If desiring transparency, City Clerk Vander Clay would be more forthcoming in her announcement for tomorrow’s special meeting that only stated that the business to be transacted as ‘Authorization to apply for a Pokagon Grant.’ If the city leadership plans on applying for money through The Pokagon Fund to pay for lifeguards, no wonder Vander Clay is keeping it a secret. The funding for the lifeguards should be coming out of our taxes and if it isn’t there, we not only need to take a hard look at how they are spending money at city hall but object to a grant application for a service that should be provided through the city’s annual budget.
Voters approved a four million dollar bond five months ago for street repavement and also renewed a special park improvement fund that provides $100,000 in park revenues every year. The city also received 1.6 million dollars from the Pokagon Fund for the downtown development project. On top of that, the city receives annually at least $300,000 from the Four Winds Local Revenue Sharing Board. And one can’t forget that in 2016, before the city even raised the parking rate at the beach from $10 to $12 per day, $245,000 was collected. We all thought the lifeguards were paid through the annual park fees. Where exactly does that money go? It has been years since any improvements have been made at the beach even though over one million dollars has been collected through the park improvement millage fund since it was originally approved through a public vote in 2008.
With all these additional revenue sources, it’s not crazy to think the city should provide us with the services our city taxes are supposed to be used for, especially since the majority of tax revenue comes from the higher rates of non-homestead properties. Every week we are informed by city employees of another belt tightening budget cut that reduces our services. Even a mere $4,000 to record public meetings had to be eliminated, now the lifeguards, perhaps with any luck certain administrative positions at city hall will be next. The administrative team could be part-time during the winter months. And why did the city council approve an additional 14 sick days in December 2017 for City Manager Dave Richards when he was an employee for less than a year? Evidently that wasn’t a belt tightening issue and the city council members can say no to public safety at the beach but not to a new employee requesting over two weeks additional time off.
A news release in an article on the 57 News website stated that City Manager Dave Richards said that the City’s risk management insurance provider suggested that lifeguards provide a potential liability. New Buffalo to eliminate lifeguards
Since the city street supervisor:
filed a baseless lawsuit against three other employees and a private citizen,
was the reason for a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the city lost,
filed a frivolous ethics complaint against the police chief that cost the city $10,000,
caused $5,000 in damages to a city vehicle when he ran it into another vehicle,
and is the center of at least one MI Civil Rights complaint filed against the city,
it seems that the city’s risk management insurance carrier would be concerned with the liability caused by him. At the very least, the city council members should be more concerned about the continued liability issues caused through an employee instead of a concern about a possible liability issue caused by lifeguards. The lifeguards save and protect lives and haven’t caused any liability issues. Their funding should be a no brainer for the members of the city council. One death due to not funding the lifeguards will be laid at their feet.