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SPECIAL MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2001 AT 7:00 P.M.

NOVI CIVIC CENTER - COUNCIL CHAMBERS - 45175 W. TEN MILE ROAD

 

The meeting was called to order at 7:07 p.m. by Mayor Clark.

Pledge of allegiance was led by Mayor Clark.

ROLL CALL: Mayor Clark, Mayor Pro Tem Lorenzo, Council Members Bononi, Cassis, Csordas, DeRoche, Kramer,

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION: none

PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING Ė 2001-2002 CITY OF NOVI BUDGET:

Mayor Clark noted EMS and Fire Services task force would be holding their final meeting on Friday, April 20, 2001 at 7:00 a.m. Requested Council to address any concerns regarding this tonight.

Members Bononi and DeRoche deferred their comments until later.

Member Csordas referred to an additional staff person for GIS Technician. City manager Helwig stated that in order to keep up with all the input, it is necessary to hire additional staff to assist the Environmental Services Manager to keep up with grant opportunities. Member Csordas asked if Forestry would be moved to Parks and Recreation. City Manager Helwig responded yes and reported there was a second interview held today with a person who worked for Davey Tree and has a great deal of experience and there are plans to offer the position as a Forester.

Member Csordas referred to consulting retainers for engineers, woodlands and landscaping. It is about $232,000 in retainers. Noted itís a very well thought out proposal for elimination of retainers. Asked about fees for floodplains and site plans and if it is a developer paid fee and is a pass-through to the City? Stated that the consultants had agreed to eliminate the retainer for this fiscal year . Member Kramer noted the proposal was to be discussed based on what Council decides to do. Member DeRoche asked about what the current engineer firm felt about this. Response was they were not directed to do this. The consultant review committee has not yet talked to JCK. Member Kramer noted the engineers were on the same wavelength. Member Csordas asked about woodlands and traffic consultant? Member Kramer noted the Council modified the proposal with the way administration operates with these consultants. Administration made a proposal for a more efficient operation and to revise the way we work with consultants. Member Cassis thought JCK had submitted a proposal whereby they eliminated their retainer. He thought there were adjustments to some hourly charges for their services as well. City Manager Helwig noted Birchler Arroyo would slightly increase their hourly charges. He also noted there could be special projects that could give them additional revenue and the outsourcing for wetlands and woodlands would continue.

Member Csordas stated that while outsourcing was a trend in business and relating it to the city is cost effective in the future with regard to the needs for retirement benefits etc for those to be hired. He is concerned about losing history thatís been established with all consultants. He is aware what happens with build out with regard to the additional staff hired. Felt a lot of this business model is built on fees paid by developers. Felt these will dry out as the city builds out. Asked if re-development fees would be enough to support the proposal? City Manager Helwig answered yes as there were higher and better uses for re-development, ongoing maintenance issues that would increase as well as utilities, i.e., water and sewer and didnít see where adding three people would create a hardship. Felt this was a conservative advance.

Member Csordas stated he supported outsourcing and use of consultants however, based on this cash flow model, it was very persuasive as presented. Asked about elimination of grant coordinator? City Manager Helwig stated itís been vacant for several months and now as part of performance agreements of directors, they must become knowledgeable and pursue this for their department. The departments wouldnít have to handle the accounting but to search for these grants.

Member Csordas was very concerned about not filling the position of Sergeant in the Police Department. Asked if one of our personnel had a degree in landscape architecture? Planning Director Dave Evancoe has this background and as part of site plan review, this process would be used. Asked if we could do without? City Manager Helwig responded Planning Director Evancoe could oversee this but not on a day-to-day basis. Member Csordas asked about Director of Parks and Recreation and Forester Director. HR Director Fox noted there were 54 applications of which 6 were qualified and 4 would be called for interviews. The salary range is $59,000 to $74,000.

Member Kramer asked if there was a consultant fee thatís missing from the consultant list for the IT Department?. Assistant City Manager Pearson identified them as Visicom. Member Kramer asked that they be added to the consultant chart. Asked about the future of e-packets? Asked about accepting credit cards for parks and recreation for specific things. Member DeRoche noted we cannot use it for taxes as there would be a fee associated that the city cannot pay by law.

Member Kramer asked about Building and Grounds and felt the kiosk should be upgraded to find out whatís here. Community relations and neighborhood services have a similar wavelength. Didnít see any goals with regard to cable. Human relations needs a goal of filling vacancies on a timely basis and asked for an employee survey of satisfaction, needs and comments.

Hoped to see more about the fundraising efforts of the Community that Cares. DPW had no goals for environment. Goals should be improvement of contract management and timeliness of projects in that area could use some attention. Planning Commission Ė noted there was a letter that no studies were funded and asked for this to be considered. Referred to letter from Karen Piccinini, Planning Commission Chair requesting additional funds for conferences and workshops and funding of two studies for Beck Road Corridor and ranking of Environmental Areas and stated the proposed dollar amount doesnít fund it. Also noted Economic Development Coordinator Capoteís function was not recognized nor goals and objectives.

Referred to Special Revenue funds Ė specifically Parks and Recreation funds on page 118 and noted Fuerst Farm was not recognized and also there was a need for forestry goals and standards of performance for recognizing video cast.

No funding for any parks this year causes Member Kramer concern. 11 Mile and Wixom Park is more than we can handle now but asked for something in this area. Brookfarm didnít receive any support. Felt the city families that use these parks deserve something, looking for recommendation for what is worthwhile and felt the City could spend funds from last year.

Member Cassis asked about the current condition of parks. Acting Parks and Recreation Director Troshak noted things to be monitored include use of facilities, shelters, fields, etc. Ė There was no format for tracking use of neighborhood parks. Tim Pope Park was almost at capacity for its usage. Their goal is to make certain itís maintained long term, but at any given time there are almost always 20-30 cars. Basketball and tennis courts are always in use.

Member Kramer asked about Capital Improvements Program and noted the park had a master plan for capital expenditures laid out over several years, asked to have this dusted off and reviewed for a reasonable proposal this year. Wanted a reasonable opportunity to keep up with parks. Asked why the City was not funding spring cleanup day. Felt it was a low cost item and should be considered.

City Manager Helwig noted operational needs were ranked higher than park development. Noted there was not an outstanding job of developing park land, but the land would be here. We are playing serious catch up in our operations and to recommend abolishing a vacancy in the sergeantís position was difficult. Underscored that this was sobering and the environmental officer was a very important part of maintaining community standards. We are not there yet.

Member Kramer asked about park development fund and suggested using money set aside for EMS and Fire Services task force. $1.2 million SAD funds should be available as a loose end. City Manager Helwig responded that the balance was there to help maintain public infrastructure responsibility. Member Kramer talked about potential land acquisition and the Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant.

Member Cassis stated that he would be looking for staying within our budget and not increasing any taxes. Since all assessments and value have expanded, we are using more tax dollars. We have gotten into our rainy day fund and felt this was dangerous. He knows it would be replenished with $330,000. He believed that by viewing these categories, he would be scrutinizing what is not necessary and replenishing our rainy day fund while being cognizant of health, safety and welfare. Noted we should be looking at the capability of what we have during our transitional year. By transition, he meant turnover in personnel and would like to see that stabilized. More emphasis was needed on job descriptions and felt we werenít always aware of employees capacities and their efficiency. Felt there has been a lot of energy and dedication to bring the city up to a specific level commensurate with our growth. Felt we should be cautious, steady and take our time in building staff. 9 new personnel to be acquired including the engineers but didnít include support staff. City Manager Helwig responded there was no request for additional support staff. Member Cassis stated health, safety and welfare of the residents was of the utmost importance. Suggested we go steady and slow in our hiring and bringing on new personnel.

Mayor Pro Tem Lorenzo talked about personnel and felt that since City Manager Helwig has been here, she knows he is cautious and conservative in terms of financial resources. She would not second guess what he has put before the Council in terms of personnel. He understands the Councilís philosophy in terms of fiscal responsibility. With regard to Parks, a very large commitment was made to park development both philosophically and financially. Their job is to prioritize how funds are spent with the purpose in mind to deliver services back to the citizenry and number one priority was public safety. This includes roads, maintenance, police and fire, and then parks. We are committed to the parks including parks development, even though it isnít what the Commission would like to see. Council philosophy was to try to complete partial or incomplete parks and in particular restroom facilities became number one priority. Play equipment was also a priority. Felt Parks and Recreation commission members should look at the budget document prior to any comments. Most of the funds didnít contain any frill. Thought it wasnít necessary for Council to have conference funds of $20,000 and police academy at $15,000. Noted there were some other $20,000 or $15,000 items that could be changed but public safety was number one. With regard to the information presented regarding Fire operations and Suppression, asked about response times to each incident and property loss, structure fires, and the amount of loss. With regard to medical calls, would like to know the number for cardiac arrest or stroke and the specific response time for each incident. Public safety and replacement of tornado sirens was very important Related the incident in Xenia, Ohio where residents were injured because there was no power to operate a tornado siren. Felt that could be Novi because we have been hit by tornadoes in the past and felt a storm could come through first, knock out the power and then the tornado would hit. She would like to see all 7 tornado sirens funded. Hoped it would be an option to fund these and then look for reimbursement from Oakland County.

Member Kramer asked about a generator backup for those sirens next to public facilities.

Member Cassis asked about the Xenia, Ohio storm and related that we have TV, radio, etc. for other means of alerting residents and reminded that the sirens were instituted long ago. Felt a balance should be reached City Manager Helwig reported that $18,000 would be necessary to supply a battery backup for each siren because they cannot be retrofitted or modified. Oakland County was proposing to replace only 20 per year. Mayor Clark noted it was the County that began with these sirens and the issue was what could we afford. In our area we have additional means of communication. Anyone living in Michigan knows just by watching the sky whether or not to go to the basement. Felt these acts of God could not be eliminated entirely and we couldnít plan for every contingency of what might happen. It gets back to what we can afford.

Mayor Pro Tem Lorenzo felt the City of Novi thought it was initially a good investment and felt it was essential in terms of public safety. Was very concerned that we couldnít spend $120,000 for battery backup for tornado sirens, but spend 1.5 million on an Oakland County responsibility.

Member Bononi commented that with regard to buildings and grounds and standards of performance, she would like to see a visible and visual standard of our exterior, with regard to the landscaping standards and litter in the parking lot, this should be given an update and improvement. Planning Commission - regarding standards of performance and master plan update: the should be to all stakeholders in the community. Recalled survey should go to all citizens, not just a few like last time. Planning and community development standards of performance should be completed expeditiously and with cost efficiency. Objectives revision of master plan Ė downtown Gateway Ėfrom the standpoint of seeking a balance to our priorities, those things should be specified as activities in the works. Questioned page 107, objective if the City can become what it wishes Ė amplify this, nothing about policy and process Ė quality of applications to come before PC and Council. Felt it was a mystery because many proposals were redesigned at the Council table and Planning Commission. Building department standards of performance, add customer service enhancement Ė all stones should be overturned with regard to all solutions for any applicant to the building department so as not to necessitate superfluous matters coming to council. Local streets, shortfall, 2001-2002 estimated year, Finance Director Smith-Roy stated the shortfall was coming from fund balance and SADís completed during the year. SADís combined with related funds that breaks out balances of road funds. Difference was construction. Member Bononi asked about S. Lake Dr. Ė fund summary. It is reflected in appendix on roads, summary or projects and S. Lake was requested and not started. Also questioned financial policies and the pay as you go philosophy beefed up Capital Improvements Program. Also noted grant writing and the responsibility appropriated to each department head. Questioned this as itís not easily gained. Many apply but very few were good at it. Thought it wasnít fair to give this type of responsibility, it takes savvy and polish and even then sometimes you donít get the grant. Felt we havenít gone out for our fair share of that.

Member Cassis also noted the importance of knowing what was there. Gave an example of scholarships and that very few people know whatís out there. Member Bononi stated the Internet was also a great help but the creativity it calls for comes slowly. Looked for sensitivity with giving this responsibility. For the record, asked Finance Director Smith-Roy the amount paid last year for engineers, planning consultant and landscape? Ms. Smith-Roy would provide information at Saturday meeting. Wanted this part of the record with regard to all of the discussion and how we look at balance in what we are provided with dollars spent and quality and quantity of what we receive. Turnover is a fact of professional life. So little turnover in consultants in this city is very unusual. She was interested in rates charged and quality of service and competitiveness. Also looking for holding the line on these positions and not just for one or two years. Felt we add positions at the drop of a hat in government. The concern about losing history is a small concern only because she sees it in her work now and new people hit the ground running. Concerned about a single entity holding history in their heads. With regard to build out and as a planner for cities that are building and those that are done, land left to develop is difficult to develop. Hoped to attract professionals who are excited by that prospect with regard to consultants. Asked DPS Nowicki about Ingersoll Basin, what number is it? Finance Director Smith-Roy responded that with additional information this phase had been reduced to $150,000 because of grant funding.

Council recessed at 9:04 p.m.

Council reconvened at 9:27 p.m.

Member DeRoche spoke about whether or not the proposed schedule was exhausted yet this evening. Felt this process was productive and appropriate in speaking about philosophy as well. When itís finalized, everyone knows the thoughts and concerns of Council so that administration can accommodate the requests and Council would change the budget document on Saturday to address specific needs. Beginning with philosophy and where money comes from was very important. Noted with regard to turnover, itís necessary to lean with the direction we were already going. Itís important that member Bononi brought this up as the only way to change it is to increase the general tax revenue. As residents watch us, the entire budget is over 20 million and itís important to note there was very little discretionary amounts of funds for Council to utilize. Felt a new leader should be charged with making this organization into his own. The direction Mr. Helwig is taking is the correct direction. Agreed that while Council look at a request for 9 people, didnít think it was excessive. Perhaps going into it for an entire department would or should be more cautious and possibly Council should have more oversight. Suggested the possibility of budgeting funds to go with the first step and when itís accomplished go on to the second and third step. It might not be over 3 years. Urged caution as the staffing at the City was very lean especially Police and Fire. With contracts and benefits and to retain them, that soaks up most everything the City has due to the growth of the city. Would be interested for specific recommendations on Saturday and endorsed the specific direction of the City Manager. Would be supportive right now of the direction of the City Manager as he proposed it in the budget. With regard to the consultants, one concern was landscaping and the woodlands consultant, we pay a lot because of something we have created by ordinance. It is the most expensive and this Council and community has a very high bar with regard to the ordinance requirements. All these things carry direct costs. We have created extremely expensive ordinances that are ineffective. When itísí very specific and related to a direct costs, we no longer realize what impact we are having. Felt it was important to realize the impact of an ordinance. Felt that Mr. Helwig was going the right way and wants to see this go through a specific amount of steps. It comes from interviewing these people and see what they are actually doing. The work they are doing is to respond to Council, Planning commission and ordinances. Would be looking for things falling into place. Litigation funds and rainy day funds were a good thing to have and felt unwilling to dip into that to accommodate anything else. It would add up to $800,000 if we add $475,000 this year. Finance Director Smith-Roy noted that typically our liability insurance pays for litigious situations. Member DeRoche asked about city borne costs for general administration. COO Klaver noted a specific amount was dedicated for the Cityís responsibility. There were premiums, deductible of $100,000 and those not covered come out of the same fund. Most losses were insured losses. Member DeRoche was concerned that thereís not enough money in the line item. Asked where would it come from? City Manager Helwig responded the judgment trust fund can be for one time settlement or put into judgment bonds for future settlement. Member DeRoche asked about combining these funds in one place for all litigation matters. This would help him understand to have all these funds in one place. With regard to State Revenue Sharing, asked about specific numbers and when would Council see the update? Finance Director Smith-Roy noted that the last two years, the State updates it in an ongoing basis at their web site. Member DeRoche asked about fluctuations. Finance Director Smith-Roy was comfortable with the current numbers. Possibly mid-decade census funding was optional from the State and they did not fund 100% of what the distribution should be. Member DeRoche glad to hear itís stabilized. Also commented about priorities. As a Council person, stated the priorities go from Public safety and infrastructure(core services), downward. Other things have to give and while refreshing to see the priority list, it seeks to finish what we have up and running and what has already been started. Would prefer to have people stop complaining about current operations and efforts. This was an accumulation of other years. Cannot fix all the problems with the parks this year. He remembers the debates and is committed to the parks but there are many other things that are unfounded. Clearly direction came from voters and Council to leave it alone until further notice. Any new park needs a fresh look. He would be looking for parks and recreation funding to do a better job with what we have currently have in our sights. With regard to Building oversight Ė parks and recreation, buildings have been re-delegated. The senior project is done, ice arena and police department done; so with nothing planned for this fall, who would Mr. Helwig delegate a building to if we decide to build something? City Manager Helwig noted Chief Operating Officer Klaver works closely with the building authority and Chief Lenaghan would take the lead with the fire station as Chief Shaeffer is doing with the police department. Member DeRoche asked who would the construction manager? Mr.Helwig noted itís Mr. Nowicki who would manage the park construction. Member DeRoche noted Mr. Nowicki was busy as well and if he was able to delegate? City Manager Helwig responded he needs some engineering staff.

Mayor Clark commented that the City was trying to strike a balance and bring in-house some routine items that in-house engineering could do for us rather than pay outside consultants and makes sense to do that in this growing City. Noted the willingness of some to eliminate retainers. Thought we were moving expeditiously to fill vacancies in this city and cautioned the Council not to put too much pressure as we want top notch people to bring the best skills we can get. We heard there were 54 applications for Parks and Recreation and Forestry Director and only 6 qualify and meet the criteria. The standards are high and thatís as it should be and those in the audience exemplify quality and a wealth of knowledge. This takes time, deliberation and recognition not to act in haste to fill a spot. Asked Finance Director Smith-Roy about using credit cards for programs associated with Parks and Recreation. She replied we cannot use tax dollars to pay a premium but the fee would have to be passed on to the user. For Parks and Recreation and Ice Arena, these are absorbed. Mayor Clark asked for this information by Saturdayís budget meeting.

Mayor Clark noted that the Planning Commission has done a wealth of studies but didnít bring them to fruition. Asked Community Development Director Dave Evancoe to begin with the year 1990 and prepare a list of studies funded by the Planning Commission including cost, what they were, funds budgeted and of these, which have been carried to fruition in some regard. Felt it was time to dust off some of the studies that were done and carry those out rather than add to those on the shelf. Shared the concerns of member Cassis in terms of general fund balance. Noted concerns by lenders with reference to the general fund balance. Felt steps were being taken to bolster the fund balance to maintain the favorable view for bonding or other projects. With regard to Increase in personnel, what we have is a situation that itís growing commensurate with the needs of the city. Noted that the best people can only produce up to a certain point. Noted there were also statements relative to EMS and Fire and he would carry these statements back to their last meeting to be held on Friday. They will have feedback for Council from this meeting. Related to beautifying the city, would like to see the funds used for Grand River business area of the city in the core central business district. Commented that in Charlevoix, boulevards are lined with flowers. At least enhance the entrance corridor to the City. Agrees with 2020 vision and master plan. We have prided ourselves on open, inclusive government. We are their representative for their city. Referenced member DeRoche comments with ordinances. The ordinance review committee sometimes recommends changes or elimination. If developers felt they were being squeezed by ordinances, they wouldnít be shy to complain about it. Any time ordinances are passed, it would affect someone, somehow, and so far a pretty good job has been done with the ordinances.

Member Csordas mentioned the ISO ratings on fire hydrants and referred to areas that had new developments that assist with bringing up the ratings. Most areas have the ISO rating of 5.

Member Cassis spoke about landscaping and Grand River. He was chair of the Grand River Corridor committee that worked for two years. He would like to dust off that book because a lot of work went into that. Another committee was an offshoot of that, composed of citizens and property owners. Many had ideas how to beautify and make Grand River more beautiful. There was a great deal of interest in the business community as to the look of Grand River. With regard to the process, our next meeting was to zero in on money on Saturday, and he felt that before we do that the two most important areas were in fire and police. Is it possible to hear from the Chiefs? In order to zero in on what would be given in terms of money, he would like to hear what was most needed and so on. Asked for what the priorities were in these departments?

Mayor Clark thought both Chiefs should give their priorities of what the needs were and what the priorities should be in the future. Member DeRoche thought this process would entail them detailing what is already in the book and gear it to what they agree and disagree with the administration on.

 

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION: none

There being no further business to come before the Council, the meeting was adjourned at 10:22 p.m.

 

______________________________ _________________________________

Richard J. Clark, Mayor Maryanne Cornelius, CMC, City Clerk

 

 

Date approved: May 7, 2001