Heat on at OVHC special meeting

Skip Schulz/For the Gazaette Residents and Village Council members actively participated at Monday night’s contentious Ontonagon Village Housing Commission Board meeting. 

ONTONAGON — The atmosphere at a special September meeting of the Ontonagon Village Housing Commission (OVHC) Board meeting Monday was set right at the pounding of the gavel.

During the public comment period, Jackie Ernest questioned the board’s security deposit refund policy for her brother, a former resident of the OVHC.

The issue dealt with when another party pays the security deposit, thus when the resident vacates the apartment, who then receives the refund.

In this case, the security deposit was paid by the St. Vincent DePaul organization. However, that resident’s first check was for rent and not the security deposit.

“We have our policies, as does St Vinny’s and UPCAP (Upper Peninsula Community Action Program),” said OVHC Executive Director Sally Jarvey. “We did everything we could to expedite him getting out of the nursing home in Houghton and getting into one of our units.”

One of the many issues Ernest brought up was the OVHC’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At the August meeting Jarvey reported the two units for disabled individuals were approved by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The units were built before the ADA went into law.

“To get two other units ADA compliant would run us approximately $70,000. We simply do not have the money,” Jarvey said.

Current OVHC resident Dawn Johnson interjected this matter should be handled by all the parties coming to the table.

Board member Richard Ernest agreed, and a meeting will be held to discuss this issue, since it might be raised in the future.

It took almost an hour for board members of the OVHC to go over the minutes of the last four meetings. The board decided to not approve the minutes from the August board meeting and the special meeting that dealt with personal disciplinary matters.

The board approved the regular monthly scheduled meeting that was held last Monday. That meeting ran less than four minutes, as Ontonagon Village Manager Joe Erickson questioned whether OVHC President Pam Cooey’s term had expired.

At that meeting Village Council member Don Chastain stated that according to the commission’s minutes and council’s minutes Cooey’s term was up on March 31.

Erickson stated with all the confusion, he made the motion to adjourn the meeting until it could be determined at the council meeting that evening.

Council minutes stated Cooey had been appointed on March 24, 2014, for a five-year term, so her term does not expire until 2019. Other than council members Chastain and Tony Smydra, the majority of the council concurred that Cooey’s term does not expire til 2019.

With the meeting on Monday being adjourned before the OVHC Board could approve business matters, including the payment of bills, Cooey called the special meeting for last night.

Chastain’s brother, Dave, an OVHC resident, complained during the public comment period that no notice of Friday’s meeting was posted. Jarvey and OVHC Secretary Sue Lockhart pointed out that the meeting was posted in advance.

One of the most heated moments in the meeting came when Ernest stated that the special meeting dealing with Lockhart’s handling of purchases through Menard’s when Menard’s had a rebate program. Ernest and Erickson then called for the special personal disciplinary meeting on Lockhart.

Due to this special meeting dealing with personnel issues, the board went into closed session. Lockhart informed Cooey she would have her attorney present at the meeting.

When the OVHC Board got to the financial report, Erickson then questioned the hours that Lockhart got paid.

“If one goes over the payment and divide it out, you will see that she (Lockhart) worked 40 hours,” stated Erickson.

Ernest than questioned the board’s decision to pay Lockhart based on a 32-hour week.

Jarvey said she has not taken all the vacation days that she accrued. However, when she did take some vacation time, Lockhart filled in by doing additional duties.

“Thus the extra hours,” Jarvey said.

Earlier in the meeting, Cooey read a letter from OVHC resident Joe Osmond, commending the OVHC staff for putting in extra time.

OVHC Board member Dorothy Phillips stated she heard Lockhart spends (office) time talking to people.

As the meeting went over two hours, the board did agree to put Lockhart on a 35-hour-per-week salary.