November 27, 2014

Local city managers send letter opposing state appointed emergency managers

By James Kuch
News Editor | news@arenacindependent.com
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ARENAC COUNTY — City Managers from around Arenac and surrounding counties recently sent a letter to state leaders voicing their displeasure with the recently approved Emergency Manager Bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Patricia Killingbeck, AuGres city manager, said the letter was written cooperatively between city managers from AuGres, Standish, Pinconning, Gladwin and other area cities.

“We are in opposition of the steps that were taken when this law was being made,” she said.

Snyder signed the bill in March, giving state-appointed emergency managers more power over struggling cities.

Summer Minnick, director of state affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, a non-profit organization that supports local governments across Michigan, said state-appointed emergency managers can take control and restructure how a city is run.

“They come in and develop their own plan,” she said. “They can replace who they want and run things how they want. They can break any contract that has been signed.”

Minnick said she believes the law was put in place to prevent having emergency managers placed in their cities.

“I think this was a proactive approach to avoid emergency managers,” she said.

Before an emergency manager can be placed in a city, the city has to have accumulated a number of demerits based on different categories, including poor credit and budget deficits.

Standish City Manager Michael Moran said the city of Standish is currently at level eight on the demerit scale of one to 10, with 10 being the poorest score.

“We have been there for quite some time,” he said. “If we get to 10, we will have no choice and the state could take over.”

Moran said if an emergency manager is appointed they could replace anyone who works for the city.

“They can fire the whole city council if they want to,” he said.

In Moran’s opinion, the state should give the money currently used for emergency managers directly to the cities.

“Why not put money back into the city?” he said. “We are doing things to help ourselves anyway, like making budget cuts.”

Killingbeck said the city of AuGres currently scores a two on the demerit scale. She said the state should have considered a number of items before signing the bill into law.

“The state told us that we need to consider cities sharing services with their surrounding communities,” she said. “We have been collaborating with our surrounding areas for years with things like trash pick up and fire departments. That is what you have to do in rural communities.”

Killingbeck said she believes the number of problems that cities are having can be traced back to decisions made by the state.

“A lot of problems have been created at the state level,” she said. “For example, at the time of the 2000 census, AuGres used to receive $120,000 in state shared revenue each year. We now receive $60,000.”

Killingbeck said state shared revenue began in 1970 as a way for the state to reimburse cities, townships and villages for projects that were provided to their communities.

“Things like repaving of roads and public safety costs received funding,” she said.

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