Story by the Greenville Daily News
Elisabeth Waldon-Staff Writer
STANTON – The Stanton City Commission unanimously approved $84,846 worth of improvements Tuesday night – mainly focusing on the hazardous and out-of-date Department of Public Works (DPW).
At City Manager James Freed’s recommendation, the commission voted 6-0 to approve $23,000 for the design of a new DPW building, $22,100 for sewer and water auto dialers on a radio frequency system, $21,420 for a new Chevy Silverado 1500 truck, $1,341 for four handheld radios, $8,500 for a water system reliability study, $7,800 for a sewer and water assessment and $685 to create a city website.
Freed also declined a request from former City Commissioner Kenneth Lehman to apologize for quotes in the March 5 Daily News, including the statement, “It appears the city has been left untouched for the last 20 years.”
“Definitely there needs to be work done, but I take personal offense and exception with the comments that were made by the city manager in the newspaper,” Lehman said. “The comment that there’s nothing been done in this city for 20 years is appalling to me. I’d ask for a public apology for that comment.”
“With all due respect, I stand by my statements,” Freed replied. “I believe my assessment was accurate and honest. The No. 1 problem is admitting that we have a problem. The challenges facing this city present a clear and present danger to the future of this city.”
The city currently has a fund balance of about $1.1 million with annual general fund spending of about $590,000. Including the water and sewer funds, the city has about $3.5 million in the bank, according to Freed.
“The general fund is there for an operating millage,” Freed said. “It is not a savings account. We have issues that need to be addressed now and we’re going to move forward.”
Terry Blum of Stanton said he is in “full favor” of Freed’s recommendations.
“Either the money gets spent on our community or the citizens deserve a tax break,” Blum said. “The money is not supposed to sit there gathering interest without the citizens having a say in it.”
Prein & Newhof in Grand Rapids will design the proposed new DPW building, which will likely be a 60-by-50-foot pole barn with a 6-inch concrete slab floor, three 14-foot front doors, offices, a break room, restrooms and a fire room to store fire supplies. Freed said the goal is for the new building to be designed and brought to the commission for approval within 60 days so bids can be taken by May.
Freed showed the audience of about three dozen people a photo slideshow of the current DPW building, which is nearly a century old. The building has a dirt floor, dry rot in the trusses, water damage in the ceiling, rusted barrels with unknown potentially hazardous contents, no windows, not enough lights, improper storage facilities and lots of clutter.
Audience members gasped when a photograph showed the DPW’s rusted-out power box.
Prien & Newhof will conduct a sewer and water assessment on city lift stations and wells. A previous Prein & Newhof inspection of the city’s lift stations ranked them as one of the top three worst in the state.
“I’m going to be blatantly honest. It’s a mess.” Freed said. “I don’t know where to begin. This is why we hire experts. This first glance will tell us what more we have to do.”
New sewer and water auto dialers will alert DPW workers when there is a problem with the utilities. Freed also hopes to replace the city’s current emergency generator – an old diesel tank that only has a run time of about an hour, compared to generators in Howard City and Lakeview which provide a run time of 72 hours.
The city’s lift station has an auto dialer, but it was never connected and is now obsolete.
“It’s really been a miracle of God that nothing’s happened,” Freed said. “When there’s an emergency we need to be alerted as soon as it happens. If you avert one crisis, it pays for itself.”
A water system reliability study is required every five years by law and Stanton’s is due to expire Dec. 4. The study will then be submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Crouch Communications in Saranac will provide four new handheld radios – two for DPW employees, one for Clerk-Treasurer Janet Davis and one for Police Chief Joe Patino.
Bookwalter Motor Sales in Stanton will provide the city with a new customized Chevy Silverado 1500 truck for DPW employees, who currently only have two trucks. New DPW Director Jeff Main is currently using his own vehicle.
“I tried keeping it local,” said Freed of the truck bid. “I know that was important to the community.”
B&R Consulting Inc. in Shelby Township will design a new website for the city. B&R has designed local websites for the villages of Howard City and Lakeview, as well as the Montcalm Alliance.
Freed said financial records, press releases, photographs of city projects and more will be posted online.
“We need to breed transparency in this community,” Freed said. “People want that information. We’re going to face some real challenges and as a community we’re going to face them openly and honestly.”
The commission also voted to change monthly meeting dates to second and fourth Tuesdays. The next meeting will be 7 p.m. April 12.
Follow Staff Writer Elisabeth Waldon via Twitter HERE.