on the board for more than 20 years and as president for many years.

   Frazier said someone reported seeing Peer coming out of the superintendent’s office and also talking with a school district attorney.

   “Why have elections?” Frazier asked, indicating people thought he was still acting as a board member.

   Plante Moran CRESA had been hired as the owner’s agent on the BHS project and Paul Wills explained that CRESA appointed members to the Bond Team to help gather information, before CRESA takes recommendations to the board. It is a private group that has been meeting every two weeks on Thursdays since the project began, Wills said, noting they are at meeting #48.

   “Our past president was placed on the committee because he was president. Now he still attends meetings,” Frazier pointed out.

   “It’s like Cindy King giving advice to Paul White,” Frazier continued, referring to the past and present supervisors of Van Buren Township.

   Board President Martha Toth explained that Peer has attended some of the meetings since the November election because his institutional memory from his past 20 years on the board is valuable to the team.

   Russell said there are highly qualified people in the community that do not feel welcome to come to the meetings and they could offer valuable input. He said part of the problem was it was thought Peer was appointed or voted on by the board, but that turns out not to be the case.

   Wills said CRESA’s task is to keep the board on budget and on schedule.

   Russell asked if anyone interested could walk in and Wills replied the team meets in Granger’s construction trailer, the administration building’s conference room, and other places, so any members of the community interested should contact the superintendent’s office. The CRESA team is not subject to the Open Meetings Act.

   Bill Blaha of Collins and Blaha law firm said a board subcommittee is subject to the Open Meetings Act, but this is Plante Moran’s committee. They are no deliberations toward governmental decisions, he said.

   Toth said she has been to only four meetings since she became board president and she feels comfortable having Peer there with his knowledge.

   Trustee Toni Hunt said the district has been through three superintendents and two or three business directors since the project started and continuity is important.

   She said Peer has a photographic memory and remembers everything.

   “He’s not here to take over the board,” Hunt said. “He has more knowledge on the school district than anyone else.”

   Trustee Kevin English stated, “All decisions take place here at the board.”

   “The meeting is not the board’s meeting,” said Secretary Brenda McClanahan. “It’s Plante Moran’s meeting.”

   Vice President Bob Binert added, “You’re putting forth that he’s still a board member – and he’s not a board member … We’re very close to winding up the bids. What Mr. Peer brings to the committee is very important.”

   “He has attended 44 meetings and he brings a lot to the project,” Toth said.

   It was pointed out Peer is an unpaid volunteer and is not being reimbursed.

   In other business at Monday’s meeting, the board:

   • Approved Plante Moran CRESA’s recommendation to approve the $630,340 bid of Heaney General Contracting to construct the Team Building (multipurpose building) at the athletic stadium. There were five competitive bids. The board also approved the bid of Granger Construction for the 5% insurance bond and fee at a cost of not to exceed $31,517, making the total cost of the project $661,857. The proposed video editing room and shower in the referee room were deleted to reduce costs. Frazier and Russell discussed the option of having a metal roof, but after the discussion, voted unanimously with the board for the fiberglass/asphalt roof shingles as recommended. The design matches the new concession stand, already constructed;

   • Approved Plante Moran CRESA’s site change recommendation for the Team Building at a cost of $71,761;

   • Approved Plante Moran CRESA’s recommendation on the reduction of the fiber strand count and the elimination of the coax system for BHS, for a savings of $50,091. Toth said the transmission was overdesigned in the early stages and the extra money now can be put into equipment;

   • Heard a report from Keith McClarey of ATCI Robotics on a group of BHS students taking part in robot design and competition, coming in 10th out of 40 contestants in Waterford recently and heading to more competition March 18-19 at Ann Arbor Skyline. The team is sponsored by J.C. Penney, ACTI, ITT Tech, and BHS;

   • Accepted the donation of the Nofz family of a number of inflatable play items to be used by the PTOs for carnival fund raisers and possibly rented out to other groups. Kim Nofz said she and Cathy Bandy found the auction. Kim said as PTO president she knew how expensive it was to rent them, so her husband Kurt did the bidding and got the inflatables. Brian Brice helped provide a place to store them and they will be blown up and the blowers tested soon. She said when they saw the giant Tiger inflatable, they knew they had the right items. Also included are human-sized “hamster spheres”, a moonwalk, and a two-piece obstacle course;

   • Heard the quarterly update on student achievement given by Peggy Voigt, curriculum, instruction, and assessment director. The measurements are put together internally and show the students doing well. Voigt said they are working to align the measurements with the stricter MEAP assessment;

   • Approved the termination of bus driver Heather Curry after nine years of service for personal reasons, and the termination of Rachel Parke, a teacher at Savage/Elwell, after six months of service, for personal reasons;

   • Heard Toth announce that the BHS bands will be performing at 7 p.m., March 31, at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor and the students always sound so good in that venue. She encouraged people to attend;

   • Was informed a budget discussion will take place during the work/study session at 7 p.m. Monday, March 21, at the administration building. “I don’t want anyone to think we are concentrating on the education of the students now. We won’t be able to do that. First, we have to stop the bleeding,” Toth said of the looming $6 million deficit. Russell said the board wants to provide the best education it can and balance the budget. “Don’t pretend it’s not going to hurt,” Toth replied. “It’s going to hurt.” Supt. Tom Riutta said the state cuts amount to more than $1,000 per student. Russell said the board has to prioritize and decide “how we are going to use our resources.” Supt. Riutta added, “Choose between bad and worse.”

Belleville Planning Commission works to update master plan

By Bob Mytych. Independent Special Writer

   At its March 10 meeting at City Hall, the Belleville Planning Commission laid the groundwork for updating the City’s Master Plan.

In the only item of new business on their agenda, the commissioners decided to review the current master plan and make their own notes on the evident changes, such as the new road construction of the downtown, the new high school, the development of Horizon Park, all completed or ongoing projects that are part of the current master plan.

Once brought back for discussion in April, the commissioners will organize subcommittees who will work with city residents at public workshops that will be scheduled in the future. A narrative of questions will be composed for the residents to respond to. Feedback will provide the city information on what amenities, services and direction they would like to see in the future of their community.

Sumpter Millage Public Forum
for 6 p.m., March 24

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   A public forum to discuss the proposed additional 1 mill for Sumpter Township Police operations will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, March 24, at the gymnasium in the community center, across from the township hall.

   The forum was announced by Police Lt. Eric Luke during the March 8 regular meeting of the township board.

   The 1-mill question will be on the May 3 ballot and is expected to bring in $335,000 the first year levied.

   Last fall, the voters approved a renewal of 2 mills for police.

   Supervisor Johnny Vawters said if officials would have know the true impact of the cutting of Canadian trash to the landfill and what it and other state cuts would have been, they would have asked for the additional mill last fall.

   He said a total of $770,000 was verbally quoted as the amount expected to be lost from landfill royalties, but more than $1 million is expected to be lost since November.

   The proposed 1 mill will run concurrently with the 2 other police mills for 5 years, 2011-2015, making a total of 3 mills levied for police protection, operation, and maintenance.

   Supervisor Vawters, at times in tears, said he doesn’t want to sit at the board table and watch the township go into receivership without giving the voters a chance to decide on the millage. He estimated it will cost the average Sumpter resident 15 cents a day more in taxes and conceded that some residents may not be able to afford that 15 cents. He said the township has to ask.

   Sumpter Township residents also pay 1 mill for fire protection and .7 mill for the district library, along with the 1 mill township tax and other county levies.

   Vawters said police and dispatch could be severely impacted if the millage doesn’t pass and noted that police is the township’s first line of defense.


Sumpter Board fires Officer Cox, postpones action on Mayfield

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   After an hour-long, closed-door session with Police Officer Jerry Cox at a special meeting March 8, the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a “separation of employment,” as recommended by Police Chief James Pierce, Jr.

   The termination was effective immediately.

   Officer Cox was accompanied in the closed-door session by Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) union local president John Toth.

  Waiting in the board meeting room during the executive session was Cox’s father, former Canton Police Chief Jerry Cox, Sr.

   Chief Cox also served as Sumpter Township Interim Police Chief in the past.

   Officer Cox, 42, said he has been a Sumpter Police Officer for 16 years and had nine years to retirement.

   No reason was announced for the termination. Officer Cox had been on medical leave since a private motorcycle accident resulted in an injured wrist almost a year ago.

Officer Mayfield

   The board also held a half-hour closed session with Officer Roger Mayfield, his attorney, and union president Toth.

   Discussion of a “separation of employment” also was on the agenda for Officer Mayfield, but was tabled until the March 22 meeting by a unanimous vote of the board.

Officer Lange

   A related matter also was voted on by the board. Recently, former Officer Michael Lange settled a Whistle Blower’s law suit out of court with the board for a sum of $90,000.

   Part of the settlement agreement was for the board to reinstate Lange as of his firing date of May 7, 2009, long enough for him to resign, instead of having the firing on his record.

   The board voted to reinstate Lange for that purpose.

Published March 10, 2011

County removes 1,050 homestead exemptions  in Sumpter Township

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   More than 1,050 Michigan Homestead Property Tax Exemptions have been removed from properties in Sumpter Township, according to the recent notices of assessment mailed to property owners.

   “It’s a horrendous, horrendous error,” said Denise Komora, a clerk in the Sumpter Township supervisor’s office. She said Huron Township has similar errors on their assessment documents.

   The errors will result in increased taxes for those involved.

   She said so far 150 people have called her office to ask about their homestead exemptions for their principal residences that have disappeared. Komora said even her own homestead exemption has been removed.

   She said, not only have homestead exemptions been removed from properties that should have them, the county has given homestead exemptions to properties that shouldn’t have them.

   Komora said Wayne County told her they would correct the errors by March 8, or at least by the end of the Board of Review sessions, but she can’t guarantee the county will fix it. And, it won’t be mailing anything out, she said.

   She urges people who find their homestead exemption gone or a new homestead added to their assessments to call her at 461-6201, ext. 229.

   She said she will call these people back after she gets her official printout from the county. She said Wayne County officials said they wouldn’t call people.

   Or, people can wait for their summer tax bills and then work to get them changed if they are wrong.

   Komora said people are welcome to come to the Board of Review so they will be on record, but the township won’t be able to fix anything. She said she can make a copy of the document and take a phone number.

   She urges everyone to look closely at their notices of assessment to see if their homestead exemption is in place.

   The Sumpter Township 2011 March Board of Review is on March 14, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m.; March 15, 1-8 p.m.; and March 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Appointments are necessary. Call 461-6201, ext. 229.

   According to the state website, Michigan's property tax credit is a way the State of Michigan helps you pay some of your property taxes if you are a qualified Michigan homeowner or renter.

   The credit, for most people, is based on a comparison between household income and property taxes. Home-owners pay property taxes directly and renters pay them indirectly with their rent.

Ramone Crowe elected chairman
of VBT Public Safety Committee


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The Van Buren Township Public Safety Committee elected Ramone Crowe as its new chairman on a 3-2 vote at the group’s monthly meeting on March 2.

   The former chairman Michael Miazga presided over the election and at first voted for himself, making a 3-3 tally.

   Miazga had announced the committee would be strictly following Robert’s Rules of Order and when the vote came out a tie, he didn’t know the proper procedure.

   The committee took a five-minute break while recording secretary Pam Fleming, acting as parliamentarian, looked up the situation in the rule book and found that the chairman does not vote unless there is a tie and so Miazga couldn’t vote for himself and he was unseated as chairman.

   Richard Wardwell was elected vice-chairman on a 3-2 vote, with Madigan and Miller voting no.

   Earlier in the meeting, Miazga said he would no longer allow anyone to give a report without it being reviewed by him and passed by the committee. He said under meeting rules, reports come from committees, not individuals.

   This was at the point committee member Diane Madigan wanted to read a report on activities she did in January while representing the committee. (She originally planned to read it at the Feb. 2 meeting, but that meeting was cancelled because of a pending blizzard.)

   “I’ve been reading reports right along,” protested committee member Reggie Miller.

   “I’ve been allowing it right along and now I won’t,” he said, flinging his Robert’s Rules of Order book onto the table in front of Madigan.

   “You’ve given your reports on what you’ve done,” Madigan said to Miazga. “I wanted to give a report on a ride-along. What’s wrong with that?”

   Madigan gave a copy of her report to Miazga, noting, “There are no four-letter words.”

   Miazga said he was trying to keep reports from being given that seemed to be from the whole committee.

   Miazga, Wardwell, and Trustee Phil Hart had shown irritation that Madigan had given a report in January about the activities throughout 2010. They felt it should have been done by the whole committee. The bylaws call for a year-end report and Madigan said she had reminded Miazga of that, but he did not follow through, so she wrote her version of the report.

   Fleming said a report is a “committee report” and Madigan replied, “This is Diane Madigan’s activity report. I’m an individual.”

   Miller made a motion to accept hearing Madigan’s report. Trustee Hart first seconded the motion, but then withdrew his second because he wanted only to accept the report, not hear it. Crowe then seconded the motion, which was passed unanimously. Miazga said it wouldn’t be read.

   John Delaney called out “point of order” from the audience, saying Officer Adam Byrd gives a report at every meeting and the report did not have to be pre-approved by Miazga.

   “You have never censored his activity report,” Delaney said.

   Miazga said he has been getting more familiar with Robert’s Rules.

   “You’ve been violating it right along,” Delaney said and Miazga replied, “I guess I have.”

   Later when Officer Byrd’s report was to be given, Miazga asked for a copy of the report so it could be reviewed and then presented at next month’s meeting.

   “I’m keeping all reports … I don’t want to seem biased,” Miazga said.

   Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan protested that the information in Byrd’s report was time-sensitive. He suggested Byrd’s “presentation” could be considered an extension of the police briefing.

   “I’m requesting he give his presentation,” McClanahan said.

   Miazga asked Bryd if he would mind giving his “police briefing” as part of the police report and Byrd agreed.

   “I’ll call it a presentation tonight,” Byrd said.

   In other business at the 4½-hour meeting, the committee:

   • Added to the agenda three items Madigan had asked to be on the agenda but was refused by Fleming, who said, “We would not add them.” The added items were Blended Rate Costs, Stray Animal Procedures, and Property Checks. Also added to the agenda, at the request of Miazga, were the Truancy Ordinance and End-of-Year Report, and requested by Wardwell, Future Meeting Locations and the Open Meetings Act;

   • Witnessed the president of last year’s Citizen Fire Academy present a 1960s or so vintage bronze-plated fire extinguisher to Battalion Chief Ron Folks as a thank you for the work he did for the academy. Folks accepted the gift on behalf of the whole department;

   • Heard a Police Briefing by Public Safety Director McClanahan who said his department expects to lose 11.7% or $462,446 from the police millage levy in 2011 because of falling property values. He gave a list of nearby communities showing millage rates, including schools, indicating VBT is lower than others: VBT, 29; Canton, 35; Romulus, 37; and Belleville, 42. He said a team is being put together to work to pass the 4-mill public safety renewal this August and anyone willing to help may call the Public Safety Department;

   • Heart a Fire Briefing by Chief Darwin Loyer, with Battalion Chief Folks reporting on the Feb. 12 accident of the month. Chief Loyer answered questions on the Feb. 25 house fire. He said there was only one duty crew member available for Station 1 for a shift, so they put three members of the duty crew at Station 2 and worked the shift from there. Paid-per-call fire fighters were called out for the house fire on Hoeft and they picked up the ladder truck from Station 1. Loyer said the Tac 2 Expedition is being retired at 100,000 miles and being replaced by one of the police department’s old Crown Victorias with 94,000 miles. This is for transporting personnel;

   • Heard Byrd give his “presentation” on community policing. He announced a new VBT Public Safety Community Action Group that would be forming that is open to all residents and will be forming “strategic crime deterrents”;

   • Discussed at length the issue of Blended Rate Costs, as requested by Madigan. McClanahan said there are nine cross-trained fire fighters and 25 fire fighters, with the cross-trained getting 46.12% of the payroll and fire fighters getting 53.86%. The fire fighters make up 75.6% of the department and the cross-trained, 26.4%. Madigan said with the figures obtained from the township, she has determined the nine blended rate fire fighters cost the township $200,171. “For every blended rate fire fighter, we could hire two full-time fire fighters,” she said. “It’s not fair to fire fighters who do the same work,” Madigan said of the discrepancies in pay. McClanahan said he would explain “fair” from a “critical thinking” standpoint, not from emotions. He said the township has a collective bargaining agreement with a contract that was fairly negotiated. When challenged by Madigan, he did agree that the blended rate is not in the POLC contract, but in a 2004 letter of understanding attached to the contract. The contract runs out this year and will be renegotiated with everything on the table, according to Hart, who is one of the negotiators for the township, along with Treasurer Sharry Budd. Marc Abdilla, a blended-rate fire fighter and president of the locals for the POLC (police patrol) and MAFF (fire fighters) said it is not a contractual issue, but a Fair Labor Standards Act ruling. He said if you are already employed by the township, you have to be paid time and a half, double time, or blended rate to serve as a fire fighter. He said this ruling came as a result of a grievance by a fire employee. Madigan said she’d like to know if all the millage money is going to be put out to pay the $200,000 to the nine blended-rate officers. When Hart asked if there are trends across the country for cross-training of police and fire, McClanahan said, “A lot are moving away from it, although it is an efficient way to do business”;

   • Discussed Stray Animal Procedures and answered questions from Cortez Brown, vice president of Pine Forest Homeowners Association, about dogs running around without leashes and attacking children. He said he believes the dogs are from the City of Belleville;

   • Discussed Property Checks and why the addresses are published, which could be a “road map for burglars,” according to Madigan. She suggested just publishing the street name and not the address. McClanahan said he would look into that. [The police logs released to the media on March 7 contained no addresses at all for property checks.];

   • Discussed Wardwell’s request to move the committee meetings from the board room, where they are televised, to another smaller room at township hall where it would be more comfortable to discuss things together. He also didn’t like being televised. Hart agreed, saying when the committee moved into the board room from the smaller room where it used to meet, its dynamics changed. It was pointed out that most of the committee members also changed, thus the dynamics among them. Miller said residents have told her they liked seeing the cablecasts, but Hart said nobody ever told him that. “For the good of the township … we should meet in a more clustered environment,” Hart said. Cortez called for full transparency and full disclosure. Crowe said people really value seeing the cablecasts;

   • Voted 4-2 to hold an untelevised workshop session on a leash law prior to the April 6 regular meeting, with Crowe, Miller, Wardwell, and Madigan voting yes and Hart and Miazga voting no;

   • Discussed the Open Meetings Act and whether it was a violation to send emails to all committee members at once with information – not trying to persuade, but to inform. Cortez read to them from the Open Meetings Act on his smart phone and noted that under the strict reading of the law, it could be perceived as a violation to email all seven members;

   • Decided to postpone any action on the Truancy Ordinance proposed by Judge Brian Oakley after Miazga complained committee members did not give him input, as requested. Miller said she called and sent him emails, but he did not return her calls, so it is unfair of him to say that. Madigan also said Miazga did not answer her emails. Judge Oakley was supposed to be invited by Miazga to attend the March committee meeting to explain the thinking behind his words, but Miazga said the judge is a busy man and can’t be coming to committee meetings and then to a board meeting, as well, for the final vote. The ordinance could be put on a future work/study agenda;

   • Set up a committee to write an end-of-year report, with Miller, Madigan, and Miazga working on the wording and passing it around to get input;

   • Heard a resident say he saw an unfamiliar van in front of his house on Harmony Lane in mid December and then heard a knock at the door. A large man was at his door asking questions about the house across the street, which was not quite vacant. Finally, he told the man he should leave and then saw the man go to another house to ask questions. The man said he has a CPL and he got his gun and followed the man who was driving at a high rate of speed, so he could get a plate number. He called police and got McClanahan, who he had put on speed-dial for another incident, and described the vehicle and plate number and his present location at O’Riley’s Auto Parts on Belleville Road. Police were sent to talk to the man and the man turned out to be a legitimate local businessman who buys homes. He praised McClanahan for his personal service and walked across the meeting room to shake his hand;

   • Heard Carolyn Brooks, wife of Captain Kenneth Brooks, call the committee “very dysfunctional,” saying the committee should be more concerned with the August millage vote. “I saw arguing, arguing, arguing,” she said;

   • Heard Police Officer Bart DeVos, a 20-year resident and 17+ year employee, complain about the committee. He also said the committee should be concentrating on the millage. He said it had focused on dog issues for months and now that’s over. “I was one of the people knocking on doors for the millage,” DeVos said. He said he works nights and came to express his opinion. He listed the things the residents got from the last millage vote, including fire department duty crews 24/7 and the hiring of eight police officers, the SIU, traffic unit, 5-beat system, community police officer, cutting overtime, evidence technicians on most of the shifts, becoming proactive instead of reactive. DeVos asked the committee to “Step up to the plate for us.” He also complained about an article in the Independent, which was laminated, in which an editor’s note said Madigan trained police dogs. That was incorrect. Later, the editor apologized to him personally, saying she found that Madigan trained the personal dogs of police and fire personnel from VBT, Border Patrol, Harper Woods PD, and other jurisdictions, but not police dogs; and

   • Heard resident Reg Ion, who called himself the “Mayor of Ecorse Road,” tell the committee members that they have to learn to work together, even if they don’t like each other. He also said committee members should throw out Robert’s Rules of Order and suggested that they not even say those words for a long time.


Published March 3, 2011:
School Board hires negotiating attorney, keeps eye on finances


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   There are four bargaining units whose contracts are not settled at the Van Buren Public Schools, a looming June 30 deadline for creation of a balanced budget, and a projected $5 million deficit for next year.

   So, on Monday the School Board hired a special negotiating attorney to get the contracts settled so the district will know what its expenditures will be in 2011-12.

   Contracts still to be settled are Food Service, Administration, Secretarial, and VBEST support employees.

   After an hour-long closed-door session on “negotiations” Monday evening, the board voted unanimously to hire John L. Gierak of the law firm of Clark Hill to be the negotiating attorney. He will be paid $230 per hour.

   This is in addition to the district’s present law firm of Collins & Blaha, which will continue to serve the district in all other matters.

   Board President Martha Toth said Gierak will fast-track union negotiations.

   She said the need is urgent and now is not the time to go out for bids. She said it would be appropriate for the board to bid out professional services in the future.

   Board Trustee Scott Russell said if the board didn’t bring on an additional law firm, Collins & Blaha would be doing the negotiating, so this is just trading costs, not an addition.

   President Toth agreed, adding, “We hope to move faster this way.”

   Gierak, with cum laude degrees from the University of Michigan and Harvard, is the co-chairman of Clark Hill’s Education and Municipal Practice Group. He has been listed in “Best Lawyers in America” since 2005 and has been named in “Michigan Super Lawyers” as one of the top 100 lawyers in the state since 2007.

   Toth said Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a $470 cut in state foundation allowance per student and the governor said if employees pay 20% of their health care costs, the districts will be fine.

   But, she complained about him planning to divert money from K-12 to community colleges, which creates the need to cut K-12.

   Toth said she went to State Rep. Dian Slavens’ coffee hour that morning in Belleville and found an “unruly mob,” with many people angry about the governor’s proposed cuts. She wasn’t able to talk to Slavens about the school district problems.

   Business Office Consultant Mike Dixon gave the board an update on finances for the district, noting 83% of the district budget is in salary and benefits and if the district could cut 12-15% of the salary and benefits, it would take care of the deficit.

   Dixon noted Gov. Snyder will present his education proposal on April 7 and he still has to get his budget proposal through the House and Senate. Nothing is final, yet, he said.

   Trustee Russell said it would be prudent to prepare for the worst.

   Toth said she worries that the governor may not be able to convince his own party to raise taxes and the district would end up with all of the cuts and none of the raises, so the cuts would be deeper.

   She suggested board members write to State Senator Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, with their concerns.

   Trustee Sherry Frazier suggested information be put on the district’s website so people in the community also would be informed before writing.

   Dixon pointed to the five people in the audience and said if they wrote letters, it would have more impact in Lansing than if board members wrote, because of the board’s vested interest.

   Dixon said the Center for Michigan website spells out the financial situation in Michigan and gives the public a chance to record what they would do to balance the state budget.

   “We still have a chance to influence the debate” in Lansing, Toth said, urging people to contact their elected representatives.

   Russell repeated that the board has to plan for the worst-case scenario and Dixon agreed, saying anything that is cut now can be put back in the future.

   “We have to get ready for change,” Dixon said. “He’s going to change the way we do business. Change is coming. It’s got to come. We can’t go on the way we have been.”

   Dixon said he would give regular updates on the finances, so the board will stay informed. He reported, it looks as though the current 2010-11 expenditures will be $388,429 over revenues, leaving a fund balance of $323,231 in June.

   That fund balance will turn into a deficit of over more than $6 million, according to present best guesses. But, that all depends upon what happens in Lansing and how well the board’s new negotiating attorney does his job.

   In other business at Monday’s meeting, the board:

   • Approved $464,853 in change orders  -- field order alternates and bid pack upgrades -- as recommended by Plante Moran CRESA for Belleville High School construction and was promised a board tour of the building project in April or May;

   • Approved providing two school buses to Van Buren Township Summer Camp at the regular cost of $25 per bus per hour, plus $1 per mile. The program runs June 20-Aug. 19, with a week off betweens camps, July 18-22;

   • Approved the requested Feb. 6 termination of Tina Stamper as cook/manager at Tyler, after 16 years of service, for personal reasons; and approved the employment of Amy Henry as a food service worker at BHS starting March 1;

   • Removed from the agenda a proposed board resolution to borrow up to $2.3 million through a State Aid Note, in anticipation of state aid, to cover cash-flow shortages for the months of April-September to meet operating expenditures. This would be a line of credit to be drawn down as needed, reducing the amount of interest paid by the district. The resolution was not ready for board consideration and is expected to be on a future agenda;

   • Discussed having a board retreat to consider how the board should be functioning, as proposed by vice president Bob Binert. He said the board needs to work together because, “We are going to have to make some unpopular decisions if we do not get concessions from our employee groups … We don’t want someone to come in here.” He referred to a financial manager sent by the state if a district is in deficit. School Supt. Tom Riutta’s office will look into low-cost or no-cost locations for a retreat and board members will communicate their availability for weekends in April, so a date can be set. The retreat would be open to the public; and

   • Discussed a proposal to put the paraprofessional issue back on the agenda, but the clock clicked to 10 p.m. and the board said it had to adjourn, so it did.



School Board OKs $4,000 extra cost
to get ‘BHS Orange’


   The bleachers for the new athletic field at Belleville High School recently were delivered – and they were the wrong color.

   Paul Wills of Plante Moran CRESA told the school board on Monday that when the stands arrived, they were “candy apple red.” They were supposed to be orange, since the school colors are orange and black.

   E&D Specialty Stands agreed it was their error and took the stands back to paint them orange. But the orange they proposed was regular orange.

   “We wanted to get Belleville Orange,” Wills explained, noting the custom color would cost $4,000 more. It was approved as a Field Order by School Supt. Tom Riutta and approved by the board on Monday.

   The new football stadium is scheduled to be in operation this fall. The stands are powder-coated aluminum and will be “Belleville Orange.”

   This is part of the BHS project paid for with $79 million in voter-approved bonds.

-- Rosemary K. Otzman, editor

City Council gets clean audit, discouraging news for coming year


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The Belleville City Council got a clean audit report on the $2,342,000 budget ending June 30, 2010, but received some disheartening news about what to expect for the coming 2011-12 budget year.

   The fiscal year budget ending June 30, 2010 spent $79,000 in excess of revenue and took it out of fund balance to balance the books.

   The audit was done by Alan C. Young & Associates of Detroit.

   Molly Goike of Plante Moran, who presented the budget to the council at its Feb. 22 meeting with CPA Brian Camiller, said the fund balance should be from 15 to 20% of the overall budget and now the city’s fund balance has fallen to 6%.

   Goike said the water and sewer budget has been “a little bit of a problem child,” but for the first time in two or three years, the net assets, unrestricted, did go into the black by $32,000. She said that budget did have a little drop in operating income.

   She said part of the reason the general fund took a big hit this year was because of the federal government being slow in reimbursing some $45,808 in expenses for the Community Development Block Grant projects.

   Once the federal government pays what’s owed, the city will replenish the fund balance, she said.

   Goike said she foresees double-digit decreases in property tax income in the next budget year.

   Plante Moran’s Camiller, who said he works exclusively with municipalities in Wayne County, talked about the governor’s announcements and cuts in state revenue sharing. He said $66,000 is very much at risk.

   Also, personal property taxes could be removed from the city’s budget.

   Camiller said the city has done well and some of the fund balance will come back, but he would like to see it grow to 25%. He said the general fund is still at negative $150,000 in inter-fund loans.

   He said he would let them know as soon as information comes out in Lansing or Washington that affects the city.

   “It’s not a fun time to be in government. It’s a lot scarier time,” Camiller said.

   He said the cutbacks do give municipalities the opportunity to right-size operations.

   “Communities that act fast will get it [extra funds from Lansing for consolidating services]. Those that sit by the side of the road, won’t.

   “Your next budget year is going to be very, very difficult,” he concluded.

   The council considered and approved budget amendments for the current budget year, cutting expected taxes by $10,000 and CDBG funds by $17,350.

   The council increased administrative fees to the Belleville Area District Library.

   Also, the Police line item was increased by $34,358 to $1,121,402, some of which was a hike in unemployment to $15,000 through the year because of a police officer terminated some time ago that is back on unemployment.

   Senior Transportation was raised by $11,100 because of wages and much higher gasoline costs – an estimated $3,000 for gas alone.

   Cultural Activities were decreased by $35,444 because taxpayers voted to support the district library part way through the budget year.

   Councilwoman Kim Tindall said the city doesn’t participate in the state unemployment program and, “$15,000 for one guy is a lot. We may want to explore the state program.”

   The amended general fund budget for 2010-11 had total expenditures of $2,178,402 and revenues of $2,162,845,

which required taking a net of $15,557 from the fund balance, leaving $125,907.

   In other business at the Feb. 22 meeting, the council:

   • Approved the mayor’s re-appointments of Jesse Marcotte and Jason Rodriguez to the Planning Commission, with terms to expire Dec. 31, 2013;

   • Approved an amendment to the Snow and Ice Control Policy that makes it ongoing, replacing the original policy that was for a year only. This amendment gives the city manager authority to select an authorized contractor from an approved list compiled after public bid, to load and haul accumulated snow between the curb and sidewalk  on Main, Fifth, and Fourth streets; and around fire hydrants to allow access by the fire department. The DPS Director shall provide a full report of all costs and expenses to the city manager who will then present it to the city council at its next meeting, but not later than 30 days after the activities;

   • Heard a discussion on the removal of snow from along Main Street the nights of Feb. 7 and 8 by a no-bid contractor for a total cost of $8,400. “I, for one, am really proud of you folks for having the snow removed … Customers said it made it so they could get to the stores,” said businessman Ron Vesche. “The DDA doesn’t want to do it for us. There are members against doing anything to help us on Main Street… You folks took it upon yourself, even with low funds.” He said he called just as soon as he saw the snow gone to thank the city and so did his wife Jane. Councilwoman Tindall said the “DDA blew it off,” when the Vesches were seeking help with snow removal plans earlier in the season and, “the DDA dropped the ball.” She said the DDA blew it on purpose because they knew the city would do it if they didn’t. “You give me $40 an hour and I will shovel until my fingers fall off,” Tindall said. Davenport Brothers reportedly paid $40 an hour to some workers and $65 per hour to others for the two nights of work to clear Main Street;

   • Set a public hearing on the 2011 Community Development Block Grant budget of $57,000 for 7:30 p.m. March 7 during the city council meeting;

   • Set a 7:30 p.m., March 21, public hearing on a proposed zoning amendment on accessory buildings, as recommended by the Planning Commission. The amendment increases the maximum height of accessory buildings from 14 to 16 feet and takes away the restriction that the building must be used for parking vehicles, since woodshops would not be allowed;

   • Set a 7:30 p.m., March 21, public hearing on an amendment to the Emergency Snow Ordinance, allowing for the proclaiming of a Snow Emergency;

   • Set up a committee of Councilmembers Kim Tindall and Jim Shrove to study adoption of the International Fire Code, adoption of which was recommended by Fire Chief Lee Grant. The committee hopes to have its study complete in 60 days. Chief Grant said the National Fire Code (380 pages), which the city has now is too restrictive and the International Fire Code (400 pages) is more realistic and would be a benefit to the department;

   • Approved accounts payable of $114,15.16 and purchases in excess of $500: Barrett Paving, $510, for cold patch, out of Local Street fund; and Davenport Brothers, $8,400, for snow removal on Main Street right of way, from the Major Street/General Fund;

   • Heard Kollmeyer praise the Masonic Lodge members for doing an “awesome job” in picking up, sorting, and delivering free commodities to those who qualify in the City of Belleville. Van Buren Township used to do that service for the city, but stopped after the January delivery. The Feb. 15 pick up/sorting project was the first for the city and the Masons are doing most of the physical work;

   • Heard Tindall say that after the “blizzard” of Feb. 1, the city cleared Church Street, where she lives, but after the Feb. 20 storm, she couldn’t get out of her drive. DPW Director Keith Boc said the first time, the city declared a snow emergency and no one was parked on the streets and snow removal was easier. But for the Feb. 20 storm, “I didn’t know it was going to snow” and didn’t declare an emergency;

   • Heard Ron Vesche say he would like to put up a new sign and redo the front of his flower shop. He said the DDA is helping with facade funds, but the sign committee needs to complete its work so he can put up a monument sign. Mayor Pro Tem Dawson, who has been ill and not able to go to committee meetings, said he is on tube feeding for eight hours a day, sitting in a chair. “I want to get going on that,” Dawson said, noting this is only his second meeting back at his council seat since his treatment for cancer; and

   • Heard Councilman Shrove ask for a review of all city contracts, including the newspaper of record.



Johnny’s Grill almost was named

the Belleville Yacht Club


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Marash (Mike) Nuculaj was going to name his restaurant at 146 High Street the Belleville Yacht Club and registered the name with the state on March 17, 2009.

   But, he said, someone contacted his brother and said Nuculaj couldn’t use that name because someone else wanted to use it.

   “I don’t like trouble and I didn’t want to fight with anyone in the community,” Nuculaj said Tuesday. “So, I named it Johnny’s Grill.”

   But, Nuculaj still has the rights to the registered assumed name of Belleville Yacht Club and will until at least Dec. 31, 2014, according to documents at the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, Bureau of Commercial Services.

   A few months later, on July 23, 2009, a group of local men filed articles of incorporation with the state for a Domestic Nonprofit Corporation, with the name of Belleville Yacht Club.

   That didn’t fly with the state because the name was taken, so the application was altered to read that the name requested was: BYC and it was to be a social club that would be financed with dues and initiation fees.

   Scott Jones of Van Buren Township filed the incorporation paperwork, which was signed by him and four others on the Fourth of July, 2009.

   Other signers were Steve Davenport, John Hughes, Dave Marvin, and Ted Mull.

   In the Oct. 13, 2010 report to the state, Jones wrote: “We are a yacht club in Belleville, MI. We have grown to 30 members in our first year. We have conducted boaters safety for Van Buren township. We have participated in two parades for our Strawberry Festival and Winter Fest.”

   Jones reported he is the president (commodore); Mull is secretary; Marvin is treasurer; and directors are Davenport, Hughes, and Jones.

   Last fall, the BYC purchased lakeside property on North Liberty Street in the City of Belleville and put up a sign: “Future home of BYC.”

   The BYC sponsored a free ice skating rink for the public during December’s Winter Fest in downtown Belleville and will bring the popular rink back to the Fourth Street Square for the weekend of March 11.

   In November, Jones submitted a letter and plans to Van Buren Township announcing the group wants to put up a marina on the township shoreline in conjunction with a club house on city property.

   Terry Carroll, Van Buren Township interim director of planning and economic development, said township officials have been discussing how to handle the request and have decided to treat it as a land-use request and have it go through the planning commission.

   State records show that a “Belleville Yacht Club” also was incorporated March 30, 1990 by Carleton K. Rush and Gerald Butler, both of Bayshore Drive, with the most recent annual report filed for 1994. This club had automatic dissolution by the state on Oct. 1, 1997.


Published: Feb. 24, 2011:
Belleville Yacht Club plans 45-boat marina, elaborate clubhouse

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The Belleville Yacht Club has submitted plans to Van Buren Township planners for a 45-slip boat marina jutting out from its property on North Liberty Street, just east of the Belleville Road Bridge on Belleville Lake.

   Terry Carroll, interim Director of Planning and Economic Development for Van Buren Township, said his staff has been talking about how to handle it and has decided to consider it a land-use request, which will go through the VBT Planning Commission.

   He said this boat dock should be considered in conjunction with the building of a clubhouse, which will be handled by the City of Belleville. At last check, City Manager Diana Kollmeyer said the clubhouse plans had not been submitted to the city.

   Reports say the marina request was sent to the MDEQ before the township, which is unusual but not illegal.

   Spokesman for the Belleville Yacht Club is Commodore Scott Jones, who has not returned calls from the Independent seeking information on the project and the club.

   Jones is president of L&W Engineering in Van Buren Township.

   Jones also had a request before the VBT Planning Commission and a public hearing was planned for Feb. 23 for an oversize accessory building he wants to build at property he purchased at the end of November at 13970 Elwell Road, which may or may not be related to the BYC plans.

   At 50x100 feet, the building he wants to construct is 788 square feet larger than allowed and 10.6 feet taller than the permitted height of 14 feet.

   As to the proposed marina, Jones sent a letter to former Planning and Economic Development Director Dan Swallow on Nov. 19, submitting the club’s plans.

   In part, the letter reads: “In summary, our plan is to construct docks for use by our members and guests to enable them to dock their boats, per the attached plan. In doing so, we believe the BYC will enhance our community and bring needed revenue to the down town and township businesses.

   “The construction of our BYC docks prior to the start of construction of our club house will reduce our cost of the club house construction.

   “As you will see from our drawings, we will construct and maintain a high quality, aesthetically pleasing dock site.”

   A reliable source who has viewed the clubhouse plans said the building is large and is expected to be a showplace. However, parking for the private functions will be in the city parking lot across the street, behind Andrew’s.

   Plans call for the docks to protrude 145’ from the shore into the lake on the east side (with a 100’ no wake zone = 245’) plus 105’ into the lake from the shore on the west side for 45 boat slips. The property width is 140’ at the street and 145’ at the lake.

   Businessman Jeffrey Riggs, an enthusiastic boater on Belleville Lake who lives lakeside in the city, said he is concerned about this big project coming forward “under the radar,” with people not knowing how their public lake will be changed by the addition of this many boats at a private facility.

   “This is the busiest traffic area of the lake,” he said, explaining it is just east of the Belleville Bridge, an area that gets congested.

   Riggs said by comparison, Johnny’s Grill & Bar has 10 boat slips that protrude 30’ into the lake. The BYC proposal would extend four to five times farther into the lake than Johnny’s, he pointed out. It would be the biggest structure on Belleville Lake.

   He said Mission Pointe also was allowed only one dock with no overnight parking and the Harbour Club Marina extends just 30’ out.

   Riggs said approval of anything other than a maximum of 30’ of docks from the shore will invite a flood of applications for the same, and potential lawsuits if applicants are denied after a precedent is set.

   Riggs has prepared a power-point presentation on the BYC plans and has sent it to VBT officials and others in the community. His report can be viewed at: www.riggsproductgroup.com by clicking on the “BYC Marina Application.”

VBT Police arrest man in connection with assault at MJ clinic


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   James Bronaugh of Sumpter Township was taken into custody by Van Buren Township Police on Feb. 16 and booked and lodged for assault and battery, interference with police (resisting) and interference with township business.

   VBT Captain Greg Laurain said after being cited, Bronaugh’s bond was set at $600.

   Captain Laurain said VBT officers assisted VBT Ordinance Officer Dave Schuler in citing Bronaugh for operating a business without a Certificate of Occupancy.

   While attempting to gain information from Bronaugh, Officer Schuler was assaulted by Bronaugh as he attempted to close the door on Schuler, Laurain said.

   The incident occurred at the location of a purported marijuana clinic in a unit in the strip mall at the corner of East Huron River Drive and Haggerty Road.

   Terry Carroll, interim Director of Planning and Economic Development, said the township doesn’t have any paperwork on the business and Schuler was serving a citation for operating a business without a Certificate of Occupancy.

   Schuler asked Bronaugh for his driver’s license to get more information. Bronaugh reportedly said his license was inside the business, but didn’t want to let Schuler in. Schuler put his foot in the door and Bronaugh threw Schuler against the wall.

   There were two police officers with Schuler, Carroll said, and they arrested Bronaugh.

   Carroll said the owner of the strip mall also will be sent a letter about the necessary Certificate of Occupancy.

   At a recent public meeting, Carroll said there is reason to believe the clinic is also distributing marijuana.




See Van Buren Township Public Safety Department wages for 2010. Click link below.

click here to download file

To see Van Buren Township direct and total compensation for employees in 2010, click on link below.

click here to download file

Published Feb. 17, 2011:

School Board has to cut about $5 million

for next year’s budget

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The school board has to cut some $5 million from the $53 million proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year, which has to be adopted by June 30.

   “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said financial consultant Mike Dixon as he addressed the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education at its regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 14.

   Dixon gave an update on the budget that showed an “out-of-control” retirement rate that is increasing to 32.43% (costing $1,900,133), teachers’ union steps that will cost $893,645, plus reduced revenue of more than $2 million.

   Estimates now show the district spent about $69.58 more per pupil this year than it took in and for the 2011-12 school year that will go to spending $965.55 per pupil more than the district takes in

   He foresees a negative fund balance of more than $5 million.

   Dixon said the numbers will change some because the governor will be coming out with a new budget on Feb. 17, but it won’t pull them out of the deficit spending.

   “We can’t do this,” Dixon said of deficit spending. “There are six state statutes you violate when you adopt a deficit budget.”

   He said he didn’t want the newspapers to report he wanted to fire all the teachers, but he said to get out of the hole he would have to lay off every teacher below Step 13.

   He said it costs $25,000 per employee to provide benefits.

   The Van Buren Education Association contract agrees to no step increases for this year only, said Pam Smart. There is no such provision for 2011-12.

   Dixon said the district is looking into a “minimum operating threshold” to find what the minimum services the district has to provide.

   “That will be a number and hope it will be $5 million,” he said.

   Dixon said Van Buren is not the only district in the state looking at a deficit. He said the state is training 100 financial managers to go out and take control of school districts and municipalities in trouble.

   He said the governor is pushing for more power for these managers and there’s a bill in the Legislature that provides that the administration and school board will lose power once the manager is in and all contracts will be null.

   “Someone we don’t know comes in and cancels contracts, and overhauls to their heart’s delight,” said Trustee Scott Russell of the procedure.

   Dixon agreed and said Washington is not giving school districts any more money. He said the board doesn’t want to be in a situation where someone comes in and takes over.

   “It took us three years to cut $5 million [from the budget] and now we have a few months to do it,” said Board President Martha Toth.

   Dixon said the board will hear a lot of talk about consolidation of districts, but if it happens it’s going to have to be legislated. He said it won’t happen without the Legislature coming in.

   Trustee Sherry Frazier said the public schools have become the dumping grounds and “they” want to put the students in prime charter schools and break the unions.

   “That’s what their plan is,” Frazier said. “If you can’t balance your budget, they come in with their plan.” She added the districts can’t balance their budgets because of the lack of revenue, all the closed homes, lower tax money.

   Dixon said the state has its challenges as well and, “If you don’t do something with salaries and benefits, you can’t balance the budget.”

   He said the school board is looking at a 9% deficit and they are going to have to eliminate whole sections.

   Toth clarified that the district is not in a deficit now, although 40 other school districts in the state are.

   “We are looking at next year,” Toth said. “We are looking at needing to cut about $5 million – 10% of our budget.”

   A task force recommendation to recall paraprofessionals for three hours a day in all the 20 kindergartens in the district at a cost of $52,000 for the remainder of this year was voted down, 5-2.

   Voting yes were Frazier and Russell. Voting no were Bob Binert, Kevin English, Toni Hunt, Brenda McClanahan, and Toth.

   “We are offering the highest quality of education we can afford,” said Toth. “That’s what we’re down to… This gets people’s hopes up that this can continue,” she said of the proposal to put paraprofessionals back in place after they had been eliminated last fall as a budget cut.

   Russell said all of the board members care about the kids, “…We’re all being squeezed from the economy … I have a question of this board. I believe the priorities should be safety and education.”

   Other board members said that was their priorities, too.

   “This is just the beginning,” Dixon said. “Over the next six months others will come.” He said there are people at the meeting that night for kindergartens and paraprofessionals and in the future there will be athletic boosters and others because they will feel someone is getting shorted.

   “You don’t have the resources to keep going,” Dixon said. “You shuffle the resources and others will be out there [in the audience]… It’s going to be a tough road…”

   Hunt asked about the “minimum operating threshold” and Dixon replied it would include putting the maximum number of kids in classrooms, no athletic program (not required by law), no general education transportation (not required by law), and other cuts.

   “And where will your budget be when we’re gone?” asked parent Brenda Jaszcz, who was trying to get the board to improve conditions in the kindergartens. She asked how much each student was worth and Toth said more than $7,000.

   Another parent asked what would happen when parents pull their children out of the district because of dissatisfaction with the education.

   At about 10:10 p.m., resident Jane Kovach got up to comment for a second time and she said she was glad to meet Russell and in the past the board had been a rubber stamp and wouldn’t speak up. “I was glad to meet you; you’re going to be good for the board,” Kovach said.

   President Toth tried to get Kovach to sit down, but Kovach wanted to continue her comments.

   “We have the people’s business to conduct…” Toth said. “I will have to have the microphone turned off…”

   Kovach finished and was seated.

   Frazier said the refusal of the board to put the paraprofessionals back into the Kindergartens to help the teachers get the chaos under control “may be the tipping point of the district” as parents put their children in other schools.

   In other business, the board:

   • Approved three new BHS courses for next school year: Trigonometry for seniors, American History through Pop Culture as an elective, and Honors American History, for those not choosing to participate in the Advanced Placement program;

   • After much discussion, approved exploring the creation of a Senior Volunteer Program. The stories in local newspapers in late January about parents asking the school board for help for kindergarten teachers, led Van Buren Township Senior Director Lynette Jordan to call the schools to suggest using seniors as volunteers. The senior coordinator from Sumpter also was enthusiastic about such a project. Organizers hoped to have the first group of volunteers in the classrooms the week of Feb. 28;

   • Approved a field trip to the International DECA Career Development Conference March 18-20 in Grand Rapids for five students and sponsor Angie Dermody;

   • Agreed with Russell’s correction to the minutes of the Feb. 8 special meeting to reflect that the board not only discussed Robert’s Rules of Order, but also agreed as a board to revisit it later at a future policy review meeting;

   • Tabled adoption of the Jan. 24 meeting minutes because Russell  remembers discussion on the Family Resource Center being tabled and others didn’t. The audiotape of the meeting will be reviewed and the minutes placed on the Feb. 16 special meeting. Russell had more to say on the subject on Jan. 24 and the meeting was being ended because of the lateness of the hour. He objected to the subject being placed on the Feb. 14 agenda with a recommendation, since the discussion was not complete, a violation of the bylaws;

   • Approved the minutes of the special closed-door disciplinary hearings on Feb. 9 after which on a unanimous vote BHS Student A was expelled for 180 school days and on a split 4-2 vote BHS Student B was suspended and could return Feb. 28;

   • Approved hiring Sabrina Young as a secretary at South Middle School starting Feb. 7 and Beth Braden in Food Service at North Middle School starting Feb. 15;

   • Tabled until a special meeting on Feb. 16 the Family Resource Center issue and a Board Retreat discussion, since it was 10:30 p.m. and the board voted against extending the meeting for another 30 minutes;

   • Went into executive session to get an update on items from the school district attorney.



Four cops in VBT get out-of-court settlement for $25,000 each

                              By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   The four Van Buren Township police command officers who sued the township and its supervisor claiming they didn’t get promoted because they are white, have been paid $25,000 each in an out-of-court settlement.

   The four agreed to accept the $25,000 each to drop the law suit, which was filed by their attorney Joel Sklar on Nov. 17, 2009 in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

   Captains Kenneth Brooks and Gregory Laurain and Lieutenants Dennis Brooks and Kenneth Floro signed the settlement agreement on Jan. 19.

   Among other things, they signed off on their previous claims of race discrimination; denial of promotion/job opportunity; claims of lost wages, attorney fees or expenses; claims for fringe benefits; damages; “loss of consortium, loss of affection, affiliation or conjugal relations”; and claims that medical conditions or disabilities arose from the fact they didn’t get promoted.

   They also agreed to pay their own taxes on their payoff and pay their own attorney.

   The four agree that nothing in the settlement agreement should be construed as an admission of wrongdoing or liability by the defendants: Supervisor Paul White and Van Buren Township.

   “Rather, the parties acknowledge that they have entered into this agreement to avoid litigation expenses and court costs,” the Settlement Agreement states.

   The Agreement was obtained by the Independent through a Freedom of Information Act request.

   If anyone asks the four police officers about the settlement or case, they agreed to say: “The parties have successfully resolved all the issues raised in my/our Complaint. I/we believe that any discussion of the facts of the case will not benefit anyone since all parties are anxious to put the matter behind them and move forward.”

   None of the plaintiffs may challenge the validity of any provision of this Agreement without first giving back all the money received.

   On Jan. 31, Federal Judge Nancy G. Edmunds signed the stipulated order dismissing all claims in the case. Insurance attorney Thomas L. Fleury stated once that order was filed in the court, he would disperse the checks.

   The township is insured through the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority self-insurance pool for municipalities and VBT paid $439,269 in 2010 for insurance premiums and bonds. VBT pays $75,000 deductible for claims and in this case MMRMA would remit the extra $25,000 to the four police officers.

   The way the claims are handled is that MMRMA pays the whole settlement fee and figures the $75,000 deductible into the records for the township and takes it out of the pool rebate given to the township annually. The 2010 rebate was $43,000.

   Those suing were:

   • Kenneth Brooks, 52 at the time of the suit filing, of VBT, employed as VBT patrol officer on Oct. 29, 1979;

   • Gregory Laurain, then 50, of VBT, captain, employed as VBT patrol officer in fall of 1982;

   • Dennis Brooks, then 50, of South Lyon, lieutenant and brother to Captain Kenneth Brooks. Dennis Brooks was employed as a VBT patrol officer in August 1981; and

   • Kenneth Floro, 39, of VBT, lieutenant, employed as patrol officer on April 1, 1996.

   The series of events that led to this lawsuit started in May 2009 when Gerald Champagne was fired as VBT Director of Public Safety.

   The vacancy was filled by the board on July 7, 2009 with an interim director, Carl McClanahan (who later became director). McClanahan is a retired Detroit Police Sergeant with a master’s degree and residence in the township.

   The four officers claimed in their suit that they were not given a chance to apply for Champagne’s position and that Supervisor White had stated his intent to hire a black public safety director. They claimed McClanahan was less qualified than any of them and they were not hired because they were white.

   Floro is the only one of the four suing officers who has a college degree.

   In August 2009, VBT attorney Patrick McCauley stated “… there existed legitimate questions as to the police officers’ willingness to accept significantly less compensation and their ability to ‘bump back’ to their current union status should they accept, then possibly be removed from the interim position.”

   McClanahan’s salary for the interim position was approved at $89,000. Champagne had earned $99,363.88 in direct compensation in 2008 and $119,734 in total compensation, which included fringe benefits.

   Captain Kenneth Brooks earned $111,494.44 in direct compensation and $150,908.61 in total compensation in 2008.

   Captain Gregory Laurain made $116,931.21 in direct compensation and $155,562.79 in total compensation in 2008.

   Lt. Dennis Brooks earned $85,363.88 in direct compensation in 2008 and $122,386 in total compensation.

   Lt. Kenneth Floro made $124,312.21 in direct compensation and $158,562.79 in total compensation in 2008.

   While there were charges of racial preference from those seeking a recall of the four new township officials elected in November 2008 (including the officers who filed the complaints), Supervisor White stated that McClanahan’s qualifications were the first and only consideration.

   At one meeting, Supervisor White stated that he felt it was a “plus” that McClanahan was an African-American because of the diversity in the township population. There are no other black command officers at VBT.

   The suit hinged on a statement by Trustee Al Ostrowski at a public meeting that McClanahan was hired “because he was black.”

   While supporters of the deposed Champagne – including the three holdover board members -- sought a recall election of the four board members who fired him, the February 2010 recall vote was unsuccessful.

   Champagne settled out of court with the township on his racial discrimination law suit in March 2010. Champagne had asked for $1.1 million and got $457,000 --- $305,000 for himself and $152,500 for his attorney Seifman & Guzall.




Published Feb. 10, 2011:
City of Belleville pays $800 MIOSHA fine over water safety issue

By Rosemary K. Otzman, Independent Editor

   At its Feb. 7 regular meeting, the Belleville City Council approved paying an $800 fine to the State of Michigan to settle a citation against the city from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA).

   When asked to explain the fine, city attorney John Day said the city was cited by MIOSHA for not having proper training of employees for working around water hazards and for not having the proper equipment.

   The citation came from activities around the Princess Laura sinking at Horizon Park on Belleville Lake in late November.

   Day said the penalty was $2,000 at first but then there was an informal settlement that brought the fee down to $800.

   The city trained its people and demonstrated how to use the equipment, drafted policies, and bought the equipment – a $30 personal flotation device that was required to be worn around water incidents.

   Day said the state was satisfied with the city’s efforts.

   When a member of the audience at Monday’s meeting asked if this was because of Keith Boc’s actions at the incident, Day said the city was charged, not an individual.

   “When we investigated we found we had other problems. We found the state’s concerns were valid,” Day said.

   Kay Atkins asked if the citation was because of Boc’s actions as reported in the Independent at the time, and Day replied, “You can’t believe everything you read in the paper. That was not the charge. It did not have anything to do with that incident. Nothing that dealt with any altercation.”

   The Independent had reported in its Dec. 9 edition that witnesses saw a MIOSHA representative direct Boc to put on a life vest because he was working near the water and Boc refused, offering the F word in response.

   Atkins said the fine was too bad because she is sure the city had other ways to spend that $800.

   “We agree with you, but we got caught,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Dawson.

   Mike Renaud asked if Belleville Lake didn’t belong to Van Buren Township, and he was told the city has several retention ponds to deal with.

Sumpter Twp. to seek 1 mill for police


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   At Tuesday’s meeting (Feb. 8), the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to ask voters for 1 mill more of tax to help the police department survive.

   It will be on the ballot for the May 3 election and is expected to bring in $335,000 the first year levied.

   Last fall, the voters approved a renewal of 2 mills for police.

   Supervisor Johnny Vawters said if officials would have know the true impact of the cutting of Canadian trash to the landfill and what it and other state cuts would have been, they would have asked for the additional mill last fall.

   He said a total of $770,000 was verbally quoted as the amount expected to be lost from landfill royalties, but more than $300,000 already has been lost since November.

   The proposed 1 mill will run concurrently with the 2 other police mills for 5 years, 2011-2015, making a total of 3 mills levied for police protection, operation, and maintenance.

   Supervisor Vawters, at times in tears, said he doesn’t want to sit at the board table and watch the township go into receivership without giving the voters a chance to decide on the millage. He estimated it will cost the average Sumpter resident 15 cents a day more in taxes and conceded that some residents may not be able to afford that 15 cents. He said the township has to ask.

   Sumpter Township residents also pay 1 mill for fire protection and .7 mill for the district library, along with the 1 mill township tax and other county levies.

   Vawters said police and dispatch could be severely impacted if the millage doesn’t pass and noted that police is the township’s first line of defense.

   He said there is hope that the 10,000 homes that are being torn down in Detroit may be brought to the landfill in Sumpter for disposal, which could help.


Belleville City Council approves interference, skateboard ordinances


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   At Monday’s regular meeting (Feb. 7) the Belleville City Council approved two new ordinances – one to prohibit interference with city employees and the other to keep skateboards, roller skates and cycles from damaging the new streetscape and other things.

   After a public hearing, the council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance amendment that provides for a misdemeanor citation for those found guilty of interfering with police, fire, public works and other employees.

   City attorney John Day said the issue came up following an incident outside the fire station when a fire crew was backing the engine into the fire hall and a driver on Liberty Street blocked the way. That driver was prosecuted on something else, Day said.

   He said on looking into it they found other employees were having problems.

   Fire Fighter Nathan Loyer said the old law was antiquated and covered only the fire scene. He said the fire department is happy with the ordinance.

   A misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of $500 and/or 90 days in jail.

   “Be aware that while we appreciate this amendment, we don’t want to fine people,” Loyer said, adding Liberty Street is not the quiet side street it used to be.

   He said he has talked to Police Chief Gene Taylor about a blinking traffic light that could be put in place to alert drivers to activity at the fire hall. He said he got an estimate of $35,000 for one of the options and Chief Taylor is looking into a grant.

   “It’s just a matter of time until one of the fire fighters gets hit or a driver hits a fire truck,” Loyer said.

   There are options of having a red light on a post at the side of the roadway, activated from the truck, or a light hanging above that can be seen from both directions.

   Day said if a traffic control device is involved, the driver could be cited civilly and points could be assessed.

   Councilman Brian Blackburn, who also serves as a fire fighter, said he has personally had said to him, “I don’t have to stop for you. You’re not a bleeping cop.”

   “I agree,” said MJ Dawson. “I don’t think $500 is enough to pay. We have people out there risking their lives … fixing a water main … putting out a fire… If people are stupid enough .. they deserve at least a $500 fine.”

   DPW Director Keith Bob said two weeks ago his crew was on High Street working on a water main and High was shut off with barrels. He said people were driving around the barrels, up on the sidewalk, and in people’s front yards at the church.

   “It happens every time we fix a water line,” Boc said.

   “It’s selfishness … People need to grow up,” Blackburn said.

   Chief Taylor said it’s a civil infraction for a driver who ignores flashing red lights on a school bus, but only a misdemeanor for disobeying a crossing guard.

   “If we’re looking at changing the ordinance … a person not protected by a vehicle … should have more of a punch to the penalty,” Chief Taylor said.

   Atkins said at Music Lakeside in the summer, people drive around the barricades when High Street is closed.

   “Our species are creatures of habit,” said Chief Taylor. “… they think if they see cars inside that barricade, it must be OK… There are laws on the books for barricades … but people ignore the barricades … with their cell phones, screaming kids and have-to-be-there-last-week issues …”

   The other ordinance amendment adopted was to prohibit skateboards, roller skates, and cycles from being used in certain areas downtown. This was conceived in October when damage to the new streetscape first was noticed.

   The ordinance says a person must yield right of way to pedestrians and stay off of benches, table, planters, hand railings, and other devices not intended for pedestrian or vehicle traffic. The devices also are prohibited from use in the Fourth Street Mall, Belleville District Library properties, or any other posted property.

   Devices may be confiscated by the police and held as evidence for a prosecution of the civil infraction.

   In other business, the council:

   • Approved the mayor’s appointment of William Emerson to the Zoning Board of Appeals with a term to expire Dev. 31, 2012. Emerson is a former city councilman and will be retiring from the fire department in two weeks;

   • Approved transfer of the liquor license at the Bayou Grill, 404 Main Street, from Yanni Christodolou to Brain Copsey. The request now goes to the Liquor Control Commission for a final determination;

   • Approved the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 12 bottle drive at Victory Park to raise money for the annual BHS Senior Party;

   • Set the annual citywide yard sale for Aug. 27 and 28. This is earlier than usual – before Labor Day -- to respond to requests from college students who want to buy things for their dorm rooms at the sale;

   • Directed attorney John Day to put together a Snow Emergency ordinance for the council’s consideration. For last week’s snow storm, a notice was put on the community events sign asking people not to park on the streets and Boc said that was the first time the streets were clear when the DPW plowed;

   • Went into a brief closed session to discuss pending legal action;

   • Approved accounts payable of $353,532.21, including the following departmental expenditures over $500: to Auto Value, $662.52 for snow plow parts; to BS&A, $685 for service/support building department; to Metro Environmental, $717.50 for root cutting and $1,406.25 for sewer cleaning; to Michigan DNRE, $2,000 for annual permit fees for discharge of storm water; to Oakland Co. Treasurer, $1,962.75 for CLEMIS; and to State of Michigan, $800 for MIOSHA fine;

   • Heard Kollmeyer thank the Masonic Lodge for agreeing to help with distribution of free food to those in need by offering their lodge for sorting and distributing. She said they will pick it up, hopefully starting Tuesday, sort it and deliver it. Kollmeyer said she has a list of volunteers who can help the Masons;

   • Heard all the council members welcome Mayor Pro Tem Rick Dawson back to the council table after being absent for cancer treatment;

   • Heard Atkins suggest Boc be named ordinance officer along with his DPW job since he was doing that before, but then too much building was going on at the time. She said too many ordinances are being disobeyed because there is no ordinance officer; and

   • Reminded everyone the next meeting will be on a Tuesday, Feb. 22, because of Presidents’ Day on Feb. 21.




Published Feb. 3, 2011:
Sumpter Township Board settles with
ex-Officer Lange for $90,000

By Rosemary K. Otzman, Independent Editor

   Michael Lange, who was fired May 7, 2009 as a Sumpter Township police officer after 16 years on the job and then filed a Whistleblower law suit, recently accepted an out-of-court settlement of $90,000 to drop the case.

   The board voted to approve the settlement at its Nov. 22 meeting, Lange agreed to the settlement Dec. 16 and the final paperwork was delivered to the township on Jan. 24.

   The details of the settlement were obtained by the Independent through a Freedom of Information Act request.

   Besides giving Lange $90,000, the township agreed to furnish a letter of reference to anyone who inquired about Lange. If a verbal reference is requested, the response has to be consistent with the letter of reference.


   • All discipline will be expunged from Lange’s personnel file;

   • The township board will rescind Lange’s termination and reinstate him long enough so he can resign, as of May 7, 2009;

   • The police chief will amend the MCOLES separation notice to reflect that Lange resigned; and

   • The terms of whether there is a payment and the size of the payment is confidential and shall not be divulged to any third party.

   However, the settlement agreement is available through the Freedom of Information Act.

   In his law suit, filed June 16, 2009 in Wayne County Circuit Court, Lange claims he was fired in retaliation for investigating a fellow officer on narcotics allegations and for protesting the improper promotions of five officers to sergeant, among other reasons.

   Lange’s suit refers to a mysterious Sgt. X and a suspect M.

   The law suit said Lange worked for Sumpter Township from June 9, 1993 to May 7, 2009 when he was terminated. He spent eight years as a canine officer and 13 years on narcotics.

   The suit claims Police Chief James Pierce told Lange he could no longer use his own dog Henry on canine patrol and he would have to “donate” the dog to the township, but pay for the food, etc., himself.

   Lange’s suit claims another officer got to keep his dog and got paid for caring for it.

   Lange’s suit claims federal narcotics officers contacted Lange about Officer X and suspect M and illegal narcotics distributions. The suit said the federal agents conducted surveillance and confirmed allegations on X and M.

   The suit said Lange learned through his contacts that in March of 2007, X attempted to take his personal gun through airport security.

   The suit claims Chief Pierce heard of the investigations into X and pulled Lange from narcotics duties and told him not to contact M.

   The suit said in October 2007, Pierce promoted five officers to sergeant, including X. By doing this, he bypassed promotion procedures set forth in CBA.

   Lange said he filed a union grievance on the promotions, which was successful, but Pierce again promoted the same five to sergeant in June 2008, including X. The suit said the grievance “withstood challenge” because the officers had been tested.

   The suit said on Sept. 30, 2008, Chief Pierce ordered Lange to cease narcotics investigations and Lange was given one day to turn over his reports and other items to Det./Sgt. Mike Czinski.

   The suit said a September 2008 audit of the canine program found that Henry failed on “aggression” and Lange was given eight weeks to fix that and he did it on his own time.

   The suit said that in November 2008, Lange put in for two hours of overtime for a mandatory fitting for a bullet-proof vest and this caused Chief Pierce to become angry and swear.

   The suit said Lange filed a grievance on the overtime and was paid less than 75% of his overtime pay.

   Lange’s suit said that in the fall of 2008, he was under increased scrutiny. The suit said he confronted Pierce, charging that Pierce was retaliating against him, but there was no response.

   On Dec. 5, 2008, the suit claims, a sergeant told Lange that Pierce wanted him to come in early for a meeting. The suit said Pierce was there with three sergeants, including X, and Lange was put on paid administrative leave pending investigation into alleged criminal acts.

   The suit said that it was alleged by X that Lange was untruthful in written police reports. The suit said Sumpter Township sought criminal charges against Lange, but they were denied by the prosecutor.

   The suit said Pierce charged him with unprofessional conduct and falsifying records.

   A disciplinary hearing was held April 23, 2009 and findings were issued April 30, sustaining five charges with X a critical witness for each charge, the suit said.

   The recommendation was to terminate Lange and the Sumpter Township Board finalized the termination at its May 7, 2009 special meeting.

   The law suit claims violation of the Whistleblowers Protection Act and a second count of Abuse of Process against Chief Pierce for perceived retaliation.

   Lange demanded a jury trial and wanted to be compensated for lost wages, benefits and earning opportunities lost resulting from his termination, attorney fees, and more.

   He also wanted money for harm to his reputation, emotional distress, and mental anguish.

   Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John H. Gillis, Jr. handled the suit.

Published Jan. 27, 2011:

FMAR animal shelter gets $10,000 grant

By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   Friends of Michigan Animals Rescue of Belleville has been awarded a $10,000 grant through the Michigan Department of Agriculture to support FMAR’s spay and neuter program.

   The winners of the 2010 Companion Animal Welfare tax check-off funds, which generated $118,372.58, were announced Monday. The total is being distributed among 13 state registered animal shelters.

   Each selected shelter will receive between $3,000 and $10,000 in reimbursement for the purchase of supplies, services, and material for spay and neuter activities.

   The only other Wayne County winner was the Allen Park Police Department, which got $6,000.

   “I was so excited when I received the letter saying that we had been awarded this grant,” said Marci LaFramboise, founder of FMAR.

   “We had tried in the past without success. This is really going to mean a lot to our bottom line. This $10,000 is to spay/neuter the shelter animals before they are adopted,” LaFramboise said.

   Friends of Michigan Animals Rescue will hold an open house from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 30, at the shelter at 51299 Arkona Road in Sumpter Township, just east of Rawsonville Road.

   The open house is to show off the newly completed Cat Haven, but there also will be a lot of celebrating of the new grant.

   The Cat Haven has been constructed in a pole barn that was donated by MM Augusta, LLC, and transported down Rawsonville Road by Gasper Recycling, who put it down next to the current shelter behind the LaFramboise home on Arkona Road.

   It took a long time to renovate the Cat Haven because of lack of funds and building supplies, but what was needed came eventually.

   Now FMAR is ready to show it off to the public. The current shelter will be turned into a dog-only facility.

   The state grant announced Monday came through the Animal Welfare Fund that was established under Public Act 132 of 2007. The fund supports efforts relating to the spaying and neutering of animals and helps finance the costs for protecting and caring for animals that have been subjected to cruelty or neglect. Taxpayers may elect to contribute $5, $10, or any other amount to the fund.

   “Michigan citizens’ tax check-off funds are helping local shelters struggling with increased animal populations with the sterilization of pre-adoption pets in 2011,” said State Veterinarian Steven Halstead.

   “MDA received 34 proposals requesting a total of $316,192.58 in funding, indicating there is great need out there. Pet adopters appreciate the convenience of having the sterilization completed before the pets are taken home.”

  The Michigan Department of Agriculture is planning the next round of requests for proposals in October 2011, based on the tax check-off contributions from tax payers this year.

   Others receiving grants were Eaton County Humane Society, Missaukee Humane Society, Humane Society of Genesee County, Allegan County Animal Shelter, Isabella County Animal Control, Benzie County Animal Control, Manistee County Humane Society (Homeward Bound Animal Shelter), Newaygo County, Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan, Ingham County Animal Control, and Volunteers for Muskegon County Animal Control.

School Board agrees to seek volunteers


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   After again hearing from parents who were begging the School Board to get help for Kindergarten teachers, on Monday the board voted unanimously to set up a committee to figure out how to get volunteers into the classrooms to replace the paraprofessionals that had been eliminated.

   Director of Curriculum Peggy Voigt will immediately form a committee made up of parents, a board member, building administrators, and others to meet and come up with a plan to help – then report back to the board.

   “Set up a plan for what we can do,” said Trustee Toni Hunt. “This needs to be done quickly.”

   At the Aug. 23 board meeting, the board eliminated Kindergarten paraprofessionals and since then parents have spoken up at board meetings telling of the out-of-control classrooms and pleading for help.

   During Monday’s discussion, that lasted almost an hour, the board pled poverty and explained how federal and state funds that used to pay for the parapros are no longer available.

   “The state was audited by the federal government two years ago and got their hands slapped,” Voigt said.

   This resulted in over $1 million that couldn’t be used for parapros that can only be used for after-school programs, tutoring during lunch time, or similar programs,Voigt said.

   “I do have large Kindergarten classes,” said Edgemont Principal Karen Mida, referring to the classrooms of up to 28 students for one teacher.

   “It’s been difficult for the teachers … When I observe, there’s a lot of learning going on,” she said.

   Mida said she has looked at different ways to help and asked pre-student teachers and parents to come in to assist.

   She said a kindergarten teacher in her school took a medical leave in November and Mida put in a substitute teacher and there has been a learning curve.

   She said since Christmas, the children have been adjusting to that teacher. Mida said the district is getting her professional development training and having her observe other classrooms in the district.

   Mida said the teacher on medical was not expected to be gone this long, but now she won’t be back until March.

   Kindergarten parent Tammy Jackson pointed out that Romulus schools still have all their paraprofessionals and Board President Martha Toth replied that Romulus has more money.

   “They kept money in their Kindergartens,” Jackson said. “I’ve got nothing but shunned from this board, eyes rolled at me… I deal with politicians all over Michigan…Who should I be talking to?”

   Trustee Hunt said she works in the Lincoln School District and there are no parapros in the Kindergartens there.

   Jackson said Hunt was the one who rolled her eyes when she complained about the out-of-control conditions at the Kindergarten class at Edgemont at an earlier meeting.

   “Shame on you for making me feel like that,” Jackson said.

   Hunt said the removal of the paraprofessionals was a financial issue and, “We’re on the cliff.”

   Jackson said it is against the law for a childcare to have 25 kids with just one teacher. She said the children in the Kindergarten class are learning that it’s OK to yell in the classroom and hit in class.

   “It’s out of control. It’s time to do something,” said Brenda Jaszcz, mother of another Edgemont Kindergartener.

   Earlier in the meeting Jaszcz told of her experience in that Edgemont Kindergarten when she, her husband and the teacher witnessed one student body-slam another student and while everyone was focused on them another child slammed a hand in the bathroom door.

   Crystal Hurst, another mother, held her sick child Michael in her arms while she tearfully pleaded with the board.

   She said her son told her that when he’s six he doesn’t want to go to school any more. She said he used to love school.

   “Mrs. Mida has done the best she can,” Jackson continued. “It’s out of her hands.”

   Jackson said she goes into the classroom to help and is upset that the teacher tells everyone to sit down and put down their heads. She said not much learning is going on and the district is going to see a whole group of people leaving with their children.

   Hurst said she works for L&W Engineering and on occasion does graphics for the school district’s fundraisers.

   “My kid is suffering in this school district,” she said, adding it has gotten worse since the beginning of the year.

   Hunt pointed out there is a unique combination of students in that particular classroom, including a lot of younger students and a lot of boys.

   President Toth asked the financial consultant how much short the district will be next year and he said they need to cut $3 million to balance the budget.

   Toth said it saved the district $500,000, including benefits, to cut the parapros.

   “You can’t be driven by money,” said Trustee Sherry Frazier. “Any time you’re driven by money, you’re going to fail … We advertised last summer that we would have parapros…”

   “We are so close to going into bankruptcy,” Hunt said. “We can’t spend any more money.”

   When the board looked like it was set to deal with only Edgemont’s problem, members of the audience spoke up for their schools. A mother from Tyler said they needed help and Linda Cobb, who works at Rawsonville, said she was speaking as a mother in saying Rawsonville needs help.

   “I can’t believe there aren’t more parents here,” Cobb said, and Jackson said the others didn’t know it was going to be discussed.

   Mida said she tried getting help through Michigan Works, but the workers were not reliable and within three weeks quit.

   It was pointed out that Kindergarten teachers are bringing in their family members, church members, and friends to help in the classrooms since they are overwhelmed with the large class sizes and no help.

   Trustee Kevin English said the board needs to set up a REAL volunteer program with a set schedule.

   “We should have planned for this,” Frazier said and English replied that is in the past and the question is, “What do we do now?”

   He pointed out the administration is doing a study on redistricting, since some of the classes are larger or smaller in specific schools.

   In other business Monday, the board:

   • Discussed the plan to use the portable units at 416 Sumpter Road for a community resource center, to service local people needing help. Trustee Scott Russell objected to the location near South Middle School, since young children would have to walk by the center and he was afraid they wouldn’t be safe, since the center would draw desperate people who might have criminal records or drug problems. A representative from Wayne Metro Action Agency gave a presentation on how their group helps people, screening them for programs and enrolling them. There will be more discussion before a lease is before the board for action;

   • Listened to a letter of School Board Recognition from Wayne RESA Superintendent Chris Wigent, honoring the board as is done every January;

   • Approved requested terminations of Florine Thompkins from Food Service at North Middle School after three years of service as of Jan. 14 for personal reasons and Paul Henning from Communications Specialist at the Administration Building after seven years for layoff, as of Jan. 31;

   • Approved hiring Lola Dailey as a Food Service Worker at BHS and Timothy Dupuie as a Transportation Department mechanic, both as of Jan. 25;

   • Approved hiring chemistry teacher Matthew deHaan for the high school starting Jan. 24 at a salary of $39,907;

   • Approved a Resolution for Notice of Economic Layoff of Paul Henning, a legal document recommended by the school attorney. Frazier voted no;

   • Heard a presentation on the BHS Bond Project, in which Sid Dottinga of Granger Construction pointed out there is some $4.7 million, of the $79 million bond, available for the board to spend on projects they can decide on for the school. The proposed cafeteria roof project is estimated at $1.8 million;

   • Approved Change Order #7 for up to $95,214.50 in the high school project, including several regulatory mandates;

   • Approved Bid Packets 4, 6 and 8 in an amount not to exceed $82,978 to low bidder of three, Janson Industries of Canton, Ohio, for stage equipment and theater rigging, stage curtains, and orchestra pit cover;

   • Approved participation of BHS students for a second school year in the Wayne-Westland vocational programs at the William D. Ford Center and to explore creating a Health Occupations track for implementation in the 2012-2013 school year at the new BHS building. Graduate of the BHS Vo-Tech, Louis Jeffery, owner of Accurate Transmission in Belleville, spoke in favor of training students for jobs as technicians, auto body workers and welders, since those are forever jobs that can’t be outsourced to India. “Cars that crash need to be fixed,” Jeffery said. He said the BHS program should have been broadened, rather than closed;

   • Approved participation by board members in classes, workshops, and conferences put on by the Michigan Association of School Boards for February through June, 2011;

   • Tabled a discussion on a board retreat, since it was almost 11 p.m.; and

   • Noted that the policy review would continue at the Feb. 8 workshop session, along with a study of Robert’s Rules of Order, as suggested by Trustee Russell. The next regular meeting is 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at South Middle School.

Belleville Council seeks to stop interference with city employees


By Rosemary K. Otzman

Independent Editor

   A public hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7 before the Belleville City Council to hear input on a proposed ordinance amendment to prohibit interference with municipal employees.

   At the council’s Jan. 18 meeting, City Manager Diana Kollmeyer explained that the ordinance amendment is being proposed because the fire department had issues with trying to back their fire engine into the station, with traffic not stopping.

   The ordinance, which shall have penalties for violation, reads:

   “No person shall in any manner, disregard the commands, jeopardize the safety, or interfere with any municipal employee or uniformed municipal officer, including Police, Fire, or Department of Public Works, who are engaged in the performance of a municipal duty. Municipal duty shall include but not be limited to any form of emergency, maintenance, traffic control, pedestrian control, or other activities of municipal employees and uniformed officers who are engaged in the performance of their official duties.”

   In other business at the Jan. 18 meeting, the council:

   Excused the absences of Mayor Richard Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Rick Dawson and appointed Councilman James Shrove to conduct the meeting;

   Unanimously approved the request of the Belleville Area Council for the Arts to hold a Free Fishing Day at Horizon Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 11. The same format as last year’s event will be followed. BACA President Kay Atkins said the state allows fishing without licenses for two days that weekend and BACA chose Saturday;

   Approved accounts payable of $358,439.82 and one departmental expenditure over $500: to Farmer Underwood for supplies for water main breaks, $1,164.02. Councilwoman Kim Tindall said Farmer Underwood shouldn’t have charged the city tax on sand, and DPS Director Keith Boc said he will ask them for a credit, since the city does lots of business with them;

   Heard Councilman Brian Blackburn complain about employees of other municipalities driving at high speeds through the city. Kay Atkins said anyone using the city streets should comply with the laws already on the books. It was decided to have this handled administratively;

   Heard Councilman Blackburn also point out a large pothole on South Street near Henry that is getting worse every day. He said five to six people have complained to him about it. He emphasized that he knew it was Wayne County’s street, but the city needs to do something;

   Heard Councilwoman Tindall ask for ideas on how to communicate with citizens, since many people didn’t know what was going on when all the fire engines were in town for the funeral earlier that day and several streets closed. Police Chief Gene Taylor said both Van Buren and Belleville have Nixle and citizens can sign up for information blasts to their cell phones or computers. Tindall said she will look into Nixle; and

   Heard former Mayor Tom Fielder say that Public Act 300 requires emergency workers to drive in a “reasonable and prudent” manner and is quite specific. “They should not cause an accident to reach an accident.” Fielder said the offenders were mostly Belleville Police and Atkins disagreed, saying it was mostly VBT fire trucks and VBT fire fighters. Atkins and Fielder live across the street from each other on South Street and can see the traffic. Atkins, a former mayor pro-tem, said that the Belleville police were trained well by Chief Taylor and the fire fighters were well-trained by former fire chief Darwin Loyer.


           JANUARY 2009 TO PRESENT              
              Cool  UPDATED WEEKLY!!!  Cool