Requesting information concerning the proposed Water Improvement Project

On Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 4:24 PM, Trudgeon, Sonya – RD, East Lansing, MI <sonya.trudgeon@mi.usda.gov>wrote:

July 18, 2017

TO:                        Mr. Vern Best

Dear Mr. Best:

This is to update you on the status of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request that was received in our office on June 22, 2017.  In accordance with Executive Order 12600, Rural Development is required to notify the submitters of commercial and financial information when it receives a FOIA Request for records that have been submitted to the Government.  In this case, the Village of Bear Lake.  The Village of Bear Lake is currently reviewing the information from the USDA Rural Development.

The USDA, Rural Development, considered your request for a fee waiver.  In your email of June 28, 2017, you requested a fee waiver stating that you are a disabled Vietnam veteran living on social security.  The FOIA allows fees to be waived or reduced if disclosure of the information is deemed to be in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to the public understanding of the operations or activities of the Government, and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.  The Government in this context is referring to the Federal Government.  The disclosure of documents you have requested regarding Village of Bear Lake does not contribute significantly to the understanding of the Federal Government.

Please understand a significant amount of search time and the amount of paper records involved in your request.  The USDA, Rural Development, was just the financial institution for the loans/grants, and the number of pages we find responsive to your request are currently at approximately 895 pages.  The fee that can be access to this request, for the records/pages, is at $0.20 per page.  In addition, the Loan Specialists that have done the research to locate the records have spent approximately 2 hours.  The fee that can be accessed to this request, for search time, is the employee wages plus 16% times the number of hours.  Before we are able to process this request any further, please advise if you are willing to pay the amount.  Your payment will be required before the records can be released.

Failure to receive an response regarding the fees within a reasonable timeframe will be construed as a willingness to pay the fees that will be accessed on this FOIA request.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me only and directly at Sonya.Trudgeon@mi.usda.gov or via telephone at 517-324-5193.

Sonya K. Trudgeon

Management Control Officer | FOIA Coordinator


July 20:

Good morning Ms. Trudgeon,
obviously none of us can afford the proposed FOIA fees.

It is highly unfortunate that so little information on this major expenditure has been shared with Village residents and property owners.
Therefore we amend our FOIA request.
Under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA) and USDA regulations (7 Coded of Federal Regulations, Part 1, Subpart A) 
Request for electronic copies of documents relating to Village of Bear Lake proposed water system improvement project.
1. We are requesting a copy of the official letter guaranteeing a grant/loan has been awarded in FY2017-18
2. We are requesting USDA RD listing of where the Village of Bear Lake Water System upgrade fall in the Preferred Priority List for Michigan.
3. As the Village states that engineering plans have been approved, we request a copy of the official letter stating that.
Sincerely,
Vern Best, Tim Burke, Daniel Heiss, Jeanne Walsh, Alan Swanson, Janene Gee
****

July 26, 2017

TO:                        Mr. Vern Best

Dear Mr. Best:

This is in response to your revised FOIA request that was received by this office on July 20, 2017, in which you revised your request to the following:  Request for electronic copies of documents relating to Village of Bear Lake proposed water system improvement project and the Village of Bear Lake proposed purchase of a snow plow.

  1. Requesting a copy of the official letter guaranteeing a grant/loan has been awarded in FY2017-2018
  2. Requesting USDA RD listing of where the Village of Bear Lake water system upgrade fall in the preferred priority list for Michigan
  3. Request a copy of the official letter stating that the engineering plans have been approved

Please see the attached response letter to this request.  The response letter closes the revised FOIA request 2017-RD-05215-F.

REVISED FOIA Request Response Letter

*******

July 27:

Good morning Ms. Trudgeon,

On behalf of all the Village residents who are requesting this information thank you.
We are also cc’ing Mr. Smith on this reply.
1. Our request to know if funding has been guaranteed in this fiscal year relates not to the snow plow application but to the proposed water project for the Village of Bear Lake as you had previously stated there were almost 900 pages concerning current communication between USDA, Fleis & Vandenbrink and the Village of Bear Lake. Again we would like to express our concern at the lack of substantive information given to Village residents.
2. Does USDA no longer publish a Preferred Project List, showing the points awarded in descending order for water and sewer applications?
3. If there have been changes to the scope and plans for this proposed water system project which will/may affect final costs where can we obtain that information to share with Village residents and property owners? I trust you would agree this is public information?
4. Also we would like to emphasize again that we have received a written confirmation from the Village of Bear Lake Clerk we will receive immediate notification of the publication of the bid package and information of how to access the proposed bid documents to review . Again we trust you will agree this is public information?
5. Funds for the Village of Bear Lake water system project may have been obligated in 2016 but obviously we are now in a different fiscal year and a different political and financial climate. As property owners we are merely trying to get information of the exact cost and what will happen should the bids come back in excess of the actual USDA funds that are available – particularly in the form of grant.
Vern Best
cc: J Walsh, L Vission, T Burke, D Heiss, A Swanson, J Gee, Bear Lake News
************

August 2, 2017

TO:                        Mr. Vern Best

Dear Mr. Best:

Attached is a response letter and any records responsive to your revised FOIA request that is below.  As stated in the attached letter, FOIA Request 2017-RD-05212-F is considered closed.  Any additional FOIA requests received will be considered a new FOIA request, a new time frame will be used, and a new FOIA request number will be assigned.

Sonya K. Trudgeon

REVISED FOIA Request Response Letter (2)

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