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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 04/16/14
ANALYSIS OF ROMEO
Above, Dave Boerger of the Southeast Michigan Council of Government (SEMCOG), left, speaks with Village of Romeo Trustees Christine Malzahn, Bob Hart and Ron Rossell about evaluating Romeo's governmental operations. Trustees are considering a reorganization with the current clerk and treasurer stepping down this year. Also pictured is resident Dennis Jokinen.
(Observer photo by Chris Gray)
Legal advice needed for Romeo reorganization
by CHRIS GRAYVillage trustees are seeking legal opinions and further data on whether Romeo's government should be reorganized.
Observer Staff Writer
A committee of Trustees Bob Hart, Christine Malzahn and Ron Rossell are working with the Southeast Michigan Council of Government (SEMCOG) to provide assistance in evaluating the village's fiscal and organizational operations since the clerk and treasurer will step down from their positions.
Village Clerk Marian McLaughlin has been the clerk and appointed administrator for 28 years, while Treasurer Melinda Rossell has served since 1993.
Trustees are also looking for accurate job descriptions of the clerk, treasurer and administrator positions. Hart said with the incumbents stepping down, there is an opportunity to evaluate their roles and duties for a potential reorganization.
"We have all new people coming in, we absolutely need this," he said. "We'd have to wait four years to do this again if we miss any timetables."
At a committee meeting on April 10, Dave Boerger, director of SEMCOG's Local Government Efficiency and Effectiveness program, said before any changes can be made the village should obtain legal advice from its attorney.
"I would get his . . . advice on can it be done, and is it within the realm of our charter, within the realm of state law and within the realm of the village guidelines that exist in the state," he said.
The legal advice could also address any issues with changing the positions after residents have filed for them. As of April 11, two residents have filed for clerk: Village President Mike Lee and Leo Hudson.
Boerger said he didn't believe there were any issues so long as changes were made before the filing deadline, which is July 22.
Boerger said the committee should determine if the Village Board of Trustees is in favor of making organizational changes. The committee will report its findings to the full board on April 21.
The evaluations stemmed in part from trustees considering a change from an elected clerk and treasurer to having the positions appointed by the board.
Boerger's analysis compared Romeo to 12 similarly-sized villages and the City of Orchard Lake, which converted from a village. The analysis shows a majority of the communities appoint a village manager, clerk and treasurer.
The analysis showed the only other community with a clerk/administrator was Wolverine Lake, which appoints both positions.
Romeo and three other communities elect their clerk, while the Village of Holly appoints a combined clerk/treasurer. Only Romeo elects its treasurer out of the 14 communities, while 10 appoint the position. Dundee and Oxford didn't show a treasurer position.
A total of 11 communities appoint a village manager. The committee asked Boerger to research how managers are appointed and the average compensation for the position.
"I don't know that we necessarily want a village manager, but we do now have an administrator that really is doing the management job," Hart said.
Boerger said he could do so, but warned that communities with three positions have higher costs than those with fewer officials.
Committee members asked that New Haven and Almont be included in the analysis since they're close to Romeo. Armada won't be included because its population is smaller than Romeo.
Boerger's analysis also included a comparison of Romeo's budget using 2013 figures. He said transfer out expenses are of concern, saying they're higher than most other communities. Trustees said this is due to the village subsidizing its water and sewer funds.
Boerger said expenditures for the police department and Department of Public Works are above the regional averages for a village. Four communities out of the 14 spend more than Romeo for both departments.
"It's higher than some of these other communities, but it's close to average," he said.
Boerger said he otherwise believed the village was in good standing with a healthy fund balance and working toward improving its water and sewer funds.
"There are no major flags that say you're doomed," he said.