At the end of the August 28, 2017 city council meeting, just after we heard of the plumbing issues that the City would have to contend with at the new Maritime Museum, Ludington City Manager John Shay added:
"On a much much different note, because I am sure it will come out, but I was notified today that our DPW was out on the north breakwall, replacing the life rings and so forth, they were out on a golf cart, and to make a long story short, the golf cart ended up in the lake with one of our employees, who fortunately was not hurt, and the golf cart has been removed from the lake by Abrahamson Marine.
I'm not exactly sure of all the circumstances that led up to that, but just to let you know: There were two employees out there, one that was on the cart at the time, one that was not. The person that went in the water was not hurt, fortunately, the golf cart has been removed, and we'll be checking it out from a mechanical point of view."
City Attorney Richard Wilson and Mayor Kaye Holman joked about the incident immediately afterwards, and the meeting quickly moved back to other topics. Nothing has been officially said of it since.
On reflection, while the incident has its own levity, there are issues here that need to be further addressed regarding safety, liability, and propriety.
In regards to safety, I offer three news articles from within the last year detailing three incidents of tragic deaths involving people riding golf carts (none on golf courses), where the victims were riding near bodies of water when their golf cart encountered uneven ground. This seems to be a recurring theme with golf carts being used as off-road vehicles. Texas' news source, The Facts recounts an accident that happened on June 10, 2017:
PEARLAND TX— Authorities believe an 11-year-old boy drowned when he accidentally drove a golf cart into a pond on his neighbor’s property.
Harrison Chase Brown’s father went to check on him at about 8 p.m. Saturday when the boy did not return home from feeding an out-of-town neighbor’s animals...
The man found his son trapped beneath a golf cart that had landed in a pond. Harrison’s father pulled the boy out of the pond and attempted to revive him until emergency medical personnel arrived and took over...
Patrol deputies believe Harrison cut a corner too quickly as he drove the golf cart around the pond, causing the vehicle to fall forward into the water and pin the 11-year-old beneath it.
Florida Today reported on October 9, 2016 of another fatal drowning accident involving a golf cart:
MELBOURNE FL-- A Melbourne woman was killed after the golf cart she was riding in overturned into a canal filled by water early Sunday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Tammy Russell, 40, was a passenger in the cart driven by 54-year-old James Russell of Melbourne. Russell was driving the cart near the pair's residence in a grass reason when, for an unknown reason it went down an embankment and overturned into the canal.
Tammy Russell was unable to escape and died on the scene. James Russell escaped without injury.
Only six days earlier, Cleveland19 reported an Ohio mother was killed in a pond, while two kids narrowly escaped the same fate:
ANDOVER, OH (WOIO) - A woman was killed over the weekend when a golf cart she was riding in crashed... Deputies say a 10-year-old friend of the family was driving the golf cart when it tipped in a pond, trapping 39-year-old Angela Telaroli of Canton.
The mother of one was life-flighted to Metro, where she died on Sunday.
Telaroli's child was also on the golf cart. Her child, and the one that was driving was not seriously injured.
The Ludington breakwater has some dangerous contours, beyond its 8-9 ft. main walkway, with a 30 degree dropoff terminating with a foot long drop onto a 5 ft. wide side walkway, with rough rocks abutting that. One can imagine a golf cart rolling off the main walkway and falling hard onto the lower walkway, and pitching the occupant into the jagged rocks, or otherwise see the occupant fall out and getting pinned under the cart. It actually seems quite improbable to me that no injury resulted from such a 'crash', as the physics of the situation is not favorable.
One cannot fail to notice, especially two DPW employees who regularly maintain the beach area, that a sign greets those going out to the lighthouse which prohibits motor vehicles from being driven on the breakwater. Our state defines motor vehicles to include golf carts, and so the two DPW employees willfully disregarded this law in order to take the life rings out in the cart.
Life rings with their rope bags are not otherwise heavy or bulky, there are only four life ring posts out that way. It would not be a hard task for one employee to walk out and replace any life rings/rope bags they needed to without violating the law and creating a dangerous situation.
Did this situation arise due to these workers breaking with city policy and ignoring the sign and the law? That was the main question I had when I made a FOIA request to the City to see:
"All public records dealing with the accident that occurred on or about August 28, 2017 concerning the accident where a 'golf cart' ridden by two Ludington DPW employees wound up falling off the breakwall with one of those employees inside it.
Please add any written policy that allows city employees or anybody else to take golf carts or any motor vehicle out on the breakwall, if such are not within the above records set, or certify that such records do not exist."
Among the three records I received on September 7th was the accident report made by Joe Wood, who with Joe Chaffee made this report to their supervisor Joe Stickney. The DPW loves Joes.
The old blue golf cart allegedly had a transmission malfunction and the occupant fortunately didn't come out until the cart was in the water, along with two life rings, lost at sea. The second record was the Abrahamson Invoice.pdf which showed their 'fishing expedition' to rescue the golf cart cost the City $850.75. The last record, an LPD Daily Activity Log.pdf of Steve Wietrzykowski, shows that he responded to the accident about 15 minutes after it occurred.
What was missing among the records was a policy that allowed golf carts to be on the breakwater, or the certification that there was no such written policy. Because of that, we will have to assume that there is no written policy denying city DPW employees from using golf carts on the breakwater, even though a sign prohibits others from doing so, and the state (MCL 257.657a(11)) and city controlling law (LCC sec. 58-176(7)) which prohibits golf carts from being used on sidewalks meant for pedestrian travel.
If they somehow rationalize that the breakwater is not a sidewalk, then we have to ask how did they get the golf cart out there in the first place, which could only be by using a sidewalk that reaches the breakwater right during the middle of the day (3:15 PM) when the beach would have been packed with pedestrians going out to and back from the lighthouse.
Frankly, that's a major safety issue too, trying to squeeze past groups of tourists on an 8 foot wide strip of concrete with a golf cart which will tumble down the side if a small error of judgment is made by these seasonal DPW employees. Frankly, I see that as a potential liability that could cost the City of Ludington (and more importantly, it's taxpayers) millions of dollars when the next cart falls and somebody gets seriously hurt or killed. Rather than a few thousand in cart repairs and recovery.
Just as serious of an issue is the city's lack of common sense in laughing off the issue instead of addressing it while wearing grown-up pants. City Attorney Wilson thought it was very funny for he surely knows that if an accident happens, he and his attorney friends in Manistee and Grand Rapids will have a feast on your taxes trying to defend why the city management allowed their employees to continue using golf carts after this incident should have made them reinforce the existing prohibition by sign and law, and otherwise should have led to an order for immediate cessation of using golf carts on the breakwater.
But ten days later, by the lack of any such records (including E-mails and memorandums) emphasizing the need to quit the dangerous practice that John Shay told the council and many other so-called public safety officers in attendance on August 28th, city management shows exactly why few have any confidence in their competence, and their ability to handle liability issues that involve their officers openly doing what other citizens would get ticketed for. They still haven't addressed the issue following another city council meeting where they took the time instead to try and spin a court decision in their favor.
As if spending $7000 or more to defend their overestimation of costs of a FOIA request by over a factor of 25 wasn't enough proof that they are totally out of touch with reality and unable to manage your money wisely.
If Churchill lived in Ludington: "Never have so many,(taxpayers) owed so much,(taxes) to so few (Ludington's cabal of corruption)."
Perhaps Willy can use some of his creative genius to show us where the golf cart seat and two life rings went in a fabricated photo or meme. Good questions and imagery, Verdad, and thanks for reusing my alliterative term for Ludington's ruling class(less), shinblind; there is no copyright.
While we wait for Willy, perhaps this should be the City of Ludington's next purchase?
That's funny shinblind. I'd like to have one of those.
Perhaps these city leaders would see things differently if all these expenses were coming out of their paychecks and retirement accounts. Those folks must be ignorant...the only conclusion I can some to at this point. When will they learn that people have the right to public records and they have the obligation to provide these documents? They are spending tax payers money to hide what already belongs to the public...clearly not very enlightened choice on their part.
Speaking of carelessness with money, there is still the money belonging to the Shop with A Cop program that has not been accounted for and it is almost Christmas again.
Accountability, humility and integrity.... something more people in public service need to value ahead of themselves and their friends.
There will be plenty of reminders given out to remind locals to invest their donations in something other than the local Shop with a Cop program, where their money will actually be used for making Christmas better for the increasing ranks of poor folks. Just down the street from me is the Ludington branch of the Salvation Army, who have given out an extraordinary amount of food and gifts around the holidays to needy Ludington area families for well over a hundred years.
Then there's Fivecap's programs of Toys for Tots and Gifts for Teens, which always could use more money to spread Christmas cheer. These are charities who have proven their worth through the years to the people of the area. Whereas, the SWAC program fiscally managed by the City of Ludington, couldn't explain why an audit showed over 10% of their budget was unaccounted for, or explain why extra funds were banked rather than given out to the needy.
The City of Ludington is the same Scrooge Convention that drove affordable housing out of the area when they voted for the Rental Inspection Ordinance just before Halloween in 2015, to kick in right before the holidays. I know of many tenants who had to move out of town or face massive rent hikes because of the reckless law. But without a RIO artificially increasing the average area rents, they couldn't attract developers to invest in heavily-government-subsidized residential multi-family dwellings in town. In the years between, the poor and their families have nowhere to live in Ludington.
This incident report is a crock of shit. Especially, when they write "OLD" blue golf cart. Implying it was old so it didn't matter. Always minimizing their accountability with tricky words at others expense and safety. Deplorable and Appalling!
When the golf cart went for a swim it suddenly became "Old Blue" because if its value is over $1,000 a police report has to be filed.
Does the job replacing the life rings really require 2 people and a golf cart?
Was "Old Blue" trailered to the pier? How much time does this job normally waste?
If we use wherever the life rings are stored as a starting point,couldn't one worker grab the rings toss them in a pickup and install them at least as quickly as 2 workers could get a pickup, hook up a trailer, drive the golf cart on a trailer, drive to the pier,unload the golf cart drive down the pier, install the rings. drive the cart on the trailer, drive the cart back to wherever it goes, drive the cart off the trailer, hook the cart up to a charger or refuel it, and return the trailer from wherever it is stored. Does this require a major time/motion study to see which one is more cost effective?
How come Shay didn't mention the transmission failure at the end of the city council meeting?
Is Shay so dense that he didn't ask the workers "How did this happen?" before the meeting or was the malfunctioning transmission a fabrication, a crock of bull, a cover story that they didn't have time to get down pat before the meeting.
Did the brakes also fail on "Old Blue"? No mention in the report about trying to stop.
Will "Ol' Blue" now be retired to the Maritime Museum? Legacy Park? How about the West End where it can spent its golden years gazing at the North breakwall.
Methinks "old blue" is another diversion from the other "CRITICAL" issues that are much more pertinent to the COL at this time, and Shyster Shay plays this for all it's worth nowadays. After all, it's "HIS BS" that has to get the most headlines, and confidence, right? ALL OTHERS are, and esp. X's statements, are just filled with "incompetence and validity", but facts and documentation are different, so I think. It's just too bad the LDN/MCP can't see that now, at long last, and at least ask themselves, WTF is real, and WTF is BS????????????????
You have to look at Shay's employment depends on the city council, renewal of his contract is in just couple of short months. With this council being as weak as they are , they would be to lazy to even think about going through a interview process for a replacement. Hang in there Shyster, you probably have a life time job running the city of Ludingtons tax payers to the pour house at least till the council changes. But wait, maybe that's the plan with all the low income housing, we won't be able to own our homes anymore with the taxes going up every year.