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Council takes care of business in record time

Hastings City Council members weren’t sure how to react Monday night when what’s thought to be the shortest meeting in council history came to an end after a mere 25 minutes. “Where’s the pizza?” cracked Council Member Al Jarvis, who was actually referring to one of the more lengthy discussions that did take place earlier in the meeting.

Jarvis brought the subject up when City Manager Jerry Czarnecki asked the council to schedule a joint workshop with the city’s Planning Commission at 6 p.m. July 22 to discuss code and fee amendments related to city facilities.

“My question is about the pizza (during catered meetings),” asked Jarvis, whose comment kicked off a lively and humorous exchange.  “It seems like we just get talking, then the pizza comes and we have to stop.”

To a suggestion that, perhaps, a 5:30 p.m. pizza dinner could precede the meeting, Council member Brenda McNabb-Stange replied, “I don’t see the point in coming at 5:30, I can eat at home.”

Council member Therese Maupin-Moore said, “I’ll be here at 5 if it’s a home-cooked meal.”

The final resolution means there will apparently be no home-cooked meal — or pizza — after council members officially approved the July 22 joint meeting with the planning commission.

“Jeff Sluggett helped us draft previous ordinances, and he’ll be here to discuss areas we need to address,” Czarnecki told council members, referring to the Grand Rapids attorney who specializes in public sector law.  “It’s going to be a joint meeting (with the planning commission) because some ordinances that have to be changed move through the planning commission before they reach the city council.”

Council members also approved Czarnecki’s proposal to create a new position and detailed job description for a utility billing clerk. 

Currently, the city carries two positions entitled AR-clerks, each responsible for all tasks that relate to billing, reporting, and tracking of water and sewer data.  Those job responsibilities have evolved to also supervising meter readers to confirm accurate data for proper billing. Because of that, Czarnecki is proposing that the new supervisory duties be added to one of the AR-clerk positions with a new pay range of $14 to $19.50 to reflect the added responsibility.  By moving one AR-clerk position into the new role of utility billing clerk and eliminating that AR-clerk position, there will be no additional budget expense.

“We simply want to add this position to the budget,” Czarnecki said “and it benefits us if we move people and positions because we now have a better job description.”

The proposal drew the praise of Mayor Dave Tossava.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever done this before,” Tossava said to fellow council members of the non-monetary administrative procedure.  “He’s trying to be more transparent.”

Council members also approved a request by the Hastings Police Department to purchase two Ford Interceptor Utility AWD patrol vehicles and a changeover package enabling the department to fit them with usable equipment from two older models planned for public auction.  The $73,724 purchase price comes through the state’s MiDeal program and will be made with funds already approved and in the city 2019-20 budget.

“What is ‘changeover’ and is that at an additional price to the purchase?” asked McNabb-Stange.

“It refers to removing equipment in the two cars so we can sell them at public auction,” replied Hastings Deputy Chief of Police Dale Boulter, “and then taking what equipment will work in the new cars.  The two new cars from the factory come with a ‘Road Ready’ package with things like lights, wiring, siren controls that will add $3,500 to $3,600 on top of the actual price.  That cost, though saves on labor if we had to install the package ourselves.”

To questions regarding typical mileage number recorded by police vehicles from council member Jim Cary, Boulter replied that the department usually looks at vehicle replacement at 90,000-95,000 miles.

“Once you hit those numbers, you’re going to have bigger ticket repair items,” Boulter said.  “The offset is that if you keep a car longer, it doesn’t seem to pan out.”

The council also approved two items for the Hastings Fire Department with expenses already budgeted for the 2019-20 fiscal year.  A $30,846.50 bid from Michigan Rescue Resources, LLC was approved to replace extrication equipment which includes a $1,000 trade-in credit for an old set of hydraulic tools. Also given approval was a $25,622 bid from A-1 Asphalt to remove and replace the asphalt at the fire station.

In her report, Library Director Peggy Hemerling brought council members welcome news.  With just over a month to go, the Hastings Public Library has enrolled 757 in the summer reading program and, so far, the Free Wednesday program at the library has hosted 481 attendees.  Hemerling also reported that the Movie at the Plaza event brought out 180.  In addition to previewing a couple of presentations earlier this week at the library, Hemerling announced that this Friday and Saturday will be the always highly-anticipated Friends of the Library book sale. 

Adding to the quick-moving agenda on Monday was a missing report, this one expected to have been delivered by Director of Public Services Matt Gergen.  Gergen, however, was, according to Czarnecki, wading through gushing waters caused by water main breaks on Market Street and another on Blair Street.

“The crews are doing a nice job,” Czarnecki reported, “but we’re also investigating why this (water main breaks) are happening at this time of year.”

The DPS crews also drew compliments from council member Don Bowers who, though he wasn’t referring directly to the work being down on Monday at the water main break scenes, stated his pleased observation of the men and women who carry out the work for the City of Hastings.

“I thank the city for these crews,” Bowers said, “they always seem to have smiles on their faces while they’re working.”




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