by DREW HOWARD
The Rochester City Council saw a change in leadership this week with the election of a new mayor and mayor pro-tem during its latest meeting on Monday, November 13.
Rob Ray and Kim Russell were elected by their fellow council members as mayor and mayor pro-tem of Rochester, respectively. Ray’s vote was unanimous while Russell saw one vote against her by Council Member Stuart Bikson. Both Ray and Russell will hold a one-year term lasting until November, 2018.
In a short acceptance speech, Ray thanked his father in the audience for teaching him an important motto at an early age.
“My father raised me on the Cub Scout motto which was to do your best,” Ray said. “I’m confident that, at least to my council members, you’ll get that from me. The residents can expect the same from city council.”
Both new and returning city council members were also sworn in, which includes Nancy Salvia, Dean Bevacqua, Ann Peterson and Stuart Bikson. Salvia and Bevacqua will be serving the council for their first time. This is the second term for Peterson and the seventh for Bikson.
Bikson accepted the position with pride, saying he’s been fortunate to work with the council. “I want to thank the people of Rochester for electing me for the seventh time – figure the math out on that one if you’d like,” Bikson joked. “I pledge for this new term that I’ll do my best work as hard as I can for the people of Rochester. It’s a great honor to be elected.”
Salvia, Bevacqua and Peterson echoed similar sentiments, each expressing how honored they are to serve the people who put them in the position.
Council turned to its regular business following the swearing-in ceremony. City Manager Blaine Wing addressed the council about a state mandate allowing DTE to trim trees in residential areas on the weekends.
“This mandate allows for work even on Saturdays and Sundays,” Wing said. “As DTE is going into various areas, they’re trying to send letters and door hangers to homes and work with us to get the message out.”
Mayor pro-tem Russell said she was concerned about the new mandate as the tree trimming could possibly interfere with holiday celebrations.
“Over the holiday weekend they were tree trimming by my house on Saturday night and Sunday – I think they really should not do that during the holiday,” Russell said. “I don’t know what we can do, but to at least savor that part of the weekend during a holiday would be appropriate to our citizens.”
Wing noted that the state mandate trumps the local ordinance, though he agreed with Russell that the city council should work to fix this.
Bikson called DTE a “failure” for not meeting the city’s expectations.
“Since our last meeting we have had multiple power outages in our city, so please do not tell me DTE is doing a good job and making progress,” Bikson said. “They’re a failure and they continue to be a failure, and they seem to be making no progress. What are they doing? Nothing, in my opinion.”
The budget for the Rochester sun dial monument was also disclosed to the public today. Wing said initial expenses for construction came out to $301,553, with the net expense closer to $180,000 following donations and sponsorships. The council is looking to offset the cost even further with additional fundraising.
The next Rochester City Council meeting will take place on Monday, December 11. You can find more information about the city council, including full videos of their meetings, by visiting ci.rochester.mi.us.