CITY OF LAPEER – Three new Lapeer City Commissioners were sworn in on Monday’s City Commission meeting and the new commissioners did business on behalf of the residents of the City of Lapeer for the first time, setting the tone for responsible management in their first meeting.
The Commission had a limited agenda for its first meeting, which included a contract approval and a handful of appointments. The opening item saw some slight conflict, as City Manager Mike Womack presented a contract between the city and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Director Jim Alt for approval.
Commissioner Melissa Petrie read the contract prior to the meeting and found a heading, labeled “C” that had no content. It appeared this was a clerical error, but Commissioner Stefan Brady asked, “Has this contract been reviewed by our city attorney?”
Womack responded, “No, it has not been reviewed by the city attorney, but I am an attorney, and I had two other attorneys review it… It is not worth the expense to the city to have the city attorney review it in my opinion and I recommend not doing that.”
Commissioner Linda Glisman indicated she would like to see the city attorney, who represents the commission and the people of Lapeer, review the contract. There was one error already found, and maybe it was just a clerical error, but she wanted to make sure that the city is being protected in this contract. “I just want to make sure we have all our bases covered” said Glisman.
Womack responded, “You mean you want an attorney to review it who is not… me?”
“Yes, I guess so.”
Glisman and the other commissioners all stated in their comments that their hesitation to approve the contract was in no way an indictment of DDA Director Alt. They all shared glowing praise for Alt. Petrie said, “I think Jim Alt has done a great job and we definitely want to extend his contract.”
There had already been a motion by Commissioner Marlana Swindell to approve the contract, seconded by Commissioner Joshua Atwood. At the conclusion of the discussion, Atwood rescinded his support, but Swindell refused. “I will not rescind my motion,” Swindell said. “Jim Alt is already without a contract and I don’t think it’s right to make him wait 3 more weeks for a contract extension.”
Glisman asked how long he has already been without a contract and Mayor Debbie Marquardt said, “July.”
Swindell’s motion failed without a second and the board elected to suspend approval of the contract until after the City Attorney reviews the contract.
In the public comments, one resident said, “Your city manager is an attorney, but I agree with you completely that he is not your attorney. He is more of a liability in that role than an asset to you. As a taxpayer, I’m appalled by the fact that there are so many things going on here that are not going to your attorney. We need a healthy change and I hope that is what you [directed to new commissioners] are bringing.”
Mayor Marquardt then moved to appoint Swindell to the Planning Commission and asked for a second on that motion.
Atwood seconded the motion and asked, “Isn’t this a four-year appointment? Commissioner Swindell is only here two more years.”
Mayor Marquardt responded, “Well, for Commissioner Swindell it would be a two-year appointment.”
The Mayor’s motion was rejected 4-1 and the board instead appointed Atwood to a four year term.
Next, the board appointed Petrie to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
During public comments, the Director of the Planning Commission welcomed the new members, “I hope you were elected not just because of your hard work, but because the community recognized that we needed a change, because we did. I look forward to seeing what you do here.”
Each of the new commissioners thanked the community and their voters for entrusting them with the position.
Swindell said, “I want to welcome all of you. This is an exciting time and I hope to keep moving forward with all the things that have been set in motion the last 6 months.”
Atwood ended the meeting with a charge to the new members: “We put our politics down when we walk in the door and put the people of this city first. If we do that, we’ll be fine. It’s a heavy burden to make decisions for 9000 people, and I don’t think any of us will take it lightly.”