Eligible Oceana County Sheriff’s Office and corrections department employees were expected to have an extra $1,000 in their paychecks this week.
The Oceana County Board of Commissioners approved July 23 participating the the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides “hazard” pay for qualifying first responders. County Administrator Dr. Robert Sobie said the sheriff’s office and corrections department has 31 employees eligible for the program. Because he’s an elected official, Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast does not qualify Sobie said. Sobie added $100 million has been made available nationwide for the program. Applications must be made by Sept. 30.
“If you’re going to do this, now is the time to do it,” Sobie said.
The program requires participating agencies to pay for the program up front and seek reimbursement. The requirement prompted the board to amend its general fund unrestricted fund balance budget to cover the cost of the $31,000 program.
SHELBY — Shelby Village Administrator Rob Widigan provided the Village Council with “A Guidebook to Shelby’s Future” at his final village council meeting with the group Monday evening.
Widigan’s last official day will be Monday, Aug. 3 as he will be taking a new position as finance director for the City of Lansing beginning Aug. 10. Widigan prefaced the document saying, “The Village of Shelby, Oceana County, MI has a vision that includes a more inclusive community, comprehensive housing for all, quality jobs and a beautiful downtown connected to the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Rail Trail. We have made many strides over the past two years toward achieving that vision. But there’s still work to be done, and we must not lose sight of what greatness Shelby will achieve once that vision is attained.”
The document was an overview of the many activities, ordinances and initiatives Widigan and the council have been involved in over the past two years. From the Community Assessment meetings back in 2018 to the recently adopted Blight and Rental Ordinances, much has been accomplished. Going forward council will need to be focused on not only finding a permanent replacement for Widigan, but a new administrative assistant to replace Randy Mahoney, who has taken another position and police Chief Bob Farber who is retiring. Widigan’s guidebook also focused on many current projects the village is working through, including updates to village parks and the Shelby Trails housing project.
Widigan said, “It’s been a short two years, but I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know all of you and working together. I’ve really appreciated all of your support. Even though the report contains my overview of the past two years and my opinions of how you should proceed, they aren’t set in stone. I know you will continue to move forward, and I wish the best to all of you and Shelby. Don’t hesitate to call.”
During the village president’s report, Paul Inglis read a prepared statement saying, “In just two short years, Rob has set some lofty goals and objectives for the Village of Shelby. Through his initiative, creativity, progressive thinking and tireless efforts, we’ve gone from a stagnating municipality and community to one wherein a vision for our village’s future has been created, momentum has been established and action has been taken toward completion of a number of those goals and objectives. Rob encouraged and worked closely with community leaders, local citizens, economic development specialists, private and public consultants as well as state and local officials to ‘get on board’ and do what is in the best interest of our village and community. We still have much work ahead of us before we cross the finish line; however, Rob has helped us raise the bar with respect to our expectations. With that in mind, it will be imperative that we retain a successor and maintain a supportive village council that will remain persistent in the effort to cross that line so that we can complete our mission for the Village of Shelby’s future.”
Under new business, Interim village manager candidate Bill Cousins was introduced to the council. Cousins has a lengthy local government resume with experience in rental housing, building inspection and zoning. He had the position of city manager for the city of Kalkaska Mich., has been on the board of The Right Place of Kent County, had interim manager positions in Ithaca and Stanton and is currently the chair of the Grand Haven Planning Commission. He is retired from Cascade Township and resides in Grand Haven. He told the council that he enjoys being in a manager position, sees the work laid out and is excited to take it on, if that was what the council wanted.
Inglis said, “Bill comes highly recommended by Bryon Mazade of the Michigan Municipal League as well by the city manager of Muskegon, Frank Peterson. There are other interim managers out there, but after visiting with Bill and Rob, it is my recommendation we extend an interim contract to him.”
Widigan said, “His main job will be to keep the day-to-day operations going and to work toward finding my replacement. But he has expressed interest in helping take on some of the village’s other projects as well.”
Cousins added, “I’ve prioritized Rob’s list and have made a list of questions. If the council votes in the affirmative, I plan to attend the water & sanitation committee meeting tomorrow and will be sitting in on the upcoming administrative assistant interviews. In the coming weeks, I would want to meet with each council member personally to get to know them and get on the same page for going forward.”
Councillor Andy Near moved, with councillor Steve Crothers offering support, to appoint William T. Cousins III as the Village of Shelby interim administrator effective Aug. 3, 2020 — Dec. 3, 2020 to be paid an annual base salary of $100,000 (four months would equate to $33,333.32). Health, disability and life insurance benefits will not be paid. The resolution read that Cousins employment would not exceed four months; however, the ending period may be extended with Village of Shelby approval. All council members voted in favor.
Cousins added, “Thank you for your vote of confidence. If I am doing my job, you won’t notice Rob is gone and the council will have a smooth transition.”
The village also considered a “First Right of Refusal” for The Concession Stand property at 571 S. State St. The General Property Tax Act establishes a procedure for state and local municipalities to purchase foreclosed properties prior to public auction. The purchase must be for governmental purpose and for public use. The village had the option to accept or decline the purchase of said property for $22,169.05. If the village were to sell the property at a later date, any excess proceeds, if any, would be due back to the county treasurer to replenish the tax foreclosure fund.
“I personally don’t know what the village would be able to use this property for,” said Widigan. “Maybe if it was move-in ready, it could be used for a police department.” After a very brief discussion, councillor Jim Wyns moved, and Steve Crothers supported, waiving the village’s “first right of refusal” to the property located at 571 S. State St. foreclosed April 2, 2018 in accordance with Public Act 123. 1999. The next regular Village of Shelby Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 10 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. Leading the meeting will be new Interim Manager Cousins.
The November general election picture will become a little more clear following next Tuesday’s primary election.
Oceana County voters will be asked to cast ballots for state representative, county commissioners and township representatives. The county and several townships also will have millage requests on their respective ballots.
Oceana County Clerk Amy Anderson said there will be no procedural changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said people will not be required to wear masks to enter polling locations, but are strongly encouraged to do so.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. A rundown on candidates running for office was published in the July 23 edition of Oceana’s Herald-Journal.
A Mears man was transported to Mercy Health Partners Hackley Campus in Muskegon for treatment following a single-vehicle accident in Golden Township Monday afternoon.
According to the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office accident report, John Gilbert Negri, 66, of 420 N. Spencer Dr., was travelling west on Silver Lake Road just west of 18th Avenue in a 2020 Subaru Forester when he ran off the roadway, struck a speed limit sign, a split rail fence and several trees before coming to a rest.