Charter amendment proposals to appear on city ballot

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 5, 2016

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ORCHARD LAKE — Orchard Lake voters will decide the fate of three charter amendments in the Nov. 8 election. 

Currently, Chapter 6, Section 6.6 (D) of Orchard Lake’s city charter prohibits standing committees of the council. The first proposal placed on the ballot would permit standing committees — such as personnel or finance committees — and the committee members would be selected by the City Council. Committee meetings would be open to the public. 

“We have teams for specific purposes when they arise, but most places allow standing committees, and so we decided that would be something we put before the voters,” said Mayor Norm Finkelstein. 

City Director Gerry McCallum said the amendment cleans up the charter and, if passed, allows committees to exist formally to perform governmental functions. 

The second proposed charter amendment is to Chapter 12, Sections 12.1 and 12.2, which requires comparative prices be obtained for purchases and sales up to $1,000. In addition, sales over $1,000 currently require City Council approval, sealed bids, and review and verification of available funds by the city attorney. The amendment raises the threshold from $1,000 to $5,000.

“Anything over $1,000 we have to get City Council approval for, so if we had a furnace go out ... you call a special council meeting, and that creates more time and work,” McCallum said.

If the amendment were to pass, city administrators would be able to purchase items up to $5,000 without City Council approval, sealed bids, or approval and review by the attorney.

“It was a number that we understand other cities have used,” Finkelstein said about why the council suggested $5,000. “The $1,000 was from the inception of the city charter, which was many years ago, and it has never been raised. It’s something that was approved by our council, and so it’s something we think we should be doing to make things easier.”

The third proposed amendment deals with property seizure and forfeiture. The proposal states that any property taken through forfeiture proceedings — after a criminal conviction — would be used to fund local street repairs. The amendment was initiated by a nonresident, and McCallum said that even if it is approved, state law supersedes the proposal and the local ordinance would not be enforceable.

Per state law, forfeiture funds cannot be used for local road funding, McCallum said.

“If I’m not mistaken, the state statute says forfeitures have to be used for police department operations. But by law, we have to put this on our ballot,” McCallum said.

The city was required to place the amendment on the ballot because of state law requirements involving initiatory petitions, McCallum said. The state Attorney General’s Office did not approve the question because it conflicts with state law, he added.

The city cannot advocate for or against the amendments proposed; a fact sheet was distributed in the city’s newsletter and is available at City Hall. The sheet strictly states the facts, McCallum said.

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