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Village Council losing focus on priorities

CALUMET — While the Village Council has invested more than a year, and thousands of dollars, in restructuring of the zoning ordinance for the sake of marijuana-related businesses, the investments have come at the expense of other council business. One example, according to a source, is the village’s annual budget. The council is on deadline to pass a budget by Feb. 25, and while no one has yet seen it, it is being drafted by former Village President Dave Geisler. Other questions have also arisen under the new administration, while others persist.

Village Clerk Kevin Weir who was recently reappointed to the position, brought up a number of them in a recent email to Village President Brian Abramson, Manager Caleb Katz, and Trustees Andrew Ranville, Roxanne King and Lori Weir.

In the email, Weir sought to remind the government that he had voiced some concerns after Tuesday’s regular meeting, including an apparent lack of concern for the monthly Clerk Report.

“The clerk report was not included in the board packet for January’s meeting, nor space for a verbal report afforded on the February agenda,” Kevin Weir pointed out, “nor did a single board member move to amend the agenda regarding these issues. This must change if the village wants to continue to benefit from this clerk’s time.”

He stated he has not heard from a single trustee, nor the manager, regarding clerk concerns, adding that he is perplexed as to why “this village continues to struggle with communication, (while) expending more funds on administration than ever before.”

Also brought up in the email was the council’s sending governmental appointees to either the Houghton County Court House or the Calumet Township Offices to be sworn in. This was the experience of three Planning Commission appointees, as well as Rob Tarvis when he was appointed to the council Tuesday.

“…I don’t understand why we would be pushing new appointees outside of the village to take their oaths,” Kevin Weir stated. “This is our village, do we not want our village to govern and serve our village? The clerk bends over backwards to administer the oath at the convenience of new appointees. If I would have been on the agenda, you would all know that both Chris Green and Pete Hahn have taken the oath of office, and Rob Tarvis is scheduled to take the oath of on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.”

Kevin Weir pointed out in his email that that he serves as village clerk to serve the village residents via the council, and that while the clerk assists the council, the clerk is not subordinate to the council. Rather, he wrote, like the trustees, the village president, and the village manager, the clerk is subordinate to the residents of Calumet Village.

“The village meeting minutes were, quite frankly, a mess (incomprehensible and incorrect) and an embarrassment to the community prior the first time I was appointed clerk, and honestly after I left (and) before I was reappointed,” he wrote. “I came back to assist in both capacities, as it appears these were not duties the manager can manage in addition to his other duties during my absence.”

Kevin Weir then went on to address the Calumet Village website, saying that while some may not fully understand, a website can be very time consuming to maintain,… is critical for the public to access during a pandemic, and will be even more critical moving forward.

“If you have not spent time on the website lately, you will see it is much easier to navigate, in fact almost one click, for the public to (locate) meeting access information, and (COVID)-19 policies,” he stated, adding that the website is the now the manager’s responsibility, However, Kevin Weir stated he is willing to “assist when I can, and largely do, when and asked by the manager. If the council wants to pursue outside contracting to manage the website updates, please advise, that in my opinion is a colossal waste of taxpayer funds, as our website management is simply a combination of word processing, and publishing software.”

Weir stated that in his opinion, administration of the village has improved over the last two years, but he believes Calumet is better than this, and the bar can be raised considerably.

“I fear,” he wrote, “we are not providing the public with the type of government they deserve via the clerk utilization.”

He provided a list of examples of how the clerk is meant to be utilized:

• An elected clerk should not be silenced either through oversight, or via agenda.

• The clerk should be utilized, when possible to administer oaths.

• The clerk should be conducting meeting attendance on virtual meetings.

• The clerk should be reading documents into the record.

• The clerk should be provided with a current amended copy of the rules and procedures, as well as a centralized and accessible location of all current village policies and procedures, in order to assist with meeting minute production. In fact, all consider a cloud option as a solution, the village already has a gmail account, that could be utilized for this purpose if you are looking for no cost solutions. This might be something the manager can play a central role in.”

“I have,” he wrote, “put considerable effort into improving both the web site, and minutes, and the public deserves to know these efforts have taken place and which elected member(s) have been working on their behalf to make these improvements.”

Considering these circumstances, Weir said, it is becoming apparent to him that that either the council is unaware, undervalues, or simply does not want a clerk. If the council is unaware of anything that is happening in the village, perhaps the manager can also play a role in continuing to improve communication via all village officials, he suggested.

He added that he is still waiting for conclusive communication from the council on whether or not the clerk should be at the work sessions, as well as the technology needed to complete the duties, as the manager and clerk play tag with an antiquated village laptop and efficiency suffers.

“If that is a technology vendor issue, perhaps it’s time to consider a new vendor, such as REMC1, which many other local municipalities and all the schools use,” he went on.

“We have a lot of talent in the village and on the council,” he concluded, “and I see tremendous opportunity and great things happening in the village. it would be an absolute shame not to harness as much talent in the village government… as we can, or continue to undermine an already shaky public trust.”

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