Sunshine Week 2018: FOIA Updates Three

This is the last day of Sunshine Week 2018 where the legal right of citizens to ask questions of their local elected officials is celebrated by honoring the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

Does a citizen have the expectation of being able to ask reasonable questions without having to submit a FOIA is a question to also ask elected officials?

The Village of Bear Lake has taken the position that all requests must be done via FOIA.

To reiterate the policy of Bear Lake News – we report, we do not comment.

February 6, 2018:

Under MI Freedom of Information Act (Public Act No. 442 of 1976 as amended): I hereby submit this request.  I am requesting the items in electronic PDF or Word format to be sent to me via email. I am also requesting this issue be discussed at the Budget review hearings.
I am requesting:
1. A copy of the full application for funding sent to USDA concerning the proposed DPW Building – from the documents I have seen, the construction site seems to be in conflict with the access road for the new Water Wells?
Has MDEQ agreed to the storage of salt and sand this close to the well sites?
  1. Communication from USDA confirming acceptance of an application, estimate of fundability, allocation of funds or indication of availability of funds, and in which FY
3. Amount and terms of repayment of the Loan.
4. Amortized final cost, including interest over 30 years.
As this pertains specifically to how the Village will set it’s FY2018-19 Operating Budget it is worth noting the mandate to designate repayment funds as listed in the June 2017 Minutes:
At the request of the USDA & Rural Development, repayment of loan for construction of new DPW building (approx.. $310k over 30 yrs.) must be amended into the 2017-2018 Village Budget. Loan repayment per month approx.. $1,225-$1500)
▪ Motion to amend the budget for repayment of DPW building in 2017-2018 Budget as follows: General $1,800, Water $7,200, Park $1,800, Major $3,600, Minor $3,600, by Bass, seconded by McPherson. Motion Carried

As we know the construction estimate has risen, what is the new line item allocation?

In light of the January Budget Amendments, moving these funds to cover other Budget shortfalls, I would like the Council to address if they either intend to raise taxes or cut expenditures to guarantee the ability to make those future loan repayments? As Streets Superintendent, I am sure you know that only a certain % of Act 51 Funds can be used.
Park
Increase Repairs & Maintenance $1,054.43
Increase Professional Service $433.50
$1,487.93 from DPW Build Repayment
Minor 
Increased Repairs (Outsourced) $1,000
Increase Repairs & Maint-Winter $600
Increase Repair & Maint – Summer $45.93
Increase Equipment Rental $2,100
$3,000 from DPW Building
$700 from Gas & Oil

Reply Received February 8, 2018:
“Answer to your questions:

I am requesting:
1. A copy of the full application for funding sent to USDA concerning the proposed DPW Building – attached
from the documents I have seen, the construction site seems to be in conflict with the access road for the new Water Wells? – No, it is designed around it.
 
Has MDEQ agreed to the storage of salt and sand this close to the well sites? – Well testing has been accepted by the DEQ.

2. Communication from USDA confirming acceptance of an application, estimate of fundability, – USDA has not awarded the village any funds.

allocation of funds or indication of availability of funds, – USDA has indicated funds are available

 and in which FY – unknown

3. Amount and terms of repayment of the Loan. – no award has been given
4. Amortized final cost, including interest over 30 years. – no award has been given
Repayment has been budgeted – no award has been given at this time.
Thank you for your concern.”
February 13, 2018:
having had a chance to consider, and ask for some expert assistance regarding your response, I don’t believe my questions have been answered?
1. The document you sent, SF-424, is just the cover sheet – dated 9/14/17
“This is a standard form used by applicants as a required face sheet for pre-applications and applicatons submitted for Federai assistance. It will be used by Federal agencies to obtain applicant certification that States which have established a review and comment procedure in response to Executive Order 12372 and have selected the program to be included In their process, have been given an opportunity to review the applicant’s submission.”
On November 15 the Village held a Public Hearing where it was stated that USDA had requested changes to the application (see attached documents you previously supplied as a partial response to a prior request for the Public Hearing documents)
My request was to see the full application not the cover sheet – the Summary, Narrative, Environmental Assessment, the Proposed Timeline and the Site Plan
2. In reviewing the initial draft designs, the Village is proposing a 60′ x 40′ structure with a 42′ trench drain to a sump pit? Does the new design include a revised VOC catch basin?
3. In reviewing the Bid package for the water project – where will the DPW building be located on this property? It’s original location was scheduled as adjacent to the Sand storage barn?
The reason for this query is that one of the reasons given for requiring the relocation of the existing wells was their proximity to potential sources of surface/ground water contamination.
Comparing the design of the DPW building to the attached schematic of the Water well access raises questions.
a) close proximity to the main 8″ tie in line as well as the natural gas service line
b) the potential for damage or destabilization of those lines during construction and operation of the proposed DPW building – unless, of course the Village intends to locate the structure elsewhere?
My question does not relate to MDEQ testing of the wells themselves – however, as a prior member of the Wellhead Protection Committee, and as the well drilling and water quality reports are available I would like to see those please?
4. At the November 2017 Public Hearing it was noted that USDA queried the defined costs. My request to see the communications from USDA was as follows with your response in bold:
2. Communication from USDA confirming acceptance of an application, estimate of fundability, – USDA has not awarded the village any funds.
allocation of funds or indication of availability of funds, – USDA has indicated funds are available
 and in which FY – unknown
3. Amount and terms of repayment of the Loan. – no award has been given
4. Amortized final cost, including interest over 30 years. – no award has been given

Again I requested the confirmation from USDA on the fundability and anticipated terms and timeline of an award?

5. There is a significant math discrepancy in the attached SF 424C Budget Information Sheet – can you supply the final version approved following the November 15 Public Hearing?

And again – the original proposed repayment was for $310,000 financed over 30 years. The attached SF 424C lists $328,134.32 – how does the Village plan to allocate this new amount to it’s FY2018-19 Budget?

As the Village is proposing a $2.25m debt for Village residents, although I appreciate these questions may be outside your realm of expertise, your assistance would be appreciated in supplying the requested documentation.
Response received February 15, 2018:

“I have sent you the information that I have regarding your questions.  If you would like me to continue research on additional items you have listed, I would be glad to do that.  However, there would be FOIA research costs that would need to be paid up front before any research would be done.  Please advise me if you will pay FOIA fees for researching your questions and I can send you an FOIA itemized cost sheet.

The Proposed Budget 2018-2019 was sent to you regarding repayment of the DPW building.
Confirmation from USDA on the fund ability, anticipated terms & time line of award, again, The village has not been awarded and funds at this time.
You are right, some of these questions are out of my expertise, maybe we should let the professionals working on this project do their job!
Thank you for your concerns.”
February 18, 2018: A request was sent to the Village President:
“I would like to know – is the Village Clerk unable to locate a filed PDF copy of the DPW USDA loan/project application revised following the November 2017 Public Hearing? Or the prior/subsequent USDA Letter of Commitment?
If so, please let me know so I can request one directly from USDA.”
A response was received February 21, 2018:
“Jennifer Wahr at the USDA may be able to help you if Cindi does not have the information you need.”
The approved FY2018-19 Budget can be viewed here. It was sent to Bear Lake News by a member of the public:
The Minutes seem to indicate an additional piece of property has been purchased but this can not be confirmed at this time.

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