PC appointments disappoint, New (more expensive) Planner hired, Treasurer battles Fink over Township Cash,

The good news?  Citizen after Citizen spoke in favor of appointing Jennifer Delisle to the Planning Commission.

The bad news?  The rest of the meeting.

The Appointment of Planning Commissioners was item 1 on the Agenda. 

The candidates, those who were present, introduced themselves at the microphone.  Before Supervisor Engstrom could proceed with the announcement and annointment of her nominees, Trustee Janet Chick said she was ill and left the meeting.   The Board approved a ten minute recess. 

Twenty minutes later the board reconvened.  The completion of Agenda item 1 was deferred. Agenda item 2, the hiring of McKenna Associates as Township Planner, was taken up.

In the past six months, two Professional Planning Companies have quit the Township.  The Township has been backed into a corner.  Hiring McKenna Associates is the Board's only choice.  McKenna knows it and the Contract shows it. 

At this meeting, McKenna CEO Phillip McKenna introduced Sally (Sara) Hodges, the McKenna Senior Vice President assigned to handle the Northfield Township Government and Northfield Township Meetings.  Hodges has been with McKenna since 1984. 

At the July 14th Planner interviews, McKenna proposed using a $97/hour Principal Planner.  Their contract offer now requires that Planning be handled by a $130/hour Senior Vice President.  McKenna said she was the only Planner available.  Fink tried to spin that as a mutual decision.  Wayne Dockett called it a 50% cost increase.  (Here's the january 2016 term sheet).

Jackie Otto warned the Board that the almost doubled cost of zoning administration - $60/hour - would cost the Township directly and indirectly.  The standard office and code work would cost more and the Township would absorb more of the cost of appeals, since the ZBA had recently and drastically lowered its fees to make zoning appeals more affordable. 

Otto asked about the mismatch between the number of meetings requiring the presence of a planner and the number of meetings included in the retainer.  Twenty-four meetings a year are included in the contract, two per month.  Otto said there were sometimes as many as five meetings per month. 

On that issue Fink attempted an impromptu negotiation, in essence asking McKenna to throw in some meetings for free.  McKenna refused to be strong-armed in public.  McKenna said his people were paid for their work.

At some point Chief Wagner informed the Board that Janet Chick would not be returning.  She had been taken away in an ambulance.  She had asked Wagner to convey her approval of the Board proceeding on the Appointments vote without her.  Supervisor Engstrom made a motion to appoint Larry Roman.  The motion passed 6:0.  Engstrom made a motion to appoint Sam Iaquinto.  Engstrom started the voting.  Trustee Thomas objected, asking for a discussion.  Thomas and Trustee Otto both testified strongly in favor of nominating Jennifer Delisle.  The vote proceeded, 4:2 in favor of approving the appointment of Iaquinto.  Engstrom, Dockett, Westover, and Braun voted yes.  Otto and Thomas voted no.

[Opinion] Two weeks ago, Engstrom postponed voting on appointments because her ally, Wayne Dockett, was absent.  She played politics and won, with the help of Westover and Braun, neither of whom gave an explanation for supporting Iaquinto, who was clearly one of the least qualified candidates.

Discussion item 5, the Fund Balance Policy, was the focus of Township Treasurer Braun's concern.  Braun said the million-plus dollar pool of cash is sitting in a checking account, earning nothing.  She asked the Board to move $10,000 or more into a CD the next time one rolls over.  She said that more of the fund should be moved out of the checking account into short term investments where it would at least earn something and would be safer.  "Somebody could write a check," she warned. 

Fink disagreed, said they would always need a buffer of 35% or so to pay bills.  Pressed, Fink guessed at a percentage which could be moved into short term CDs, 35-40%?   Not sure how that adds up to 100% but it should have formed the basis of conceding to Braun that the unneeded cash could be moved and secured in CDs. 

Braun underlined the importance of having a Rainy Day Fund reserve to handle future uncertainties.  She contrasted the current policy of investing only in short term CDs with the disastrous investments in long term bonds made during the final months of the 2008-2012 Board. 

[Backstory] In 2012 Trustees Stanalajczo, Iaquinto, Magda and Dockett stripped Supervisor Mozurkowitz of authority.  Under cover of proving the need to hire a Township Manager, Stanalajczo, Magda, and Iaquinto devoted Meeting after Meeting to harrassing and humiliating the Supervisor and Clerk.  No one was minding the store.  The crippling investment loss wasn't noticed until the present Board assumed office.  Six months after the 2012 Board had sunk $3,000,000 into long term bonds, the current Board dumped them for a $280,000.00 loss.

"Fund Balance" refers to the Rainy Day Fund.  The 2004 Board was forced to borrow half a million dollars just to pay the bills. Since then more disciplined Boards have steadily built up a reserve of tax dollars, a buffer. Tax revenue goes in and spending goes out.  Over the past twelve years the average amount in the buffer has increased.  In 2015, Manager Fink convinced the Board that about $500,000 of this reserve could be theirs to spend.  It would require concocting a "policy" reducing the size of the Rainy Day Fund to 85% of estimated annual spending or revenues.  At the time Braun urged caution and continued conservative spending.  Dockett urged the Board to return some money to Taxpayers.  But the Board went along with Howard, who opened up the candy store at the 2015 Board retreat.  Trustees were encouraged to discuss ways of spending the bonanza.  What didn't get mentioned was that this bonanza was a one-time thing.

During Board member comments Jackie Otto stepped way out of her comfort zone.  In the most honest and courageous act ever seen on this Board, she called Sam Iaquinto's reappointment a "second chance."  She expressed her heartfelt wish that Sam Iaquinto would use his "second chance" to redeem himself.

Let's wish Trustee Chick a speedy recovery. 


Busy?  Watch only the parts of this meeting you want to watch with this LiveAgenda.

Who is McKenna/Associates? 

[Meeting Resources]

  • Click here to view or download the Meeting Agenda

The meeting packet, broken out into individual sections

  • Click here to view or download the McKenna Planning Contract
  • Click here to view or download the New-Pal proposal for a Celltower located behind Fire Station #2 [1.6MB]
  • Click here to view or download the proposed 2016 Township Board goals
  • Click here to view or download Fink's letter about the upcoming Parks and Recreation Master Plan hearing
  • Click here to view or download TetraTech's letter about a recent conference call and Sewer Ordinances.

Also Bundled into the meeting packet are the individual Letters of Introduction for the Planning Commission slots


The Background of the January 26 Board Meeting.

At last week's Planning Commission meeting, the PC refused to elect new officers until the Township Board appoints replacements for the two PC seats which expired December 2015.  The two appointments are back on the Agenda.  At the last Board meeting the Supervisor refused to nominate anyone.  She said she wasn't "ready."   Will she use the same maneuver again? 

What else is on the agenda?  The Township is hiring a new Planner, the 3rd Planner in less than a year. 

In tonight's packet is Manager Fink's letter to the Board describing the contract terms offered by McKenna Associates to serve as Township Planner.  In Fink's spin, McKenna "has suggested" placing a Senior Vice President as planner for our little hornet's nest.  The reality is that they won't deal with the disfunctional Northfield Township government on any other terms. 

The Senior Vice President's hourly rate ($130/hr) is over 30% higher than that which would have been billed for the Principal Planner, Patrick Sloan ($97/hr), who delivered McKenna's presentation at the July 14th, 2015 joint Board/PC interview session [LiveVideo].   Sloan had been slated for the Planner position under the terms of McKenna's original July 2015 proposal.

Joan Jett was right.  You do pay for a Bad Reputation.

This all began with the May 12th Manager's report mention of Carlisle Wortman's request for a 2.5% rate increase and a raise in monthly retainer from $450 to $500.   For ten years Carlisle Wortman had worked for the same price.   The fee increase was used as an excuse to sideline a Planner, Doug Lewan, whose interpretation of the Master Plan as an expression of the wishes of Township Citizens stood in the way of greed and asphalt.   Ignoring the implicit insult to the existing Planner, the Board voted to open the Planning Contract up to bidding. 

The Board opened up a can of worms without knowing what the worms would cost.

Who can forget Sam Iaquinto's sneering at the July 1st PC meeting when the news of Carlisle Wortman's resignation surfaced.  He claimed that Carlisle Wortman refused to rebid the contract because "they knew they couldn't compete on price."  

How did that turn out?  Carlisle Wortman wanted to increase their monthly retainer to $500/month.   McKenna requires $695/month for the retainer alone.  That's how it turned out.