2018-01-14 / Editorial

Mayfield’s plans for fire department lacked public input

When a motion was made during Monday’s Mayfield Township board meeting to form a new fire department, the silence that followed spoke the loudest.

That’s because, in most cases, that is the time when discussion takes place on a motion before the board, prior to a vote taking place.

Not one word was spoken.

It wasn’t explained how the prepared resolution came to be. No one spoke about why they favored it. The issue of how it would be funded was not addressed.

Pretty much the same thing happened when the board approved a resolution naming Tom Mitchell acting fire chief. In an audio recording of the meeting, the board did not even bother to have a discussion after the motion was made and went straight to a roll-call vote.

Again, no explanation of how Tom Mitchell came into the picture. No discussion over if anyone else was considered. The only discussion — prior to the motion being made — was about how Mitchell will receive $8,400 for the year (minus one month’s pay due to starting in February). Even then, there was no disclosure over what the amount was based on.

Last, there was the closed session.

It consisted of Mitchell, along with township attorney Michael Gildner, and the four board members talking about the future base location of the new fire department.

After the closed session, the board authorized Mitchell to present “rough plans” to Rowe Professional Services “to explore options for placement of a fire department building on township property.” The location was not publicly disclosed.

If you’re seeing a trend here, we are, too.

It appears that the elected officials in Mayfield Township have chosen to make an extremely conscious effort to bypass the very people who put them in office prior to making such a big decision that’s going to cost the township taxpayers quite a bit.

What possible explanation could there be for scheduling public forums seeking input after the decision has been made?

Why not spread word and try to make as many people as possible aware that this is going on, that this is being considered, that they are likely to pay for it in some way, shape, or form?

Since township officials appear so gung-ho about spending taxpayer money, why not send postcards to every taxpayer, letting them know that this is being considered and that the elected officials want to know what their respective constituents think about the plan?

Instead, the public officials appear to be operating as if they are executives at a private business, treating the public as if they are working in the proverbial mail-room of a large corporation.

And we’ve seen it from this board before.

Last year, the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources asked the township to officially abandon Byers Road (near the Lapeer Shooting Pit). It would essentially become state land and the DNR could install gates allowing for limited access. The board initially refused. That’s despite officials from the DNR, Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept., and residents all asking the elected board to abandon the road. No one spoke against the township abandoning the road. In a somewhat ironic twist, at least one township board member blamed the DNR for not getting a handle on the situation earlier.

Now, the board will hold two forums to allow for further discussion and public input on the new department. The forums will be held Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m.

By all means we encourage the public to attend and try to have a say.

But if recent tactics taken by the board are any indication, we wonder what’s already been decided and if those who do speak out will be wasting their breath.

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