City Hall Insider …

What is our City Council up to these days? We have the highlights of the latest council meeting.

By Charles Sercombe

The City Council met on Oct. 26 with only Councilmember Kazi Miah absent. The meeting ran for over two hours.

Do we want the highlights now or later? Oh, let’s get to the “good part” now, where Councilmember Tom Jankowski accused City Manager Bill Cooper of running the city into the ground and called for his firing.

It was an intense moment.

Fortunately for Cooper (or unfortunately?), the rest of the council didn’t take up Jankowski’s suggestion.
OK, now let’s begin at the beginning.

It’s back to Councilmember Jankowski, who caused a small ruckus of sorts by requesting an addition to the agenda. He wanted to place on the agenda the topic: “Situation in the Water Department.”

Mayor Karen Majewski was initially resistant to bend the rules of the council to allow a late addition to the agenda but after a terse discussion she allowed it to go ahead.

Jankowski apparently was feeling lucky and asked to also include another addition on the agenda, one entitled: ‘Lack of leadership in the Police Department.”

Can anyone tell where this was going? (Editor’s note: City Manager Cooper is the Acting Police Chief.)

“That’s it,” said Majewski, shutting down that proposal, but Jankowski managed to bring up the subject under “non-agenda” items on the council agenda.

A moment for a serious break. A condolence was offered by Councilmember Cathie Gordon to the family of former Mayor Gary Zych. His mother, Gertrude, died recently.

From the public, council candidate Robert Zwolak questioned why a payment to retired police officer Wally Tripp was back on the city’s list of bills to pay.

Tripp was hired by the city manager to train his replacement in the records department. The council held up his payment of $1,600 because there was no contract between Tripp and the city.

City Manager Cooper withdrew the payment later, saying it got on the payment list by error.

Zwolak also said that department heads should be required to attend the council meetings in case there are questions that come up. Zwolak said one way to get department heads to attend meetings is to schedule one of the council’s twice-a-month meetings to be held during the day instead of the evening.

A public hearing was held on a proposed city ordinance to charge those who are carted off to jail and require ambulance service to be charged for that service (ambulance service, that is). A “basic” ambulance ride will cost $425 (also add on another $10.50 for each mile traveled). Advanced life support costs $600. Need some oxygen? That’ll be $50, please.

No one spoke at the public hearing, and the council later unanimously adopted the ordinance.

In a review of city expenditures, Councilmember Gordon questioned the ongoing payments being made to Campau-Botsford service station. She said the latest charge is $5,000, and that there have been several other payments. She said that at this rate, the city will end up spending $60,000 with the business.

Gordon said the city should put the service out for bid to save money.

Councilmember Catrina Stackpoole questioned why there were several charges for tree trimming. She said the council had earlier agreed to eliminate tree trimming service to help balance the city’s budget.

City Manager Cooper, who probably wished later in the meeting that someone wearing a mask and carrying a chainsaw would enter the council chamber, said a recent wind storm caused several trees to crash into porches, which then became an emergency situation.

A long, super looooooong, discussion was held on a proposed city ordinance to regulate where medical marijuana can be grown took place.

Tempers flared once again (how bogue!).

Councilmembers Stackpoole and Jankowski were both upset that City Attorney Jim Allen was blocking the permitting process for medical marijuana growers to start their commercial operations.

Allen said that recent court rulings have struck down large parts of the state’s medical marijuana law to the point of “reading the law out of existence.”

At one point in the discussion, an elderly woman, Pearl Prieur, shouted out: “This is what happens when you have chemo,” and she then took off her wig. She has lost her hair apparently because of the chemo treatment.

Later in the meeting she explained that she has stage four cancer, which has no cure. She said she is a medical marijuana user.

Allen said the court rulings are making it increasingly harder for medical marijuana users to get their product, and that anyone operating, or even part of, a growing facility is subject to arrest.

He also said that although he has no “dog in this race,” he would legalize marijuana “tomorrow” if it were up to him.
Stackpoole and Jankowski stressed that the city’s law was merely a zoning law. They said it’s up to the would-be growing facility owners and operators to pay attention to what is considered illegal.

Allen said it’s ultimately up to the council to decide what law to adopt.

The upshot is that the council will take another look at the proposed ordinance in a work session, and try to come up with a law that conforms to recent state court rulings.

Mayor Majewski cautioned, however, that the council can’t be concerned about what a “crazy” judge might decide. She said some judges are determined to “subvert and twist the law.”

“I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. We have people who depend on it (medical marijuana),” Majewski said.

And now, let’s tip-toe away from this subject to something less controversial.

In a previous meeting, the council ordered the city manager to come up with an appointment of an Acting City Manager in the event that Cooper is absent or becomes incapacitated.

Cooper recommended appointing City Clerk Ed Norris for the job.

Councilmember Jankowski questioned what qualifications Norris brings to the job.

Cooper said that Norris is “no better or worse” than any of his other two department heads. Cooper added that Finance Director Nevrus Nazarko, who some on the council preferred, was “not in the least bit interested” in the appointment.

Cooper pointed out that Norris is at every council meeting.

Councilmember Gordon said that it doesn’t matter if Nazarko doesn’t want the appointment, and that Cooper should have appointed him anyway.

Cooper said that if the council doesn’t approve his appointment of Norris, it can always vote it down and he will submit another appointment.

(Editor’s note: So much for a less controversial subject.)

The appointment of Norris was approved, but Councilmembers Gordon and Jankowski voted in opposition.

Well, we here at City Hall Insider just realized something. It’s the week of Halloween. So far, we are scared. Very scared. Until next week folks, part two awaits.

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