Dexter City Council Meeting – July 16: Sanam Arab sworn in as new council member

By: Aimee Bingham Osinski

The Dexter City Council July 16 meeting began with a Swearing in Ceremony as Sanam Arab was sworn in as a city council member by Justin Breyer.

Approval of minutes; both sets of minutes were approved. Alex requested a minor change  which was approved.

Prearranged participation: Jennifer Olmstead of Ann Arbor Spark wanted to say thank you for the support of regional economic development.  She detailed the work Spark has done in Dexter. If any company in Dexter is hiring in the stem field, the company could get a matching grant from spark.  They have Summer and Fall interns.  Spark has provided support to many local businesses during Covid and will continue to serve businesses in the community.  Paul Cousins wanted to know the formula for the number Dexter provides. She explained that Dexter does not match what other communities are doing but Spark is happy to have Dexter participate.  Zach asked if there is anything the city can do to help market the former Encore space or the space in the Broad St. space? She is aware of the space and will provide companies the information if it fits the needs.

The agenda was approved.

Communications letter from Paul McCann regarding the city’s appointee to library board.  The meeting list was included.  The mayor requested recommendations for the library board.


Dan Schlaff discussed public services: This weekend he was approached between the 4th and 5th by residents who noticed that cars are parking in a way that encroaches and residents pulling out have to be in traffic to get out.   He wants to push the cars back 10-15ft so people can be safer pulling out.  Dan noted that contractors are very busy and he’s struggling to get bids for the main issue on Hudson St. He will continue to work to get the right number of bids on the project.   He received a call from a resident with sewer lead issues.  He is hoping to chat with her tomorrow so he can help her with the issue.  The mayor noted that the weeds were growing beside the new section of path.  He stated the weeds are creating a tunnel effect and he wondered if it could be mowed.  It no longer has the open fee as it used to have. Dan is going to look into it.  He does not believe a mower would work due to the ground in the area.  Jamie stated that she thinks the flowers are beautiful but she understands that safety could be a concern. Justin noted DPW  is looking into  equipment  that might work to address the issue.  The Council will be able to get a full tour of the wastewater plant.

Michelle Aniol spoke next: The mayor noted that the scio master plan meeting has been confirmed for the 20th at noon.  If Council have comments after looking over the masterplan, please email Michelle.   DDA  blue pallets in front of the Beer Grotto presented some sort of safety risk.  Michelle stated  barricades are not required to be a specific color.  Michelle will provide alternatives if people are still concerned.   She will keep everyone up to date on decisions

DAFD board is making some revisions regarding bi-laws.   The revisions surround the member at large positions.  Jamie made some suggestions  and the mayor provided additional documents  that may help further her understanding.  DAFD is not meeting in July so this will likely be on the agenda  in August.

The sheriff  report was clarified  for Zach by Justin.   Zach is concerned by subsidizing  other areas.  Justin suggested it might be a good issue to discuss during contract negotiations.

Justin Breyer  City Manager report was next;  Justin will be attending a conference next week.  Posted for another graduate management intern.  Someone from OHM is helping with a variety of projects.  Scio Township treasurer stated that a new contract might need to be entered into with the senior center.  Scio township is in the same spot and they will need to do the same.  Phase 2 was done on the Broad St. property on Friday. American Rescue Plan application is due July 27th and has already been filed. Jamie wanted clarification regarding the senior center.  Jamie wanted to know if all the subcommittees have logos and if  there is a cohesive design style.  Jamie thought it would be good to have a dedicated conversation about the sale of city property, the amendment.

Mayor’s Report;  The Mayor did not have a lot to report. He noted there will be a walk through with the owner on Friday at 3pm.

City Council Reports:

Consent Agenda was approved.

Old Business:

  1. Consideration of Setting a Public Hearing Regarding a Conflict of Interest Ordinance; Jamie made a motion to set a public hearing for August 9th. Sanam thinks selecting a version would be better for the public.  Zach is comfortable having general comments from the public on the topic of conflict of interest.  Paul noted that Jamie has done a lot of work for the council.  Jamie wanted to point out the idea of establishing a board of ethics. The mayor would like to hear public comment on establishing a board of ethics. The motion did not pass so it will be  a discussion  item at the next meeting to select  a version to bring forward to the public hearing.  Sanam really liked the idea of a board of ethics.  She noted that complaints should go to the board of ethics, but the body would make the decisions.  Sanam would be fine with a majority appointing a board of ethics rather than 6 out of 7.   She thinks 28 days is too long and should be limited to two weeks.  The board of ethics would be community members. Donna is concerned with vetting of members.
  2. Discussion of Fire Facilities General Discussion; The Mayor is hoping to get everyone started from the same perspective or point. May not all have the same opinion but might be due to different information.    Everyone should have the same information to formulate a decision.    Jamie noted there has been so much work on this in the past.  Jamie wants to know what the key decision points were in the past. Chief Smith has offered to walk council members through  the facility.  Jamie feels historical context and information from Chief Smith are important.  Sanam stated she was provided a walk through  from Chief Smith. Sanam thinks the pocket from Jim Smith was useful to her as well.  Sanam believes it is good to start at the same level of information when the discussion starts. Donna noted that Jim Smith wants a fire department and his research is likely biased.   Sanam thinks a timeline would be most helpful rather than opinions. The Mayor wants to know how far back people want to go.  Donna asked what is the benefit of going back? Zach noted that if any of this were easy, it would have been done much easier.  Zach noted this type of building is extremely complex. Zach would like to have a discussion for the guiding principles for the fire station. He mentioned the council should  have guiding principal decisions.  Zach thinks the council should have training  to make decisions.  Then the council should direct staff to collect information.   Jamie offered  some suggestions as a way to provide public input.  The Mayor asked if  Zach’s idea of guiding  principles should be the meat and potatoes of the next discussion.  Zach offered  an intro to fire station design and noted the complexity of it. Chief Smith  mentioned a presentation he is making in Dexter Township.  He’s happy to put it on for city council as well. He had zero  input on Dexter Township but had a lot more  input on Webster  township.  In 2015 the Chief was asked to be a part of the facility board.  The public meeting that happened because the facilities board determined there was a need  and there was a desire for public input.    The facilities committee  was disbanded because  the committee made recommendations. It’s such a big topic the mayor doesn’t feel it belongs in committee.
  3. Consideration of: Authorization to Request Consultation Assistance from MIOSHA; This is about whether or not this building is unsafe. The Chief stated you must agree to fix anything that they find.  The Chief thinks this is a little scary. The Chief is concerned that these issues cannot be fixed in the current space. Obviously everyone wants our first responders to be  as safe as possible, but there is a timing issue and the solution may take some time. Jamie and Zach both want first responders  in a safe environment.  I’m sure  members of the community do too.  These are the people who rush to  save you, your kids, and even your pets in tragic situations.  As a person who is grateful to all first responders, I think it’s the minimum they deserve.    We do not know if it is unsafe or not.  Donna noted if it’s scary, what is the back up plan?  MIOSHA was called to look at the bunk room upstairs.  The item was resolved back then and was all they looked at in 2013.  There are some obvious things that are a safety hazard.  Wa would be more comfortable with the chief putting together a list  as the first step to try to address the problems. Zach would be happy to postpone until the next meeting if staff would look into the MIOSHA rules on timing.  He would like the Chief to bring back information. Zach believes that MIOSHA is an independent outside source to weigh in on issues and needs.  The Chief was concerned about conflict.   The mayor asked why firefighters would sleep there if it was unsafe.   Firefighters by nature make sacrifices  for the people they serve.   They run into burning buildings and that’s unsafe. The firefighters are begging for help and they deserve it.   Zach made the motion to postpone with staff to bring back information. Zach wants the chief to bring back options on how fire service will be provided if it’s shut down.  The chief has to tell the fireboard first.  The date will be August 23.  The council asked the chief to create a list of issues of concern.  The Mayor wants to address the issues that can make things safer for the firefighters.  The motion passed.
  4. Consideration of Authorization for NFPA 1500 Inspection; Zach stated this is the standard on how to design a facility for safely operating a fire department. Zach wants to add this to the information on making policy decisions.  NFPA is an independent source to provide more knowledge.  There are people internally certified to do it.  Zach just offered a  more independent source to help avoid skepticism. NFPA 1500 is the OSHA for the fire service. The Chief has done this report in 2016 and submitted it to the DAFD board.   It’s not  hard prescriptive code, it’s a judgement. The chief suggested that another chief could validate what the chief provides. The Mayor suggested the most recent one the chief has created be provided to the council.   The Chief did the work this year. This is a standard. Zach wanted to know how long a consultation visit would take.  The Chief stated the end of August would be the earliest. Zach amended to have the Chief povid his most recent study.  And for the Chief to let council know  the process for a second set of eyes if needed in the future.  The motion carried.
  5. Discussion of: Seeking the Support of an External Facilitator; Jamie was encouraged by this evening’s conversation. As an observer, I am impressed by how well these conversations progressed and how much people listened and how thoughtfully the ideas were handled.

New Business:

  1. Consideration of City Manager Contract; The Mayor discussed an employment agreement with Justin. Took previous agreements and modified the language here and there. Starting salary of $85,000. It is a three year contract. A stipend of $3,000 per year to maintain the election certification he provides for the city. Jamie asked questions regarding details of the contract. Jamie spoke regarding how valuable she believes public input is. She reached out to residents to get feedback on Ms. Arab’s position as a reference prior to being placed on the council.  Jamie noted the public did express concerns about Ms. Arab voting on this particular issue.  One of the people from the MML stated that in a small town this is inevitable and this isn’t a financial gain for Ms. Arab so  it’s not an issue of council conflict of interest.   Wa stated  she is not concerned that this is a conflict of interest, someone from the MML clearly stated that it is not.   Ms. Arab wanted to reply.  She stated she has over 10 years of hiring background and has served in many search committees.  She has a record without issue and she takes this a little personal that this is even a question. Ms. Arab was approached months prior to Julie leaving the council. Sanam asked if we create a conflict of interest oridancne that is so restrictive   because people on the council participate, volunteer and are active parts of the community.   Snam will not vote if the council does not want her to vote.  But Sanam noted that she will vote with a clear conscience  without conflict.   Zach spoke on issues that he believes needs  addressing in the contract.   Jamie noted having a conflict of interest or perceived conflict does not  require or imply nefarious motives.  The motion to postpone and clean up the contract carried.
  2. Bid Award to T&M Asphalt Paving Inc. for Dexter Crossing Road Work for an Amount not to Exceed $454,100; Patrick Droze from OHM  explained the aggregate was there. If more is needed it will be supplied at that rate, which was a concern for Zach. The bid came in at about $80,000 under the engineers estimate. The motion carried.
  3. Contract with MDOT for 3rd and Broad St.; Reconstruction Bids back today and came back over the engineers estimate. Overages are split with Mdot. Mdot takes 80% and the city takes 20%.  Zach asked if the council has approved this design?  Zach is concerned about  some design elements, which he explained to the council.   Patrick from OHM addressed what he could of Zach’s concerns. The next step would be getting it back to MDOT. The project is a way out.  Patrick noted that due to use of Federal dollars and a small part of work needs to be done this year.  Toward the end of the summer there should be a construction meeting and some sort of work.  All that would be done is some brush taken out at 3rd and Broad.  The motion carried.4. Return to In-Person Meetings; The motion all boards and committees return to in person in September.   The goal is to provide the public with continued Zoom access.   Jamie wanted clarification on Council members’ participation via Zoom.   People can participate virtually through the end of the year.  Does a council member need to have a medical condition to be on Zoom?    This will be clarified. The motion passed.

5.3515 Broad Street User Group;   This group would get together to develop the final design to bring back to the city council.  Zach thinks people who use the spaces should help with design.  They know what they need and what they use more than  architects .  The Mayor invited other members of council to join the meetings, they are welcome. The motion carried.

Council Comments: Sanam stated she is happy to be here and working with everyone. Jamie is striving to earn the trust of the council and members of the community. Donna Fisher noted that Marie always gets the work done ahead of time.  Paul  hopes that they can come together  and make this part of democracy work.  Zach explained his vote on the street.  He is excited about how the voting on the fire department and facilities went. Zach noted that the public trust in government is diminished.  Wa has no comments. Alex  welcomed Aaron to the council.  Aaron thanked everyone for the opportunity to be a part of the meeting.

Non Arranged participation: Ryan Henyard spoke.  He wants to make  certain that conflict of interest prevents people from wanting to be a part of community work.  Ryan noted that conflict of interest can be easily weaponized.   He believes community activity is important and he is worried that  people won’t be able to participate. Ryan noted things that are happening in Chelsea right now, membership in an organization is causing people to attempt to recall members of the government. Being a community means we can be in conflict with each other  but we can work together. People can come together and work around differences.   Make disagreement on the merits of the arguments.

The meeting adjourned.



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