Video contradicts pole barn claims

By: Robert Guttersohn | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 24, 2012

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Despite recent arguments to the contrary, a video recording of a township board meeting last year shows that members did not actually approve the construction of a pole barn to house SMART Dial-a-Ride buses.

The video of the May 25, 2011, Board of Trustees meeting shows both the township’s engineering consultant and the supervisor confirming that the cost estimate given to the Board of Trustees — and the estimate upon which the board based its approval — does not include the construction costs of the actual building.

“Mr. Chairman, I just want to mention that the cost estimate that is before the board does not include the building,” said James Van Tiflin, the engineering consultant for the township, at last year’s meeting. “So I just want to make sure that we are clear.”

“The cost estimate is strictly for the site work,” Grabow reiterated at that time. “This does not include the building. The building cost is separate.”

Koehs then confirms with Trustee Roger Krzeminski, who proposed the motion, that his motion does not include the expenditure of funds.

“Mr. Krzeminski, your motion — if I understand it correctly — does include sending it to the Planning Commission without expending any township funds for the site or the structure,” Koehs asked.

“Correct … exactly,” Krzeminski said.

In addition to the video, cost estimates given to the board at the meeting have “not including building” written on them.

But at the board’s July 11, 2012, meeting, Mark Grabow said the motion the board passed May 25, 2011, authorized him to reach out for bids on building the pole barn garage.

“Those documents were actually included in the May 25 stuff,” Grabow told the trustees. “We went out for estimates and cost totals at that point.”

“To this day, Mark, I’ve never seen any quotes from anybody,” replied Trustee Dino Bucci. “That’s kind of what I’m asking for.”

The debate is a continuation from meetings in June in which Koehs and Bucci asked for proof of the board authorizing the expenditure of money to build the garage.

At the June 27 meeting, Grabow provided the board members with minutes from the 2011 meeting showing they approved a motion “to proceed with the Vehicle Garage-SMART/Dial-A-Ride Transportation Program provided that no township funds are expended,” according to the minutes from that time.

Under that broad language, Grabow said he is authorized to reach out for new bids.

The supervisor’s office plans to build the 6,000-square-foot pole barn garage behind the Water and Sewer Department on Card Road, just north of 23 Mile Road.

Grabow said all the money would come from Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation community funds that the township has accrued over the past seven years.

At the end of July, when SMART deposits the fiscal year 2013 money, the township will have more than $500,000 saved in that fund.

Another portion of the project will be paid for by Community Development Block Grant money that, much like the SMART funds, has sat unused by the township and which it is now in danger of losing.

According to a CDBG agreement with Macomb County, the township must allocate $194,287 in grant money by September and spend the money by Dec. 31, or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will take back the grant.

In June 2012, the Planning Commission approved the site plan after engineers determined the site was suitable for construction.

At the subsequent Board of Trustees meeting after the commission approved the project, Grabow thanked the Planning Commission for the approval.

“Now that the process is done, we’ll go ahead and be able to get quotes from the various construction companies,” Grabow said.

But Koehs said at the same meeting that the Planning Commission did not and cannot authorize the building of the structure and that the board did not authorize the expenditure of any funds.

“The board does not have the authority to stop the expenditure of SMART funds,” Grabow said in a recent phone interview after being read quotes from the meeting. “They cannot continue to micromanage.”

If the township does not expend the money this year, SMART and the federal government will reabsorb grant money it set aside for the township, he said.

“I’m not going to let this go to someone else’s community,” Grabow said.

Koehs said he fears that once the pole barn is built, it will be used to store full-sized SMART buses.

“It’s their garage and their vehicles — who’s going to stop them?” Koehs said recently.

He said he is OK with the township losing the community funds.

“If the township is not using community funds, it should be given to a community that needs it, like Detroit,” Koehs said.