Ludington City Council Meeting July 27, 2015, pt. 2: Fishbeck and Falsehoods

Pardon for the late release of this article on the eve of the next city council meeting, but it's midsummer in Ludington, and I've been awash in all sorts of things.   This is a look at alternate issues in the July 27 Ludington City Council meeting that came up in the second video below, the first part of this analysis was in part 1

This second part of the meeting, which took place after a five minute recess began with a discussion on the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and the unilateral hiring of Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber (aka "Fishbeck").  In part one, my opening comment referred to the city not having an up to date permit, an NPDES permit, and not using charter-mandated competitive bidding.

July 27, 2015 Ludington City Council pt 2 from Mason County District Library on Vimeo.

At (00:45) in, City Manager John Shay claims:  "Contrary to the comments, the city is legally operating under the old permit issued by the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality]." 

But is it?  Not according to FOIA responses I've received from the Michigan DEQ, and the MDEQ website.  Navigation on the official MDEQ website to the NPDES active permits get you here:

You will see the permit expired in 2011, just like I said, and there is a 'major flag' put on it, Oxychem, former Mayor John Henderson's bailiwick, also hasn't had one since 2011, and has a major flag.  Do any of the other 32 NPDES permits in Mason County have expired permits or major flags?  Nope, just those that John Henderson had/have some control of.

Is operating without a valid NPDES permit for four years legal?  Not according to the MDEQ:

So the NPDES is required by law for the Ludington WWTP to discharge wastewater into their Pere Marquette lagoon.  Shay and the City of Ludington's 57 attorneys have effectively and discretely kept our WWTP non-compliant with state standards for four years, as I noted.  I never said it was against the law, but it obviously is according to the DEQ, and it's obviously contrary to the public health and safety as I put forth. 

The City of Ludington has devoted many thousands of your tax dollars to covering up and trying to postpone this matter for as long as possible.  The MDEQ has allowed them to do so, also contrary to the laws of Michigan.  The WWTP has been putting unlawful amount of ammonia and other pollutants into standing water near the Pere Marquette River.  Is this what we want for us and our kids living here?  Shay lies, we dies.

He then tries to justify why hiring Fishbeck without bids to do the engineering work for the WWTP work is good for us.  This amounts to him saying that Fishbeck has been intimately involved in the process of the WWTP upgrades and NPDES permit over the last few years, which isn't part of the record.  The city council has not authorized Fishbeck to do this work, although they have been authorized to work on water treatment plant issues, this is their first official foray into the wastewater side.  Here's their record on that.

The city hired Fishbeck for a design engineering study of the Water Treatment Plant at the March 9, 2015 LCC Meeting without any competitive bids being performed, nor is there any credible reason why it would be clearly in the city's advantage. 

Fishbeck has a charmed life in the eyes of John Shay and the city, even when competitive bids are taken.  For even when other firms respond to Requests for Proposals (RFP) containing what needs exactly to be done, Fishbeck gets the contract even when they are not even in the first tier of bidders as regards price.

Fishbeck had been hired over seven other firms to do a Water reliability study on April 9, 2012 as seen in this comparison of bids:

And who could forget the Washington Avenue Bridge engineering tasks and the bidding process there.  Fishbeck got the same specifications as seven other companies, they offered their bid which was just under a quarter of a million dollars.  Our own Nordlund & Associates offered their services for about a quarter of Fishbeck's proposal to do the same work.  You may as well not even do competitive bidding if you perform it this way-- which is not competitive bidding.  But is the city council and all of our other officials that stupid not to know this?!

After passing a resolution to issue bonds up to $15 million to pay for the WWTP work, they then went through their proposed charter amendments, keying in on upping the city manager's 'term' to go five years rather than one year.  As usual, the proposed amendment makes our government less accountable to the people.

They then passed a drive-thru ordinance for the downtown area.  The city had previously ran the drive-in facilities out of town via their municipal powers back about a generation ago, it is nice they have dialed this intolerance back. 

They then capitulated on the dog beach issue, sending it back to committee for further research, saying that they were needing to review it more.  Methinks they were more intimidated by the contingent that came out for the measure, especially Mr. Spence Riggs and his new job (since May, 2015) as Economic Development Coordinator at the Mason County Growth Alliance. 

Mayor Cox set a special meeting for Thursday, August 13, dealing with the Rental Inspection Program (RIP).  Hopefully, at the end of this meeting, it will R.I.P., or better, be put on the ballot in 2016 because it is a tax, just like Obamacare.  

The meeting wound down with the usual schmoozing about events that went well, events to come, and back-patting.  To this oblivious crowd, the meeting went well even with the lack of Mayor Cox admitting his conflict of interest in the ORV/Golf Cart ordinances, the city manager lying about the NPDES permit, the cronyism showed yet once again to Fishbeck, etc. 

Business as usual at the Ludington City Hall.

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Let me google that for you :)

And per your request it's only 20 years old :)

Once again, freedom of speech is a powerful tool. If your going to use it you should really take the time to insure you are using it correctly and responsibly or else you are just doing everyone a disservice. 

But not per my request does it have the mention of a "flag" or come from the state agency, the MDEQ. 

The link, though dated does seem to indicate that those given the 'major' label on a quarterly non-compliance report (QNRC) by the federal EPA cannot be downgraded to a minor until the non-compliance is resolved. 

Junno, in the other thread you berate one of our newer members for being imprecise and/or reckless, but your three attempts to show what a "major flag" designation is by the Michigan DEQ have all failed miserably. 

Maybe you should just go over to the COLDNews or MCP on Facebook and enjoy your morning coffee while looking through the latest court arraignments and other Pollyannaish community news.  It's easier to respond without being corrected there.

Looks up to date to me... 

Junno,

Once again, you need to practice what you preach to others.  The page you are showing is an NEC permit, here's a description of NEC Permits, and how they differ from the NPDES permit.  Having a valid NEC permit (if you are even required to have one) is a whole different things than a NPDES permit.

Being that you were computer-savvy enough to navigate to that page and take a screen shot of it, you undoubtedly saw at the page directing you there that the NPDES permit for the Ludington WWTP was expired at the link directly above it.  Enjoy swimming at Stearn's Park, where dog poop may be the least of your worries.

Junno, from a citizen's standpoint, can you explain the two unexplained contaminated fish I just saw in an earlier post? Why is this sudden appearance happening now? Do you actually care if people die that consume it? Do you care about this local environmental question? 

Junno has his head buried too far in the sand to worry about the water conditions.  He figures that John Shay's non-compliance with the Clean Water Act for four years (and likely more, since I'm sure this was brought to the city manager's attention well before the last NPDES permit expired) is what we need. 

But there are repercussions; these fish may be a symptom of what may be happening to us now, and it won't necessarily come out in countywide statistics immediately.  If Jasper's source(s) is reliable and knowledgeable of past trends, it could have some weight.

In the meantime, knowledge that John Shay and our other city leaders knew about this and spent tons of money on contractors (legal, cost of service, engineering, etc.) to mitigate it without going through council to get their okay and to make it public is, in my view, criminal on their part and a disservice to their fellow citizens.

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