It all started by a FOIA request based on curiosity about the Ludington City Manager's way of doing business after reading an article quoting him in the City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews). In the FOIA request I phrased it thusly:
"In the 1-22-2013 (Tuesday) Ludington Daily News (p8) it is written: "Shay said there have been similar emergencies in which he has had to act prior to a council meeting being held." This refers to the possible failure of the Brother Street conduit noticed in early July 2011 and fixed in September 2011.
Under provisions of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (MCLA 15.231 et seq; MSA 4.1801 (1) et seq) I am requesting to personally inspect the following public records, or receive scanned or electronically transmitted records (whichever is most economical) for :
1) If it exists, any list of such "similar emergencies" that required at least $10,000 of public expenditures to mitigate without City Council approval beforehand. If such a list does not exist, please provide one (this last, of course, would be outside the realm of FOIA since you would have to create a record).
2) The written definition of "emergency" that the City of Ludington officially uses in regards to such events (i.e. a record that distinguishes an emergency from a normal incident/event/expenditure).
3) Contract(s) and quote(s) from the most recent "similar emergency" (i.e. one where you acted unilaterally on beforehand) that involved the expenditure of over $10,000 not including the Brother Street repairs."
I got back the following response amounting to a 1 page invoice:
Here is the history of that 'emergency'. On the evening of Monday, November 26, 2012, the City Council met-- but before on that day, local radio and the Mason County Press reported on some 'emergency repairs' on a sewer main break around the area of Adams and First Street in Ludington's Fourth Ward. Reported by the latter:
"The city of Ludington’s Department of Public Works is currently repairing a sewer main break. City Manager John Shay said the break was discovered Sunday in the area of First and Adams streets.
“We do have sewage flowing into the Creamery Corners drain which empties into Pere Marquette Lake,” Shay said. “Crews are making emergency repairs and expect to have it complete by the end of the day.”
The break was caused by a crack in the sewer line.
Shay said because this is an emergency repair, no meeting of the city council was called. He said he would caution people to avoid Pere Marquette Lake until the line is fixed."
As depicted, this does sound like an 'emergency', though by the response, there is no clear definition of "emergency" that the City relies on for emergency City responses, since that wasn't included in the FOIA response. Nor was there any mention of an outside contractor in the MCP article, where Shay was contacted, only the DPW. Without any other loss of generality, let's say it was an emergency and Hallack Contracting was the company they had to go to, when it was figured out that the DPW could not fully resolve the issue.
Keep in mind, that the City Council and its attorneys went into closed session two weeks prior to this event to discuss a lawsuit saying they had violated the Open Meetings Act in not deliberating and deciding the expenditure of $95,000 for mitigating non-emergency water system problems on Brother Street. A lawsuit they settled in a stipulated judgment by saying they had violated two sections of the OMA.
The minutes of the 11-26-2012 meeting even has John Shay mentioning the repair:
Was this handled the proper way? Let's look first at the City of Ludington's charter-- LudCharter sec 13.2 : Purchases Contracts and Lease [Procedures]: "The dollar limit within which purchases may be made without the necessity of prior Council approval will be set by ordinance with the exception of emergency repairs... All purchases and sales above a limit established by ordinance shall be evidenced by written contract or purchase order."
LudCode of Ordinances sec 2.4: Purchases and Contracts: "... Sealed bids shall be asked for in all transactions involving the expenditure of $10,000.00 or more and the transaction evidenced by written contract submitted to and approved by the city council."
Presuming the emergency nature and that Hallack Contracting is the City's favorite for no-bid contracts in such emergencies, the City still erred. The City has an invoice from Hallack for this event, not a contract or even a purchase order. Such contract is needed for expenditures over $10,000, emergency or not. The work was all done by the end of the day on November 26, and an invoice for the transaction was made by Hallack on December 11, two weeks later. And not paid by the City until at least January 8 of 2013, four weeks later (On Jan 7, 2003 the City Council packet (p. 17) contains the $10,818.85 expenditure to Hallack for this repair, which was placed among all the City's expenses to be paid by approval of the 'paying of the bills'.). Hallack Contracting? Didn't they do the Staffon, Mitchell, Brother, and Dowland projects in the last year and a half also?
How can the City Council approve a contract, even after the "emergency", when such a contract never exists? Why can't they convene an emergency meeting and vote when an emergency arises, as the Open Meetings Act allows in section 5(5)? Why is unelected, unoathed John Shay, a person who has been uncontestedly labelled a "perjuror" at an open meeting of the Ludington City Council six times by the individual filing the successfully-prosecuted OMA lawsuit, given the power to unilaterally define what an emergency is before calling in his crony contracting firm for over $10,000 of taxpayer money for work/materials?
Is it simply because the City Council just doesn't care about protocol and the safeguards that have been put in the law to protect against the misuse of public monies? What the City Council has got to learn is that the ethical conduct of a City's City Manager (or lack thereof), reflects on the perceived image and effectiveness of the corresponding City Council. A clear understanding of what amounts to an "emergency" is something that would help, and to limit the times when such emergencies should be declared, as corruption is just a few emergencies away.
Good post X. Regarding the Hallack invoice. I don't understand the "mobilization" fee of $1680. I'm assuming it is for loading the equipment and material and "travel time" from their headquarters to the emergency repair site. I would assume that if a local contractor were hired this fee could have been avoided or at least reduced. The "mobilization" fee is around 15% of the job. If the "mobilization fee was for other needed expenses it would be nice to have it itemized so that it's purpose were made clearer. There sure seems to be a sweetheart arrangement between Shay and Hallack Contracting.
I'm presuming you are right about the mobilizing fee, that's what it usually refers to. Hallack Contracting needs to get here from Hart, and generally brings what they need up from there. It's kind of a shame that all the 'emergency' contractors seem to come from outside our county, be it Prein & Neuhoff, Hallack Contracting and Utility Services Maintenance. Three contractors that don't need to get approval or contracts from anyone but City Manager John Shay, and an occasional vote from the Ludington City Cohorts Cronies Council.
The mobilization fee is interesting unto itself, esp. when Hallack seems to already be in Ludington quite frequently, almost usually nowadays. I also find it interesting that a major lake/river is again being DUMPED into again, the PM LAKE. This illegal and environmentally dangerous type of spill has happened quite frequently by the COL in recent years, without financial penalties as law allows for such pollution insults into our lakes. Had it been a private citizen that polluted the lake, I'm sure he would be severely penalized/fined for such dumping, accidental or not. How is it the COL can repeatedly get away with such gross negligence in polluting?
Thanks EyE, and yes, don't you too?: and anyone else here, believe that the COL should be legally held to the same standards of safe stewardship/citizenship towards our environment as the private sector? If not, then I'm sad for your double standard thinking. It's called being in touch with and relying on your own DPW's information and interpretations of the conditions of the "entire infrastructure". This same location, the "Creamery Corners drain area", has been a bone of contention for such spillages to occur for many years past. In other words, per my experience with past/present DPW workers with first hand knowledge of this situation, the problems inherently there for the potential to be hazardous, has fallen on deaf ears from the COL CC members, and others like Shay in charge to see that potential hazards are mitigated "ahead of time", not "after the fact". The priorities at COL is for "tourist related projects", not the fragile/unkept infrastructure that exists throughout the entire COL's sewer system, street system, sidewalk system, alley system, and so much more. When COL officials true priorities for the COL residents/taxpayers is played down, ignored, postponed, and put on a back burner over and over, what would you expect to eventually happen? And no, I won't reveal my inside sources both present and past in this information, as it would dry-up in a big hurry if indeed I did.
Spills and leaks can occur from a variety of factors, some not necessarily under the control of the person/entity responsible. If a certain piping system is known to generally degrade after a certain number of years, perhaps we should hold some accountability if they go considerably beyond that time with the old piping. But unless there was other gross negligence involved, including neglecting engineering studies (as the COL seem to have done with the Brother Street repairs), allowing slipshod repairs, and ignoring leaks, I don't think it's a good idea to hold a public entity accountable for unforeseen leaks. These events can't be totally eliminated proactively.
EyE, the COL pays the DPW workers, there is no checkbook held by any local citizen to make their payroll, is there not? With regards to Whistleblowers, we can also look at the recent Byers case to ascertain what happens to them when they squeal. Just a few years back when sewer work was being done on S. James St. the road caved in for about a 100'+ section, poor infrastructure again, known about for some time, nothing done in advance for the cure. They called it a sinkhole situation to cover for the negligence. When in fact they knew of ancient tunnels from one side of the street to the other well back years ago.Clay structures in dire disrepair, you remember that? Do you not live and see what has happened all through years past in Ludington? Or are you another outsider claiming to live here, or perhaps recently moved here, and don't know the people nor the history? There's quite a few bandages made underground, slipshod repairs, and other shortcuts made to alleviate serious problems that the public may be unaware of, yesterday, and today. As for factory pollutions, many are monitored and paying fines for their pollution, Dow and the Foundry come to mind first. Many other factories haven't any pollution factors due to clean materials in usage. Woodworking used to be prevalent, and only creates sawdust. Cigar mfg., shoe mfg., cement mfg., canoe mfg., are a few on the PM Lake that had no pollutions, so wth are you talking about? The sewer and sidewalk problems of the 4th ward area have been a serious concern for many residents for many years, this isn't new, but it's still lurking everyday it's continued to be ignored. Jeeeez, get some factual information posted, instead of lame guessing all the time.
You just reminded me that I haven't shared the stuff I dug up at the DEQ in Cadillac about the City of Ludington's property at 428 E Dowland Street. Quite a polluted place, and allowed to be used by Hallack Contracting the whole summer for their base of operations.
Do you think the City notified Hallack of the history of that property before they denuded the area extensively and mixed it's seriously contaminated soil with other clean dirt spreading it in front of most properties along Dowland Street, including where I live? Nope. But then again, many properties along Dowland Street have contamination from prior industries, including where I live.
This liberal slant by the EyE shouldn't surprise anyone at all. Here we start a simple thread about discussions of COL non-bid illegal contracts without OMA behind the publics backs, and where does that lead us? To factory pollution by manufacturers of eons past. It's like a magician's trick: take your EyE off this hand, and look at the other hand holding a rabbit out of a hat. Aka spin-doctoring move. Quite convenient when the debate is going against the Liberal that supports Polluting PM Lake in Sewage Waste, due to poor infrastructure that has needed proper maintenance and repairs for decades. Questions should be directed to the COL administrators/city manager, of how this can be, and how it repeats itself over and over again. And WHEN they are going to budget more monies into badly needed infrastructure repairs into the future! Especially if they are below ground, where the public can't see them from above. Anyone know the last time the "creamery corners drain" had serious repairs made to it? The kind that doesn't allow for this type polluting into our PM Lake? Had the COL been heavily fined years past for such instances, perhaps it would be duly noted and fixed way back when it should have been.
Thank you for your unsolicited babble EyE, please join and take your off-thread comments to the Babylon.
There is no reason the City could not inspect, over time, all of the existing sewer system. The City could keep ahead of any potential problems by using currently available equipment. They could be identifying and cataloging areas that would need attention and could then keep an eye on those areas.
Particularly when they already have a sewer camera, as was noted in the O Brother Where are Thou Ethics with the violation of the OMA chronicled.
The main problem with the current administration is just that, they don't see infrastructure as a top priority in the COL, it's tourism, tourism, and more tourism, that always gets the first nod on project expenditures. And to me anyhow, that's NOT their job, infrastructure should be at the TOP of their list in project expenditures. Until and unless that attitude changes, look for more sewer and infrastructure related "emergencies" to exist and repeat themselves into the future, with Shay making more lame/false excuses to the public.