by CYNTHIA KMETT
Faced with potentially being homeless in the next year, the operators of District Court 52-4 and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson sent Troy’s County Commissioners Doug Tietz and Wade Fleming to tell Troy City Council of their concerned.
With a million dollars in renovations planned for the building – a $600,000 new roof by the City of Troy and over $500,000 in new security measures by the county – the county was very worried that if Troy residents approved the proposed charter amendment that would allow voters to approve over 200 lease contracts that exist between the city and businesses and groups, the court might find itself homeless, and having to wait for a city election before it could resume operations. Or, perhaps the county should start looking for a new site now.
Losing a valued client like the District Court was also a concern of the city. So both sides have been working to come up with a solution, and that’s found in the 26-page contract that council was asked to approve last Monday.
The contract was quickly approved by council, which also needs an affirmative vote by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. The extension will result in three 5-year renewals, with fee adjustments allowed, and end in June 2034.
The council then unanimously approved the new roof for the District Court building.
At the August 21, 2017 City Council meeting, City Administration was asked to create a proposed content neutral flyer for the citizen-initiated charter amendment ballot question. City Council members were encouraged to provide questions which City Administration would answer. The following questions have been received so far, with City Administration’s answers. City Administration has also prepared a draft flyer for City Council consideration and/or approval.
- Do we need to rewrite all contracts immediately and prepare them for next year’s ballot, or are they grandfathered in until they expire?
Answer: All existing City contracts and agreements will remain in effect until the expiration date, even if the proposed charter amendment is passed. Once the current term of a City contract or agreement expires, then any renewals would require approval by a majority of the electorate if the initiative charter amendment passes.
- What is the cost of a content neutral flyer?
Answer: In 2009, it cost $13,033 to send a content neutral flyer using bulk mailing rates. Because of a potential for delays in bulk mail delivery, City Council may wish to use first class mail, which would likely increase the cost.
- What is the definition of use?
Answer: This term is not expressly defined as part of the ballot question or in the law, and therefore we rely on the generally accepted meaning of the term. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, use is “the right to take profits from land owned and possessed by another; the equitable ownership of land to which another person holds the legal title.” Websters’ Dictionary defines “use” as “the enjoyment of property, as from occupying, employing, or exercising it … or profit, benefit or advantage, especially that of lands and tenements held in trust by another.”
- Are current lease/use agreements with renewals subject to the new charter language?
Answer: If the initiative charter amendment passes in November, then all current leases/uses/ agreements will be subject to the new charter language when they expire.
- Will a use agreement within a building /area that is 2 acres or more be held to the new language?
Answer: Yes. The proposed language states: “…of any portion of any parcel of public land the whole of which is greater than two (2) acres…..” This proposed charter amendment, if passed, would apply to all leases and agreements on the civic center property, as well as the City’s golf courses and other properties.
- Would all agreements be voided and subject to a vote?
Answer: If the charter amendment proposal were to pass, it would not void existing agreements or require immediate ratification by the voters. Any City agreement that is new or any renewal would require voter approval.
- What is the definition of general election?
Answer: Michigan election law expressly defines the “general election” as the even year November election. However, there have been references calling the odd year November elections a general election.
- Could the charter amendment affect Troy’s AAA bond rating?
Answer: The charter amendment has the potential to impact the City’s AAA bond rating. Bond ratings take into consideration economic conditions, efficiency of government, financial standing, projected resources, and limits to governance. If passed, this citizen initiated charter amendment could restrict the City’s ability to operate efficiently and may result in the loss of contractual revenue.
- Are there any other cities/states with similar charter restrictions?
Answer: City administration researched the charters of other Michigan municipalities, and did not find any other communities with similar charter language.
- Can the City solve all of the contract issues by quickly inserting “Evergreen” clauses into all current leases and use agreements?
Answer: This would require all existing City agreements to be modified, with the insertion of an “Evergreen” clause that allows for agreements to continue indefinitely unless and until the City takes affirmative action to terminate the agreement. Due to the number of City agreements involved, it would be difficult for City Administration to renegotiate all impacted agreements prior to the November election. Additionally, the City has not utilized “Evergreen” clauses in its agreement, since this would eliminate the bid process or periodic market analysis.
With this information, Councilman Dave Henderson asked if it was possible to “evergreen” all our contracts. “No,” replied City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm.