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City accepts donation for last year’s dues to 8MBA

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 31, 2011

 The Eight Mile Boulevard Association has planted 36 perennial gardens and maintains the grass cutting and landscaping work in the median along Eight Mile through 13 communities, including Eastpointe.

The Eight Mile Boulevard Association has planted 36 perennial gardens and maintains the grass cutting and landscaping work in the median along Eight Mile through 13 communities, including Eastpointe.

Photo by Sara Kandel

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EASTPOINTE — After a series of apparent misunderstandings was resolved, City Council accepted a donation to the Eight Mile Boulevard Association that covers the city’s dues from last year.

Council had initially leaned against accepting the donation, after the organization, also known as 8MBA, notified the city last month that 8MBA had received a private donation and would use it to cover the city’s $2,604 membership costs for last year.

“Right now, if sponsors want to step up, we are more than willing to accept donations,” said Councilman Bill Sweeney. “But we need to know who is putting us into what organization, and we need to approve of it.”

The problem was the donation covered dues to an organization the city technically didn’t belong to — Eastpointe was no longer part of the Eight Mile Boulevard Association.

“I would never look a gift horse in the mouth, but people cannot go behind council’s back and solicit donations for membership to organizations that we opted out of belonging to,” said Councilman Phil Guastella.

Council opted out of the organization in May 2010 due to budgetary constraints.

“The decision was made during budget deliberations in May 2010,” said Mayor Suzanne Pixley. “A formal notification was never sent to the 8MBA, but the 2010-11 dues were not paid. By default of striking it from the budget, we were opting out.”

City Manager Randy Altimus said that although the notification may not have been formal, it was made. “We met with Tammy (Salisbury) in June 2010, because the council had opted out and the DDA had offered to help cover the dues.”

Salisbury, the association’s executive director, maintains the organization was never contacted, though, so when she struck up a conversation with Michael Polous, the CEO of Michigan First Credit Union, and he offered to make a donation to the association in the amount the city owed, it seemed like a win-win scenario.

Altimus said the June ’10 meeting consisted of himself, Pixley, Salisbury, then-Finance Director Gerriann Reimann and DDA Director Steve Horstman.

“At that time, Tammy told us that the membership was paid through June 2011,” Altimus said.

Pixley doesn’t recall exactly how Salisbury worded it at that meeting, but as vice chair for the association, she does know their policies.

“The policy at the time was that city wasn’t removed from the roster until the end of the unpaid fiscal year,” Pixley said.

By effect of that policy, Pixley was able to keep her seat on their board, and the association continued to maintain the city’s portion of Eight Mile through the end of the fiscal year, even though Eastpointe’s City Council had moved to opt the city out.

“We maintain the grass and the flowerbeds along Eight Mile, and when a community opts out, it puts us in a compromising positions with the pre-existing contracts we already have out for those services,” Salisbury said. “I assumed it would be a good thing — for both of us.”

By maintaining membership, Eastpointe not only receives those services, but businesses along Eight Mile have access to the association’s dollar-for-dollar façade improvement grant program and various other business attraction and retention services.

But the value of membership to the 8MBA isn’t why the council was concerned about the way things happened.

“We can’t have a situation where someone can make a donation in our behalf and put us into an organization without our consent,” Sweeney said.

Salisbury addressed the council at the Aug. 16 regular meeting. Salisbury stated she had not known the city had opted out. She said it was a misunderstanding. Poulos also spoke before council that evening.

“We believe very strongly in the association’s mission,” he said. “That is why we offered the donation. It was just a matter of taking care of this year.”

He told them his donation was meant with the best of intentions, and he hoped they would accept it. At the end of the meeting, by a unanimous vote, they did. But Councilwoman Wendy Richardson sent the pair off with a warning.

“Obviously, we appreciate the gesture, but I just want you to know that in the future, this is not a bridge,” she said. “We don’t foresee being able to budget this in the future.”

But at Salisbury’s request, the council agreed to maintain membership should she be able to raise additional donations for this fiscal year’s dues.

“I’m encouraged there wasn’t a definite no,” Salisbury said. “I’m optimistic it will work out. Who knows, maybe a charity Texas hold ‘em fundraiser (could be held).”

Pixley was also pleased with the results.

“This is one of the only local organizations that brings city governments, counties and local businesses together to learn from each other new ways to better our communities.”
 

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