Village Council adopts Conflict of Interest Policy on a split vote
Ontonagon Village Council, June 28, 2021
Reported by Bruce Johanson
The Ontonagon Village Council met in a regular session on June 28. The full Council was present along with the Acting Clerk and Interim Manager, William Dupont.
Carried over from the June 14 meeting was:
• Conflict of Interest Policy: The purpose of this policy is to ensure that no officer of the village will gain personal advantage from their work with the village.
Trustee John Hamm felt that the wording of the proposed policy is too cumbersome and hard to understand. He felt that in light of the relationships, both family and organizational within the village, the proposed policy could make it impossible for council members to vote on anything.
The Treasury Department has mandated that a policy on conflict of interest be on record and Village President Tony Smydra wanted to know what was the deadline for adoption. Manager DuPont informed him that Treasury wants this in place soon. Smydra suggested adopting the policy, as presented, but to set up a committee to revise it.
It was moved by Trustee Sarah Hopper to adopt Policy #2021-008, but to establish an ad hoc committee to explore changes and recommendations. The motion carried by a 4-3 vote. Mike Rebholz, who voted in favor; John Hamm, who was opposed, and Elmer Marks, who had refused to vote, were immediately appointed to the ad hoc committee to study possible changes in the policy.
• Blight Committee: Bob Hartel, Chairman of the Blight Committee was present to discuss the assigned role of his committee. The former manager had assumed the key role as the contact person and the Blight Committee was simply to handle referrals from him. Hartel pointed out that the Blight Committee never received any referrals from the Manager. It was suggested that the former manager did not want to become involved with enforcement of the Blight Ordinance and was only concerned about the grass being cut and ignored other issues. President Smydra promised to follow up on this situation and to clarify the role of the Blight Committee.
• OMH Hospital Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) status: Interim Manager DuPont informed Council that the village currently owes MERS $202,836.12. The March payment of $36,809.41 was made, as promised, on June 24.
DuPont projected that, based on estimated revenue sharing, the village should be able to completely catch up with the past due MERS payments by the end of September. The interim manager cautioned the council that two factors could impact this projection. First, the Treasury Department owes the village some $46,373.81 in prior year revenue sharing payments and it is not determined when these funds may be received. Secondly, the estimated taxes of $407,808.86 may not be received in a timely manner. 80% of this figure must be collected to make the catch-up date in September.
Finally, DuPont warned the council that the MERS liability is consuming the general fund and the MERS payments may soon comprise roughly 95% of general fund revenue this year.
• County Road Commission Offer: Five years ago, the Ontonagon County Road Commission offered to purchase the SPEC building for $75,000 This was to be paid for with $50,000 in cash and $25,000 in services to construct an extension of Giesau Drive from the village water tower through to U.S. 45.
The road commission has offered to simply pay the village $25,000 to conclude the transaction. Originally, the sales contract specified that the road would be completed within five years and that timeline has expired.
The council voted to accept the $25,000 in final payment for the SPEC building. The SPEC (speculation) building was constructed some years ago by the Downtown Development Authority at a cost of over $225,000 in hopes of being able to offer the large structure to a prospective employer. After standing vacant for several years, the Road Commission expressed interest in purchasing it to use as a shop and vehicle repair facility. The June 28 transaction transfers final ownership to the Ontonagon County road commission.
Under NEW BUSINESS:
• Policy 2021-009 Financial Activities Policy: Strongly recommended by the auditors, this new policy was approved.
• Dog Park: It was suggested that finishing the fence around the old softball diamond would make this area suitable to use as a dog walking/park area for the time being. The street foreman also agreed to provide an old fire hydrant for the use of the dogs.
The Recreation Commission will set up rules and administrative policies for the dog park.
• Village real property: The village owns roughly 6% of the real property in the Village. The usual municipal property ownership is 2%. President Smydra asked that the matter be studied with the possibility of selling off excess properties which would return said parcels to the tax rolls. It was moved by Trustee Marks to inventory village real property and consider action at a later time and this was approved.