By Maureen Johnston Record Staff Writer
Residents angered by a recent city council decision to contract public dispatch services from Northville Township are now seeking to recall three council members and the mayor.
Members of a resident group called the Northville Volunteer League said they believe the council’s decision to contract dispatch services from an outside entitiy is another example of city official indifference to taxpayer concerns.
Northville Mayor Christopher Johnson, Mayor Pro-tem Carolann Ayers and council members Kevin Hartshorne and Jerry Mittman received notice last week from county officials that city residents initiated an effort to remove them from office. Each voted to approve the dispatch agreement.
Council member Tom Swigart voted against the plan. He is not targeted.
The recall petition wording cites the council members’ July 26 4-1 vote to contract public safety dispatch and lock-up services from Northville Township as the reason for the recall.
“We did a lot of research,” said Larry Parks, a co-founder of the Northville Volunteer League and recall petitioner. “We asked them to reconsider their vote. I wonder if they even heard us.”
Parks, along fellow Volunteer League members, previously presented to the council multi-page proposals they believe would allow the city to maintain its Main Street police station. “I’ve done that twice — they’ve hardly responded in any way that I can see that they’re listening. I’m done talking.”
Monday night Mittman asked members of the Northville Volunteer League, present for the council meeting, to reconsider their recall effort.
“I don’t think a one-issue recall is appropriate,” Mittman said. “It’s really legislation by intimidation.”
Mittman said council member contributions reach far beyond a single hot-button issue. He said such efforts include commissions and committee work and 20 years of community service. “The community we live in today is better because of the commitment of these people.”
“To me, (a recall) is a disruptive process.”
Can you hear us now?
Following the meeting, Parks said members of the volunteer league hired an attorney to guide them through the recall process. Wayne and Oakland county election officials are expected Aug. 24 and 30, respectively, to decide on the petition language. With approval, the volunteers will begin their 90-day signature collection campaign, he said.
“It was a last-ditch effort on the part of the citizens to have a recall,” Sherry Underwood said. “We requested for weeks on end to work with the council. I have great respect for them, other than how they treated people on the 26th. I think they should be ashamed of themselves for that.”
The dispatch and lock-up agreement — the impetus for the recall effort — would shift the city’s services to the township’s police headquarters as soon as this fall. Council members have described city benefits of enhanced service, cost savings, a superior lock-up facility, and immediate access to advanced technology.
Opponents to the concept have questioned the cost savings for the city over the long-term. Other repeated concerns are the potential increase in response times within the larger volume of township dispatch calls, the perception of losing a city identity, as well as fears that total public safety consolidation will soon follow.
“On Saturday, I had another lady call me and say, ‘Whatever you are doing, I want to help you.’,” Parks said. He and other city residents will attend the township’s board of trustees meeting tonight. The board is expected to vote on the issue.
“We will make our decision based on the ramifications for Northville Township,” said Supervisor Mark Abbo. He said the township’s ability to provide service in a professional and efficient manner, potential effects on the current level of service and economic feasibility will each be discussed.
“That is the criteria I will use to evaluate it,” Abbo said. “That is what I will ask our board to use to evaluate it. As far as I can tell, we meet the criteria. I am supportive of the concept.”
“We’re going to make our decision, politics aside,” the supervisor said. “We were approached by the representatives of the City of Northville. Period. I’m not going to be swayed by a threat of a recall.”
Like Mittman, Ayers said she is concerned about the long-term impact a recall effort will have on city residents. She said she and fellow council members will continue to conduct the city’s business.
“I am concerned about the split the community has been experiencing on several issues,” she said. The mayor pro-tem said she was elected in November unopposed. “I thought that was a statement.”
Francine Holinoty said the council’s July 26 vote was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“The recall is not to be looked at as a threat,” she said. “This is the citizen’s right to say we don’t like the path we’re going down.”
It is not the volunteer league that is splitting the community, Kathi Tarrant-Parks said. “This issue has split the community. Their vote . . . has really caused distrust among the citizens.”
Maureen Johnston can be reached at (248) 349-1700, ext. 108, or email@example.com.
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08-21-2004, 11:55 PM #1
contract out public safety-get recalled
08-22-2004, 06:51 PM #2
Northville Township population: 21,000 in 16 sq. miles
Northville City population: 6,000 in 2 sq. miles
I'm thinking there's a hell of a lot more that can be consolidated here beyond dispatch & police lock-up.
"Sure it's a small pond, but we're big fish in it, and damn it, it's our small pond."IACOJ Canine Officer
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