A recent water main break affecting water service east of Ludington on a holiday weekend showed a major difference in the response by the two cities involved.  We will look at that difference and show what recent change in policy by Ludington City Hall helped exacerbate the situation.

Around noon on Saturday May 24th on Memorial Day weekend, a water main was ruptured in the system owned by the City of Ludington (COL) affecting those water customers along the corridor between cities, WSCC, and Scottville.  The first official entity to break the news on social media on the water main break to the public happened to be the City of Scottville (COS).  

They promised details to follow and they followed up, despite it being a weekend incident when city hall is closed as are usually all city departments, even the SPD.  Many of the 21 comments are answers and updates supplied to citizens about the rupture.  Nearly two hours later, the City of Ludington would put out their own update on Facebook.  This would have zero comments by citizens, and zero updates (despite saying they would have those) due to a recent policy change by the city that has six times the population of Scottville. 

They would post only one more posted update the next day, when repairs were finished.  For some reason, they didn't pass along information on how their customers would need to be able to drink water safely as the COS did, nor information on where to pick up donated water.  The COS, even without a city manager, gave out a lot of information through seven other posts posted by Treasurer Kathy Shafer, who along with COS DPW Superintendent Justin Coolman answered citizen questions left in the comments.  These updates would continue until the water boiling notice was officially lifted on Tuesday morning.  As the last post was placed, they asked their citizens to PLEASE reach out and ask them any lingering questions:

The two COL posts with zero comments or updates either gave no direction other than to wait for further updates or to look at the COS page.  Such a disconnect from their exurb water customers was a far cry from the special connection the COS made in order to make sure that the water coming from the COL water plant was safe to drink by their citizens. 

Had that water main break happened within the Ludington city limits, one has to believe that Ludington citizens would have gotten the same two notifications since they were only water customers too, but they wouldn't have a social media connection and officials who would actually suspend for a moment their weekend plans in order to communicate with the folks affected in a potentially dangerous situation, as the COS did with the actions of Shafer and Coolman.

Why has the City of Ludington thrown away their ability to communicate with the folks that pay them when they have many more people on their staff able to handle such notifications?  Credit your fleeing city manager, Mitch Foster, for that.  A couple of weeks ago, I asked through the FOIA for records dealing with the COL's policy change to not allow for two-way communication on their social media posts, which they had just invoked at the time. 

In response, I got the meeting notes of a committee and an email that Foster sent out.  From the May 6, 2024 Finance and Personnel Committee minutes:

This meeting happened the afternoon before the city council's meeting, so it could have been brought up at that meeting for discussion and action but wasn't.  The policy was put into place at the beginning of the following week and has been the case since.  At the May 20 meeting, the topic would not come up for discussion.  Once again, the COL has passed a policy in committee, but has failed to bring it before the full council and the public at a council meeting before effectuating the policy. 

This is a violation of the Open Meetings Act since the committee meetings do not need to (and don't) follow that act; all decisions on public policy are to be made at a sufficiently noticed meeting open to the public.  Just before taking the 'social' aspect out of social media, Foster would broadcast to all department leaders and elected officials through the following email that the city was going to be going to the dark side:

"Moving forward, we need to make sure that we are disabling commenting on each post... this prevents issues from popping up later in time."

Frankly, we are not moving forward when the people that we pay good money to provide us with information go out of their way in order to try to shut off the best way to communicate with us in good times or in emergencies.  Scottville is moving forward; all of these elected Ludington city officials who have sat quietly by while our city manager sneaks away and leaves us with this embarrassing policy that could endanger lives are moving backwards, big time. 

Views: 586

Reply to This

© 2024   Created by XLFD.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service