Commissioners approve city manager salary increase, drinks for open space event, PILOT deal, treasurer termination
Traverse City commissioners on Monday approved a pay hike for city manager Marty Colburn, a move Mayor Jim Carruthers said “reasonable” given Colburn’s work during the pandemic. The increase will be followed by an external compensation study to assess the salaries of all non-union municipal employees. On Monday, commissioners also approved an Up North Pride request to serve mixed drinks at two Open Space events in October, approved tax relief for a proposed 53-unit apartment building on Garfield Avenue and confirmed the recent dismissal of town treasurer Kelli Martin by Colburn.
Colburn’s salary will be increased three percent with immediate effect after commissioners voted to approve the increase on Monday. The move will increase Colburn’s salary from $ 125,186 to $ 128,942 per year. The percentage increase is in line with other increases for the city’s senior leadership, said Pro Mayor Tem Amy Shamroe. She and Carruthers noted in a memo that the city manager had not requested any flexible work arrangements during the pandemic.
Carruthers and Shamroe have called for city commissioners to consider assessing the salaries of other staff in the future. “We would also like to see a full salary study done for all non-unionized employees in the future,” Carruthers told Commissioners. Colburn is expected to return at an upcoming meeting with a formal request for permission from the board to go through a request for proposal (RFP) process to hire a company to conduct the study. The move means two of the region’s largest municipal employers – the town of Traverse City and Grand Traverse County, which are the subject of their own $ 38,500 employee compensation study – will soon have data from market analyzing their rates of pay and whether salaries are reasonable for each position in the organization.
Commissioners on Monday approved a request for Up North Pride to serve mixed drinks at two Open Spaces in October. Up North Pride, which has moved its events from June to October this year due to the pandemic, will host Drag Night at the Open Space on Saturday, October 16 from 5 p.m. to midnight and brunch on Sunday, October 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The organization has sold beer and wine at Open Space events in the past, but no cocktails.
A note from City Clerk Benjamin Marentette pointed out that other events have already received city approval to sell mixed drinks in the open space, including the National Cherry Festival. While commissioners approved the Up North Pride request without much discussion, Commissioner Brian McGillivary asked staff to ensure event planners consult with Grand Traverse County Health Department on protocols for COVID security, especially for large public gatherings. The commissioners also signaled their support for holding an upcoming study session to examine the city’s own policies and procedures related to COVID in light of the continued cases and spread, including investigating whether the city can legally require certain types of security measures in certain situations without a state emergency ordinance in place.
A planned 53-unit apartment complex at 947 South Garfield Avenue was approved for city tax relief on Monday, with more than half of the units pledged to be affordable for 45 years. Woda Cooper Companies plans to build the four-story development, called Annika Place, with 29 one-bedroom units averaging 652 square feet and 24 two-bedroom units averaging 815 square feet. Woda’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with the city will allow the company to pay six percent of rental income per year in place of traditional taxes, an estimated tax reduction of $ 52,200 per year. In exchange, thirty-four units – or 64% of the housing stock – will be intended for tenants earning between 70 and 80% of the region’s median income (AMI).
Craig Patterson of Woda told commissioners that while the city’s PILOT deal is for 16 years, the project is committed to keeping the low income units affordable for 45 years.
“That commitment is actually with the act, that they have to stay affordable,” he said. Patterson said the project is also expected to be funded by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which can take action against Woda and deny the company future funding if it breaks that commitment. Patterson plans to apply for state funding in October; if successful, the project could start in spring 2023 and be ready for occupancy in summer 2024. Woda is still working with city staff to finalize car access to the apartment complex. Staff’s recommendation to use the galleries on the southern access road to Garfield met with strong resistance from the condominium and business community, with the project potentially using an access road in lieu of the ‘Garfield Avenue.
Finally, commissioners agreed on Monday to uphold Colburn’s recent dismissal of City Treasurer Kelli Martin and his appointment of Assistant Treasurer and Deputy Director of Finance James Henderson as interim treasurer until a hiring process can be made. be launched for a new treasurer. The commissioners met behind closed doors to discuss the two issues, then went out in open session and voted unanimously in favor of firing Martin and appointing Henderson.
While that did not change the outcome and the commissioners did not discuss or respond to his comments, Martin spoke to the commissioners on Monday about his dismissal ahead of their vote. She said that “coming to the city of a great research university was a great culture shock that I never expected”, and that although “assertiveness was praised at the university, at the city, I was told that I used an assertive tone ”. Martin said the city’s technology was outdated and “difficult,” she had to use a “decades-old” utility billing system that didn’t allow her to run data queries and a 2010 departmental computer. who could not run the necessary software.
Martin also said the city’s purchasing policy was not followed. Martin said she blocked Deputy City Manager Penny Hill from accessing the city’s financial system, noting that the city treasurer and city clerk are required to approve all city payments. Martin alleged that Hill was using administrative access to approve payments, bypassing the required approval from the city clerk. Martin said she refused to follow Colburn’s instructions to restore Hill’s access and raised her concerns with the city attorney.
Martin also said she requested medical leave “to work on a health problem” and was turned down because she was missing a one-year week of service. After receiving two letters of reprimand for performance issues in August, Martin said she “only worked five working days between the letters of reprimand and the termination. I came back to work and asked for documents (medical leave) on a Wednesday; it was sent the following Tuesday. Before my doctor could submit the (medical leave) documents, I was fired on Wednesday. Martin called herself a “civil servant for life” in her statement, saying her goal “has always been to make the best use of taxpayers’ money and to support transparency.”