Buchanan City Commission signs contract with new city manager
BUCHANAN – Buchanan City Commissioners have signed a contract with new City Manager Heather Grace. Grace was chosen to succeed Bill Marx earlier this month and plans to start her new duties after Labor Day.
Commissioners met in a special session Thursday evening to consider the Grace contract as well as a couple of other matters. The meeting was once again held virtually for the public although commissioners met at City Hall.
Grace comes to Buchanan from West Branch, Michigan where she served as the city manager from 2014 to 2019. She is also a practicing attorney.
Details of her contract include that it is for three years and that her salary will be $85,000 in the first year. She will get 3.5 percent increases after her first and second years on the job with the third-year increase left up to the commission to decide after her evaluation that year.
Many of the elements of her contract will be similar to those of city department heads as well as to the one the city has with Marx. Grace will get a car allowance as well as $2,500 to move herself and her family to Buchanan.
Commissioners’ questions Thursday centered primarily on how the arrangement will work between Grace and Marx whose contract runs through next May.
“She’s very easy to work with, I don’t think we will have a conflict,” Marx said. “I look forward to working with her.”
While commissioners questioned who will “hold the weight” between Marx and Grace, Marx said he doesn’t see it as being an issue. He believes that the two can reach a consensus as to what will be presented to the commission and both their views will be presented if there is a disagreement.
“I have no problem working with her. … I feel it will be a very positive situation for the city in this interim period,” he said.
He said he expects them to divide up the tasks he now handles along which will allow Grace to take the lead on a number of projects and also free Marx’s load.
“I’m really anxious to get her on board and help us address some of the projects that have been delayed,” he said.
As for how long he expects to stay on the job, Marx remains fairly vague in giving a clear idea of when he expects to step down.
“I can say my contract is until May,” he said. “I want to start working with Heather. We can have that discussion moving forward.”
Also Thursday, the commission hired attorney Nick Curcio to review the city’s USDA grant/loan application. He charges $165 an hour, and expects he can complete the application review for $5,000 or less. He is with the Dickerson Wright law firm.
The city is in the process of applying for grants and loans to pay for up to $11 million worth of projects dealing with water, stormwater, storm drain and waste water needs.
The construction of a building on Third Street to house a new building for the city’s Department of Public Works was discussed Thursday as well. Contractor Bill Green is seeking an amendment to the planned unit development designation he has for land he owns east of City Hall on Third Street.
Marx said Green is seeking to gain approval to construct a 100 by 200-foot light industrial spec building on the property between the fitness center he and his wife own on Third Street and the Bosch property. The plan will be heard at the city planning commission’s meeting in September.
Marx said Green is looking to lease the building to the city to house the DPW. The DPW currently is in a building at the south end of Clark Street which is deteriorating.
The city has a new city treasurer. Traci McGrath was hired in July and resigned unexpectedly this week. Commissioners voted to appoint Stephanie Powers, the city’s bookkeeper, to that post on an interim basis.
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