SPECIAL MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI
Mayor Clark called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE:
ROLL CALL: Mayor Clark, Mayor Pro Tem Bononi, Council members Capello, Csordas, DeRoche, Landry-absent Lorenzo
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION - NONE
PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING
Mayor Clark advised Council that the evaluation of the City Clerk would be the first item of business. He thanked Ms. Cornelius for the City Clerk evaluation form, which was offered by the International Association of City Clerks, and for information provided for Council. He thought the members of this community would be amazed at the areas of responsibility the Clerk is responsible for. The City Clerk is the official record keeper and responsible for record management, elections officer, City Council liaison and personnel supervision in her department. Those are just the broad categories and each has duties encompassed within them as well.
Evaluation of City Clerk
Ms. Cornelius considered herself fortunate to work along side the Mayor, each Council member, the City Manager and the staff. She commented her job is essentially a set of expectations set forth by the job description, Charter, ordinances and she was present to receive some feedback. The Clerkís Office is almost halfway through the goals set for the 2001-2002 budget and next month would begin setting goals for the 2002-2003 budget year. Ultimately, the goal of her department would be to provide the highest quality of service to the community by supporting the organizational values and goals of the Mayor and Council. She believed that had been done and it would continue in every aspect whether it was staying within the budget guidelines, extending department services internally or providing services to residents. It has been a little over a year and a half and she felt she had conducted herself in a manner Council would be proud of and she had led her department in the same fashion.
Member Csordas thanked Ms. Cornelius for the packet she provided and felt it was a very good presentation and he fully understood what her responsibilities were and her dedication to the City. Member Csordas commented that every contact with Ms. Cornelius had been very professional and courteous and he believed that she represented the City in a professional and courteous manner. He thanked her for that. Member Csordas chose to check items off the performance evaluation instead of using the 1 through 5 rating. Although, he doesnít have a lot of contact with the Clerk during the day he had never heard anything about Ms. Cornelius except good.
Going through the evaluation: Demonstrates good working relationships with business and community leaders Ė Member Csordas believed that Ms. Cornelius did this and exceeded his expectations.
Deals tactfully, skillfully and courteously and efficiently with public Ė He did not know this but if she treated the public as she did them he was sure that was the case.
Supports and facilitates professional growth and development with staff Ė Member Csordas asked how she did this.
Ms. Cornelius said she has continued to cross train and felt it was very important every staff member be knowledgeable so they could respond to residents, developers, etc. Staff members are encouraged to attend on-site development courses such as computer training and other seminars. Also one of her staff members is attending the Municipal Clerkís Institute at Michigan State. So far three of the staff have been there. Member Csordas asked how many staff members she had. She responded five full time and one part time. He asked if they have all participated in the cross training and if it was interdepartmental? Ms. Cornelius said itís within the Clerkís department but we have been able to provide services to help other departments. We have offered assistance to the Treasurerís Department and Finance during the budget time.
Member Csordas asked Ms. Cornelius to expand on what her policies and procedures are for the staff in response to the general public.
Ms. Cornelius said it is required that the phones be answered quickly and if someone approaches the counter they are to be helped as soon as possible. Interdepartmentally, if anyone makes a request they know they are expected to respond in a timely manner. It is a general feeling that someone is very important when they come to the counter whether it is for a permit, license, flood plain map or directions to other departments.
Member Csordas read the next line item "Alert to technological changes with potential productivity and uses interpersonal and organizational skills to introduce improvements into the organization" and asked her to expand on it.
Ms. Cornelius said in terms of the productivity increases we have spent a lot of hours researching documents for information for FOIA and other requests. As part of that we have stepped up the Laser Fische program, which scans in documents for search and retrieval. By entering a few key words, those sections containing key words appear on the screen so that you can search the source you need. For example: We were looking for a document pertaining to something that happened in the building department with a contract and we used the word search feature. Rather than searching all the minutes going back to the 1960ís, within about 10 minutes we had a several resources or hits as they are called. Then, those sections are reviewed. We also used it for the last references of the Walled Lake Sector Study. In ten minutes we had information that might have taken a couple hours otherwise.
Member Csordas asked if there was a high percentage of scanning achieved? Ms. Cornelius said we have a great deal and the next step is contracts, deeds and easements. We have so many files and the goal is to reduce the size of the files by scanning in the documents, those would be burned on the CDís, which would be stored at City Hall and one offsite. Then the records could be shipped out for storage and also viewed from a CD or if the original was needed, it could be produced as well. We are also working toward interdepartmental access so it could be pulled up at the desks of other department staff members.
Member Csordas asked if this was a self-initiated task? Ms. Cornelius responded she called it her Disaster Recovery Plan. She understood that there have been some storms in Novi over the last 10 years and she thought if there were ever a natural disaster, how would this history be recreated. There would be a lot of legal documents that would need to be accessed. As part of the plan, everything needed to be in a specific location so that it could be retrieved.
Member Csordas went on to "develops productive working relationships with neighboring jurisdictions, regional organizations and state government regulatory agencies". He knew Ms. Cornelius was the President of the State Association and Ms. Cornelius said she just completed her term. She said her focus is now on the Novi Rotary. He asked what other relationships she had developed?
Ms. Cornelius said if requests have been made and youíre looking for ideas for improvements, it is beneficial to contact other municipalities. By developing those intergovernmental relationships, instead of reinventing the wheel, other communities might have already done something. For example: There are 18 precincts in Novi and we were paying $300 for each precinct to have a specific company code our program packs for the election. Ms. Cornelius thought that was pretty excessive and she understood that there was someone available at Farmington Hills that could provide that service and instead of $5,400 for 18 precincts; we programmed the entire City for a total of $400. Due to the relationship that has been developed, we found out that this person was capable and that person coded our last local election and everything turned out just fine.
Member Csordas was delighted to see that Ms. Cornelius had a private sector mentality because it is very good for a fiscally responsible attitude and approach. He asked why she thought all the customer service cards have been positive? Ms. Cornelius thought that when people are treated in a manner that they are appreciative of, they take the time to write it down. The ones you donít hear from, that you might want to be concerned about, are the ones that wonít come back to us but you might hear a ripple within the community. The whole idea is to be proactive within her department so that doesnít happen. If you were to find out that someone was dissatisfied with how they were treated, the step would be ours to take to find out what happened and how to repair our relationship. Member Csordas asked her to give further thought to that because we know that we are not perfect and found it curious that we never even get room for improvement comments.
Member Csordas noted he appreciated Ms. Corneliusí contribution to the community, the fact that she accepted the offer of employment and he believed she had represented the City exactly like he expected and he appreciated that.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said she didnít have much communication with the Clerk but when she did it was usually to help her out and she always did. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi commented she tries to be cognizant of other persons time and respectful of their personal duties but Clerk Cornelius never fails to respond with information, communication, referral to other people and that communication and the service Ms. Cornelius provides is of outstanding quality. From the standpoint of coming onto the Planning Commission years ago and having a lot of inquiry with the Clerkís office when a first vice-president of her homeowners association, the reception she gets now is decidedly different than what it was back then. Many times it was a tooth pulling exercise and she went away unhappy a lot of times and she believed that has been turned around. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi had not talked to a single citizen who has expressed any dissatisfaction to her with regard to the service provided by the Clerkís office.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi was interested in knowing how Ms. Cornelius managed people and her department. She asked how she rewarded her employees for discretionary behavior? By this, she meant was for the employee who went above and beyond what was required and if she couldnít give them money what did she give them? Ms. Cornelius said it has always been her philosophy that when someone has gone above and beyond replying to someone or fulfilling a request, she made it a point to let them know she appreciated the path that they took. She would also tell them that it was nice to know that she could count on them whether near or far. She felt people needed feedback and needed it regularly and one of the best things to do for someone is at the end of the day, send them home with something good. Whether it is just telling them she appreciated the way they handled that person, that it took an extraordinary amount of patience and tact, and after reviewing the incident with them, show appreciation as well. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said some comments she heard from residents were issues with accountability in various departments within City Hall. She listened to them very carefully because you can tell a lot about the perception of the speaker and it makes you ask creatively about how good we are at what we do hear. How do your employees understand the concept of accountability coming from you as a manager? Ms. Cornelius said she had a system whereby she likes to check with employees asking what are you doing, what are you up to, how far are with this, or where do we stand with that. Since she has made it a habit, an employee will sometimes come to her and advise her where theyíre at whether going home at the end of the day or on vacation so she is aware of what is going on and whether information has to be passed onto Council, etc. Being accountable just by staying in touch and letting them know she is out here too. She sometimes sets guidelines and deadlines when needed. She tries to be specific about what she needed and when and her employees respond. There is communication and keeping in constant contact as the way to accomplish accountability.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked Ms. Cornelius what her annual budget is? Ms. Cornelius said it was around a half million dollars. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked Ms. Cornelius if her department had a business management plan? In terms of individual goals we have a conference room and to make the goals visible to everyone, the goals are stated on the board and they have been visible since the budget was adopted. When they are met, they are checked off. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked if she had a customer service plan? Ms. Cornelius said in terms of customer service, her plan was to live it daily and she thought she had made it clear that when the customer comes to the counter they are to be treated with the utmost respect and go the extra mile to find out what they need. Often her employees would walk the customer to the department they were seeking.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked how she managed her employeeís performance and how she measures her own? Ms. Cornelius said she has met with each of them, the administrative staff, twice a year to set the goals and then to see how they are doing. In terms of herself, it is the same thing. She has a goal sheet for herself and it is a check- off about where they have been and what are we doing and we sometimes add things. It is a great idea to review the overall goals once a year and sometimes twice.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked what her plan was to improve registration at the voting polls? It is slow, it blocks up traffic, people are tired and it is not an efficient process. Ms. Cornelius said she has been working behind the scenes to think of a process and understood a test had been done where a community used laptop computers, which would have the registration information available to the poll workers to bring the name up quickly instead of going through sheets of names with a ruler. This has been used by Delta Township near Lansing. We have been following it to see the success rate. In some things, our hands are tied because we are mandated by the State Qualified Voter System to use their list.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said in the information provided Ms. Cornelius had said that it was her responsibility to track letters of credit and bonds and asked for status these letters of credit and bonds are in regarding knowing which are timely, which are due, how that is tracked and are we in tiptop shape in that regard. Ms. Cornelius responded we had maintained only the bid bonds. Sheila Weber in the Treasurerís office maintains the spreadsheet in terms of tracking and status of projects.
Member Lorenzo felt that overall Ms. Cornelius had done an exemplary job. She said she and the Clerk had had phone conversations fairly regularly throughout her tenure here and all of them were very professional, very courteous, very helpful and the information requested was always received in a very timely manner. Also, with regard to how she handled her employees Member Lorenzo knew that at least on one occasion Ms. Cornelius had asked her if a member of her staff was respectful of her and Member Lorenzo believed she is checking up on those types of issues and she appreciated that. Member Lorenzo appreciated how Ms. Cornelius has upheld to the highest standards all the applicable laws that Council must follow, all her initiatives discussed tonight and the information provided and setting the deadlines and guidelines. Particularly the fact that she saved the citizens of Novi money and that is appreciated. She had also saved $1,700 by obtaining the official election mail status. Absentee ballots normally mailed at 55 cents were mailed for 14 cents. Regarding the scanning of permanent documents Ms. Cornelius had more than doubled what the total was for last year and plans a higher percentage to be done for next year. She asked Ms. Cornelius share with Council her frustrations and advised them what they could do to help her do her job even better.
Ms. Cornelius responded that it was not really a level of frustration. She said coming from another municipality she had had much more contact with each of the Council members and she missed that. Ms. Cornelius said if there was anything they needed from her office we would be happy to handle anything they needed. This offer has been made to the City Manager also that if there is anything we can do to help or assist just let her office know how we can be of service.
Member Lorenzo asked about any particular goals she had or shortcomings she had in her department that she would be working on this year or things that have made her a little frustrated. Ms. Cornelius commented she could honestly say that we have been afforded a great opportunity. Our staff has been offered the opportunity to get training and for them to know that they can receive training when necessary is one of the greatest learning tools. So in terms of that there are no shortcomings. It is paid for by taxpayerís dollars and is something that is going to come back because they will use that internally. In terms of that there really are none and she felt very fortunate to have the staff that she does and the way they have responded. Member Lorenzo said honestly, this organization has its challenges but Ms. Corneliusí department is not one of them. Things are working smoothly and she appreciated what Ms. Cornelius does.
Ms. Cornelius commented that waiting twenty months to have an evaluation, she was on the edge of her seat at times and she hoped that this could be done maybe July 1 every year. Member Lorenzo said Council definitely had to be timelier and recognize when these dates are coming do and it was a shortcoming on Councilís part this year.
Mayor Clark commented they would have to assign that as another duty to the City Clerk as the official record keeper to remind them of the evaluations.
Member DeRoche commented that he was more than pleased with every aspect of what she had brought to this community and he thought it was an extraordinary job that she did. He said leaders such as Lt. Governor Posthumous and others walk out of her department and they say "youíve got something going on there." Everyone that he had talked with in other cities and across the State of Michigan, when he says he is on the Novi City Council, people say "I know Maryanne Cornelius and you have one of the best Clerkís in Michigan." He has heard this several times over the last 12 months from other City Council people and from Clerks around the State and he was very happy.
Member DeRoche asked if she was involved in the creation of the agenda? Ms. Cornelius said they always meet together as a group whether itís the leadership group, City Manager and herself to collaborate on the creation of the agenda.
Member DeRoche said occasionally Council meets for a meeting on Monday night and it will have information that is not exactly what the Council voted on. The wording is different or it is presented in a different way. He considered that to be Ms. Corneliusí responsibility in those meetings to advise them that if the agenda was to be changed, it had to be done when it is voted on because she had to put on it exactly what was instructed to be put on by the Council. He wanted it to reflect exactly how Council wanted it and if it didnít make sense, then the Mayor or City Manager could ask to have something removed or reworked when approving the agenda. He also hoped, regarding the letters of credit and bonds that Ms. Cornelius would exert herself over to the other side of the administration if that information wasn't coming to her in an organized way so she could be the repository on it. The other was regarding scheduling Council attendance at meetings and conferences. He said they used to get correspondence in advance of these in and it seems that has changed or he was not following it like he used to and he wanted the Clerk to be aware that he was interested in learning about those events. He encouraged the Clerk to make sure that Council was aware of those meetings as they come up. Member DeRoche thought the Clerkís office did a very good job distributing the Council mail. He didnít know the guidelines of what was opened and what was not. Ms. Cornelius said everything is opened now. Member DeRoche said that was exactly his comment because sometimes in the past her employees thought some letters looked personal and did not open them and then it turned out it was an event on Friday and he was getting it after the fact. Ms. Cornelius said we have not been opening the mail. It is being opened by the Fire Department and distributed by the Clerkís office the following morning. Ms. Cornelius offered to look at the mail and e-mail upcoming events. Member DeRoche said he didnít know what the right answer was.
Member DeRoche said overall he is extremely impressed and Ms. Cornelius is one of the jewels, as far as employees go, in the organization.
Member Capello had the unique opportunity of not being on the Planning Commission or Council over the last 11 months and had interacted with the Clerkís department quite a bit over the counter. He found the employees always pleasant and responsive and they have never said they could not do something. They have always found the answer and the solution and they do that to normal citizens. He thought Ms. Cornelius and the department should be commended.
Mayor Clark commented that he thought the greatest commendation one could get is when your own peers select you to be their leader. The fact that the statewide association of Clerks for the State of Michigan selected Ms. Cornelius and she served as the immediate past president says a great deal. Also, the fact that being a member of the South Oakland County Mayorís Association we meet on a regular basis and every time he went to a meeting, there is a Mayor that comments that we donít know how lucky we are to have Ms. Cornelius as your City Clerk. We do appreciate the work that she does and he probably more than anyone on the Council has more opportunity to interact with the Clerkís office probably to the point that they say to themselves heís back. The Mayor said he often pops in early in the morning or at the end of the day with requests to have something done and many times he offers to come back tomorrow and is told if he can wait a few minutes they would take care of it now and then he could sign it before he leaves. He thought that said volumes in terms of commitment and professionalism and dedication and he thought she had taken that whole idea and infused the entire department with it and we can hold up her department to the other departments in the City as a shining example of being the best that you can be. Also, in the community he has heard over and over again how well people have been treated when they go to the Clerkís department and how satisfied they are and they feel also that we are very fortunate to have you in the position of leadership for that department. Obviously, if he was to grade this evaluation they would all be at the top of the chart and he did not do that easily because it is not to often he could say that someone deserved top marks in all categories. However, he could honestly say that without hesitation where Ms. Cornelius because she had earned it.
Mayor Clark said the next evaluation would be of the City Manager, Mr. Helwig.
Evaluation of City Manager
Mr. Helwig thanked Council for the opportunity to interact on the topic of performance. It is the primary reason our relationship exists and it is the only reason we exist in this building is to perform in the best interests of the community and the citizens we serve. It has been a whirlwind twenty months and that is not an exaggeration. He remembered joining Council on a Saturday morning before starting his position on Monday. He joined Council for their third budget session for 2000-2001 and he felt he was not only trying to get to the caboose, he was running after it. The train had left the station and there was a lot to grasp and deal with immediately including the budget document. The tone was set very early of trying to grasp strategically, the community issues that were of uppermost importance to Council and the organizational strengths and weaknesses taking stock of the team that was here and just how we were going to be able to perform and increase that performance. The road bond was the first example where it had been defeated the prior year and we came up with the notion of having neighborhood focus groups that appeared to be new here. It was an excellent way to start to connect with the community and attempt to rebuild some of the trust that Council had talked about during the interviewing process. That has been a daily priority in every interaction to try to put us more in the plus column in terms of building trust throughout the community. Fortunately, we had a lot of good citizen leadership, a lot of work sessions designing the ingredients of the Road Bond and we were successful in having the Taubman Company pledge to contribute $650,000 towards the Twelve Mile gap so it did not have to be in the Road Bond. All these things were going on and now as we look back, if we were faced this recent November with approving the Road Bond, we might not have been able to do it given the economic climate and other factors that have changed in our environment. So seizing the moment strategically was something he hoped he brought to Council everyday.
At the same time it was six weeks after he was here that he turned to the Plunkett and Cooney attorneys and said he needed to see a written analysis taking stock of our appeal in the Sandstone case. As we know, that analysis has become public and he testified to that fact last week in Circuit Court and again trying to grasp what are the things that would truly have long-term meaning if we are able to deal with them soon and successfully. That was something he was trying to bring to Council early on. He could not emphasize enough about taking stock of the strength and weaknesses of the organization.
There has been a lot said about personnel turnover. He said he absolutely aspires to retain and attract the best possible performers and he considered himself a competitor and we are in a very competitive business in terms of retaining and attracting top-notch people. We are in a competitive environment with other cities in terms of attracting jobs, strong vital neighborhoods and overall quality of life. So, there were some people that were ready to leave after 25 years of the prior administration or they had better opportunities and there were some people who needed to leave. The more he became aware of complaints in the forestry area or just watching performance over the next six months, accountability was something that he had emphasized since day one. We are here for one reason and that is to achieve results for the community and the only way he could be totally accountable to Council for the performance of the organization was to in turn hold other people accountable. So that June of 2000, he introduced performance agreements for our administrative personnel, which had not existed. He started producing means of communicating, formed the leadership group of our top staff, which had not existed and tried to break down some of the barriers that were in place between the various departments in the organization. At the same time he emphasized community. If someone called with a problem he would try to go out and see it and if he couldnít go out he would have someone else from the office go out and try to grasp what the situation was.
Many of these issues were very long standing. A major frustration of his had been not to be able to initiate many work program components. It has been a list of unfinished initiatives. He said he came on board and the Police Officers had not had a contract for a year mainly because no one was willing to take a fresh look at 12-hour shifts. Council was kind enough to grant two new positions in the first budget, a new Police Officer and a Human Resource Director when Tia Gronlund-Fox was promoted before the July 1 budget went into effect. Ms. Gronlund-Fox was taken offsite along with Chief Shaffer to Walsh College and Mr. Klaver assisted and Mr. Helwig kept asking questions of departments around the country that he knew because he had never worked with 12-hour shifts. He was citing this as an example of problem solving and how we are trying to collaborate and take a fresh look at ways of doing business that are in the best interests of the community. As it turned out, it was a win-win situation. We have among the fewest number of uniformed officers per thousand personnel of a community in Oakland County and we need to make the most of those resources. One way to do that is to get more of them on duty when the Chief wanted them and we were able to do that through the 12-hour shifts and have them feel better about their service to the community. We have a number of young officers who can spend more time with their family because with 12-hour shifts they get extra days off over the normal 8-hour shift.
Mr. Helwig said that is a way of introducing some themes in terms of what Council got when they got him in terms of trying to keep an eye at all times strategically on what is critical to the community to accomplish. Ten years from now people wonít remember how it got accomplished, but it would establish a foundation for other accomplishments and organizationally to constantly be looking at the strengths and weaknesses of our organization and how to move further along the spectrum to become a high performance organization.
Member DeRoche thought Mr. Helwig was doing an excellent job as the City Manager. He felt Mr. Helwig had an excellent grasp of issues at the street level and the skill to get underneath the complaint and find out what really bothered people and tries to put out the fire at that point and prevents it from becoming a much larger issue. This was one of the things he most appreciated about Mr. Helwig. Also, Mr. Helwig has a very strong work ethic, which had impressed him and he was the type of person that worked just as hard as anyone he was asking to put in the extra time as well. Member DeRoche appreciated that.
As far as problem solving skills, they are something that this community needed. Member DeRoche didnít know where Mr. Helwig got his skills from but he recognized a lot of the methodology of what he went through, how he addressed a problem, whether it is just natural or from formal training. We needed someone who could get people to sit at a table when there was a problem and systematically work through it to resolve it and Mr. Helwig has very strong skills in this.
Member DeRoche asked for more depth on the turnover of people. Mr. Helwig responded that he had a different outlook on turnover than most people. He viewed turnover each and every time as an opportunity to improve the organization. He believed that as Manager, none of us are appropriate forever in the jobs that we hold. There are issues, qualifications and thereís timing trying to find that fit individual in a job. Turnover does not upset him but if we were unable to operate and perform, and we have bordered on that in a couple of areas such as going so long without a Parks and Recreation Forestry Director, we paid a price for that and yet he was willing to pay that price because long term, he felt it was in the best interests of the community and the organization.
Mr. Helwig thought turnover was to be expected given there was a 25-year administration and a lot of good things happened with continuity and some bad things happened with that much continuity. He thought Council expected leadership from him and he believed that by holding people accountable, many rose to that challenge and some people did not and did not want to deal with it. Member DeRoche commented he agreed with Mr. Helwig regarding turnover. The concern was when you see the number of turnovers, thereís concern that two or three of those people could put us in a worse position than we would have been with the original person. Mr. Helwig had identified the main complaint regarding a department where everyone in the community interacted with a department and found it frustrating and that probably included Mr. Klaver because he was not able to perform his other duties. Member DeRoche said another question regarding the turnover, because Mr. Helwig had said to him it was expected, but what about to the employees. For example, there were some who would have argued that there was a morale problem in the police department, changes were made, policies were done and some might argue that alleviated some of the morale problem if there was one. That was change that Mr. Helwig initiated to Councilís satisfaction but it had a material effect on the department. So, while he thought turnover was good and the individual he was holding accountable was good, but what about the department and other employees. Has there been any morale problems created by any of this?
Mr. Helwig thought in general, in an environment of heightened change, a new City Manager and many new directions from Council even before the new City Manager came on board caused people to be off balance in the organization. We have to acknowledge that and it had been unsettling to his colleagues throughout the organization regardless of position. Change is all around us and the job that comes with that to Mr. Helwig is to communicate the rationale and the importance of the changes. We didnít even have an employee newsletter when he arrived so that was started. There are so many other ways of communicating and we are exploring that not just through staff meetings. Staff meetings were not occurring either and they are the most fundamental of communications if only to get our act together better for Council meetings. It has been unsettling and we need to recognize that. He said he was a compassionate person and that was one reason that he was lead to this type of work. He wants to touch peopleís lives in the community to make their lives better and also want to have people proud that they are doing honorable work in service to others in City government. We are still trying to understand one another. When emphasizing accountability, that gets people, but good people will rise to the challenge. The more accountability the better; they canít get enough of it because that is what they thrive on and they want to achieve results. He might have a little different philosophy from many about morale but he thought morale was often times what have you done for me lately. City government canít get into that trap. He had seen this in his career. He thought Police Department morale went way up for most of the officers when both parties ratified that contract. Today, what else is on their minds? That is human nature and a part of the challenge of trying to manage and communicate. Fortunately, the headquarters building has been finished and we have a much better work environment for individuals and that meant a lot. He commended the vote of the people and Council for making that happen.
Member DeRoche said regarding interaction with the Council, it appeared to him that Mr. Helwig and his staff did a large amount of work, on occasion, for individual members. He asked if that was fair to say that individual Council members take his staff or time occasionally? Mr. Helwig considered himself a seasoned City Manager and said he was here to serve the community and Council first as a team and then individually so that members could make informed decisions. Everyone on this Council had different issues they are focusing on, that brought them to serve, that kept them motivated and constituted a passion for improving a community and that does take staff in different directions trying to meet those needs. Whenever he felt it was necessary to have that type of direction to avoid being boxed into a peculiar or special interest or whatever he would tell Council, that it needed to come up on Mayor and Council Issues so the staff could get the overall direction for it. Member DeRoche felt Mr. Helwig did a very good job in balancing the service to Council as a whole and not showing bias. He felt, after twenty months, that it was getting close to the point where either administratively he would like to see a policy or potentially if Mr. Helwig disagreed with that, then bring it up at the Council level so it is clear. Mr. Helwig is supposed to run the City and serve the residents and Member DeRoche felt that was different than Council basically in the office helping him run the City. He felt there had to be a clearer line there. Mr. Helwig commented that if it ever reached the point where he felt there was an impediment rising for him to fulfill his responsibilities, he would inform the entire Council of that. Member DeRoche said whenever he saw a packet of information he knew that someone sat over a copier and made seven copies of it and someone drove it out to his house and he envisioned in his head what was that guy supposed to be doing during the day because Mr. Helwig is having trouble getting the performance out of the staff he wanted and this person could probably have been doing something else.
Member DeRoche stated he wished that the Plunkett and Cooney letter Mr. Helwig brought up had not been discussed publicly. It was one of the very few hundred thousand things he had done for the community that he wished had not been done. What he thought Mr. Helwig had done better throughout the twenty months was learning who the players are whether the County, State, special interest groups in the City or the Council members. He had gotten much better at thinking on his feet and going from being in a position of not being able to answer people immediately because he didnít have institutional background of something or someone he was talking to. Now, at Council meetings Mr. Helwig is able to address people immediately and can offer an opinion.
Member DeRoche thought Mr. Helwig had a very strong work ethic and was doing an excellent job and he is contributing very positively to Novi going from a small town to that bubble and Mr. Helwig coined the phrase that we are becoming a City and Mr. Helwig is laying the groundwork to do that. Member DeRoche was glad that he was willing to serve Novi.
Member Lorenzo thought Mr. Helwig had done a very admirable job in this community. This is a very, very tough community to be a City Manager in and particularly the last 20 months. This organization has a lot of challenges before it and that made Mr. Helwigís job a lot tougher than a City Managerís position should be. She said he had been very modest in the document he had created saying these are community issues. These are accomplishments and there are many in the past twenty months. She highlighted a few that she considered very outstanding accomplishments. They were:
1. What Mr. Helwig did for the labor contracts was outstanding and the leadership he brought to those talks in the negotiations and the documents that were signed as testament to that excellent work.
2. He also formed the Neighborhood Services Committee and she had heard nothing but good things throughout the community always giving Mr. Helwig kudos perhaps not even knowing that it was Mr. Helwigís creation.
3. What he had done for the Council with his leadership, the budget document he created beginning last year, facilitating our short and long-term goals, which had never been done in that positive manner.
4. The Sandstone litigation Ė We were just spinning our wheels and she knew it has taken a tremendous amount of his time and effort. She thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel for this community, it has been weighing over this community for a long time and she certainly appreciated that.
5. The $650,000 that Mr. Helwig negotiated from the Taubman Company for the Twelve Mile Road Gap another benefit from Mr. Helwigís leadership skills.
Member Lorenzo thought some of the areas she needed to see improvement were probably partially, to some extent, this Councilís contributing to that and perhaps some of the special projects he had to be involved in. Obviously, Sandstone being one of them but the SAD 155 has taken a lot of Mr. Helwigís and Mr. Fisherís time and other special projects and perhaps the land in litigation took a fair amount of his time. Going towards the future she thought that they, as a Council, need to be more cognizant that if we as a Council expect, as she individually expected, that the City Manager is going to focus the time on the internal organization to really get our house in order, that Council would need to be sure that he was not involved in some of these special projects and things or they would need to track his time involved in these things to know that if he is involved in this, then obviously he couldnít be doing something else. She felt Council had contributed to some of that because they had not tracked the time involved in a lot of these special projects.
Member Lorenzo saw the biggest challenges facing this organization as the internal challenges. She saw a deficit in terms of performance, particularly in implementing what she would call Council actions and requests for status information. She communicated a lot with Mr. Helwig and perhaps was guilty of what Member DeRoche referred to. She did not want to have to do that and didnít want to micro manage but someone has to track the actions and requests and things that are going on in Council. She had the list from two weeks ago for examples. There are issues that we see that we donít get any follow up information on like the tornado sirens. We donít get information saying they were supposed to be going into these areas and they were completed and implemented and this is where they are located. Or, information about the status of the complaint filed by our legal staff regarding CVS. It would be nice to have a department initiative where she would not have to ask the question but yet it would come in the packet. She hoped that the performance would improve so she would not have to ask and the staff through Mr. Helwig would initiate these things in terms of follow up. We are in a system where we have state of the art computer equipment in this building. Do we have the software available to track projects and simply have them come up on a computer screen when the deadlines are due and generate a memo that it had been accomplished. She said this had been very frustrating to her. She knew Council member Csordas asked the question regarding EMS and if he hadnít, would there have been any action taken on it? They should not have to ask that question, as the initiative should have been coming from internally giving us the information of what the status was.
Other Council actions that have not been dealt with timely are Ten Mile and Meadowbrook Road intersection improvements, Beck and Ten Mile Road intersection improvements and we are still waiting on ROW. She had a memo that was generated because she did ask the question and this question was precipitated during an election when someone called and asked her about the Ten Mile Road intersection improvements. She then called Mr. Helwig and he generated a memo to her through his staff, which indicated that after it was at the Council table on October 15th, the date of substantial completion would be 45 days after notice to proceed subject to seasonal limitations. Now we find out that there is ROW being pursued and this timetable is not going to be completed. She had wrong information and had given it to someone in the community and it made us all look foolish and not able to meet our deadlines properly. Take something as simple as ordering a snowplow on time. She thought that with a budget approved in May to be allocated for the fiscal year starting July first, the staff should have everything ready to go on July first so the initiatives could be presented to purchasing or whoever it needed to be presented to. We should have been ready to put our order in as of July first. These are the things that frustrate her immensely because she wanted to perform to the high expectations of the community standards. She did not think this was unreasonable. These are the issues that we donít seem to be able implement Council actions or requests in a timely fashion and there is absolutely no tracking. This is what she saw as needing real improvement and real City Manager focus and that is why it is important for this Council to not overload Mr. Helwig with special projects, litigation, etc. so he can focus on these issues.
She was 150% behind Mr. Helwig regarding his philosophy of retaining high performers and cutting ties with low performers. She felt he should be able to delegate these things and not feel like he had to be on top of everything every single minute and he should be able to know that in delegating it, people are going to handle their portion responsibly and timely. She thought that was where accountability came in and wanted to hear from Mr. Helwig what Council could expect and what his plan was to deal with some of these issues in the next six months.
Mr. Helwig thanked her for a very constructive critique of where things are and he thought she was very accurate. This summer he initiated the request for the tracking for all these construction projects and other matters and that is very much in a rudimentary condition and not always accurate as she had pointed out. Mr. Helwig said he inherited a monthly report from departments that he canned over time that was strictly activity based. Of course, anytime she wanted to know how many fire runs there were in a month that could be provided but that was coming from the Fire Department rather than whatís the status of building new Station 4 for which he has had to spend way too much time in that regard. The construction list was not successfully being done in Parks and Recreation and we moved it over to public services where there are strengths and weaknesses. In terms of accountability he would continue to press on and he thought people in the organization understood that. He was sure there would be other turnover, there must be. He has tried to balance the overall needs of the community and the ability to serve those needs with incremental change and strengthening our team. He would much rather invest in the people who are here than to have to go through turnover, recruiting, etc. Some fresh blood is very desirable yet these are major changes in the organization. He is accustomed to higher standards in both areas. To have his Chief Operating Officer tell him in the last two weeks he has learned four times more about this organization in the last two years than he did in the 18 prior years is a very revealing comment. We were trying to make up for some lost ground in terms of our systems and standards of performance and that begins and ends with Council. He was not happy to be graded on matters that he consider so basic to coming in here everyday performing and meeting expectations. In terms of plans, we are going to continue to track and zero in on meaningful monitoring. He said she was right that he did need people around him who would initiate that and the good ones do and there is going to be more accountability, fall out or strengthening or however you want to refer to it. He thought his track record based on years prior to coming here was such that this is not guaranteed lifetime employment in this organization. Everyday you have to perform and meet performance standards.
Member Lorenzo appreciated his responses. She said she was here to help him do his job and improve this organization any way shape or form. She appreciated his other initiative with regard to the Consultant Review Committee and his suggestions for in house engineering. She hoped that this Council would see fit to implement those additional changes in the near future. She felt overall that Mr. Helwig was doing a very admirable job. The shortcomings of this organization would not change overnight and that she or this Council was there to help. She was really upset that this lack of performance impacted the people of this community. She wanted to impact people in a positive fashion and knew Mr. Helwig did too. At the end of her term she wanted to see that she performed to what she expected of herself and had made accomplishments that impacted the community in a positive fashion. Every time the organization doesnít perform we canít accomplish that as a community. This was not Mr. Helwigís fault but these are the issues we need to improve upon. She thanked him for his hard work during the past twenty months and said she appreciated it.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi believed that Mr. Helwig came to Novi under extraordinary circumstances and all of them had expectations that none of them had the right to have including him regarding how quickly we would be able to save the world. From the standpoint of being a government employee and knowing what it takes to solve problems she had never confronted one like Mr. Helwig was confronting from an administrative level and hoped never to. To look at all that has been accomplished over the last twenty months, which has brought us to this point, is a most impressive set of management circumstances on Mr. Helwigís part. He came to us with a vast municipal experience, he hit the ground running and if she were in his situation she would have been concerned about getting hit by the locomotive and dodging the semiís and all of the other stuff that went along with the challenges he had. She would proceed by focusing on results that she believed are under his control. Many of those original ones were not and she would like to start off by asking whatís working, whatís not working and what resources could we give to make things work?
Mr. Helwig thought in terms of whatís working, we are getting critical things done. We are getting caught up with left over issues. Those issues gone unattended, like Sandstone or roadway initiatives, would create greater havoc and disaster in the future. He is convinced that organizationally, there is a spirit and an understanding here and if he were not convinced, he would not want to be associated with at this time. It is that the citizen comes first and that we need to dedicate ourselves as often as possible to establish that feeling that we are there to serve and get results done for them. We are communicating better in the process. We will have four community newsletters with feedback forms and they arenít all positive.
What is not working is that things are not getting done fast enough. He said he has tried to acquire patience with age but we are here for one reason and that is to make things better today not to wait and not make excuses. We are still not working together internally as a team to the extent we should be. Our leadership group meetings are still filled with "what Iím doing, what Iím doing". It has to come from a few people to generate a larger issue of discussion where people get out of their familiar areas and think about the greater good of the community like the EMS Fire Services Task Force. That served as a broader thinking stimuli for our leadership group. Mr. Helwig commented that they knew his feeling about dependence on whomever, the road commission for snowplowing, and consultants for the most basic engineering tasks, planning tasks, woodlands/wetlands tasks. Our organizational capacity is not here. We are a City of 50,000 moving to 75,000 and it is costing us money. He thought a track record was being developed of bringing some very talented people into the organization to do these things and he thought they would see very quickly a spirit that would catch on.
Mr. Helwig noted they had been a wonderful Council about what motivated them and what they wanted to do in the best interest of the community. He thought they understood the strategic time frame we are in and this build-out of the community would define us as much forever as could be defined. On the other hand, no one is going to hand us anything. There are other communities that are now hot residential developments; schools and economic development and Novi would not always prosper just by showing up. How we use our time together is very important to both of us. The off week packet was introduced to keep communication going so we did not have to spend time in Council Chambers getting caught up on major matters. He would very much like an early budget input session from Council in January. He asked that they give two or three hours where each would state expectations for the upcoming budget; that would help him prepare his budget message to the organization and help return a policy document that met Council expectations.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi noted she had observed that Mr. Helwig was very good at resource management. She would be very interested in seeing that area amplified regarding her concern about many costs hidden and otherwise that seemed to her, as a Council person, to be passed on to the residents at large. She felt the taxpayers should not have to pay for them. She hoped that from the standpoint of such items as legal costs when they come through the Council, the assistance of the Planning Department with regard to the composition and assistance on designer ordinances that we would indicate policies with regard to how those costs are generated and/or expended. She didnít want anyone paying for anything they were not obligated to pay for but was looking for more attention on what the expenses are that are legitimately to be born by the taxpayers.
Mr. Helwig said in his view that is the proper orientation. We are here to conserve taxpayer resources, and maximize those resources that we have and above all make certain taxpayers are not subsidizing other entities that should be paying for the services that were cited. She wanted to know what Mr. Helwigís opinion was whether or not when we entertain development proposals at the Planning Commission and Council levels that we would be looking at a financial impact analysis. She felt Council and the citizens would have a real understanding of the effects that proposal would make on City services and infrastructure. We have gained a reputation for being notorious for allowing development when infrastructure doesnít exist or continually playing catch up and those expenses are eating us alive.
Mr. Helwig said they were now talking about that. He admitted he paid little attention to the motion sheet because he paid more attention to what was beneath it trying to insure completeness and timeliness of information. They were now talking about revising the Managerís Report or Staff Report to have certain segments, one of which is Fiscal Impact Analysis. Then Council, at a glance, before getting deeper into the topic would see where the item would lead if Council pursued certain policies or granted certain approvals. He said that has been a part of lobbying state government in the past to include that type of analysis in State legislation because it is often an un-funded mandate upon local communities.
That is a very sound proposal.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked what the biggest challenge was to the cultural environment of our human capital? Mr. Helwig said when he started, it was to establish and gain acceptance of fundamental code of ethics declaration of ideals. He was very quick to have the International City County Management Association two documents mounted throughout our organization not only to remind ourselves but to instruct those who come here for services that this is how we expect to behave. We are not going to compromise democracy by playing favorites or becoming partisan. We are not going to do anything to cause a perceived lack of confidence in our objectivity or service to personnel. There were things going on that just add to business and were eradicated a long time ago in other places where it worked. He knew he gained some disfavor for doing those things right away. It is the Holiday Season and the gift policy has been reissued again and if someone brings in a box of steaks for example it would go to a homeless shelter. We are not here as City employees to gain any favor that is not available to any member of the community. In two communities he had worked that was the standard written in the Charter. This is so basic. Mr. Bowman had sent tickets to events at the Expo Center and Mr. Helwig called him and said this had to stop because it was not what we are here for and Mr. Bowman was glad because it had gotten so far out of hand he didnít know how to get his arms around it. These things needed to be done to set a standard and he thought people had accepted that standard. The performance appraisals were fairly perfunctory and these took years to develop particularly if in a pay for performance system for your administrative personnel. There needs to be a work program for the coming year with standards of performance. There needs to be communication to help people to understand so there are no surprises for anyone and so that you are also getting meaningful use of their time. Mr. Helwig said they had done that the last two Junes preceding our upcoming year. It is pretty basic and he thought getting people comfortable with that has been a challenge.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said with regard to human capital, one of the most scathing criticisms of a government is that government tolerates poor performance. She asked if he tolerated it?
Mr. Helwig said he did not and thought his track record these twenty months showed where he had taken a stand, which has been a departure from past culture to not condone that and look the other way. She said it was one of the greatest criticisms that she had heard as a Councilperson with regard to our government and that is not necessarily to say that the people who perceive it are reading it accurately. However, when there is that perception there is a responsibility to respond to it. Mr. Helwig said, as an example, that the Forestry situation had become larger than life. There was no system for tracking phone calls, returning phone calls, tracking the pledges made for the planting or replacement of trees whether under warranty or not. He had received more calls the first summer he was here about forestry matters than any other area of complaint. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said some other examples of opportunities in that regard are the HCD Funding Program which seems to be like groundhog day and it just wonít go away, citizen complaints that come to the Council and should never be here. She felt it was important that the citizens felt that they had address and redress and that their complaints were being heard and that is the administrative side. She would look for improvements in that area. She would also look for communications improvements with regard to his office. She said Mr. Helwig did not have voice mail and she had to talk with two people before she could talk with him and requested that he institute voice mail. She was somewhat at a disadvantage because she didnít understand totally what his objectives were for this review period and could not hold him accountable for objectives she didnít know. As a result of that and to continuously improve she asked the other members of Council if they were in agreement that Mr. Helwig would provide them with a draft of his objectives and they could discuss them together as an agenda item so they could fairly be able to ask questions at his next review.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi concluded by saying Mr. Helwig had more than met her expectations with regard to his performance under what she considered to be incredibility difficult circumstances. He had led this house by example, it had been a pleasure to work with him and she looked forward to more continuous improvement under his administration.
Member Csordas asked Mr. Helwig how exciting it was to be involved with a rapidly growing community like Novi? Mr. Helwig said he referred to the twenty months as a whirlwind and that is beyond excitement. Member Csordas said Mr. Helwig is very polished and a seasoned professional and it is a high honor and distinct privilege for him to be able to work and communicate with Mr. Helwig when he does and certainly at the City Council level. Member Csordas said Mr. Helwig is very intuitive and it is an interesting talent he has answering questions before they are asked. He appreciated Mr. Helwigís response to residents when he called on him; Mr. Helwig had followed up on everyone of those calls and the outcome of everyone of the situations he had brought to Mr. Helwig had come out positive. The resident, business owner or situation had come to a very positive conclusion. Mr. Helwig had been personally involved with all of them and he appreciated that.
Member Csordas said he liked a person that aired their dirty laundry in public and what Mr. Helwig had done was to release a couple of very interesting surveys just before the review that he would now refer to. One was the Customer Service Survey for the building permit applicants. He was in possession of ten and there were about one hundred sent out. It went to large developers and people building additions to their home. The people that did respond used a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent. All of the responses except one, which was excellent, had been poor to average. That seemed to be a continuation of the past practices of the City administration and a frustration of many for a long time understanding that there are lots of fish to fry in his position. He asked Mr. Helwig what he thought the future of this holds and how did he plan to improve this particular customer survey. He thanked Mr. Helwig for being very forthright, putting the survey together, getting it done and providing it to Council.
Mr. Helwig thanked Member Csordas for referring frequently to customer feedback. He thought a high performing organization is constantly asking the question how are we doing. We have just scratched the surface in terms of our surveying to find out more about our system and performance deficiencies and get input from neighborhood residents or developers on how they think things could be done better and what their needs are. He said it is going to change. He said he was so dissatisfied and didnít understand why the Chamber of Commerce and the business community was so silent when we were proposing changes in the budget to get our arms around. He noted he wanted to be held accountable for this and he doesnít have the tools to fulfill that role of accountability. When we have consultants like separate planets orbiting around these problems, and Member Csordas because he had set up the early morning meetings when he has had a call more so than anyone here had seen that, and Mr. Helwig had sensed his temperature rise with each one of these he had seen. It doesnít have to be this way and the changes he is instituting, the plan review center, reduced number of plans that have to be submitted, the service at the counter, the timeliness of inspections, the tracking of all of that, reviewing fees, all of those things are basic to a major job particularly in Novi. It insures quality growth and proper service to those who want to invest in our community. People will not always seek to put their prime investments in Novi. The Plan Review Center is one small step forward to galvanize all disciplines in one place and these are people he can get an answer from without having to schedule a meeting.
Member Csordas thought it was a department in need of great repair and he had the utmost confidence that he and his team would make those repairs. He said Mr. Helwig had been right and we have met with a lot of the consultants and a lot of the people on a lot of these issues behind the scenes and that has been delightful to see those outcomes be so positive with no public attention. We just get it done and move on.
Member Csordas had thought Mayor Pro Tem Bononiís statement regarding the financial impact on the community of a development was a good idea. He wanted to add the forecasted positive tax revenue so we take a look at a cost benefit analysis so if there is an impact on our infrastructure letís look and see what the revenue impact is and where it balances. The task force had many seven AM meetings and was very successful and he appreciated Councilís support when it came around to allocating those funds. He found it curious that when he asked the question of Council, they received a bid proposal for the private Advanced Life Support Ambulance Service. The bid went out on December 19th and he asked why it took so long and found it frustrating, as there couldnít be a bigger priority on the list of recommendations.
Mr. Helwig commented he had said that a lot calmer than he had in various meetings. Again, Mr. Helwig said he is to be held accountable for that. It is not the type of turn around he expected. He had been asked to Chair that Task Force so he lived it and breathed it as the others, Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem and Mr. Csordas did and the stakes are large for the community to get those ambulances based physically in our community to lower response time and better serve. Mr. Helwig said he was not happy with the performance of the Fire Department in preparing and processing that and was still trying to determine, because it got bogged down in the legal services review and analysis, whether it was it legitimate or did someone lose track of it. The legal services demands have been huge. Sandstone has been a bottomless pit in terms of days and hours and weeks and he felt he had to be accountable for that. It has been in the works for months and he has been tracking it. Like many things there is not the sense of urgency or follow up that met his expectations and he understood when Member Csordas said it didnít meet his expectations. Now, there are many other things that are done and we have moved pretty successfully through the rest of the list. Again, this was number one and he accepted the criticism. Member Csordas agreed and was glad to see they were moving along on that and he would like to see an improved sense of urgency throughout the City.
Mr. Helwig said he could not understand why Fire Station #4 wasnít up and running long before he got to Novi and even after he got here it was bogged down several times. He thought they had shared expectations in terms of whatís expected, follow through, quality of results and it is his obligation to continue to build an organization that could deliver that. We are not there yet.
Member Csordas received a call from the Chamber of Commerce and they were disappointed that the Mayor wasnít going to do a State of the City presentation and he wondered why. Mayor Clark said there would be a State of the City address but it would take place at City Hall in the auditorium, the Chamber and the community at large would be invited. The members of the Chamber are stakeholders in this community but so is everyone else. He didnít think they ever really encompassed them in this and it would give them an opportunity to see what was going on first hand. Also, it would give Council the opportunity to rebroadcast it several times in the coming months after that. He said they are looking at January 14th. He thought in most communities, there was the eagerness to jump to conclusions. Chamber partnership is very important to the community. There are many, many other partnerships in a City of 50,000 that are equally as important. Through Councilís direction and support they had been trying to build those relationships through Road Bonds or other types of annual meetings. We have reached the stage where City government should host the State of the City at the Civic Center and as the Mayor suggested in the evening when it would be more inclusive. He wanted to be able to tell Noviís story, have the Mayorís speech produced so it could be distributed when people leave and it could be a reference document to take to their work place or their homes, cable cast it, rebroadcast it and have the entire Council on the stage in the activities room and available to interact with whoever is there that evening. It is another way to reconnect and continue to build trust. He heard today that there was a little bit of a pep rally going on that this was undermining a long standing tradition and it really is not. We have been blessed that the Chamber has been willing to coax us along and invest in it and we are appreciative of that. Under the category of evolving change we think these steps, and the Mayor is very receptive, are in the best interests of the total community and hope that everyone would look at it in a positive light. Mr. Helwig said he had not had a chance to be out and about as much as he would like to. He tries to attend functions when he can but choices have to be made with all that is going on in Novi and you try to make strategic choices. This is all a part of our coming of age and bringing the community together and understanding that there are many partnership and interests in the community that can come together particularly when discussing where we have been and where we are going.
Mayor Clark thought it would also afford the opportunity for the members of the Chamber to interact with members of the community that they would not have the opportunity to engage in conversation with in any other circumstance. It might be a real additional benefit too and that is the idea for the reception afterwards. This would afford the opportunity to banter one on one with other residents and business people in the community. It would also afford the opportunity to businesses that do not have Chamber membership the opportunity to come in and interact with some members of the Chamber and the Chamber to extend a hand to them to join the Chamber.
Member Csordas said it is a distinct pleasure and a high honor to work with someone like Mr. Helwig and he thought he was the right person for this community at the right time. He thanked him for his dedication and commitment to the community.
Member Capello had been asked why the City had not called back to let them know if the Mayor was going to speak at their luncheon. Since there was no return call they were concerned about what was really going on. It is and has been a Chamber function and one the Chamber developed. He thought if the City decided it was time for the City to make the State of the City address, maybe the first approach for the first year would have been to do it together this year. If itís going to be here in the auditorium it would fill the auditorium and if this is all the people that would show up it would probably be a failure. It is going to be held the night before a Chamber luncheon and it is telling the Chamber that we are doing this in conflict with them. Why couldnít the State of the City address be done here and repeated at the Chamber luncheon the next day where it had been for many years. He was pleased the City was taking the initiative to do this because the reason the Chamber has been doing it is because the City wasnít.
Member Capello said he had only been on the Council a month but was aware of what Mr. Helwig had to put up with over the last twenty months and sympathized with Mr. Helwig because he had not really been able to start his job without a lot of baggage going along with it. Hopefully we have a lot of these things behind us. He was anxious to see what he did in the next few years. Member Capello commented that as a resident he had contact with Mr. Helwig several times and found Mr. Helwig to be extremely responsive. He said Mr. Helwig solved problems that two years ago would have lingered and lingered and smoldered and eventually turned into fires. He grabbed a hold of them and solved them quickly and that is what we need. He appreciated Mr. Helwigís openness and candor as it got a lot more accomplished with those kinds of conversations. History is important and twice the Chamber of Commerce has had seminars with the consultants, the City and the building department to figure out why things were so slow and costly. The first time was about eight years ago. The second time was when Mr. Arroyo came us with his award winning revised Site Plan Manual. The same issue was again discussed at the Chamber program of works a couple of months ago. The Chamber has worked on it twice so far and would be willing to help again if they saw some cooperation from the City. Member Capello asked Mr. Helwigís plans were to replace Mr. Capote? Mr. Helwig said his intention was to recommend not filling that position and to have it available to enable them to support other higher priorities. He noted not that Economic Development isnít among the highest priorities as he and Clay Pearson are fluent in economic development matters but a general manager can get their arms around this. We would like to continue to use volunteers from the business community because businesses continue to respond much better to their own. Member Capello appreciated that answer as someone with Mr. Helwigís dynamics could fill that position. He asked if he had thought about reviewing the fee structure when he put his in house review team together? Mr. Helwig said that needed to be done and ideally as part of the budget deliberations but he could not guarantee it would be there this year because they are trying to make inroads and are multi year forecasting. He said he would like the Council to review fees and rates on an annual basis. Member Capello noted morale had really come up with contract completion and asked if more officers were needed or has the 12-hour shift accommodated for our lack of meeting the FBI standards? Mr. Helwig stated we need to budget more but was not certain more could be budgeted in the next term given the priority placed on adding two full time fire personnel on an annual basis. Mr. Helwig responded that even though we do more things in house we should add more officers. It is very important that we have community coverage by more Police on a daily and hourly basis and it is one of our primary roles under the Charter that we preserve health, safety and well being in the community. Public Safety is critical. We are such a major regional center in terms of traffic, visitors and workers that increasingly the opportunity for crimes of opportunity or more serious situations to occur are out there. Member Capello noted another goal of the Chamber was to try to assist the City to resolve traffic problems. Where do we go to address this? Mr. Helwig responded the road bond received tremendous attention from City Council and the community and we need to institute these programs over the next 3-4 years and pay attention to critical un-funded road projects, mainly Grand River east of Novi and 12 Mile west of Dixon to Beck Road interchange as critical pieces. A special map has been developed and we will eventually get there and so we need to have plans in place and we need to have building bridges with our elected representatives at other levels to try to get those projects funded? Member Capello asked if he had any goals or programs in place to keep in constant contact with the County or State to find out if there is some assistance we can get from them? Mr. Helwig stated we can always do more and we can involve the Council more when we get to critical junctures with those partners. We are building a good relationship with the Road Commission and they did something for us this summer in awarding a contract for the Twelve Mile Gap that they had never done before. We didnít have all the property lined up and it turned out the two properties stiffed us and we still donít have a right of entry but they have held that contract for us so that we can go forth in the spring of 2002 if Mr. Fisher can get us those two remaining properties. Member Capello noted in regard to human resources he didnít want Novi to be a revolving door of employees especially in the planning department and suggested an incentive to keep good employees. Member Capello stated Mr. Helwig was doing an awesome job.
Mayor Clark stated the measure of any man or woman in a position of responsibility is how they react under pressure. Mr. Helwig came to the city with many opportunities and problems and has dealt with them in a responsible and outstanding fashion. He cited the example of Sandstone and seeing first hand through eight months of meetings how our City Manager handled himself in terms of representing this community under pressure and standing firm on the principles, which are to look for the best interests of our community and be motivated by a desire to maintain the fiscal integrity of the community and provide service to residents in a reasonable responsible fashion. He had been substantially impressed when looking at Mr. Helwigís performance summary of accomplishments. When Mr. Helwig arrived, there was a failed road bond and yet residents told them the single most important issue, other than Sandstone was traffic. Mr. Helwig got key people in the community to invest time, energy and talent to achieve the passing of the Road Bond. He and Mr. Helwig also worked on issues such as the high school expansion, goal setting sessions, EMS and fire services task force, 12 Mile Road SAD negotiations to obtain $18.45 million of privately funded road improvements. In essence the City Manager saved the taxpayers almost $18.5 million. He also invested time and energy with the legal service changeover, chaired the South Lake Drive Task Force Committee and arrived at a fair consensus to improve S. Lake Dr. Mr. Helwig also took up the cause to provide our citizens with road snow maintenance and got a Winter Maintenance Agreement to resolve snow removal problems and traffic problems. The Police Department was completed and we are now underway in getting the new Fire Station and Training Center. There was a whole host of leftover and uncompleted items and the City Manager expressed it best when he stated promises made had to be promises kept and he has done an outstanding job in that regard. Mayor Clark heard it over and over again during the last election campaign. He received complements for Mr. Helwig and the City Clerk from residents who said their concerns or problems were getting addressed. Mayor Clark cited a specific problem with a sidewalk whereby a sidewalk was low and the manhole cover was raised and they had been trying to get it fixed for a number of years. On Monday, the problem was turned in to the City Manager and by Wednesday it was taken care of and that is what government is all about. Mayor Clark said to accomplish as much as he has in 20 months speaks volumes. His work ethic and commitment to the community was evident from the beginning. During the recent water main break the City moved in such an expeditious fashion and the citizens were kept apprised and the communication was outstanding. He has done an excellent job in delegating and following up. As far as tracking items, he felt this was being done in the off week Thursday packet that brought everyone up to speed in between meetings. He thought some of the road improvements could be further along but felt it wasnít solely under Mr. Helwigís control. He commended Mr. Helwig on the Parks & Recreation Department and appreciated his search for the right person to fill the position in order to best serve the residents of the community. Mr. Helwig had made a comment that turnaround time was not as fast as he would like it. Human nature involves comfort zones and change for positive reasons to make a situation better is always something to strive for.
When Mr. Helwig first arrived, he made the statement that as a community, we are blessed, but these were unique economic times and we canít expect it to last and he has kept the ship headed in a positive and right direction. Mayor Clark agreed with comments made in terms of resource management and hidden costs and said Council would assist him in achieving the goals he wanted to achieve. He agreed that the work done in house is always cheaper than then sending it out to be done. Mr. Helwigís expectation of two more in house engineers wasnít accomplished but Council hoped to give him the tools to get the job done to save cost and provide even better services to the residents.
Mayor Clark felt the community was fortunate to have him as City Manager. He took the comments in the spirit in which they were intended and he knew those would be attended to and achieved. In the past 20 months, many outstanding issues were completed specifically the albatross of the Sandstone lawsuit. Once settled, that should free up considerable time for the City Manager. He thanked him for his efforts.
Member DeRoche commented the second part of the performance appraisal would be discussion of the potential raises and he asked when that would take place. Mayor Clark asked Mr. Helwig and Ms. Cornelius if there was a problem with waiting until Ms. Gronlund-Fox returned from maternity leave? They agreed to wait. Mayor Clark assured them that these evaluations would be held on July 1 from now on and he suggested this one be retroactive.
Member DeRoche suggested an Executive Session be scheduled so they could discuss what they had in mind and so that their retro check would not be delayed.
Mayor Clark said it could be addressed as an added item at the next Executive Session via the Consent Agenda.
There being no further business to come be for Council, the meeting was adjourned at 10:11 PM.
Richard J. Clark, Mayor Maryanne Cornelius, City Clerk
Transcribed by: __________________
Date approved: January 7, 2002