2010-01-07 / Front Page

City Residents Ask for Better Contract

Police Interviews Begin; Mayor Makes Final Appointments to City Boards
By Mark Tower

Concerned citizens approached St. Ignace City Council at its Monday, January 4, meeting, asking for better conditions for the new solid waste and recycling contract currently being bid on by three waste haulers. The city's current contract with Waste Management, which expires February 1, does not include a satisfactory recycling program or sufficient requirements for hours at the St. Ignace transfer station, some residents have said.

The city has received three proposals from waste hauling companies, from Republic Services of Onaway, Smith Sanitation of Rudyard, and Waste Management, headquartered in Houston, Texas.

In response to Dick Soczek, a St. Ignace resident who asked if a senior citizen rate had been requested from the three companies, City Manager Eric Dodson said it did not require a discounted rate for seniors, in hopes to keep the city's options open, although all three proposals did include such a discounted rate.

Mr. Soczek also questioned the requirement that free dumpsters be provided to the city for special events, something council members have said is an important feature of their current relationship with Waste Management. He asked if such "free" services might drive up the cost, effectively making residents foot the bill for the dumpsters at city events like the annual Antique Car Show and Fish Feast.

"It almost seems like the rest of the people are paying for the special events with the free dumpster," Mr. Soczek said.

Mr. Dodson said free dumpsters have been provided in recent years by Waste Management, although the service is not included in the current contract. Asking that companies include the dumpsters in their proposals should not, he said, have a noticeable impact on the price of services under the new contract.

Todd Mayer of St. Ignace resident asked Council members what place recycling has in the soon-to-be-negotiated contract, since he has seen a lack of emphasis and unsatisfactory service associated with Waste Management's curbside recycling service.

"There doesn't seem to be a lot of emphasis put on recycling, though, it's very sporadic at best," Mr. Mayer said. "Waste Management is very selective about what they take."

Councilman Tom Della-Moretta said the solid waste committee has discussed recycling and would agree that a new solid waste contract must include a provision for an accessible, consistent recycling program.

Councilman William LaLonde agreed, adding that hours at the St. Ignace transfer station leave something to be desired, especially since they have been reduced since the city first signed a contract with Waste Management.

"I think they kind of stink at it, to tell you the truth," Mr. LaLonde said of Waste Management's track record running the transfer station. "It has gotten worse from the start of the contract to now."

Mr. Dodson said the city has received complaints from residents about both transfer station hours and about a deficiency in scheduling and in what is accepted in the current recycling program.

"That was one of the things that was really important in the new contract," he said of an improved recycling program. "As part of the final proposal and negotiation, that has to be part of it."

Mr. Soczek also questioned if having an exclusive contract with one waste hauler was better than opening up the city to open competition, letting each resident choose a home trash or recycling service provider at their own discretion.

"Do you feel we do better with an exclusive contract instead of having open competition?" Mr. Soczek asked.

The reason a whole-city contract is being pursued, Mr. Dodson said, is that the cost of service can be reduced by the city centralizing waste service billing on customer water bills, providing about a $9,000 savings.

The St. Ignace Solid Waste committee plans to meet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, January 7, to discuss the three solid waste and recycling service proposals, hoping to recommend one for the city council to approve at its Monday, January 18, meeting. Committee and Council meetings are open to the public.

Police Chief

Council began the process of interviewing nine candidates for the open position of St. Ignace Police Chief at 4 p.m. Monday, January 4. In an open meeting, Mayor Paul Grondin and all six council members interviewed three candidates before the regular Council meeting at 8 p.m.

George Lasater, the retired sheriff from Charlevoix County who lives in Boyne City, interviewed first, followed by Joseph Fitzgerald, the current chief of police in Gaylord, and Todd Woods, a Indian River resident who is a sergeant at the Mackinaw City Police Department.

Council members and the mayor will again convene at 4 p.m. Tuesday, January 12, to interview Curtis Robertson of Cheboygan, an international police advisor for DynCorp International and former first lieutenant with the Michigan State Police. At 5 p.m. the group will interview Daniel Reece of East Jordan, the current East Jordan police chief, and after taking a recess for dinner, will reconvene at 6:45 p.m. to interview St. Ignace police officer Merlin Doran.

On Monday, January 18, the group will again meet at 4 p.m. to interview St. Ignace police officer Richard Cullen. Sergeant Mark Wilk, who became the acting chief after Tim Matelski retired December 31, will be interviewed at 5 p.m. After breaking again for dinner, the group will reconvene at 6:45 p.m. to interview the final police chief candidate, who wishes to be anonymous until the interview.

Council will decide Monday, January 18, if a second round of interviews will be necessary or if it is ready to select a police chief. These interviews are all open to the public.

Appointments

Mayor Paul Grondin, with approval from City Council, appointed board members to the city's Board of Review for property taxes, to the Planning Commission, and to the St. Ignace Library Board during Monday's meeting, the final appointments that needed to be made for 2010.

Mr. Grondin appointed Dave Schmidt to the Board of Review, filling the seat left vacant by James Clapperton, who will no longer be serving owing to his election to the city council.

Susan Tamlyn-Massaway was reappointed as an at-large member to the city's Planning Commission. Mr. Grondin appointed Diggy Clement as a new member to the board, replacing Fred Strich, who, owing to a recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision, should not serve on both the planning commission and the zoning board of appeals. Mr. Grondin asked that Council reappoint him to sit on the planning commission, as well. By law, he cannot appoint himself.

Three openings on the Library Board will be filled by Judy Gross, James Clapperton, and Connie Litzner, owing to appointments by Mr. Grondin and approved City Council. Council members voted unanimously in support of Mr. Grondin's final appointments.

Meeting Schedule

City Council members approved 24 regular meeting dates for 2010 at Monday's meeting, including three dates where meetings will be held outside of City Hall at the St. Ignace Library, Little Bear East Conference Center, and at LaSalle High School's cafeteria.

Council typically meets at 8 p.m. the first and third Mondays of the month.

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