09 February 2021 Vote Explanations

DISCLAIMER: This is a blog post written by Marquette City Commissioner Evan Bonsall. The views expressed herein are his own, and do not represent the views or imply the official endorsement of the City of Marquette, the Marquette City Commission or any of its individual members, or any other City of Marquette officials.

Here are my vote explanations from the Feb. 9, 2021 City Commission meeting:

You can download the Feb. 9 meeting agenda here: https://marquette.novusagenda.com/Agendapublic/DisplayAgendaPDF.ashx?MeetingID=2070

You can watch the meeting video here: https://youtu.be/ze2q-_tj7nI?t=284

Coastal Management Grant Agreement: YES (Passed 7-0)

This was a vote to accept a $200,000 grant from Michigan EGLE which we will use as part of Phase II of the Lakeshore Project, which will consist of lakeshore engineering, landscaping, and rehabilitation to enhance public enjoyment of and access to the shoreline in north Marquette while also preventing future erosion and coastal flooding. The City will provide a $167,469 cash match, as well as various in-kind services, and our partner on the Lakeshore Blvd. project, the Superior Watershed Partnership, will provide an additional $12,851 match. This will require a budget adjustment, as we were not anticipating receiving this grant when we approved our FY2021 budget, but we can accommodate this cost through bonding like we routinely do for capital improvement projects – the long-term cost of funding this project through bonding will be negligible, especially when considering the long-term savings associated with preventing serious damage from erosion and coastal flooding. As a result, I felt that voting Yes was not only the right choice for protecting our lakeshore and our environment, but the fiscally responsible choice as well.

Approve Firefighters Labor Agreement: YES (Passed 7-0)

The City and Marquette Firefighters Association Local 643 agreed to a 3-year contract which includes a higher rate of overtime pay, a conversion from salaries to hourly pay, and keeps employees’ share of health care premium costs at an affordable level. However, like other City contracts negotiated in the midst of the fiscal challenges and uncertainty resulting from COVID-19, the firefighters’ contract does not include a regular pay raise. The lack of a pay raise is not ideal, but our firefighters will now be compensated more fairly for the significant overtime they often work, and managing the increased overtime costs (about $40,000 in additional compensatory time per year) and hourly wages (about $80,000 more per year) will be much easier for the City. The rest of the contract changes were limited to minor language changes. I felt this was a fair compromise between the City and the firefighters’ union.

Reimburse Firefighters for Unpaid Overtime: YES (Passed 7-0)

It was recently determined through a U.S. Dept. of Labor (DOL) investigation that the City has been improperly calculating firefighter overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act since at least October 2018. No one in the City administration or the Marquette Firefighters Assn. Local 643 bargaining unit was aware of this problem until an anonymous complaint was filed with the DOL, and action was immediately taken to correct it. The DOL determined that the City owed our firefighters a total of $12,000 in back pay, but did not require the City to pay a penalty. The Marquette Fire Dept. is now in full compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, and has also purchased new payroll software to prevent this from happening again. This problem arose from factors that were unique to the Fire Dept., and we do not believe that similar issues exist for any other City departments. While the City certainly did not do this intentionally, I think this is a reminder of why collective bargaining rights and strong labor laws are so important for working people. I voted Yes to provide our firefighters with the back pay they were owed.

Hire City Manager Search Consultant: YES (Passed 7-0)

In December 2020, our current City Manager Mike Angeli announced his intent to retire at the end of May 2021, and the City Commission formed a subcommittee consisting of Commissioners Davis, Mayer, and Stonehouse to develop a process for hiring our next City Manager. They issued a Request for Proposals seeking a consultant to help the City attract a large and diverse pool of applicants, and received 6 responses. The subcommittee recommended Walsh Municipal Services, LLC as being a truly outstanding applicant based on their scope of services, proposed process, favorable references, and their expertise in municipal executive recruitment in Michigan. I was also impressed with their emphasis on diversity and inclusion of women in the City Manager search process – 3 of the last 6 municipal managers they have helped Michigan communities hire have been women. I’m sad to see Mr. Angeli go, but I have every confidence that Walsh will help us attract an excellent pool of talent from which we will hire our next City Manager.

Rezone 5 Properties as Medium Density Residential: YES (Passed 7-0)

The City approved a new Land Development Code and zoning map in February 2019, and inevitably a very small number of properties were improperly rezoned as part of this very large and complicated process. In this case, 5 residential properties adjacent to NMU’s campus were unfortunately rezoned as “Civic” (i.e., for public use), because the City mistakenly believed that they were part of NMU’s campus, which is all zoned Civic as well. However, they are in fact all privately-owned single-family homes, are definitely not part of NMU’s campus, and are located in a neighborhood which is zoned Medium Density Residential (i.e., allowing single-family homes as a permitted use and duplexes and ADUs as a special land use). This was simply a common-sense vote to correct this simply mistake and rezone all 5 properties as Medium Density Residential.