Throwing the village
under the bus
During the regular Goodrich Council meeting (June 11) perhaps the Village most important asset was unceremoniously dismissed.
Councilmen Vick, Barraco and Light voted not to renew Administrator/Clerk Jakki Sidge’s Contract. There was no charge of incompetency or lack of performance, only that a stipulation in her contract allowing the trio to exercise that option. A lame excuse pertaining to her personality and demeanor was the reason given for not renewing. Her ability to deliver for the citizens of Goodrich is undeniable.
The true reason behind their actions is that Mr. Vick, Barraco and Light do not like the fact that Ms. Sidge knows more about the process of running the Village then they do.
The last effort to hire a new Administrator/Clerk several years ago resulted in (14) applicants wanting the position. Ms. Sidge and (13) others were vented and evaluated. Ms. Sidge was rehired at that time as she was determined to be the most qualified.
When the topic became selecting a replacement, Councilman Vick stated that there are training classes that a new hire could take regarding the duties of an Administrator/Clerk.
I would not think that on-the-job training for a new Administrator/Clerk would benefit the needs of the Village. Ms. Sidge has been slandered and falsely accused of various acts.
During the meeting, Katie Vick (Atlas County Clerk) accused Ms. Sidge of illegally having a village hard drive server in her possession which was needed to be given to the police. Ms. Vick has no knowledge of the facts concerning this issue. This was just another false attack on Ms. Sidge’s character. This is strictly about a power grab by Councilmen Vick, Barraco and Light.
Nothing can be done to retain Ms. Sidge. But, put this in your memory banks as Mr. Vick, Barraco and Light come up for reelection. There should be a penalty for their betrayal of the Village.
Richard Saroli, Goodrich
Atlas Township rezoning
I’m writing to express my concern over the proposed rezoning of 8164 Perry Road (an 80 acre farm) from RSA to ORA.
The applicant is from R5 Farms LLC the originsl intent was for cricket fields and baseball diamonds. R5 is hoping to attract semi-professional Indian Cricket treams, looking for fields. It has not been decided if it would be provate, membership based or open to the public. However, the application also mentions soccer fields, zip lines, go karts, fishing pond, theater stage and picnic area with restrooms.
I own the property directly west, I am not opposed to progress. But they have submitted no firm plans and my fear is once they have the rezoning we could get anything open to the public all hours of the day and night and the hundreds of people all which will be using Perry Road. Let’s face facts, the taxes are not cheap, and they will be looking to rent this facility out to who knows who to pay the taxes and upkeep.
I urge all citizens of Atlas and Goodrich to attend the planning commission meeting on June 20 at 7 p.m. at the Atlas Township Hall, 7386 S. Gale Road, Grand Blanc, MI, 48439.
Atlas Township website says “Farms and Families” NOT a recreational complex.
Eileen Weckler, Atlas Township
No More Circuses
I have lived in this fine small community for twelve years now. I believe that small towns are vital and essential to America and its’ youth. The older folks residing in it have an opportunity, possibly even an obligation, to teach the younger generations important values and that all life is precious and should be considered with thoughtfulness and great care.
Recently I have seen through The Citizen newspaper that a circus is planned for June 21, 2018 in Ortonville. Circuses have been around for quite some time and usually include acrobats, clowns, trapeze artists, and animal acts (those who choose to participate and those who have no choice). Wild animals have not chosen to live the life of a traveling circus. They have been captured, taken away from their native lands and their families, sold to humans to do with them whatever they want. They are chained, whipped, and beaten. “Trained” to perform unnatural tricks. Why? To entertain humans for a profit. They endure a lifetime of captivity and mental and physical abuse. You may reference PETA to read some of the violations and citations handed out to circuses. They cannot provide for the physical and emotional needs of captive animals. Traveling from one town to the next (32 weeks, over 200 towns in this circuses case) in their cramped, dark, feces and urine soaked crates and trailers. Keep in mind, they also exploit domesticated animals as well – dogs, horses and ponies. Do you think they treat them any differently than the wild animals?
Enough is enough. Isn’t it time to end their suffering? Many towns across America and other countries have said it is. Many towns have banned this cruelty. Let us do the same. Let us teach our younger generations that every life is precious and it is not okay to exploit animals.
Many Residents are not aware that our Groveland Township Board is considering closing Station 1 of the Groveland Township Fire Department, and merging with the North Oakland County Fire Authority. The board recently sent “surveys” to some Groveland residents requesting feedback. As this survey is considered by many residents to be biased and lacking pertinent information, I have submitted a document reflecting in-depth research, providing valuable facts and information regarding the issue, and raising many more questions that need to be addressed prior to any decision. If you would like to read the document go to the “From Our Readers” section on thecitizenonline.com. Fern Ogans, Groveland Township
To Whom It May Concern:
After attending the two Groveland Township meetings (5-14-2018 and 5-22-2018), reviewing the information from the 5-22-2018 meeting, and viewing the video on the web page, I decided to do my own research on the Fire Department issue regarding the fate of Groveland Township Fire Department’s Station 1.
There are many discrepancies between what I found and what was presented at the 05-14-2018 and 05-22-2018 meetings, as well as the web page presentation. I question who created the information packet a few of the Residents were able to pick up at the 05-22-2018 meeting, as well as where the numbers came from. The following notes represent my findings:
There are actually four options available, not just the two reflected on the “Survey” recently sent to some Groveland Township Residents. The options should be: 1) Keep the Groveland Township Fire Department (hereinafter “GTFD”) with both Stations in place; 2) Close Station 1 and merge with the North Oakland County Fire Authority (hereinafter “NOCFA”); 3) raise the current 3.94 GTFD millage (this option is available without additional Resident approval per permission granted in 2000 by Residents, up to 5 mills) if additional funds are determined to be necessary; and 4) put this issue on the ballot at the next election and let the Residents actually vote on it. Why is a 5 member Board allowed to decrease the entire Township’s medical and fire protection without the vote of the people?
Our Groveland Township Supervisor stated: “We first looked if fire departments should be consolidated in the community in 2004, but there was a host of issues that made it not feasible at that time. Those factors have since changed.” Groveland Township Residents need and deserve transparency on exactly what the “host of issues” and “factors” were, and what changed. Additionally, what does the retirement of Fire Chief Steve McGee have to do with prompting the Township to step-up the reorganization process?
NOCFA has a primary response area of about 69 square miles, consisting of Holly and Rose Townships, with a combined population of approximately 18,000. Adding Station 1’s area alone (not including when Station 1 assists Station 2) would make NOCFA’s coverage area much larger (105 square miles), resulting in significantly slower and less efficient services to Groveland Township Residents, jeopardizing and endangering all of our Residents.
The Groveland Township Supervisor stated: “…over the last 10 to 15 years and with a fire department budget of $1.8 million there’s about $26,000 per year left over. When you have to buy fire trucks that cost $300,000 and ambulances at $115,000 you just can’t sustain a fleet on that amount. Our fleet is getting old.” Actually, the good news is our fleet is currently in good shape. Keep in mind that fire engines have a life expectancy of 20 years. Additionally, we do have a Vehicle Replacement Plan in place which will utilize the yearly excess in the GTFD budget as well as the sale/trade of vehicles being replaced to defray the overall cost when new vehicles are purchased. This does bring up another question from the information packet. That packet states Station 1 is worth $750,000; who made that value determination? I believe Residents have the right to see the valuation calculations for that property as it seems low in light of other properties in the area, especially in light of the offers to purchase Station 1 for substantially more than the $750,000 figure AND build a new Station 1 at no additional cost to the Township – very impressive offers.
If you turn all vehicles and equipment over to NOCFA, do they simply inherit all of that value, or do they buy GTFD out? Groveland Residents paid for those vehicles/equipment – would they just be handed over? What happens to the vehicles/equipment if the merger fails? It is very disturbing that the “Surplus or Loss” statement did not explain that the unusual $190,147 “loss” in 2016 was due to the Fire Department paying off their equipment loan years early to provide better cash flow into the future – this was a very frugal move by the GTFD as well as a very important fact that was omitted.
As long as we’re talking about money, I was shocked to learn the Township has a 7.2 million in cash reserves! I found that, according to the Michigan Townships Association, a municipality should have between 20-30% of their annual budget as a reserve. If Groveland Township’s budget is $1,129,000, then $350,000 would actually be over that 30% mark. It’s my understanding that the 7.2 million is not in one place, but spread throughout the budget; if it is intended for roads as suggested by the Township Supervisor, then why is it not in a roads fund – why is it spread everywhere? The Groveland Township Residents have obviously over funded the Township Board with money that is supposed to be providing services to the Residents, NOT an over funded savings account. Question: why is the Township not more aggressive in their investing of Township money? Since the Township Supervisor does not want to be the highest fire millage in the County, perhaps the Township should transfer that money to the GTFD for their needs as that is the only negative finance issue the Township has according to the video on the Township web page. That would be a win-win: taxes could remain the same, or even be reduced, and the GTFD services could not only continue, but grow with our growing community. It is my understanding the State allows this type of use of funds by a municipality.
The Summary included in the information packet states that Groveland Township would be an equal partner in a NOCFA merger. That statement is confusing; isn’t there a 7 member Board that controls that group? If each of the 3 communities has 2 representatives, plus 1 Resident At Large (making it 7 total), how can Groveland Township be considered equal with 2 votes, as there are 5 other votes?
The Groveland Township Supervisor stated: “We’ve had 14 years of the fire department not generating enough money to take care of it’s own needs; it’s an unsustainable program.”
First, our Fire Department is the only perk Groveland Township Residents have. We do not have many services other communities have, such as sewer, water, trash collection, recycling, senior citizen programs, recreation programs, etc.; all other communities with those services pay extra for them. Groveland Township Residents pay nothing toward those services – we only pay toward the Fire Department. In fact, we don’t even have Oakland County Sheriff’s Department coverage in our Township due to a rash decision by a former Township Supervisor because of a personal grudge he had with the Sheriff’s Department. While we do have Michigan State Police (only because they are required to patrol areas that do not have County or local Police coverage), and I appreciate having the MSP and mean no disrespect toward them, I can tell you from personal experience that the response time can be outrageously slow – I had to wait over 2 hours for MSP to show when I was in an accident on “Groveland’s part” of M-15! It’s absolutely disgraceful and unacceptable for a Township Supervisor to push changes through based on personal bias and grudges – but it has happened here in our own community previously. This also brings up a question regarding the Michigan State Police if the merger occurs: where will Michigan State Police be located and how will it be funded?
Second, the Township Supervisor’s statements: “We’ve had 14 years of the fire department not generating enough money to take care of it’s own needs” and “…it’s an unsustainable program” is confusing at best. The GTFD is a service to the community that saves our lives and protects our homes – there’s nothing more important to us. I do not believe Residents expect it to completely pay for itself. It is the only service we have available in Groveland Township and Residents expect to pay toward it. The Fire Department is not meant to be a self sustainable program; that’s what the fire millage is for. In addition, per information provided by the Township Supervisor, the GTFD has an “excess” of $26,000 per year with an estimated $150,000 excess expected this year (which I understand the more accurate figure would be $200,000). In light of these figures, how is it possible to allege the GTFD is an “unsustainable program”; it is “in the black”, not “in the red”.
Due to Groveland Township’s Fire Department’s excellent ISO rating, Residents enjoy reductions in homeowners insurance rates. Since the ISO rating directly impacts our insurance rates, some Groveland Township Residents’ ISO rating will go from 3 to 10 since proximity to the fire stations (along with trucks, equipment, staff, staff training, etc.) are what ratings are based on; this means they will have the same 10 rating as homes in areas with zero fire department coverage, simply because they are outside of the ISO allowed distance to a fire department. The bottom line financially is that Resident’s homeowner’s premiums could triple or quadruple. The Township Supervisor’s statement that all Residents would maintain their ISO 3 rating is frankly wishful thinking.
In gathering information on how ISO ratings impact communities, I found a November 9, 2015 article in the Detroit News which reported that Detroit homeowners’ insurance skyrocketed because Detroit’s ISO jumped from a 2 rating to a 4 rating. Example in the article: a Resident’s homeowner’s premium rose from $1,076/year to $1,749/year due to the 2 point ISO rating change – this is per the Resident’s insurance company. That is a $673/year increase due to their ISO rating change. You can only imagine what the insurance rate would have been if the ISO had jumped from 2 to 10.
The Township Supervisor is talking about an approximate $86/year taxpayer savings if Station 1 is closed – VERY PENNY WISE AND DOLLAR FOOLISH!!! I would much prefer to pay a fire millage increase, continue saving on my homeowners insurance, and still have money in my pocket.
At the 5-22-18 meeting, the Township Supervisor stated State Farm (and two other large insurance companies) do not even use the ISO rating when calculating house insurance premiums. This is NOT true! I have State Farm and called my agent – they DO use the ISO rating in their calculation of house insurance premiums. There is no separate line item amount reflected on my policy as the ISO is part of the complex calculation their computer program uses. Please note: I have found out most insurance carriers use the ISO rating in their calculations.
Also at the 5-22-18 meeting, the Township Supervisor stated the insurance companies do not use exact mileage calculations regarding the ISO required 5 “road miles” proximity when determining homeowners premiums – this is also UNTRUE! I was advised that the calculations use GPS to determine, by actual “road miles”, the homeowner’s proximity to the GTFD; therefore, a homeowner’s exact proximity to the GTFD is absolutely vital to the homeowner’s insurance premium. We have Station 1 Groveland Township Residents who currently qualify for the ISO 3 rating who will lose their qualification because they will no longer be within the required distance if Station 1 is closed and they become covered by NOCFA. This is because NOCFA is an additional 3.2 miles from our current Station 1. The Township Supervisor repeatedly stated it is only 1.9 miles from Station 1 to the Township border- that is an irrelevant statement. What is relevant is the fact that it is 3.2 miles from Station 1 to NOCFA – that additional mileage makes all the difference in the world to Residents who fall outside of the required ISO proximity to NOCFA, no longer qualifying for the ISO 3 rating benefit.
One example of harm that will be caused if Station 1 is closed: If Station 2 and NOCFA are both out on calls, all Groveland Township Residents will be waiting for services from the Rose Township Station which is 9.9 miles from our Station 1 location – that is an additional 18 minutes. Response time is vital – minutes matter – 18 additional minutes is unacceptable.
The current outstanding response time of our Groveland Township Fire Department is of the utmost importance to our entire community! I question the information packet’s average response time Comparison – does it include Holly responses? How can NOCFA and GTFD response times be comparable when NOCFA covers 69 square miles with 2 Stations, and Groveland covers 36 square miles with 2 Stations? This Comparison makes no sense and is, quite frankly, mathematically impossible.
The taxpayers of Groveland do pay a slightly higher FD millage rate than neighboring communities – this is due to fewer Residents creating a smaller tax base than most of our neighboring communities – it’s a matter of proportion. Groveland Township Residents choose to live in a unique, beautiful, underpopulated “country” community – therefore, we expect that a fire millage would be higher.
If Residents don’t have a problem with that, then certainly the Township Supervisor should not ——- he works for us!
In addressing what Residents’ tax monies pay for, perhaps we need to examine the fact that Groveland Residents pay a proportionately higher tax rate toward the Township Supervisor’s and the other Board members’ generous salary and healthcare/pension benefits. Isn’t it true the Groveland Township Supervisor is the highest paid Township Supervisor in North Oakland County? If that’s the case, shouldn’t our Fire Department also enjoy raises as often as the Supervisor? After all, they’re all Groveland Township employees. Our hard working GTFD employees make a similar wage as teenagers flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant (for example, McDonalds); however, the GTFD will run into a burning building to save you, resuscitate you, perform life-saving emergency medical services for you, mitigate your losses in a fire, to name just a few of their talents, while the fast food worker will ask you if you want fries with your burger.
I believe the 3 “full-time” Board employees only work 27 hours per week, with one extra night meeting per month; why are they considered “full-time”, receiving full-time pay with a full insurance stipend, while other employees receive only a minimal amount? The health benefits for the full-time firefighters (working 48 hours per week) were terminated by the Board – shouldn’t all Township employees be treated the same, meaning if the full-time firefighters lost their healthcare, why did the Board keep theirs? As long as we’re on this subject, why is the Board given 15 Holidays off each year, the week between Christmas and New Year’s each year, as much vacation time as they desire? What are the State requirements? The Board’s generous salary and benefits does beg the question: What exactly do the “full-time” Board members do? Since the Township Supervisor stated that creating cost saving measures to benefit Groveland Township Residents is their top priority, wouldn’t it be beneficial to the Residents to merge offices with the neighboring communities for tax collection (County), voting and roads?
Regarding the issue of increasing the Fire Department millage, the Township Supervisor stated that right now our Fire Department millage is the second highest in the County, stating: “I’m really not interested in making Groveland Township the highest in the County.” Why not – your and your staff’s salaries are.
The February, 2011 .44 mills increase for the Fire Department was the last time the fire millage was raised. I don’t think Residents expect the Fire Department to keep operating on a budget that was established in 2011 – everything else has gone up – Residents realize the Fire Department needs to increase along with everything else in life. The fact that the Township Supervisor is “really not interested” in raising the fire millage sounds like a personal issue, not a Township issue.
Per the U. S. Census Bureau, the population in Groveland Township in 1996*** (the year Station 2 was built) was 5,366. (***The 1996 build date was obtained from the Township Supervisor’s statement to The Citizen’s 05-19-18 Article; however, I learned that the 1996 is incorrect as Station 2 was built in 2001). As of 07-01-2017, the population in Groveland Township was 5,644 – a 5.18% increase. At the 05-22-2018 meeting, the Township Board misinformed the Residents by stating the population declined in Groveland Township since the building of Station 2. Additionally, let’s not forget the 85,000 vehicles on I-75 each and every day; let’s not forget the 20,000 folks attending the Renaissance Festival every Festival day; let’s not forget the 5,000 folks at Mt. Holly every day of ski season; let’s not forget the 2,000 folks going to the Parks (Groveland and Holly) during the rest of the year, etc. We have also added businesses as well as the ORV Park within Groveland Township. Obviously, our community is growing – our Fire Department needs to grow with it, not be reduced by half. In fact, it would be very prudent to start plans for an additional 1 – 2 Stations to meet the growing needs of the Township.
Per the U. S. Census Bureau, the population of Groveland Township is aging. In 2010, the median age in Groveland Township was 39.5; in 2016, the median age was 44.6. An aging population utilizes emergency services more frequently – response times are vital – minutes matter.
In reviewing the CARES Summary Report (a report of patient resuscitation/survival from the field, to the hospital, to discharge, and the patient’s cerebral performance at discharge), and comparing the “Sustained ROSC” (Return of Spontaneous Circulation, meaning: upon FD arrival, patient was found with no pulse; the FD achieved a return of pulse which was maintained from the time of pick-up to delivery to the hospital), the Township Supervisor stated both NOCFA and GTFD scores are “wildly better” than anywhere else. While that is true, what was glossed over was the fact that GTFD scores were “wildly better” than NOCFA scores. Please review this comparison of NOCFA and GTFD statistics for the timeframe from 01-01-2017 to 12-31-2017:
NOCFA had a 62.5% success rate;
GTFD had an 85.7% success rate.
I believe all Groveland Township Residents would prefer to be in the 85.7% success rate with GTFD, rather than a 62.5% success rate with NOCFA.
Overall Survival to Hospital Admission:
NOCFA had 4, a 50% success rate;
GTFD had 4, a 57.1% success rate.
Overall Survival to Hospital Discharge:
NOCFA had 1 of their 4, a 12.5% success rate;
GTFD had 4 of their 4, 57.1% success rate.
Discharged With Good or Moderate Cerebral Performance (brain function):
NOCFA had zero, a zero success rate;
GTFD had 4 of their 4, a 57.1% success rate.
Again, when being discharged from the hospital, I believe all Groveland Township Residents would prefer to be in the 57.1% brain function success rate, rather than the 0% brain function success rate with NOCFA.
At the 05-14-2018 Board meeting, the Board committed to sending out a Survey to all Groveland Township Residents to inform them of the Fire Department issue, providing the available options, i.e.: 1) leave GTFD Station 1 in place, with modifications to be determined; 2) close Station 1 and merge with NOCFA; 3) increase the current 3.94 FD millage [which the Board has the authority to do, up to 5 mills]. The Residents also suggested the issue be put on the ballot at the next election.
Additionally, the Board committed to an unbiased Survey that would provide the facts and information on all options. Finally, the Board stated a decision would not be entertained until later in June, sometime after the regular June Board meeting and the return of the Surveys.
At the 05-22-2018 meeting, after the Township Supervisor brought the Board up-to-date on the GTFD issue, the Township Supervisor asked the Board for a Motion to either keep Station 1 of the GTFD, or merge with NOCFA, stating to the Board that a Survey might not be necessary at all. The Clerk supported the Supervisor’s statement, commenting that a Survey would be costly to mail to the Residents with a postage-paid, self-addressed return envelope; the Township Supervisor agreed and asked again if someone was going to make a Motion.
At this point, a couple of Residents attending vehemently objected to this action as it was not consistent with what was promised at the 05-14-2018 meeting. The Board was reminded that at that meeting, with over 100 Residents in attendance, the Board committed to sending out a Survey with the options listed and explained as discussed, enabling Residents to make an informed decision. Some Board members commented that such a mailing would be expensive, that they didn’t think it was necessary, they didn’t really see the point in it. The Resident persisted, stating a commitment was made; all of the Residents in attendance were expecting Surveys because that’s what was promised – therefore, the Board cannot change their mind now, they must follow through with their commitment. A Trustee voiced his agreement with the Resident, stating the commitment was definitely made and it would be inappropriate to not follow through. The Board finally agreed to do the Survey as promised.
Unfortunately, a “Survey as promised” is not what Residents received. The document is biased (although it interestingly states on it that it is not). The only comment under keeping Station 1 in place is: Groveland Township has the 2nd highest FD millage. The only comment under merging with NOCFA and closing Station 1 is: a projected $86/year tax savings per household. The third option was completely omitted. CLEARLY biased.
Additionally, only one household member received a Survey – NOT every registered voter as it should have been. I called the Township Hall and was told that “they” decided to mail only one per household since it’s the household that is taxed, not each individual. Let’s go back to Democracy 101: Each registered voter has an opinion and should have equal opportunity to voice their preference. What if a household has 2, 3, 4, 5 or more registered voters living in the same household who do not share the same option preference?
It is shameful that this Survey is so clearly biased, incomplete, misleading and lacks all accurate information and options. Our tax money paid for this travesty.
In addition to all of the issues up to this point of this document, many additional questions need to be addressed either in a meeting or on a properly drafted Survey such as: How much would Groveland Township be paying NOCFA per year if the merger took place? Why was the Holly ambulance contract cancelled when ancillary income of over $200,000 per year was received? (Remember: we were led to believe, by the Township Supervisor, that Groveland Township lost money on that contract, which was obviously not true) Is Holly now providing ALS services that they previously relied on Groveland for because of this lack of income? If a merger is such a great and cost-saving option, why aren’t our other neighbors (Brandon, Springfield, etc.) joining?
GTFD has the unique and most valuable benefit of having a Doctor on staff as the EMS Coordinator – no one else has this incredible asset. The GTFD staff receives the best of the best training because of this benefit – and it shows.
It is very unusual and unfortunate that the NOCFA Fire Chief is not a Paramedic; in fact, the NOCFA Fire Chief lost his certification for a period of time because he failed to keep his continuing training up-to-date. It is very concerning that the NOCFA Fire Chief, with questionable credentials, is running NOCFA. Under this Fire Chief’s ultimate authority, NOCFA recently responded to a fire; GTFD arrived to assist if necessary. NOCFA could not get their hoses running due to improper attachment. A GTFD firefighter identified the problem and offered to hook them up correctly; NOCFA told him it was their fire, and demanded GTFD back off. GTFD complied with their request and, unfortunately, the structure burned.
Which Fire Department do you want showing up for your emergency or fire?
What is the real reason for the Township’s misguided interest in closing one of our Fire Stations? The Township Residents deserve to have a full picture of the entire issue – not just one version, and they deserve to vote on such an important issue. This decision does not need to be rushed and the Residents need to know why it is being pushed with such urgency, as well as why they are not being given all of the true facts and accurate information necessary to make a thoughtful, informed decision.
The Township Supervisor has accomplished a lot of really good things for Groveland Township over the years. It is very disheartening to think that, after all of that good, the legacy he will be remembered by will be the debacle he has created regarding the GTFD.
I would like to close with a quote from the Michigan Township Association:
“Michigan townships, large and small, provide services tailored to meet the needs of their residents. Township officials represent the level of government closest and most responsive to the wishes of the People.”
I only wish our Township practiced this.
I hereby declare that the above is true to the best of my knowledge, information and belief.
Groveland Township Resident