What is our City Council up to these days? We have the scoop and the highlights – as well as the lowlights – of the latest council meeting
By Charles Sercombe
The City Council met on Aug. 9 with all councilmembers in attendance. The meeting ran for one hour.
Before we start, we’d like to say something to a few councilmembers, and you know who you are. There is a microphone in front of you. By speaking directly into it, the audience members can better hear what you are saying.
Please, please use this marvelous piece of technology. Unless, of course, you purposely don’t want anyone to hear you clearly, in which case you have no business being on council.
The Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, which is an organization that offers a number of educational services for children and adults, asked for the council’s backing in its application for a planning grant.
Wayne Metro has a children’s development site on Mitchell St. in Hamtramck.
The council agreed to support the agency’s application, provided there are no financial liabilities to the city.
In a review of the city’s bills, Councilmember Cathie Gordon questioned why the city was billed $2,250 from Rizzo Services to provide a dumpster for an eviction.
Gordon said she thought another contractor provided that service, and if it’s a service that isn’t covered by a contract, then it should be bid out.
The issue also raised the question of why the city is paying for the dumpster in the first place, since it’s believed that landlords are responsible by law to provide a dumpster for tenants being evicted.
City Manager Bill Cooper said he would look into the matter.
Well, there goes the free primo parking for the upcoming Hamtramck Labor Day Festival. The council agreed to go along with a proposal from the Downtown Development Authority to charge for parking at the city-owned lot on Caniff and McDougall during the festival.
And speaking of the DDA, the council OK’d a deal where the city would purchase a building on Jos. Campau for the DDA. The DDA, however, would reimburse the city for the cost, which is a measly $8,000 for what was described as a nice building.
(For those looking to get in on the deal before the city does – and you know how slow any city administration can move on matters like this — the property is located at 9350 Jos. Campau. For 8,000 bucks it’s a steal.)
(Editor’s note: It would be a great space for a recording studio.)
DDA Director Darren Grow said he plans to fix it up and use the building as a “city welcome center.”
Grow said it would likely take three years to rehab the structure, and if it turns out the city can’t afford to keep it, the building could likely be sold for a profit.
Councilmember Gordon said the project sounds “quite creative.”
Councilmember Tom Jankowski asked Jason Friedmann, the Director of Community & Economic Development, to weigh on the proposal. Friedmann said this proposal is “what the DDA was intended for.”
Friedmann said it’s the role of the DDA to help prevent blight and to encourage development.
Mayor Karen Majewski praised the project calling it “exciting.”
Grow replied: “Nervous and excited.”
Did we mention the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival is just a few weeks away? Once again, the city allowed the parade committee to hold its parade on Jos. Campau, which starts at Holbrook. The parade is held on Labor Day.
(Editor’s note: Why does it seem that everyone waits until almost the last minute to get permission to hold an event?)
But there was a slight hang-up over what role the city would play in supporting the parade, such as providing a police escort. City Manager Cooper said he has been assured by the parade committee that it needs absolutely no assistance from the city.
But, Cooper added, the city does put up barricades the night before.
Councilmember Gordon questioned how the parade committee can halt traffic on Holbrook and Jos. Campau without help from the Police Department, a point that was also echoed by Mayor Majewski, who happens to be a member of the parade committee.
Cooper said the committee says it can handle it.
Councilmember Jankowski joked that when it comes down to it, “Polish people are self-sufficient.”
(Editor’s note: To our recollection, the Police Reserves are hired to take over traffic control.)
In a housekeeping discussion over what to do about the agenda heading entitled “non-agenda items,” nothing was basically resolved. The issue seems to be that the agenda category has become a “catch-all” – as Councilmember Catrina Stackpoole put it – for this and that.
We’re not sure why this is a bad thing, but Stackpoole did make a point in saying that a number of items brought up can be addressed outside the council meeting, such as a request for information … on this or that.
When it came time for the city manager report, Bill Cooper (the city manager) said he didn’t have one, other than he has to report for jury duty on Wednesday (Aug. 10), in case anyone wanted to get a hold of him.
“Hopefully it will last one day,” he said.
(Editor’s note: We have a bag full of tricks on how to get excused from jury duty, one of which is to dress as sloppy as Editor Charles Sercombe. Works like a charm.)
The public was up next, but in an unusual turn of events there were only two takers instead of the usual half dozen or so. Ginny Tetzold said she is “very concerned” about the city allowing medical marijuana growers to set up shop.
(Editor’s note: The council recently adopted a zoning ordinance regulating where and how medical marijuana can be grown.)
Tetzold said her family has been “through hell” in dealing with neighborhood drug dealers. In one instance, a neighbor set up a meth lab, and one of the things she had to deal with – brace yourself – was someone associated with the drug house who tried to set a transvestite on fire.
Yes, a transvestite was set on fire. In Hamtramck.
In another instance, a house was turned into a heroin den.
Tetzold said she fears medical marijuana will one day “bring in the criminal element.”
She stressed that if medical marijuana clinics are allowed to operate on Jos. Campau, people will be afraid to shop here.
Tetzold said she wishes voters had an opportunity to vote on the city’s zoning law. She noted that she voted against the measure when it appeared on the state ballot in 2008.
(Editor’s note: The ballot issue was supported by a majority of voters in every county in the state. In Hamtramck, voters here supported the issue by a 2-1 vote margin.)
Council candidate Steve Shaya questioned if the DDA still has a code enforcement officer on staff, especially on the weekends. He said that on Saturday, “exotic dancers” distributed flyers up and down Jos. Campau of a sexually graphic nature.
(Editor’s note: How did we miss this?)
He said the flyers were not suitable for children to see.
Councilmember Stackpoole said she was out on Jos. Campau on Saturday and didn’t see the so-called dancers.
(Editor’s note: Anyone take photos? Contact us.)
In a further review of bills, Councilmember Gordon questioned why the Police Department is racking up $20,000 a month in overtime. She also wanted to know why the Fire Department earned $13,000 in overtime. City Manager Cooper said there are several officers injured or off the job, which requires officers to work overtime to meet minimum staffing requirements.
But he said he would look into the matter. As for the OT in the Fire Department, Cooper said just about all of it had to do with fulfilling minimum staffing requirements.
Councilmember Jankowski questioned why so many burned out houses remain standing. He asked what it would take to demolish them.
City Attorney James Allen said it’s a matter of money.
Allen said a number of houses in the city have no insurance protection. Normally, when a house is destroyed by fire, the insurance company is required to pay 25 percent of the settlement to the city to cover demolition.
Jankowski said the council needs to look at this issue and decide whether to budget money for demolition.
“We have a budget, we have millions,” Jankowski said.
(Editor’s note: We do?)
The discussion also drifted onto the subject of one certain landlord who has been forced to either sell or demolish his many properties. The landlord in question, who was not named, also has been ticketed recently for trying to rent out houses that the city has condemned.
Mayor Majewski jokingly (we think) suggested tarring and feathering the landlord in question.
As a result of the discussion, City Manager Cooper agreed to draw up a list of all properties that need to be demolished.
In another matter, Councilmember Jankowski asked what the status is over replacing missing garbage cans. Cooper said he is preparing to order 100 new cans, but he said that, at a cost of $75 per can, the city cannot afford to foot the bill.
So, for those who need a garbage can, be prepared to fork over $75 either upfront, or have it placed on your water bill.
On one last matter, Councilmember Jankowski asked what the plan is for street repair. Cooper said that because of the city’s limited budget, it can only afford basic pothole repairs.
But that work won’t begin until next spring, he said. Cooper said that by waiting until next spring, the city should be able to get a better deal.
So let’s recap the evening: Eviction dumpsters, the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, the Polish Day Parade, medical marijuana, a meth lab, a burning transvestite, exotic dancers on Jos. Campau and $75 garbage cans.