[Meeting Report]

In his opening Call to the Public comments, long time Township resident Chuck Steuer thanked Township Manager Fink for his honesty in admitting in his Manager's report that the Board had no plan for the recent Van Curler purchase. 

"I'm a little perplexed again by why we are buying three hundred thousand dollars worth of property that has an SEV of $1.2 Million dollars that's going to come off the tax rolls.


And we can't say why we're doing it.


I can say to those of you who have voted in favor of this, there are support groups out there for people who spend money and don't know why they're spending it.


I don't know it there are any support groups for people who spend money and don't know why they're spending it that are holding public office.


I don't think that's what you were elected to do."

Fink rocked in his chair.  Fink talked to Paul Burns.  Fink faked a smile.   The Board watched.    Steuer continued:

"This is not a three hundred thousand dollar or three hundred thirty thousand dollar transaction.  The cost to those of us who pay the bills around here is going to be over a million dollars.   And we've got another three million dollars coming down the road for a sewerage retention pond."

Steuer added: 

"The way this is done in other communities, and in the last election there was one community in the area that had such an issue on the ballot, is you go to the voters and get the funds approved first in the form of a millage. 


If we want to spend money on property, that's the correct order of doing things, rather than going out, buying the property, not knowing why we're buying it, and then we'll decide...  which I thought we were gonna do in that ninety day period that we have to, I thought part of our due diligence was to come up with a good definition as to why in the heck do we want to do this?"

Fink watched Steuer.  Fink watched the Board.  A tiny bit of smug drained from Fink's face.  The Board watched.

Next at the Public microphone, David Gordon described watching the April 26th Township Board meeting.  The Wastewater Treatment Plant equalization basin had been discussed.  Many people had attended.  Many shared their doubts.  Mr. Fink had spoken for eighteen minutes, "clarifying."  

"It's obvious to me that the Board feels they are under attack." said Gordon.  "And it's equally obvious to me that many members of this Township feel the same way.  What I heard during those eighteen minutes from Mr. Fink.  First of all, he was speaking in defense of the Board.  But he was claiming that the opinions that were expressed by the public are based on misinformation.  He asserted that the folks are seeing connections where there aren't any and is essentially saying that we're conspiracy nuts - and diminishing the resident's comments as 'chatter.'


I find this disrespectful and somewhat insulting.


Comments were made such as, in the explanation of the equalization basin, (that is again on the Agenda to spend money on tonight), It's not a sewer expansion, it's not connected to Biltmore, and it's needed.  Those were all brought forward as facts.

I think there's some confusion here between facts and opinions.


You can't dismiss real world connections.  If this $3,000,000.00 basin doesn't get put in, you've got between one hundred and two hundred hookups that you can put in, according to our Engineers.    If the basin does get put in, you can get up to 1500 new connections.  That is an expansion.  The plant's not getting bigger, but the capacity to handle more homes coming in, more hookups, has expanded.


That's the connection that people are making.


When you say that it is needed, and you say that that's a fact, it's actually just an opinion.  There was an opinion that the second floor of this building was needed, and it was built, and it's essentially been unused except for these meetings for the last ten or so years, at a great expense.   The million dollar platform ladder truck was purchased because it was needed, apparently, but it wasn't and it never went on a fire.


I believe this basin is the same situation.


There was a discussion about how facts are being, misinformation is being spread because it's not true that there have been no violations at the Plant.   But we all sat here and listened to Mr. Hardesty and the people at TetraTech say there have been no discharges of raw sewage into the streams.   That in wet weather events,  it's been very challenging for the people at the treatment plant but they've met these challenges.


Those are facts that were presented by the people that work here.


I think it's important that the Board start speaking for itself, especially in an election year.


Mr Fink said the Board will be making a decision about this $3,000,000.00 expense after getting advice from the Engineer, from the Financial Advisor, from the Attorney and the Manager.

The Engineer makes money on the project.  The Financial Advisor makes money on the project.  The Attorney gets paid for giving advice.   The Township Manager believes his task, at least one of them, is growth.


I'd like to see the Board start asking some serious questions about how we're spending our money."

Gordon thanked the Board.  Gordon walked back to his seat.  Fink's stubborn smugness had wilted.  The Board watched.

Trustee Wayne Dockett picked up Chuck Steuer's point:

"I know I complain a lot about when I get my Agenda, but I want to speak to what [Steuer] said earlier tonight. 


I got about fourteen pages of Agenda last Monday [5-2] about one o'clock in the afternoon.  Now, my store's open 'til 5:00pm.  They had a meeting here at 5:15pm.  I did not come to the meeting; I could not digest fifteen pages or whatever it was, seventeen pages, of Agenda item. 


Four people showed up.  Four members showed up, which you have to have to have a quorum.  They agreed to spend the money for the park, or to start it.  Two of them are not running again.  So, we've got a big decision, you know, a million dollar deal or more before we're done with this property, with two people that are going to run next time. 


I don't like the smell of it.  I go along with Chuck.  That should never have happened."

Supervisor Engstrom pressed forward with the Agenda.

The Fourth of July Parade, the Fireworks, and temporary road closings were approved.  The RTM ordinance changes were approved.  Another Whitmore Lake Road SAD "permanent, non-exclusive easement" was accepted. 

(curious phrasing...  It sounds as if any number of sewer pipes could go through that easement down Whitmore Lake Road.)  

Soil testing for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Equalization Basin was approved.  Trustee Thomas voted for the preliminary tests but said he had not yet been convinced that the Basin was necessary.   Dockett observed that the Township's awarding of contracts to an increasingly narrow circle of bidders has over time contracted the circle of those willing to bid. 

Dockett objected to Fink's attempt to spend $4000 adding to the Township's warehouse of underwater property and wetlands near Horseshoe Lake, a last minute add to the Agenda.  He said that the County will offer much better terms later.  The matter was deferred. 

Isn't it time to ask why the Township hasn't deeded its vast assemblage of tax forfeitured swamp, wetland, and unbuildable Horseshoe Lake area property to Washtenaw County Parks?  They could turn it a Preserve like the nearby 235 acre Whitmore Lake Preserve on Seven Mile Road.  Washtenaw County Parks can afford to do something with it.  We can't, especially at the rate our Township Board burns through tax dollars and piles up obligations.

The meeting's Big Event was the first step in abating the taxes of what is hoped will be Northfield Township's newest industrial park tenant, a Technical Center for the auto industry component manufacturer, Arvin Sango.  This step was approved.  An Industrial Development District (IDD) was voted into existence.  The Board approved with no idea of how deep the Tax abatement will actually be.  Fink has promised to reveal that later.  Cart before the Horse remains standard operating procedure for this Township Board.

One can only hope that word does not reach Arvin Sango's Japanese owner, Sango Co. Ltd., of the profoundly rude disparagement of their planned designs made by the Planning Commission Chair Ken Dignan during the May 4 Planning Commission review. 

"It looks like a Chevy Dealership." - source: Arvin Sango Technical Center 5-4-2016 Northfield Township Planning Commission LiveAgenda

In one fell swoop, Dignan insulted the Township's international guests and in using the example he did the way he did, he insulted an iconic American manufacturer as well.   Not to mention the insult to Howard Fink's best hope of adding something to his resume that will carry him onward, upward, and out.

What else happened at the meeting?  A Wayne Dockett question lured Township Manager Fink into publicly revealing the side of his management persona that led several long time Township employees to quit working for the Township.  


[About the documents]

We are premiering a brand new service.  (drum roll, please)  We have extracted for you and rotated the hard to read financial reports that appear turned-sideways in Board meeting packets. Turned upright, they fit quite nicely on your computer screen.   There's no more need to print this stuff out, laying waste to vast swaths of forest, just because your Township Board favors inscrutability over environmental responsibility.

You may notice that they remain extremely difficult to read.  The financial reports are so faint and faded, it's as if the printouts sat out in the desert sun for decades.There are a couple of possible explanations for that.  One is that Township management is trying to pinch every penny, to carefully husband every last nickle and dime of taxpayer money and one way to do this is by squeezing every last drop of ink and every last speck of toner out of their printer cartridges.  By what must surely be a fantastic coincidence, the printer cartridges always reach this pitiable state at the exact time that our Township Meeting documents are printed out and then scanned to assemble the meeting packets.  

In case you're not clear on this, what I'm talking about scanning are printouts of documents like the Financial reports and Meeting Minutes.  Most of this scanning is unnecessary.  Meeting minutes are delivered to the Township as PDFs.  Accounting software will print reports as PDFs.  The Planner delivers everything as a PDF.   Engineering drawings can be delivered as vectorized PDFs.  The whole world communicates in PDFs but when it comes time to passing this perfected form of document communication on to you, the interested Taxpayer, it's catch as catch can.

So what is our Township Management doing?  Instead of simply assembling individual PDFs into a whole, someone prints them out, adjusts a scanner to produce a PDF instead of a jpg or tiff type image file, and scans the printouts.  The result is a grainy, hard to read, version of whatever began the process.   That PDF then goes into the packet instead of the original. 

Planner documents tend to be incorporated into the packets in their original PDF form.  Meeting minutes do not.  Neither do the financial documents that are key to understanding how this Township handles its taxpayer dollars.  Planning Commission Minutes had been published as searchable PDFs for years.  In May, 2015, that stopped.  Now they're published as unsearchable scanned pdfs.

You'd almost think someone was trying to hide something.

FYI, such pitiful results would be easily achieved by turning down the contrast when doing the scanning.

ScreenCap Checks Disbursed Ledger 2013 2016 comparison 660w138h

Screencapture of Check Ledgers as they appear in the 10/08/2013 packet, [3.8MB] above, and 5/10/2016 packet below.


[Meeting Documents]

Here are the financial reports, rotated-upright, in the order in which they appear in the packet:

Here are the other included document collections, broken out: