Garry appointed to Buchanan Planning Commission

Published 1:16 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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BUCHANAN — Monday’s Buchanan City Commission meeting was much quieter than it has been since early November. Less than two dozen people attended the meeting, there were no comments from the public about recent controversies and the meeting lasted less than a half hour.

Mayor Sean Denison did make a comment about the Feb. 12 meeting in which a majority of commissioners voted not to hold a hearing on a complaint from resident Carla Johnson. Johnson had filed a complaint against Denison for violating the City Charter when he suspended former City Manager Benjamin Eldridge as well as other charges.

In his remarks at the end of that meeting, Denison had made claims against Johnson and others for statements they had allegedly made over recent weeks and months. He had said Johnson had stood at the podium at a meeting last fall and made a statement about commissioners’ party affiliations when it had actually been someone else.

“I want to make a public apology to Carla Johnson,” he said at the start of Monday’s meeting. “When I got home, my wife told me I was wrong.”

While no other direct mention of recent controversies such as Eldridge’s suspension and resignation, Commissioner Dan Vigansky’s censure and threatened removal by the rest of the commission and the ongoing recall efforts against Vigansky and Denison, Vigansky did question a couple of items on the agenda.

Vigansky questioned the appointment of Jen Garry to the city’s planning commission and moved to appoint downtown business owner Alan Robandt who also applied. His motion died for lack of a second. Robandt has been among those questioning the Eldridge suspension and other commission actions in recent months.

Vigansky noted that Robandt has applied to be on the planning commission a number of times without success. “I have a real problem with this, I have nothing against Jen but Alan Robandt has applied multiple times,” he said. He’s a businessman in the city and knows more about the city than 90 percent of the people.”

Vigansky was also concerned that planning commissioner Kevin Barker who is leaving the planning commission was allowed to vote on who should replace him and that other planning commissioners allowed Barker to “go off” in criticism of Robandt at that meeting earlier this month.

Garry was approved on a unanimous vote with Vigansky voting yes despite his comments. She is an architect, the publisher of the Buchanan Chronicle newspaper and is on the LiveBuchanan Board which is dedicated to promoting improvements in the city.

Vigansky also spoke on another agenda item, the city’s application for a U.S.D.A. rural business development grant. While he favored the application which could pay for design and engineering of a broken downtown sidewalk, he called on the commission to do more when it comes to strategic planning.

Other commissioners agreed and Denison asked City Manager Timothy Lynch to come up with some dates for the commission to hold a goal setting and visioning workshop this spring.

In his comments, Lynch reported on the culvert over McCoy’s Creek near Days Avenue that has started to fail. It is between the Buchanan District Library parking lot and the Farmers Market stalls on the edge of the Common. He said the area has been secured and the city is working to restore the culvert.

He asked for and received approval of a quote of up to $21,900 from Abonmarche to survey the situation, make three design proposals and deal with any necessary Michigan EGLE permits. The work could be done in late April although the permitting might take longer.

In his remarks at the end of the meeting, Denison encouraged people to attend the commission’s March 11 meeting to hear the audit report of the firm that has audited the city’s financial books.

Lynch said after the meeting that the audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2023 will show a general fund budget surplus rather than a budget deficit. Critics of Eldridge’s suspension had claimed that Eldridge had been trying to right the city’s financial ship by instituting cost saving measures when he was suspended.

The 2022-23 budget had been projected to show a deficit last June, with $3.167 million in general fund revenue and $3.857 million in expenditures. The city also had had a budget deficit in the 2021-22 year.

Lynch said he has continued to work to find cost savings in the current 2023-24 year budget with more internal controls and more management oversight. He said he has kept some of the cost saving measures Eldridge had put in place.