2018-02-08 / News

Massey calls meeting to berate task force

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

GRAND BLANC TWP. — During the Jan. 23 meeting of the township board Trustee Ken Thomas attempted to make a motion to have Township Attorney David Lattie look into the process of dissolving the joint operating agreement between the city and the township regarding the fire department.

This was in response to the city’s move (See “City review of dissolution prompts Twp. concerns” on Pg. 1) to have a task force of their council look into it as an option; following months of unsuccessful negotiations to agree on additional funding for the service.

This led to an objection by Trustee Joe Massey who called for a subsequent meeting of the township fire task force Jan. 30th. He expressed his feelings that looking into the process might “escalate something else” and also said, “based on the information I have at my fingertips that would probably be a way to commit suicide.”

Massey, Thomas, Clerk Cathy Lane and Earl Guzak compose the task force and all but Massey were in consensus during the board meeting that it should be done to be prepared in case it happened. Massey intimated he had additional information the task force needed to hear, but none was provided.

Thomas expressed doubts about his claim of informtation, but he and Lane agreed to postpone a decision until they could meet. Initially at that subsequent meeting, Massey said he had concerns about how the millage would be presented to the public and he verbally sparred with the other members of the task force, especially Thomas, in a dispute over several points, several of which had Massey being corrected for misstatements of fact, including a statement that the millage not passing would cause “massive lay-offs”. The fire department only employs four full-time firefighters including the chief.

He then intimated the millage not passing would impact the entire township budget and staff, and was again corrected it would not and it was explained the current half a mill doesn't end until 2019 so they would still have time to ask for the additional half in subsequent election. The township decided to put it to the ballot this year to avoid the cost of a special election next year.

The meeting several times fell just short of name-calling and bickering and was defused multiple times including an attempt by Lane which then moved Massey to accuse her.

“You have more tricks up your sleeve than a Christmas Turkey,” he said.

Thomas accused Massey of not wanting the township to ‘be prepared for battle’, which was denied, but Massey admitted he called Thomas ‘silly’ for wanting Lattie to proceed. Massey added he is just trying to avoid the dissolution but then proceeded to accuse Thomas of the possibility of ‘sounding bad’ in a meeting.

Massey also said, “I have more stake in what the residents need than the residents themselves (as a trustee).”

Massey said he felt the township had no “Plan B’ in case the millage failed. Thomas explained the Plan B, was to ask for it in the next election. Massey eventually agreed to Lattie looking into the dissolution process but then went on to say he just doesn't want someone to purport they never discussed it because “this is what happens sometimes after meetings”. This statement was questioned by the task force.

When Thomas suggested Massey more clearly explain the impact of funding on the city to the fire commission, Massey replied, “You do not go to a meeting and express something that we have not discussed (as a township board).”

Thomas was taken aback because the funding has been discussed, as he said, “ad nauseum” (extensively) and asked, ‘What?”.

Massey repeated the statement and Thomas queried, “What haven’t we discussed?”

“We’re getting a strategy together for the election, now, okay?” Massey said. “That’s totally different than going to a meeting shooting from the hip.”

“Shooting from the hip? These are black and white numbers,” Thomas replied. “These are numbers they agree on.”

Massey repeated his assertion and then said, “You’re not hearing from the community like I am. You’re not out there with the residents like I am.”

Lane questioned why Massey would think he speaks to resident more than Thomas.

“Let me say something,” Massey replied. “Now you’ve hit on a sore spot. Now you’ve asked me and I’m going to tell you, regardless of how you take this. I believe I’m a better politician than Ken Thomas. That’s because of the confidence I have in myself.”

Thomas replied, “It’s not a competition.”

Massey then went on about the point and Thomas tried to redirect the conversation back to the task force but they eventually ended up in a verbal wrestling match in which Massey claimed to have more experience and knowledge than Thomas and accused him of never having been to a meeting, which is false.

Thomas almost left the meeting at this point, but Burdette got them to stand down.

Burdette added that the funding would also be used for vehicle replacement of those which are nearing their recommended end of life.

“The main point is if the millage doesn't pass, what is going to happen?” Massey asked. The group explained should the public not approve the additional half mill, the fire department would have to go back to an on-call volunteer fire department, which Chief Bob Burdette explained would likely result in doubling the response time for fire calls.

The task force is expected to recommend to the board that Lattie can proceed with investigation of the dissolution process for information purposes. The vote for that will take place tonight, Feb. 8 at the 7 p.m. meeting.

The Jan. 23 meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llwj3yWy-Ilc and the discussion begins just after the 34-minute mark.

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