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SPECIAL MEETING OF
THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI
Mayor Csordas called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
ROLL CALL: Mayor Csordas, Mayor Pro Tem Landry, Council Members Capello, Gatt, Lorenzo*, Nagy and Paul
ALSO PRESENT: Rick Helwig – City Manager
Craig Klaver – Chief Operating Officer
Clay Pearson – Assistant City Manager
Kathy Smith-Roy – Finance Director
Doug Shaeffer – Police Chief
Art Lenaghan – Fire Chief
Randy Auler – Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Director
Don Saven – Director of Building
Dan Schultz, 24970 Newberry Drive, asked to speak about the new supervisor positions that are being considered for the Fire Department. He believes that the 12 current supervisors do an excellent job, just as they have for the past 20+ years. According to the minutes from a meeting in February, the Chief and Community Emergency Medical Services state that the system is working just as it should. Nonetheless, somebody still wants to add two more full-time people to the payroll. He has been informed that these two positions will probably be filled by daytime IAFF members. Four years ago, this group of IAFF members tried with all of their might and power to remove the paid on-call completely from the City. Now, those members are in line to be supervisors over that same group of paid on-call firefighters that they had sought to remove. This would be a disaster. He strongly opposes the IAFF taking on any new supervisor positions and gaining even more control over the Fire Department than they already have. Furthermore, as a resident he strongly opposes his tax dollars being spent in this way when the Chief and community have already gone on record as stating that the system is working just as it should. He asked, "To put it simply, why fix what isn’t broken?" He asked Council to reconsider the two additional Fire Department supervisor positions and to remove them altogether from the budget.
PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING – 2004-2005 CITY OF NOVI BUDGET
1. Council Initiated Discussion and Decisions regarding the spending plan priorities.
Member Gatt said that as of that evening, there are 16 authorized positions in the Police dispatch center. The budget reflects that number in the Police Department personnel line item. Due to a number of reasons, not too long ago there were 18 dispatchers working in that center. City and Police administration have done a masterful job of keeping 17 dispatchers working while only budgeting 16. He commended them for their diligent efforts. The 17th position is an overfill position that was created to ensure that the number of dispatchers did not fall below minimum levels. The position was created at a crisis period in the Novi Police dispatch history, when the number of dispatchers fell to 10 for a host of reasons. He worked at the Novi Police Department at that time and witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of such a low number of employees for such a high stressed, 24/7 job. The City fixed the problems that plagued the dispatch center at that time. Salaries have been raised, benefits have been increased, and 12-hour shifts that allow for significantly more time off were implemented. Because of City administration’s proactive, robust efforts, there is no longer a crisis in the Novi Police dispatch center. Instead, today’s environment inside the dispatch center is very stable with very low turnover compared to the past. A long-time dispatch employee retired and the City was about to fill her vacancy in order to bring the number of dispatchers back up to 17, thus creating the overfill position again. He asked the City to hold off on this until Council could address the matter, and administration graciously agreed to do so.
CM-04-05-173 Moved by Gatt, seconded by Capello; MOTION FAILED: To reduce the authorized strength of emergency dispatchers from 16 to 15, and direct City administration to continue its valiant efforts of keeping 16 dispatchers working while only being authorized for 15. This would be in keeping with what has been done for the past several years, keeping one position overfilled. The money saved by doing this, $67,700, would be spent in the following manner: On January 1, 2005, a police officer would be hired. The cost for a half-year is $40,812. On January 1, 2005, a police officer would be elevated to the rank of Sergeant. That cost for a full year is $10,371, which uses a 2004-2005 Sergeant figure and 2003-2004 patrolman figure, but will likely approach $12,000. On January 1, 2005, a Sergeant would be placed into the administrative section, thus becoming an administrative Sergeant to be used at the Police Chief’s discretion. The final $14,800 would be spent at Council’s discretion. This move will accomplish a great deal at a very low cost; will maintain the City’s authorized strength of 16 dispatchers; and an administrative Sergeant in the Police Department will be restored. This administrative Sergeant will be assigned a myriad of tasks that are normally handled by road Sergeants, which will free the road Sergeant to work on the road.
* Member Lorenzo arrived at 7:07 p.m.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry said his understanding is that right now, there is authorization or proposed budgeting for 16 dispatchers. Member Gatt had proposed reducing this number to 15 dispatchers. He asked Chief Shaeffer for his opinion on whether the Police Department can run efficiently, effectively, and safely with 15 dispatchers.
Chief Shaeffer said that as long as he could maintain the 17th overreach position in dispatch, this would still give him an effective number of 16 dispatchers, and he could make this work.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry noted that Member Gatt had suggested the need for an extra Sergeant upstairs. He asked for an explanation on how the Chief would see this role, and what the benefits, if any, to the Police Department and to the City would be.
Chief Shaeffer said the first approach to this role would be in the duties that the Sergeant would perform in that position, one of which is as a training officer. There are full-time training officers in the Fire Department. Police departments carry a huge amount of liability with exceptionally complex jobs, many of which are founded in legal standards, others which are founded in human behavior. Carrying out training in police departments is a huge responsibility that carries with it not only teaching people how to do their jobs, but also how to better serve the community. Training carries with it a huge risk reduction liability for the community in carrying out proper and adequate training. The position would not only carry this out, but also would help keep the Police Department current and updated with several changes that take place periodically in law enforcement with a great deal of regularity, whether they are legal changes or changes in equipment. One example of this is that without someone dedicated to these types of things, it takes the Police a very long time to bring proposals to fruition. This involves researching the background, putting the programs together, bringing them to Council for funding possibilities, and then putting them into place and working on them. This process was seen recently with Tasers, a proposal which took a very long time to come together. People already have full-time jobs in the Police Department, and this is an extra burden to them. The Police Department is working on another proposal right now that has taken a year to develop. As Member Gatt had said, these tasks have been fractionalized into the road patrol sergeants, as the police have to use the resources that they have. It is a very valuable tool to have an administrative Sergeant.
Member Nagy asked if it would be prudent for Council to wait to see the money from the recent drug raid. She asked if the City could expend any money from that raid to hire a police officer.
Chief Shaeffer said the latest information on that incident is that the City does still anticipate seeing a very large sum of money. Though he was not prepared to quantify this amount, he suspected it would be well over $2 million. He is hopeful that this money will be received by the first of the year, though he said he could not promise this because it is not under his control. This money can be used for personnel to offset salaries for one year. After that, the financial liability accrues to the City and that money cannot be continued to be used to pay for that position.
Member Nagy asked if the money can also be used for equipment.
Chief Shaeffer replied that the money could be used for this purpose.
Member Nagy asked if it would be more financially prudent for Council to wait until January and then do the additional officer hiring instead of removing a dispatcher. She asked if the 16th dispatcher would be used only when necessary.
Chief Shaeffer said this was not correct, as the 16th dispatcher would be an integral part of the team.
Member Nagy asked if there are currently 16 or 17 dispatchers.
Chief Shaeffer said that currently employed are 16 dispatchers. The Police Department is authorized one additional overage position, which would bring that number to 17.
Member Nagy asked if, were the motion to pass, the Police Department would not have that overage.
Member Gatt said that with the motion, there would be 15 authorized dispatchers, and the 16th as the overfill. Right now, there are 16 authorized dispatchers and the 17th is the overfill.
Member Nagy asked if the administrative Sergeant is vital within the next six months of this budget, or if the position is something that can wait until January 1, 2005.
Chief Shaeffer said his department could make the Sergeant position work if it began on January 1, 2005.
Member Nagy said that, were Council to hire for January 1st with the funds received, it would have a year that it would not pay for the position out of the City’s budget. If everything were implemented now, the funds would come out of the City’s budget.
Member Paul said she was looking at this from an equity standpoint. The City has very few resources and Council is trying to make sure that safety is being taken care of. With that she is looking at the Fire Department and their needs. The City is going to hire two supervisors for the night shift as currently proposed, and is giving the Police Department two supervisor positions plus an officer and three cars. She is looking to see if Council can somehow stretch those funds to other areas of safety that are needed. At this time she would like to wait until the January timeframe, since the City was not going to be able to hire any of the sergeants until then anyways. A recent report from the Police Department said two people were taken from the detective’s bureau and three people were taken for the investigation. The City really did take from its road patrol in the long-run, and is short two police officers in that area. She is concerned that administrative people are being put in place while the Police Department is down people on the road. She said she would not be able to support the motion, not because she did not want to or see the need, but because she wants to get people back on the road since the City is already void in that position. She said her understanding was that authorizing the two additional sergeants would give the Police Department some time to help each other out because there would be two bodies at the Department at all times with the 12-hour shifts. Some of the administrative tasks may still be difficult, but with two bodies there at all times the department will not be shortchanged as with only one person covering. She asked if it was correct that there are about 14 or 15 police officers on a shift.
Chief Shaeffer said that this was correct at peak times.
Member Paul asked how many dispatchers are on per 12-hour shift.
Chief Shaeffer replied anywhere from two to four.
Member Paul said that there are anywhere from 15 to 17 employees that a supervisor is covering, which is a lot. Two people might be able to help each other out. When she had worked 12-hour shifts as a nurse, they had a one-hour lunch and a break at some point in the shift. They also reported on and off duty to the next people that duties were turned over to. She could definitely see the need in the future for the additional hires, but she would like to wait to use the recovered raid funds and look at the following budget year to do this. She would not be supporting the motion, not because she did not see the need, but because Council has to spread its dollars as finely as possible.
Member Lorenzo said she agreed with Member Gatt about the extra dispatcher. She applauded his scrutiny of the budget to see that the City actually had the 17th position somewhere. She asked if the City actually has the 17th position in personnel services.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that currently there are currently only 16.
Member Lorenzo questioned whether that is actually an authorized position because this and previous Councils have never authorized it. Administration had gone ahead and authorized the position, which is a question in and of itself. She supports the 16 dispatchers and recognizes that the position is a very difficult job. She applauded the dispatchers, and recognizes that the position has a lot of burnout and an awesome responsibility. Council does not have the luxury in this type of a budget to fund a 17th dispatcher position when there are so many other things that need attention and are of equal importance to public safety. She cannot support the rest of the motion because it was premature that evening. There will be issues that she will bring up and perhaps other issues in terms of priorities. She said she was not convinced at this point that Council had the ability of adding another Sergeant to the Police Department instead of attending to other needs. While she was not saying that she would definitely object to the motion somewhere in the future, at this point in time she was not prepared to support it.
Member Gatt wanted to point out that his motion was for the Sergeant to take effect on January 1, 2005. He asked Chief Shaeffer when the monies from the drug raid come to the City if it would be his preference to spend the money on personnel costs or on a concrete building or something that will last.
Chief Shaeffer suggested that Council should be careful about commitments to personnel costs, as the money could only cover those for a one-year period. After that period, the financial liability rests into the general fund. He does not want a police officer for only one year, as he cannot get the officer trained and fully functional on the street and only have the officer for that long. Personnel must be for a long-term commitment. This money could give Council a one-year’s head start on the additional personnel, programs, or to do things that it would like to do. The Police Department would certainly like to do some concrete, tangible things, such as upgrading its computer systems.
Member Nagy asked Chief Shaeffer if the Police Department had the raid money on January 1st, 2005, if he would want a patrol officer or the administrative Sergeant. She asked what it was that, if he had the money, he would add to his department.
Chief Shaeffer said that if the motion carried through from the prior meeting for two additional Sergeants and one additional patrol officer, then he would certainly ask for one additional Sergeant.
Member Nagy commented that Chief Shaeffer would then be asking for what Member Gatt had mentioned, the administrative Sergeant.
Chief Shaeffer said he made this argument because if the Police Department picks up those additional sergeants, this will place sergeants into street-level cars that people think about when they think "police." They will be on the road, will be working with fellow officers, and will also gain independence of action at the street level as well. Council would be adding to the City’s patrol officer level.
Member Nagy noted that the sergeants would serve a dual function then. She said she could support the motion.
Member Lorenzo suggested that if drug forfeiture money would fund the position she could support the motion. If the motion would be to create the position regardless of whether the City has those raid funds or not, she could not support the motion. She does not think Council should commit those funds to this position at this point without recognizing other priorities in the budget at this time. If the motion was to be for January 1st assuming that the drug forfeiture monies would be applied to the position, she would support the motion. However, Council has many other issues to discuss that it may not have enough money for, and without going through the rest of the evening she was not yet prepared to support the matter unless the position would be paid from the drug forfeiture money. The City will receive that money at some time, whether it is January, February, or next August. She is concerned about taking money from this year’s general fund and applying that.
Chief Shaeffer wished to give a cautionary note. If Council funds a particular position with general fund money in its budget, he cannot later pay for that position with forfeited money. Forfeited money cannot be used to supplant current resources. If Council does not give him the resources in the current budget, he can use forfeited funds to pay for the position.
Roll Call Vote on CM-04-05-173 Yeas: Landry, Capello, Gatt
Nays: Csordas, Lorenzo, Nagy, Paul
Mayor Csordas asked Mr. Helwig when the budget has to be finalized.
Mr. Helwig replied that by City Charter, May 17th is when Council will take the vote on its budget this year. That is the third Monday in May, which happens to be the second meeting of the month.
Member Nagy said she has looked at what the taxpayer receives for their tax dollars. While she feels it is important to fund police, she also has been concerned with some other issues that affect residents. One is the Fire Department; the second is the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. Those are two departments that Council has discussed in length. Council had received an email about the Fire Department’s masks. She asked Chief Lenaghan if his department is updating its masks.
Chief Lenaghan said the Fire Department had just had all of its masks tested and repaired. Their masks are 12 years old. The department had applied for a grant to replace all of the masks at one time.
Member Nagy asked for an approximation of the grant amount that the department had applied for, and also how much the masks would cost.
Chief Lenaghan replied that it will cost about $180,000 to replace the masks.
Member Nagy said she assumed that the Fire Department has old equipment such as vehicles. She asked if this was the case.
Chief Lenaghan said his department has two utility vehicles, as well as the shift supervisor car, that need replacing. The Fire Department has one pickup truck that is 25 years old.
Member Nagy commented that she would like to see Council look for money for these items. A 25-year-old utility vehicle would be very important for the Fire Department to have. She wants a balance so that every major service that serves the public has something. She reviewed a lot with the Engineering and Planning departments, and feels that the taxpayer needs to get something. Public safety is the first and foremost concern. She feels that Council should reduce those two departments, Engineering and Planning. Engineering could be reduced by one position for $55,598. She had also thought about the Planning Department: there is a $43,000 and a $79,000 position. She feels that Council could take some of that money and put it into the Fire Department’s needs to replace at least a 25-year-old vehicle, as well as take some of that money plus what Council had previously found and look at the irrigation system for Parks and Recreation. That irrigation system is critical for the safety of children. She believed that ball fields can be rented out to people and organizations. If the City had this ability, it could generate some income.
Mayor Csordas asked Member Nagy if she was looking at a specific position in the Engineering or Planning Departments.
Member Nagy said she was looking at a reduction in one engineer. In the Planning Department, she is looking for the most cost-effective change for the City, and that position is a $79,000 position as well as one for $43,000.
Mayor Csordas commented that it would be nice to know specifically what positions Member Nagy was referring to.
Member Nagy replied that one position was the Planning Director’s, and the other was a planner. In looking at the Planning Department, one reason that she feels the City has saved money is that it hasn’t used consultants at meetings, such as those for traffic, woodlands and wetlands. If the City picked up the slack and hired Mr. Arroyo back, it could use him on an as-needed basis. Novi is three-fourths of the way built-out. Agendas are not quite as heavy as they used to be. She also has considered the long-term costs of these positions, as well as everything that she had mentioned before. In her estimation, Council has to look at public safety first. Fire is important, and the irrigation of ball fields is exceedingly important. The City does not want any liability because children have been injured on its baseball diamonds. These reductions would provide over $180,000 to put back into the budget for necessary items.
Member Capello asked Member Nagy if she wanted to only eliminate one engineering position and not the entire Engineering Department.
Member Nagy said this was correct.
Member Capello said he was not happy with the engineering that has come out of the Engineering Department. Last year, he was one who supported adding engineers so that the work could get done so that the City could get the quality it needs from the Engineering Department, quality that he believes the City was getting when those engineers were working on behalf of the City as consultants. He does not see how eliminating just one engineer and not allocating the money to have the work performed elsewhere will provide better quality. In fact, just eliminating one engineer would hurt the City. He asked Member Nagy if she was proposing to somehow have that engineer’s work done elsewhere.
Member Nagy said she was hoping to hear ideas from other people. She does not want the appearance of "slashing and burning," and would definitely support some of Member Capello’s ideas. This would be a basis from which to start.
Member Capello said he could not agree with the idea of only taking out one engineer. He is looking for more quality from the Engineering Department and engineering reviews, whether by somehow upgrading what the City has in-house, or eliminating in-house and switching to outside consultants again. By eliminating one engineer, the City will not get to where he wants it to go.
Member Nagy commented that Member Capello was correct in that eliminating one engineer would only help the City in a small portion. She agreed that Council could make a definite change in the Engineering Department as a whole.
Member Capello said this would not be accomplished by eliminating only one engineer.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if Member Nagy was suggesting that Council eliminate David Evancoe’s position.
Member Nagy replied that this was correct.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry said he could not support this idea. What is being suggested is that Council eliminate an engineer, a planner, and a department director, to replace a van and irrigate a ball field. Those things are nowhere close to even with each other. To eliminate a director of a department to irrigate five ball fields "is not even in the same planet" as one another. As a City, Council decided three years earlier at the suggestion of the City Manager to take engineering in-house and create a Plan Review Center. This change could not be done overnight and was a major, major undertaking. The transition was not promised that it could be done overnight, but was promised that it would save money. That transition has saved money. What was promised has been delivered. Council can have its opinions as to whether the quality of in-house engineering is the same as outside engineers’. What was promised was an improvement of the job for less money. Council has received reports on the Plan Review Center. He said this was clearly an attack on the Plan Review Center, and this was clearly a discussion that wants to lead to eliminating the Plan Review Center. He would not support this elimination because it is not fair. The City Council allowed the creation of the Plan Review Center, and in all fairness, Council needs to allow the Center time to operate. To pull the rug out from underneath the Plan Review Center two or three years later is not fair. The Plan Review Center has certainly delivered on speed, and the results have been there. The Center is saving the City money. He does not see irrigating ball fields as in the same vein as engineering, especially with all of the building going on within the City. He would not support the concept.
Member Lorenzo recalled that at the last meeting, Mr. Helwig had stated that the City has a very lean organization. What is lean is relative. She questioned if "lean" means in comparison to other communities of Novi’s size, or compared to other communities that are built-out with more revenue coming into them. She asked what is lean today, in 2004, when the beginning of the budget revenue sessions started with discussions of drastic reductions in revenue sharing. What is lean and fair is relative and depends on the situation of a particular community. She does not mean to be insensitive, but the City is in a difficult position because unlike corporate America, Council must conduct its business in public, which makes discussion about things like personnel much more difficult, uneasy, and awkward. Of this year’s budget, $600,000 is going towards one extra pay period in the City of Novi. That is a very relevant issue. The number one goal is to complete the City’s parks. The number one long-term goal is to improve City services to citizens. When she looks and sees how many things the Police and Fire departments need in order to serve the City, she feels that Council needs to focus where those needs are. She pondered whether it is fair that Council does not give the Fire Department the things that it needs, including a second ambulance dedicated to the City of Novi. The City has a Planning Department, an Engineering Department, directors, administrators, but no second ambulance. She asked if it is fair that the children of the City use a park that has not been completed, especially during the summer months when the fields become hard and might cause injury. She has sat on City Council for six years, and it frustrates her that Council has not been able to do more for the citizens of Novi during those six years. She does not feel that people are getting their tax dollar’s worth from this city. It is embarrassing that there are incomplete City parks.
Member Lorenzo said that when the Plan Review Center was proposed as part of the 2001-2002 budget, there was a cash flow analysis from the Planning Department stating that the net cash provided by the proposal in 2003-2004 would be $126,562. This was a cash flow analysis of reduction of reliance on consultant proposal for planning, not for engineering. The estimated amount of net cash provided for the Engineering and Planning Departments in 2003-2004 is $30,632. With all due respect to Mayor Pro Tem Landry, who was not on Council when this was proposed, the City is not getting what Council was told it would be getting from the proposal. There is a $30,632 difference between what the City was paying its consultants before and what the City is now paying for in-house work. As Member Nagy had pointed out, this figure is not only inflated but represents reducing the consultants’ hours for coming to meetings, particularly for traffic, wetlands and woodlands. This is not cost effective or efficient, and it "penny-wise, pound-foolish." The person that writes the review letter and writes the project, especially for traffic, wetlands and woodlands, should be at Council meetings and Planning Commission meetings to review their letter, answer questions on the letter, and explain the letter. In her opinion, it is a disservice to the board or commission not to invite those consultants to come. She does not feel that the City has saved anything with the Plan Review Center, or very little if it has. It is a fair statement that right now, the Plan Review Center might be a wash.
Member Lorenzo said that in 2000-2001, over $254,368 in review and project fees were collected by Birchler Arroyo. Planning and landscape review fees for 2004-2005 are estimated to be $130,000. Those come from applicants, the City takes in the money, and the City gives out the money. If that money goes back to the consultants, it goes in their pocket. If the money goes back to the City, it goes into the fund to pay for the employees. It appears to her that the overall number of plan reviews, just based on this comparison, is down in 2003-2004 compared to 2000-2001. If these services were consultant-based, all the City would be paying for are the retainers for those consultants. Their fees for actually reviewing the plans are all paid by the applicants. It doesn’t make fiscal sense to her to keep full-time employees in the City, being paid both salaries and benefits, when the number of plans will fluctuate from year to year. She has to assume that if the City is not receiving as much money that there aren’t as many plans coming through the City. This makes sense because as the City heads towards build-out, there are going to be less plans, other than redevelopment issues, that will come up. She agrees with Member Nagy and feels that the City needs to start reducing the costs that it has in personal services and start spreading those back out towards basic City services. This could be for an additional fire protection officer, equipment that is essential to the Fire Department, an additional Sergeant in the Police Department, fields and other safety issues for the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, but those are where the priorities in her opinion. She supported Mr. Helwig’s suggestions and kept an open mind, as she was willing to see if the City would save money and how much. The City has had the Center for a couple of years and she has had a chance to analyze it. The City cannot continue doing things the same just because it does not want to change. She is not sure that Council should totally eliminate the Engineering Department because the City needs to have at least one in-house engineer. She does not want to pay out more money, but wants to be able to collect the review fees and pass those back on to a consultant. She does not want to pay for people 24/7, 365 days a year. She wants to be able to utilize the fees coming in and give those right back out. There may be other things in engineering that she does not necessarily want to pay a consultant for. She would need to see more information on how the process would work, as well as what the costs would be, if she were to support eliminating the Engineering Department. She wondered at what point the City Engineer would take the place of hiring someone to supervise the project. Right now, as she sees it working, there are people doing the construction work, the City hires engineers to supervise the people doing the construction work, then the City Engineer supervises the supervisors of the construction work, then the Assistant City Manager supervises the City Engineer. It would be helpful if Council could eliminate the supervisor with the City Engineer, because then the City would not be paying the money out to supervise the construction job, as there would be somebody on the inside doing that. If that is not what will happen, she needs to reevaluate the value of having an in-house City Engineer.
Member Lorenzo said that in terms of the other positions, she does not feel that the City ever seems to have enough money to complete parks, to give the Fire Department or the Police Department what it needs, to give the DPW what it needs, or make its fields safe, but it has enough money for a lot of administration. She had asked for the specific delegations of duties for the Chief Operating Officer, the Assistant City Manager, and the Planning Director. In terms of specific delegation of duties, she is not sure if there is overlap or who does what. She recalled the Planning Director stating one night that he is basically an administrator for the Planning Department and does not get very involved with plans or anything of that nature. She pondered what kind of value the Planning Director position adds to this organization or the citizen. There is more value in giving the Fire Department and Parks and Recreation what they need, because those are things that people can see, feel, and touch. People have more contact with the Assistant City Manager and the Chief Operating Officer than they do with the Planning Director. She wondered if people would notice a difference if the Planning Director position were eliminated. Council needs money to put back into basic City services, and this is her priority for the year and a half left on her term. She supports Member Nagy, as well as Member Capello, and said the City needs a different direction. The City is in a terrible position and the State is in a terrible position, but Council is in the position to do something about this.
Member Paul said she had asked the City’s financial administrator to provide just an overview of what people pay in percentages for City taxes. She noted that 64.5% of tax dollars are paid to education. This is where the public has voted to put its money, but there are many complaints about parks and recreation issues. She supports all three sets of comments that had been made earlier, but she has mixed feelings. At the Road Committee that she and Member Capello serve on, there were several developers who had said that there are still bumps in the system, but it is slightly better. The three developers were talking about the Engineering Department and said it has improved some. Those developers said they are still having difficulties with the Planning Department. Businesses across the United States, not just this municipality, are taking costs and cutting salaries. She would have to weigh the factors of removing the Engineering Department and replacing this with consultants, because she does not currently understand all those numbers, having only served on Council for six months. She could see perhaps reducing a department by one person. The Engineering Department administrator does some engineering work, so she can understand keeping that administrative position, as she does both engineering and administration similar to sergeants in the Police Department. In the Planning Department, the administrator is not "wearing both hats." She asked if this job could somehow be absorbed by the two administrative second-in-command positions. She does not know enough about the positions to yet say, but she is looking at what corporate America is doing and how Council is trying to fine-tune the budget. She would like to take some money and put that towards the Fire Department’s needs. That department does not have masks to fit the people that are going in to fight fires. She pondered how Council can make the budget equitable and put some money into parks and recreation. The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director had provided Council with some ideas on where that money sits. She would look at supporting this in some capacity. She would like to know how the Planning Department would work if some planning work went to Birchler Arroyo. She does not want to spend more money, but wants to support making the City lean. The Mayor has brought up information about the City’s insurance many times. There would be cost savings to the City over time from taking benefits away from those employees.
Mayor Csordas said he doesn’t visit the City frequently, and he does not know how to run the Planning Department, the Engineering Department, and does not want to pretend to do that. He does, however, get a chance to see the consultants that come to Council, and he watches the Planning Commission and ZBA meetings and sees the City employees that answer those bodies’ questions. What he particularly likes about them is that the City employees tell the boards and commissions what they need to know, not what they think the boards and commissions want to hear. This did not happen when the City used consultants, which is not disparaging to them because they must do what is needed to continue their contracts and their livelihood. When the issue of going from the long-standing position of having consultants versus using in-house staff came up, he had opposed the change. He had been a proponent for outsourcing for all of the reasons he had stated those years ago. In subsequent budget sessions Mr. Helwig had made these requests. After his original objections, he started to support the shift of bringing the review processes in-house. He is not at the City all of the time, but he bases his perception on what he views and hears. Just in the last 30 days he received two or three calls from various developers that were in some stage of the process in the City, or perhaps had just finished the process. During those conversations, he asked the developer how things were going with the City. Two of the three people that he spoke with are significant developers that have worked in the City for a very long time. Both stated that the process went well and that they were very satisfied. Five years ago this may not have been the case. He noted that he watches the City’s Planning Commission meetings, and recalled that Barb McBeth and Tim Schmitt are two City planners that are very interesting to him; the planners always seem to be well prepared and are very straightforward with their comments. It has been his experience that the City planners are articulate, prepared, and answer the questions from the Planning Commission well. He understands the fiscal concerns that had brought up. Three years ago the City made the decision to undertake a significant culture change to in-house processing, which he initially opposed. He said this change had a rocky start but has improved. He said he would not support a switch back to the former culture.
Member Nagy noted that she does not want to eliminate the Plan Review Center. She would still like to keep two planners and keep the Plan Review Center, as she sees the need for it. What she is looking at are the long term costs, including social security, insurance, pension, retiree health care benefits, worker’s compensation, square footage for employees, telephones, supervisory personnel, and other costs. The City has the very basics of the minimum standards for its residents. She receives many questions about what residents get for their tax dollars. The Plan Review Center was just recently moved at a cost of $24,500.
CM-04-05-174 Moved by Nagy, seconded by Paul; MOTION CARRIED: To eliminate the position of the Planning Director effective January 1st, 2005.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry referred to a report that had recently been delivered to Council, an analysis of the in-house Plan Review Center and Engineering Department. This report, which appears to take into account supplies, employee salaries, pension and everything else, says that before the Center was created the City was spending approximately $800,000 for consultants. Since the Center, this amount has been cut to approximately $609,000 for a net savings of $110,000.
Ms. Smith-Roy noted that this was correct.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry said that when Council considers pensions and all the overhead costs for the employees, the City is saving $110,000 a year.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that this was correct.
Member Lorenzo asked if that much money was saved out of the general fund.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct.
Member Lorenzo asked if this savings included all of the Planning Department, including secretaries and additional engineers.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct. The figure includes the entire Planning and Engineering departments.
Member Lorenzo asked if it was correct that the savings for just the Plan Review Center are $30,000 and $37,000.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct, but that is across all funds. There is one element that is not taken into consideration, as noted in the document: it is difficult to quantify the value for the projects that are done in-house. For example, the master plan was just completed in-house. She did not assign a value to that work in the referenced chart because she did not know how to estimate that cost. In addition to the noted savings, there are some incidental or even significant costs that are not quantified because she did not have the ability or information to include it, and she wanted to be conservative in her cost savings figures. This is always her approach when talking about the budget and fiscal responsibility.
Member Lorenzo commented that apples were not being compared to apples. The figure includes everything for the Planning Department, including the director. She said there used to be another position in that department, the Economic Development Coordinator, which was removed.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct.
Member Lorenzo asked how much that position had cost.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that the position was probably equivalent to a planner.
Member Lorenzo asked if this meant about $55,000 to $60,000.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct.
Member Lorenzo asked if it was correct that $55,000 out of the $110,000 savings was from the elimination of the Economic Development Director position.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that this was correct.
Member Lorenzo reiterated that Council needed to compare apples to apples. A position in the Planning Department had been eliminated. The information that Mayor Pro Tem Landry had been looking at was for an entire department. What was being discussed was not the entire department, but rather the Plan Review Center, which includes engineers and planners, and the Planning Director Position. Council cannot look at the $110,000 thinking that this is truly a savings in terms of the Plan Review Center.
Ms. Smith-Roy said that Council needed to look at what changed in both departments. There was a comprehensive change of how the operations are done in those departments, and the key change was the Plan Review Center. Yes, there were positions that were eliminated and positions that changed responsibilities. Operationally, those were necessary for the City to create the Plan Review Center and be effective. She was asked to look at the difference from the general fund both before the Plan Review Center and after, and in all fairness she feels that it is ok to take into consideration all of the factors, including the consultant retainer information and everything that was involved. This is how the analysis was done.
Mr. Helwig noted that much had been said leading up to the current motion. He felt that he needed to comment before a very important decision was made by Council. There had been some reference that evening about needing a different direction, as well as concerns about never having enough money to do what is needed but having lots of administrators. As he looked at positions that had been mentioned, and compared the past to the present, there used to be six administrative positions: a City Manager, two Assistant City Managers, a Director of Planning, a Director of Public Services, and an Economic Development Manager. He eliminated two of those positions without much fanfare and without much feedback, the Director of Public Services and the Economic Development Manager. That was done without any prodding in an effort to streamline the organization.
Mr. Helwig said that on March 31st, after a great deal of thought and four years with the City, he submitted a recommended budget. He realizes that there has been change on Council. If a different direction is needed then they need to talk about it. For this community to accomplish what it wants to accomplish he needs a Director of Planning. The former administration was entitled to that position. He has streamlined administration and needs a Director of Planning. The cost savings are there for the Plan Review Center and everything that he has done. What he cannot put a value on are the other goals of those changes. People are better able to be held accountable, and there has been far greater citizen participation with this master plan than in the past with the 20/20 plan. He has been able to hold someone accountable to make sure that citizen participation is an ingredient in the master plan process.
Mr. Helwig said he needs to be able to hold a City Engineer accountable for a number of reasons. It has been a great four years in what the City has accomplished. He needs to be able to continue that track record. Without those components he cannot continue this. This will be the basis for another discussion. What was being said that evening predated both him and Council. There is a City goal that no one had mentioned, a millage of 10.54 mills, all of which has not been enacted. That millage will not fund the City services that Council had described as wanting to provide. To lose a vital leg in the process of trying to accomplish what Council is trying to do is something that he cannot deliver. He cannot deliver what has been accomplished in the last four years without a Director of Planning.
Mayor Csordas thanked Mr. Helwig for his comments. In his experience since Mr. Helwig has been with the City, the accountability has been significant. When Mr. Helwig first came to Novi, he asked Council to notify him if there was anything that it ever wanted, and he would follow up and have someone report back. For 100% of the things that he has asked for this has been true. He does not call most other department heads because Mr. Helwig provides answers to his questions. His experience in working with current administration is that accountability is of the highest levels. As a former proponent of outsourcing, his culture shift regarding the City came about because he likes the fact that Mr. Helwig can go to a department head, retrieve an answer, and come right back with it. There is a certain amount of accountability with consultants because the City does not have to renew its contract. There are positive consequences and negative consequences for everything that Council does.
Member Nagy said she did not disagree with the Mayor’s comments. In her experience from being on the Planning Commission, the master plan is basically done by the Master Plan and Zoning Committee and City planner Darcy Schmitt. With all due respect, she did not see the involvement by the Planning Director. When she was on the Planning Commission she dealt with the people who did the review, the planners. At the table it is the planners who answer questions, not the Director. The Assistant City Manager oversees these departments as well, both Planning and Engineering. Many times she would talk with the City Manager and not the Planning Director. The planners in the Planning Department are totally capable. Maybe this is a position that, since the Assistant City Manager oversees the Planning Department anyhow, can be eliminated. She understands the City Manager’s desires and understands about the 10.54 mills and what Council is trying to do. The discussion that had ensued did not mean that Council wants to implement the changes within a year. Council is looking for the long-term effect and what it can do on a yearly basis. At three-fourths of the way built-out she does not want to disassemble the Plan Review Center. She wants a reduction, and this is the least cost value position that she sees.
Member Lorenzo said that in addition to costs that she has looked at, she has found a loss of control in terms of some issues of accountability. When consultants are hired, Council has the leverage and discretion to terminate contracts as well. She remembers Bob Schmid who used to say "We can hire ‘em and we can fire ‘em," and this was true. She has not found as much accountability as she would like in some instances. In addition to money, it is in Council’s best interest to have control so that when it does not feel something is going in the proper direction, it has the ability to change course without getting pushed back.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry said he finds the budget process amazing. He does not know of anywhere in corporate America where somebody who shows up two days a month tells somebody who works every day of the week how to run their department or how to spend their money. Everybody sitting at the Council table shows up about two days a month to the City, every other Monday. He finds it amazing that the Council would take it upon itself to tell the City Manager how to run the City, to tell the City Manager how many department heads he needs, or how to tell any department how to spend its money. Nowhere in corporate America does this ever happen. Yes, Council has an oversight rule that it is charged with. He respects everyone’s opinions, as they are entitled to them. As far as he is concerned, he does not see it as his job to tell the City Manager how many Assistants he needs or how to run his department. Mr. Helwig said he needs a Planning Director, and that is good enough for him.
Member Gatt noted that out of the seven members of Council, he was the only one who had worked for Mr. Helwig on a full-time basis. He assured everyone that Mr. Helwig has complete control.
Mayor Csordas said he believes that the City Manager holds this staff to a high level of accountability. It is also his observation that it is always better to help, save and train up someone who might not be performing to expectations. It is much more costly and time consuming to replace somebody. He noted that he was not implying that anyone was underperforming. His personal philosophy is to help people and train them, pointing out weaknesses to a certain point. If there is disappointment with performance at any level, that should be made known and the person should be able to adjust, accept, and perform.
Member Paul recalled that initially three positions were mentioned: one planner, one engineer, and one administrator. The State is taking away money from the City for safety issues like fire, police, and the school system. There was a compromise that had been made that evening that instead of cutting three positions there would only be one cut. Perhaps the City will really need that position, but at this time Council is looking to fund some other areas, and is asking for one position instead of three. The compromise that Member Nagy had made was fair. The position will create the highest dollar amount from the person who does not actually work on the actual plans themselves. In all fairness, she felt that the compromise was well done, and said she would support the motion.
Roll Call Vote on CM-04-05-174 Yeas: Capello, Lorenzo, Nagy, Paul
Nays: Landry, Gatt, Csordas
Member Paul said she had asked for several things to be done by the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director. Mr. Auler had provided Council with a memo about the budget and five different points on Community Sports Parks in regards to what is needed for irrigation. In his program, Mr. Auler mentions the lack of irrigation during the summer months. The fields become very dry and there are ruts and grooves that form on the fields from the five or six teams that use the fields on the weekends. The eroded soil causes issues with the turf staying built. Many balls hop unexpectedly and hit children in the face or the head, which can cause closed head injuries; also, the fields can cause leg sprains, leg breaks, ankle injuries, and heel spurs. She referred to a cost analysis on the second page of this memo, and asked Mr. Auler to explain this. She would like to irrigate at least fields 1, 3, 4 and 5.
Mr. Auler said that the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department had looked at a couple of options in working with companies that install wells, and also with irrigation companies. The best and primarily only option available is to utilize the existing pond at the corner of Eight Mile and Napier that services the soccer fields. The irrigation main line would be extended across to the ball field system so that the infrastructure would be in place if the goal is to irrigate all of the ball fields. An additional well may have to be dropped at that site in order to have enough water flow, in gallons per minute, to irrigate all of the fields at the level needed. 75 gallons of water flow per minute are needed, and the current available rate will not be known without additional tests. The thought was that by dropping the well there, the pond allows the iron in the water to settle, and helps to prevent staining of the fencing or other features in the park. They looked at dropping a well by the baseball concession stand, which is where existing wells number four and five are. Three-phase power would have to be run to that site to run a proper-sized pump and get the amount of water flow needed. DTE has provided an estimated cost of around $40,000 just for the three-phase power. In addition to this, dropping the well would cost an additional $15,000. That work would basically provide the irrigation for those four fields. An additional well would have to be dropped in the future to irrigate fields 6, 7, and 8.
Member Paul asked if there was any way that zoning could be used like she has in her yard, and irrigate field 2 and 5:00 in the morning, field number 3 at 6:30 in the morning, and so on, so that another well would not have to be dropped at this time.
Mr. Auler said a new well would be needed in order to do this. The soccer fields are all set up on zones, and the new baseball field being renovated is currently set up on a zone.
Member Paul asked if the grand total for irrigation for one ball field, plus all of the other equipment needed and the extension of the main line, would be $41,700.
Mr. Auler replied that this was correct.
Member Paul asked for an overview of people in the community’s concerns about parks and recreation facilities in the City. Mr. Auler is a new Parks and Recreation Director. The previous Community Sports Park was built under another Director, so many of the problems have been inherited.
Mr. Auler said that the only irrigated fields in the park system are the soccer fields. Field 2, which is under renovation right now, will have irrigation as part of that project. The Power Park softball complex, which is also where the seven and eight-year-old children play, does not have an irrigation system, nor does Power Park fields one and two, which are where 9 through 12-year-olds play and where the high school teams play. The Power Park softball fields have had a dust problem. The hard ground compacts, and causes bad hops for the ball. These are an inherent risk that is minimized as best as possible. The grass at the Power Park fields is not as patchy. At Sports Park, the grade level is not the most effective for the quality or safety of play. The outfields receive a lot of use, as to do the soccer fields. The school system has gone to a set number of hours of use for each of their fields per week. Once that level is hit, those fields cannot be used. The City does not have the luxury of doing this because of the numbers of youth and adults that choose to participate in Parks and Recreation programs. Fields have patchy, spotty grass from years of use without irrigation, but irrigation is not the only answer to the problem. Water is needed to maintain the turf, aerifiers are needed, and top dressers are needed to continually over-seed. Once the City is able to install irrigation, it will still take time to get the fields into the condition similar to the outfields at Power Park.
Member Paul said there is Jaguar soccer travel team coming for the weekend. 700 hotel rooms will be occupied this weekend alone, just for this two-day-long tournament. The City is bringing in revenue for the use of a field that is of a standard to draw people from all over the area. If the City’s parks are of a good standard, it can draw different businesses in. She asked if there are any other traveling leagues that use the City’s fields at this time, other than Novi youth baseball.
Mr. Auler replied that there are not. The City has Novi youth baseball as its house league baseball program, and the Novi Heat as the travel program. The fields are all used for baseball by that organization. The only time that the fields have any free time are Sunday afternoons, and those are beginning to fill up because the number of boys is increasing. The girls’ softball program has been started, and is run at the school property, Novi Meadows, on three fields there. The travel program is a separate organization from the City, which is the Novi Madness.
Member Paul felt it was important to note that having parks of a desirable standard can generate business for the community. At this time she would like to start looking at the irrigation component for the fields, and perhaps next year address the top dresser and the core aerifier. She wants to get water to the fields first, and then possibly get the equipment the following year.
Member Lorenzo said she was looking at the $41,700 cost in Mr. Auler’s memo for the well and option A. She asked if this would only allow for irrigation of one field.
Mr. Auler replied that this was correct. The option will install the infrastructure so that the fields can be irrigated in the future. If wells are just dropped throughout the park, which is what has happened so far, the City’s costs will be higher than this because each well costs about $15,000 and will need three-phase power, which is another $30,000 to $40,000.
Member Lorenzo asked how much it would cost to work on four fields.
Mr. Auler said that if the main line is installed, the cost will be $10,000 per field to install the irrigation on that field itself.
Member Lorenzo asked if the main line would be included in option A.
Mr. Auler responded that with what he provided in the memo for $41,700, the main line would be installed over to the fields, and an additional well would be installed by the lake if needed. After testing, the additional well may not be needed, but the City may have to upgrade the pump, which could save roughly $5,000 to $6,000.
Member Lorenzo asked if that savings would be off of the figure given to Council.
Mr. Auler said this was correct.
Member Lorenzo asked if Council were to give the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department another $30,000 above the $41,700, if he would be able to irrigate all four fields.
Mr. Auler said that roughly one field can be irrigated per $10,000.
Member Lorenzo said this was what she supports. She supports finding the money to do the four fields that need to be done.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry referred to the Capital Improvements Program. He asked if Mr. Auler had input into that program.
Mr. Auler replied that he did.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry noted that Parks, Recreation, and Forestry items are items 69 though 74, on pages 66 and 67 in that program. He asked if those were in order of preference.
Mr. Auler replied that the projects listed were the projects identified in the Community Recreation Plan as part of the five-year Capital Improvements Plan for the park system. They were not prioritized with this document, as the Department chose to work with the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission and prioritize those with each of the budget submissions on an annual basis, using the Capital Improvements Program as the guide.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked what the number one priority was in the Parks, Recreation and Forestry’s budget submissions.
Mr. Auler replied that the number one priority was the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) transition plan improvements.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked where this was included in the budget.
Mr. Auler said this was part of his department’s five-year plan. They have a transition document for each of the parks. Those improvements are throughout the park system as a whole.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked how much money the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department had requested for the ADA improvements.
Mr. Auler said the cost would be $125,000.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if it was suggested to allocate $125,000 toward those improvements in the budget proposed by administration.
Mr. Auler said he did not believe that this was part of the budget message.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if the number one priority requested by Mr. Auler as Director of the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department, was to give the Department money to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Mr. Auler replied that this was what the Department proposed to the Commission, and the Commission reviewed that.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission agreed with Mr. Auler’s recommendation.
Mr. Auler replied that the Commission did agree.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry summarized that the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department had consulted with the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission, and together had jointly recommended that the number one priority was making this City ADA compliant. He asked if this was correct.
Mr. Auler said that they had prioritized the rankings and adjusted those at Commission meetings. He believed that the number one priority had been ADA compliance, and the second priority was street trees.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if the second priority had been street tree plantings.
Mr. Auler said this was correct.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission had agreed with that recommendation.
Mr. Auler said this was also correct.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked what the Department’s third priority was.
Mr. Auler said this was the pedestrian trail connection that, once the Singh trail is constructed, would connect that trail down to Community Sports Park.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if the money to do this work was proposed in the budget before Council.
Mr. Auler replied that he did not believe this was proposed.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if this budget included money to do the street tree work.
Mr. Auler replied that he did not believe that this funding had been proposed, either.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked what the Department’s fourth priority was.
Mr. Auler believed that this priority was improvements at the Power Park complex.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry noted that this was for Power Park. He asked if that priority was for baseball diamonds.
Mr. Auler said the priority was for the softball diamonds.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if he was correct in saying that the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department, in conjunction with the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission, determined that Power Park needed work first over Community Sports Park when looking at the City’s baseball and softball diamonds.
Mr. Auler replied that he recalled this being correct.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if that funding was included in the proposed budget.
Mr. Auler said he did not believe that funding had been included.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked where in the priority list the irrigation of the fields at Community Sports Park was located.
Mr. Auler said that Community Sports Park was the next rated item, the fifth priority.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if football teams had practiced on the outfields of the baseball fields at Community Sports Park.
Mr. Auler said this was correct. This has been a past practice that the Department has eliminated as of this year. The football teams essentially did not have any other place at school properties, but the City has since worked out arrangements for them to practice at a different location.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked Mr. Auler if, in his opinion, the condition of the outfields of the baseball diamonds at Community Sports Park is in part a result from football teams having practiced on them.
Mr. Auler replied that he believed that use had enhanced the problems.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked if those fields’ condition should improve now that the Department has put a stop to the use by the football teams.
Mr. Auler said that over time this was correct.
Member Gatt asked what football teams had used the baseball fields for practicing.
Mr. Auler replied that this was the Northville/Novi Colts, the youth football program.
Member Gatt asked if this was a pay-to-play type of program.
Mr. Auler said this is a separate organization from the City. Since he has come to the City, the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department has tried to establish a fee structure that is fair to all organizations. When he came here, not all organizations were paying the same fee for the same services. The City is still working towards this, but improvements have been made.
Member Gatt asked if the Northville/Novi Colts team is sponsored by the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry.
Mr. Auler replied that the organization is a separate entity. In the past, the team has practiced on the Community Sports Park outfields, and played their games at a facility in Northville.
Member Gatt asked what it meant for the Colts to be a "separate entity."
Mr. Auler said the team is a separate organization from the City, and is not a program that his department administers.
Member Gatt asked if the team pays to use the City’s fields.
Mr. Auler said this was correct, as the team pays a nominal fee.
Member Gatt asked if the fee would cover the damage caused to the field by the team.
Mr. Auler said that the fee charged to any of the organizations does not cover the City’s maintenance operation cost for their use of the City’s facilities. The separate organizations include all of the travel programs, including the Novi Jaguars soccer program, the Novi Colts, and the Novi Heat travel baseball team, and the Novi Youth Baseball Association.
Member Gatt said he was concerned about recovering the costs for damage that the separate entity seemed to have cost. He asked if there was a chance that this could be done.
Member Nagy said she had watched the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission’s meeting when it discussed the Capital Improvements Program. She asked which City park is the most used.
Mr. Auler said this would definitely be between Community Sports Park and Power Park. Power Park’s uses are primarily for adult softball and some youth baseball, which runs April through the end of October, five nights a week. Community Sports Park is used by the soccer program, which has about 2,000 children involved, and the Novi youth baseball program. All eight fields are booked every day of the week for their baseball season. The house league ends at the end of June, and the travel program goes on for a few more weeks in July.
Member Nagy asked if people also travel here to play the Novi travel baseball team.
Mr. Auler said this was correct.
Member Nagy noted that ADA improvements seem to be the highest priority but were not included in the proposed budget. She asked if ADA improvements could be done with any grants.
Mr. Auler said his department is researching grant opportunities, but they have not yet had success in identifying some of the specific improvements. Some of the improvements can be done in-house, but some work is beyond what the Department can do.
Member Nagy said that the parks have a lot of clay in their soil. Without irrigation, the areas will be come dry and will develop ruts from use. She asked if other work done to a field matters if no irrigation is available, such as putting seed down, aeration, and other work.
Mr. Auler said the Department attempts to do this. They borrow equipment from the school district and from neighboring communities that have some of that equipment. Without the water, the turf is still compacted and hard. The other option is to minimize use, but the City does not have that luxury like the school district does because of the number of participants in recreation programs.
Member Nagy noted that 2,000 people are involved in the soccer program. She asked how many people participate in Novi youth baseball.
Mr. Auler replied that he did not know the exact number of people involved in that program, but speculated that there are probably 600 or 700 youths in the baseball program, and the City also runs a softball program with 300 or 400 children involved.
Member Nagy summarized that there are probably over 3,000 children in Novi that participate in some sporting activity. She pondered how the City could accomplish the ADA requirements and finish irrigation, and where cuts should be made. She asked if there were statistics for the number of people who use the parks that are physically challenged.
Mr. Auler said he did not know what the usage number was. He believed that in the Community Recreation Plan, 7% or 8% of the City’s children have a physical or mental challenge, but was not certain about that number.
Member Nagy asked if the City is in violation of any federal laws by not having ADA compliant parks.
Mr. Auler said that for areas that may not be totally compliant, the City makes reasonable accommodations for users to participate and access information.
Member Nagy asked if the City is not necessarily in violation of any federal law at this time.
Mr. Auler said the Department has physical improvements that need to be made.
Member Nagy asked if the City needs to make all of the $125,000-worth of improvements this summer.
Mr. Auler replied that this was a difficult question. The ADA went into effect in 1992, so the City has been making improvements steadily over time. The Department’s plan has several items identified in the transition plan that would improve accessibility.
Mayor Csordas said that as he understood the ADA, all existing facilities are grandfathered into the ADA. Until significant changes are made to such a facility or building, there is no requirement to be to the standard of the ADA.
Mr. Fisher said he believed that the ADA can make an inspection and require an improvement. Generally speaking, there is a form of grandfathering, but there are very fundamental aspects where the government will require conformance within a period of time.
Member Nagy asked the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department to prioritize which of the ADA requirements that the City needs to comply with immediately. She does not want to harm anyone, but also does not want to harm the kids that play on the City’s fields.
Member Paul noted that Council had just allocated $8,000 for a trail connection for the Planning Commission, and they have a greenways plan that needs doing. Instead of allocating the money for the trailhead listed as a Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department priority, she asked Mr. Auler if he could work with the Planning Department on the trailhead issue.
Mr. Auler said the trailhead that his department had proposed was what was submitted for the Land and Water Conservation Grant. What the Department had proposed in the Capital Improvements Budget request was the actual trail connection from Nine Mile and Napier down to the Sports Park.
Member Paul recalled that some numbers were out of place because the request went to print before Mr. Auler had a chance to change them. She asked what those numbers were.
Mr. Auler referred to page 33 of the blue book. He said the numbers are indicated in the Department’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan, which is included in the Community Recreation Plan that Council adopted in October of 2003.
Member Paul asked if the pedestrian trail connection was not the number one priority.
Mr. Auler said this was correct. The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission originally voted that the trail connection would be the number one priority. The Commission later reconsidered and moved that item to number three. The ADA compliance is the number one priority; street trees are number two; the trail connection is the third priority; number four was Power Park, and number five was Community Sports Park.
Member Paul asked if it was correct that adult softball mainly uses Power Park.
Mr. Auler said this was correct. For three days a week, the four fields that the adult softball program plays are utilized for the Novi youth baseball machine pitch program. Power Park fields number one and two are exclusively for youth baseball and softball. Novi Schools are also utilizing those fields, as does Franklin Road Church.
Member Paul asked if it is correct that there are people in this community that utilize the fields, plus those from other communities.
Mr. Auler replied that this is correct.
Member Paul asked if there are only four fields at Power Park.
Mr. Auler said there are four fields that comprise the softball complex and two baseball fields as well.
Member Paul summarized that there are 16 fields with 3,000 children using them in the City. She understands what the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission was looking at. She said she would put the priority where the most fields and kids are. She would like to see if somehow the trail connection can be incorporated into the money that Council is giving to the Planning Commission for trails. Working on ADA improvements is a great priority. She asked for another memo from Mr. Auler taking some ADA and some irrigation components, examining how the City could possibly do some work for both.
Mr. Auler said he could provide this information.
Member Paul said Council’s number one goal is to complete the City’s parks, but there is not much money for this.
Mayor Csordas commented that at the previous budget meeting, Council spent five hours cutting 0.2% of the budget to add items that no one on the City staff had asked for. That evening, Council was making cuts to the budget that nobody had asked for. What nobody had mentioned was that Hooters had gone on record stating that they intend to sue the City. Until this uncertainty is confirmed one way or the other, it would not be fiscally responsible to tinker with the original budget proposal. Council should actually add to the judgment trust fund recommendation in preparation for litigation. The City Manager stated prior to the potential Hooters legal action that $100,000 was less than he wanted. The $41,700, maybe $71,700 for irrigating ball fields, was not on the Capital Improvements Committee report, so it did not go through the established City process. This sets an unnecessary precedent. There were many parks and recreation priorities established by the department head, but this was not one. In times of State revenue cuts and a potential lawsuit, he would not support this item. The Police Chief asked for two sergeants, and that is what he would support, no more police staff than what was requested. The Fire Chief asked for two supervisors, and that is what he would support, no more Fire staff than what was requested. To revise the payroll to a maximum 2% increase to non-union employees, rather than the approximately 3% requested, would be very demoralizing to many City employees. Those employees already had their health benefits reduced while the rest of the City staff was excluded from this reduction. The proposed request is reasonable in his opinion. For those reasons, he was not prepared to support the budget in any other form than the one originally proposed by the City Manager.
Member Paul said that when she asked about the employee insurance change, she was assured that this would take place in January. She asked if it was correct that the change would be from a $10/$20 prescription co-pay.
Mr. Helwig noted that employees would be changing to a $10/$20 co-pay. This would be effective July 1 for administrative personnel. The percent contribution toward the monthly premium would begin in January 1, 2005.
Member Paul said the section 125 plan goes into effect and is steady for one year, from January 1 to December 31. That is where an employee can put a certain amount of money that will be out-of-pocket expenses into this fund. If a person has a $2 co-pay and switches to a $10 or $20 co-pay and has five to six prescription drugs per month, there is a huge cost increase. She would like to see the change in the co-pay as effective in January when someone can alter their plans. She does not want to take someone that might be in need and not have them prepared for what the change might be.
CM-04-05-175 Moved by Paul, seconded by Lorenzo; MOTION FAILED: To make the administrative employee switch to a $10/$20 prescription drug co-pay effective January 1, 2005.
Member Gatt asked what the cost of switching to the increased co-pay in January instead of July would be.
Ms. Smith-Roy said the change will save $30,000 per year. The delay in the switch would reduce the savings by $15,000.
Member Gatt noted that Council would have to come up with an additional $15,000 from the budget to make it balance with this change. He asked what the savings to the City are for the employee medical benefits contribution change that is effective January 1.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that the 2.5% contribution will save the City $6,400 for the six months of the change.
Member Nagy expressed concern about being equitable. She felt that Council should look at the Engineering Department, do whatever it needs to do effective January 1, 2005, and examine the potential cost savings. If the City is going to save $30,000 by switching the co-pay to $10/$20, and the 2.5% contribution will not save much. The Mayor had made comments about giving more than a 2% raise. In order to accomplish everything, something has to give. She is willing to go to the $10/$20, but also wants to give back something.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry noted that this change would add cost to the budget, not reduce costs.
Member Paul said her concern was that Council would force a change on the City’s employees. She would like to give the employees a six-month window to prepare so that they can save the out-of-pocket expense that everybody has with insurance. It is fair to switch to the $10/$20 plan, but it is not fair to make employees pay for that increase out of their pockets. The employees could put up to $2000 a year in a section 125 plan and the employee could draw from that during the year. The employee cannot change the section 125, which is when the plan goes into effect. The increase in co-pay amount from $2 to $10 or $20 is a large amount, and this will cause out-of-pocket expenses that employees will not have prepared for.
Mayor Csordas said that section 125 plans are referred to as cafeteria plans.
Ms. Smith-Roy said the City has a section 125 plan.
Mayor Csordas noted that this is a "use it or lose it" program.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that this was correct.
Mayor Csordas said this means that employees have to calculate the amount of money that they want to set aside tax free for the year to reimburse themselves for items not covered under benefit plans. He asked what would happen to the other $500 if a person were to put $1000 in the section 125 plan and only used $500.
Ms. Smith-Roy said that since the program has been in existence, the remaining funds have been donated to Novi Youth Assistance.
Mayor Csordas remarked that this is very noble. In most programs, the remainder goes into the assets of the plan. Section 125 plans are very valuable and employees need to know about them. Not increasing the level of contributions that employees pay flies completely in the face of conventional wisdom in the marketplace today. Employee benefit plans are changed every day, both mid-year and at the beginning of the year as companies and organizations try to keep up with their expenses. This problem is never going to get any better. He said he understood and respected Member Paul’s consideration, but felt that Mr. Helwig’s original recommendation was appropriate. There is both organized and non-organized labor for the City of Novi, and he does not know that the benefits are equal for both groups. He said he would not support the motion because he felt that it flew in the face of conventional wisdom.
Member Lorenzo said she thought the motion was reaffirming what Mr. Helwig’s budget message said.
Mayor Csordas said this was not correct, and that the motion was moving the other way from the budget message.
Member Lorenzo said she thought the $10/$20 co-pay was effective as of January.
Mr. Helwig noted that there are three legs as to what administration has recommended, with three different dates as to when those items would be implemented for administrative personnel. What Member Paul mentioned was the first leg, which administration recommended be effective July 1, 2004, which is moving to the $10/$20 prescription program. The contribution out of the monthly premium is scheduled for January 1, 2005; the third leg, for the few people who have fully-paid dependent coverage for those aged 19 to 25, those employees would have to start paying 50% of those dependents’ premium costs, and this would go into effect July 1, 2005.
Member Lorenzo noted that she had seconded the motion, but said she could not support moving backwards. She said that with what Council had done at the prior budget meeting, Council is reallocating the same spending, and thus had the same budget but spent the money on different priorities. She would not agree to spending anything additional than what the City already has.
Roll Call Vote on CM-04-05-175 Yeas: Gatt, Paul
Nays: Lorenzo, Csordas, Landry
Absent: Nagy, Capello
* Council consensus was to continue the budget discussion until 11:00 p.m.
* Council recessed at 9:30 p.m.
* Council reconvened at 9:47 p.m.
CM-04-05-176 Moved by Capello, seconded by Nagy; MOTION WITHDRAWN: To postpone budget discussions until 6:30 p.m. on May 17, 2004.
Member Gatt said he could not support the motion because of his concern that the regular Council meeting on May 17th would last "until 5 a.m. the next morning" if the budget was also discussed.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry suggested that Council members give an indication of how many items they wished to discuss in the budget in order to provide an idea of how many additional budget meetings would be necessary.
Member Paul wished to discuss the budget until 11 p.m. and then stop.
Member Capello withdrew his motion.
Member Lorenzo said there were two items that Council still needed to discuss. One of those issues is the Engineering Department, including how many staff is too many, what types of changes should be made now or in the future, and others. The next thing that she wished to talk about was the legal fees line item on page 7 of the blue book. Her recollection was that Council had budgeted $350,000 for legal attorney fees in 2002-2003, as this was typically what Council has done.
Ms. Smith-Roy said she only had the figures from the amended budget, but not the original. She said she could get this information if needed.
Member Lorenzo said that for the current year, Council had budgeted $350,000 for City Attorney fees. In the regular line item, the City is expected to be $55,000 over budget in that line item. She asked if this was for five months, not for six months.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that this was not correct. The middle column on the page was for six months, and estimated column was for the entire year. This is the new estimated number for completing 2003-2004.
Member Lorenzo asked if the City Attorney fees line item was estimated as $55,000 over budget.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct, as this is what administration is estimating. There was also recently a budget amendment affecting this.
Member Lorenzo recalled that the budget amendment was $103,500 over budget, and included minus-ing out the $55,000 in fees that actually did come in.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that this was correct, and noted that the $55,000 in fees are estimated to be coming in.
Member Lorenzo asked if the City is estimated to be about $103,500 over budget for City Attorney fees this year.
Ms. Smith-Roy noted that the budget had been amended, so the City is not over budget.
Member Lorenzo asked if an amendment had been needed for $103,500.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was approximately correct.
Member Lorenzo asked what the figure from last year was.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was $350,000 for that line item.
Member Lorenzo commented that last year, the cost for City Attorney fees was $350,000, and the City went to $403,375, so the City was actually $53,715 over the original cost that it needed a budget amendment for last year.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct.
Member Lorenzo said that City Attorney fees have gone up $50,000. In the 2004-2005 budget Council was increasing this amount, assuming it was going to be over the budget that had been contemplated for the last couple of years. She does not want to make this assumption. Every year, this line item seems to increase, which concerns her. This is why she wanted to go out for bids for City Attorney services, as this would be a good move for the City. For the last several years she has been saying that the City needs to hold the line on these costs. She was the person who asked Mr. Helwig to start controlling legal services, and it was at her urging that the legal firm came forward with an amendment to the ordinance which was supposed to reimburse the City, though that amendment has not worked that way for the most part. It took approximately five months between the first and second readings of that ordinance. She is not willing to spend the extra $100,000. With all due respect to Mr. Fisher and his firm, this is not personal and it is very difficult for Council to hold these types of discussions. Going out for bids is a City policy, and the City was already six months past the date that it should have gone out for bids. She was prepared to put six months into the budget for the current firm while the City was reviewing bids. The first three months would go on during the process for which Council would go through the bids, and at the end of that three months Council would either decide to rehire the firm or the current firm would get another three months. As she recalled, the contract states that once Council gives notice of termination, the firm shall provide services for 90 days. Unfortunately, that was not "the way the cookie crumbled that night," but she still feels the same way. Mayor Csordas had said he could not support the budget for the reasons that he had stated, and she would not be able to support the budget because of the legal line item as it currently stands. One of two things can happen: either Council can reconsider what had happened and put six months in the budget for the legal firm and go out for bids immediately, or she was only prepared as an alternative to include three more months, at which point she would vote to terminate the contract. She would not be supporting any additional funds after that for this legal firm. That means that she would not be supporting the warrant after three months, and would be placing Council and the legal firm on notice that after the three months she would not be supporting any more funds for the legal line item. Council had a process, is not following it, and she is interested in investigating what other firms are available and what they would cost the City. She said that when Council meets on May 17th, she will not be supporting the budget, or at least this line item. She might be willing to take this line item out of the budget and support the rest of the document. She will not, under any circumstances, be supporting more than three months in this line item unless the City goes out for bids immediately, and then she would support six months.
Mayor Csordas asked if in this City budget, if the City Attorney line item is an allocated amount, this did not mean that the allocation would necessarily be spent.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct.
Mayor Csordas asked if this line item was included for a $200,000 amount, he asked what the municipal policy is on budgets. He asked if Council could do what Member Lorenzo was requesting, and where the money would come from.
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that if Council reduced this line item, the money would go into the fund balance, and administration would take Council’s budget amendment from the fund balance unless this was reprogrammed. To some extent, much of the work that is assigned to the City Attorney comes from the City Council. To meet the budget amount is a joint responsibility of all parties involved. The money could be put back in the fund balance and taken back out again when Council passes a budget amendment.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry said that what he had just heard was that there was an item on that Monday’s agenda, Council had voted, the vote did not go the way the previous speaker wanted it to go, so she would hold the budget hostage because that item did not go as she had wanted it to. Council voted, took a vote, and decided to go to bid on November 1st. What does not make sense to him is that Council approved a contract with the Attorney and approved the rate. That Monday there was a motion to raise that rate that had been defeated. He would not say that he would vote "no" on the budget because he lost on that motion. Council is obligated under the contract to pay a certain amount per hour. If the City is sued, it needs legal representation. Council does not control, in a sense, that line item. Council has to do what is necessary to defend the City if it is sued. If Council under-budgets and is sued by somebody it did not expect to be sued from, it does not tell the City Attorney that because there is no money budgeted that he cannot defend the City. Council only controls that line item in that it agrees on an hourly rate, but from that point on the City has to be vigorously defended. Nobody, and certainly not the City’s residents, would tell Council to not defend a lawsuit because only $350,000 had been allocated for City Attorney fees. All Council can do for this line item is estimate as best it can based upon the contract that the City has with the City Attorney and its anticipated needs, and then amend the budget if needed. He appreciates that the previous speaker has her opinions about the abilities of the legal firm, and he respects her opinion. However, the City has a contract, Council made a ruling, and it should proceed with that ruling and not hold the budget up.
Member Capello referred to legal fees and escrow hourly fees, and asked what was meant by "escrow."
Ms. Smith-Roy replied that these line items are relative to the new ordinance that went into effect last July.
Member Capello asked if those fees are directly paid by the City, but are indirectly paid by others.
Ms. Smith-Roy said those fees are offset by a revenue line item.
Member Capello asked if the City should have an offset for $58,935 showing as income coming in.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct. The City conservatively has a lower amount than this, the same as when Council looks to the 2004-2005 budget. The City has conservatively set aside a revenue line item of $55,000 to help offset those escrow costs. The reason is that those may be misclassified, and people have the ability to appeal escrow. The City is being conservative and trying to make sure that the costs are covered.
Member Capello asked what "other legal fees" are.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this relates to representation for other cases, in addition to the City’s labor attorneys.
Member Capello referred to a $375,000 item.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this is the general fund legal cost based on an hourly rate.
Member Capello asked who prepared the actual calculations to come up with that estimated budget of $375,000.
Mr. Helwig said that Mr. Pearson had the primary role in this calculation. This figure is just an estimate of what will be spent, as administration really does not know what the actual costs will be. Administration would like to have this cost as close to zero as possible.
Member Capello asked if this was an estimate of what the City would spend.
Mr. Helwig said this was correct. Any alteration of this figure must come to City Council in the form of a budget amendment.
Member Capello noted that this included not just litigation matters but also hourly rate working on ordinance revisions, development agreements, and a lot of other things besides just litigation. He did not want the City’s residents to think that the City was spending that much money on just litigation.
Mr. Helwig replied that this was correct. The cost includes staff time in meetings, strategizing sessions, and a full range of activities, as well as reviewing what comes before Council.
Member Capello asked if whatever Council does not spend from that line item would return to the general fund.
Ms. Smith-Roy noted that this was correct.
Member Capello said that with an estimate of what attorney’s fees will cost the City next year, Council could not intentionally put less in the budget than it anticipates to spend and then come up short. Council has to make the budget as close as it can to what the actual costs are going to be. The City is not spending the money until the checks and warrants are approved at a Council meeting. If administration feels that the fees will cost $507,000 next year including the escrow monies paid by others, he does not have any reason to doubt this. He said he would be supporting the line item, knowing that Council will be able to review the costs every other week as the checks come through on the warrants.
Member Paul said she had asked Ms. Smith-Roy for a general overview of what the City can do in regards to a hotel tax. Mr. Helwig is very familiar with the hotel tax, and this would support roads, parks and recreation, or an arts council. There are many different things that different communities use this tax for. She is looking to get revenue to an area that the City continually neglects. This could be Parks, Recreation and Forestry or the Fire Department, for example. She said she was looking to Mr. Helwig and Ms. Smith-Roy in how Council can be creative in funding that will not burden the taxpayers. Taxpayers are going to be faced with a $4.3 million bond for the School District this June, and there is possibly going to be a tax increase because of the State revenue issues. She asked Mr. Helwig and Ms. Smith-Roy to address the hotel tax briefly.
Member Capello said that this had nothing to do with the budget, and Council should address this at goal setting. He felt that the subject is a good idea, but should perhaps be addressed some other time.
Member Paul said this would be fine.
Member Lorenzo felt that Council still needed to discuss the Engineering Department. She is not sure how much a reduction is too much in one year. She supports Member Nagy’s reduction of one City engineer.
Mr. Helwig said that cuts need to be all or nothing. The City has one engineer in the Plan Review Center who reviews plans. That in itself is a significant cost savings over how plans were reviewed in the past. The City has an engineer for utilities who helped save the day on the City’s water master plan. The City Engineer is not only hands-on in those areas, but also provides oversight for City-sponsored projects, which are extraordinary, such as some of the $90 million of roads. The construction engineer is primarily field-based and ensures compliance with much of the above. That is what the City’s Engineering Department has. To reduce one engineer puts a huge hole in what the City needs and what it could deliver.
Mayor Csordas noted that the suggested cuts did not include how the tasks for cuts would be replaced. He only comes to the City’s offices for a few meetings a week, but believes that the City is running on close to minimal staff. He pondered how anything would get done with the cuts. Council has made revisions in cuts, but he has not heard anything on replacing those tasks.
Member Lorenzo said she does not know what all of the City’s engineers’ tasks are, broken down by engineer. She does not like the idea that the City is hiring a firm for a lot of money to supervise a project, but there are supervisors supervising supervisors. She would like to see some of this cut out. In other words, the City Engineer should either be responsible for managing those projects or not, or the Engineering Department should be able to manage those projects or not. The City has not absorbed enough of this in her opinion, because it is still hiring firms like Giffels Webster for South Lake Drive, which appears to be a disaster. She pondered whether the City Engineer position should be eliminated if Council is going to continue hiring out supervision for projects. That position either needs to absorb the proper supervision, or it should be cut and the City should continue going out to consultants for supervision. There seems to be a duplication of services, and she does not feel that the City should be paying twice when it is already struggling to find money for other priorities. Road supervision is certainly a priority, but the question is who should be doing it and at what cost. By the next meeting, she is looking for a breakdown in the division of duties for the Engineering Department staff.
Mr. Helwig said that administration had already provided that report and would not do it again, as administration already has too much work to do. He referred to disasters, many of which predate 10 years ago: the Grand River Avenue bridge, which some members did not want to support the funding for; Twelve Mile Road, including the gap, which some members did not want to support the funding for. These are all disasters. South Lake Drive had no consensus and had languished for 10 years. Administration is not excited about the people that came through the bidding process, but the road has been used all winter long. There has not been a death and the public has not complained about being able to safely drive on that roadway. That project will be completed in the next two weeks. This administration could have simply "waived that project goodbye" as had been done for 10 years and not touched it, but instead has taken on the tough projects – not only the easy ones. $90 million of road improvements are coming out of the ground in this community. There was no plan for neighborhood repaving until four years ago. This administration testified for the Beck Road and I-96 intersection. To label these items as "disasters" must mean that amnesia is setting in. He hopes that the record will be revisited before Council labels things as disasters that will serve the community for a long time to come and were not previously getting done.
Member Lorenzo said she would have to go through the report again. With the number of engineers in the Engineering Department, if Council is going to keep the engineers in-house, it will have to save some costs elsewhere. She does not want to have to continue to hire firms to manage projects. She said she had not labeled every project as a disaster, only South Lake Drive. She does not know what the other individuals had to do with those other projects and this is what she was looking for. Sometimes in organizations there are goals and objectives set forth at the beginning of the year, and there is a line item for accomplishments to show exactly what an individual did from day to day during the course of the year, such as what projects they were working on and what they did out in the field. She knows that the City hires consulting firms to go out and do the inspections and the supervision in the field, and then there are individuals that are supposed to be over them. She wants to cut out a layer in this process, as she feels that there are too many layers. The Department should be able to absorb that supervisory layer, but she will not continue to hire both in-house engineers and consultants. If there is only one engineer doing plan reviews, she would support eliminating that person because plan reviews are paid by fees for the applicant and this is pass-through. The number plans that come in fluctuates every year. If the City has only one individual just reviewing plans, then as those plans diminish there will be less and less for that person to do unless this position does other things that she does not know about. She questioned why Council should spend money on a full-time position if there will be less and less work for that position to do. This is not about the specific individuals in these positions, but is about the positions and what the particular position is supposed to be doing. She said she would do more research before the next meeting before proceeding with the matter.
Mayor Csordas said that he runs a division. The division is not daily-task-driven but is rather all results-driven. The results in this City over the past three or four have been outstanding, not only for the things that Mr. Helwig had mentioned like Grand River and Twelve Mile. When a person walks into the Planning Department there are files stacked up to the ceiling because they are getting a lot of stuff done. The results of the efforts from City staff are exemplary. How those results are obtained is Mr. Helwig’s job. He looks to Mr. Helwig’s recommendations, and the results have been quite excellent and extraordinary. His original concern in using in-house staff had been what the City would do with its staff when it is built-out. His original concern was dispelled, though, as there will be redevelopment and revitalization in the community. He is a results-driven type of person, as are most people on Council. The results for the City staff over the past four years have been extraordinary.
Member Nagy felt that Council’s discussion was becoming emotional and heated. She felt that everyone could review needed topics and discuss them at the next meeting. She does not want to see Council members or administration become entangled in emotional exchange. She would like to discuss this matter when everyone is fresh. She has concerns but would like to address those when the response will not be hostile.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry said that what he was hearing being articulated was to start with the premise that a person needed to be cut from the Engineering Department, even though Council does not know the specific tasks of those staff. He questioned how, if Council does not know what the Engineering staff do, Council could come to the conclusion that someone needs to be cut. Council needs to first understand what a staff member does before reaching the conclusion that they need to be cut.
Member Capello asked if there was a requirement as to when Council could vote on the budget.
Mr. Helwig said the City Charter states that the budget must be adopted no later than the third Monday in May. Council certainly has the prerogative to adopt the budget earlier than this.
CM-04-05-177 Moved by Capello; FAILED FOR LACK OF SUPPORT: To adopt the budget as amended during Council’s budget sessions.
Ms. Cornelius said she believed that an item had to be on the agenda for Council’s approval, and the agenda for this meeting was Council-initiated discussion and decisions regarding the spending plan priorities.
CM-04-05-178 Moved by Capello; FAILED FOR LACK OF SUPPORT: To postpone Council’s budget session until May 17th at 7:00 p.m. for a decision.
Member Paul noted that the City had just finished the master plan. She suggested taking the $11,765 for emerging issues and reduce this to $0. On the budget sheet showing summary of line item adjustments, this figure went from $11,765, not $6765. She would like to bring this figure down to $0 to provide money for some other areas.
CM-04-05-179 Moved by Paul, seconded by Capello; MOTION CARRIED: To reduce funding for Emerging Issues from $5,000 to $0.
Member Nagy thought Council had already made this reduction.
Member Paul said that Council had reduced the funding from $11,765 down to $6,765, down to $5,000. She was proposing reducing this amount to $0.
Member Capello asked if emerging issues are new issues that might come up that
Council would want the Planning Commission to study and report back to Council on. If Council wants to, it can allocate the money per session. He asked if the $5,000 was to any particular item that the Planning Commission wanted to work on.
Mr. Pearson said this money was essentially a contingency for unidentified priorities at this point.
Roll Call Vote on CM-04-05-179 Yeas: Lorenzo, Nagy, Paul, Csordas, Capello, Gatt
Member Lorenzo asked if Council had voted on irrigating the four fields for Parks, Recreation, and Forestry.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry did not believe Council had done so.
CM-04-05-180 Moved by Lorenzo, seconded by Nagy; MOTION FAILED: To approve proposal A of Mr. Auler’s memo, which included improvements, and include three additional fields for irrigation.
Mayor Pro Tem Landry asked how much this item would cost.
Member Nagy noted that the cost would be $71,700.
Member Lorenzo felt that Council had already found $41,700 for this project.
Mr. Helwig said that Ms. Smith-Roy had reported back to Council that the money is there, based on the Plan Review Center fees for the first quarter of this year.
Member Lorenzo said that Council was really looking at an additional $30,000. By virtue of the Planning Director’s reduction, she felt that Council had found that $30,000.
Ms. Smith-Roy said this was correct in that there was more than $30,000 available from the Planning Director motion.
Member Capello asked if Council was budgeting $71,700, or if $41,700 had already been allocated and Council was budgeting an additional $30,000.
Mr. Helwig said there had been no motion regarding this matter. There had been a lot of discussion that evening and at the previous Saturday work session. Nothing was in the budget for the irrigation at Community Sports Park yet.
Member Capello said he was confused in how Council just "found" money. He noted that Council had actually reprogrammed this money.
Member Lorenzo said that additional money had been included from Plan Review fees that was not noted in the original budget.
Roll Call Vote on CM-04-05-180 Yeas: Nagy, Paul, Lorenzo
Nays: Csordas, Landry, Capello, Gatt
Jorg Linke, Clark Street, wished to address an issue that he had heard rumors about. He thanked Council for being fiscally responsible for the City. He referred to the line item for proposed supervisor positions for the Novi Fire Department. He displayed a chart showing the current command structure of the Fire Department, with the Fire Chief, the Assistant Chief, four captains, two lieutenants, and the members of the different stations. The proposal as it appeared to him seems to add two supervisors, and might create some conflict. He asked Council to give the Fire Chief or administration the leeway to not program the additional officers to a specific position, but to only verbally call them supervisor positions, not "captain" or "lieutenant." Adding the two supervisor positions as lieutenants might create a problem. Adding an Assistant Fire Chief allows for additional management functions and provides for more flexibility. If the City still has additional need, perhaps the Fire Department could add an assistant to the Fire Marshall for prevention. This is an area where the City only has one person working, plus the inspectors coming out of the other areas. If Council has some extra money, he asked that it be used to support the Fire Chief for the Fire Department’s needs.
Jerry Holtzman noted that he also works for the Novi Fire Department. He wished to speak upon the same subject but in a different way. It appears that there is about $104,000 allocated. Over time, this would accumulate over years to $500,000. Paid on-call already has 12 supervisors that could be supplemented to do this two-man job. Originally, the Fire Chief had asked for an additional Assistant Fire Chief, which would be a supervisory position, and would help with training, would help the Fire Marshal, and would help at night. What is now offered is a captain and a lieutenant to supervise the unit two shift. This is like asking for apples and getting oranges, or getting something else in return. He did not understand how these positions would help the training officer or the Fire Marshal. Right now, the Fire Department has approximately 3,000 runs and maybe 50 or 60 fires. Out of those fires, perhaps 10 are fully-involved structure fires. The Fire Department is asking Council to spend $104,000 to cover supervision for 0.25% of runs. Of the remaining runs, approximately 80% are medical runs. For medical runs, paid on-call are often just as well qualified if not more so than the full-time staff and supervisors. This will put people with less experience and knowledge supervising the unit two people. There is tension between the employees of units one and two, and this would just create more animosity amongst the two shifts. He asked for a reconsideration to add an Assistant Fire Chief instead of a lieutenant and a captain.
Mike Moyslan also wished to address the same subject. He said that of the bond proposal that was presented four years ago, the Novi News had reported that the compensation for a full-time FPO is somewhere around $82,000. If it is assumed that an officer is compensated higher than this, and Council would now hire two more, the numbers do not add up. He felt that the City was trying to fix something that, by most accounts, is not broken. There are already 12 supervisors for the Fire Department, and he questioned if two more need to be hired.
Mayor Csordas wished to state to all of the City’s paid on-call firefighters that he has the ultimate respect for them.
Chief Lenaghan said that the paid on-call firefighters have every right to express their opinion on the proposed hires. The proposal has created turmoil within the Fire Department; however, some things in the past have created the same effect. He said it was probably correct that the hires would probably cost a bit more. The Fire Department has reviewed why it is looking for a 24-hour supervisor, and this has nothing to do with full-time or part-time employees. At four separate stations they are looking for coordination, accountability, and responsibility for day-to-day operations on a 24-hour basis. Nothing says that the paid on-call people have not done their job, and nothing says the day shift people have not done their job. Trying to balance both shifts and move in a different direction is a very tenuous position. He is trying to keep everybody focused on what the Fire Department is here for, which is providing fire protection and EMS service to the City. He wondered if the focus of some complaints is about the mission statement of the Fire Department or some personal issues.
Mayor Csordas said he is very pleased that the City has Chief Lenaghan as its Fire Chief. Chief Lenaghan is always very frank, and runs an absolutely sterling military-format type of organization, and does a great job.
Mr. Saven thanked Council for the opportunity to speak. He has been involved in many budget sessions, and this had been a very emotional one. There are two things that he wished to bring to Council’s attention that would be very important for the next budget session. One is the Sandstone lawsuit, and the other is the Paragon lawsuit. As Mr. Helwig had said, the City is very lean. He is very concerned about the City’s ability to meet its goals when taking into account many issues about personnel in the City. He asked Council to keep this in mind with the budget.
Mayor Csordas noted that Mr. Saven’s opinion is very valued.
CM-04-05-181 Moved by Nagy, seconded by Lorenzo; CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: To begin the May 17th, 2004 City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m.
Voice Vote on CM-04-05-181 CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY
There being no further business to come before Council, Mayor Csordas adjourned the meeting at 10:58 p.m.
Lou Csordas, Mayor Maryanne Cornelius, City Clerk
Transcribed by Steve King
Date approved: May 17th, 2004