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Greenwood board, residents spar over public comments

Jodi Summit
Posted 10/11/18

GREENWOOD TWP- Once again, public comment proved to be a divisive portion of the Greenwood Town Board meeting on Tuesday.

For the second month in a row, Chairman Mike Ralston moved the public …

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Greenwood board, residents spar over public comments

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GREENWOOD TWP- Once again, public comment proved to be a divisive portion of the Greenwood Town Board meeting on Tuesday.

For the second month in a row, Chairman Mike Ralston moved the public input to the end of the agenda. Public input over the past few months has been a mix of complaints and compliments on township issues.

Former Chairman John Bassing once again called out the board, this time for failing to pass a motion at the September meeting to approve the claims. He noted the township had been cited on this same issue by the state two years ago.

“This is an important thing,” Bassing said. The board then passed a motion retroactively approving the claims from the previous meeting.

Recreation committee member Noreen Butalla told the board the group is planning a clean-up day at the pavilion area, to get it ready for winter. The group is also hosting a pizza party and silent auction fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Vermilion Club from 4 – 7 p.m.

Jeff Maus said moving public comment to the end of the meeting meant that residents did not get the chance to make meaningful input into the month’s agenda items. He did note that he understood it was the board’s meeting to conduct.

Ralston noted that the input was still being considered.

Maus then read a satirical note about potential township supervisor campaign ads highlighting what he saw as bad faith by the current board members, but was quickly cut off by Ralston.

“That’s enough,” Ralston said. “This has nothing to do with board business.”

Steve Rodgers said he agreed with moving public input to the end of the meeting, since he felt it had “bogged down” the meeting before the actual township business got underway.

It was noted, as it has been in the past, that the monthly town board meeting is for the board to conduct business, and that they are under no obligation to take public input.

Ralston also said he personally was offended by John and Joann Bassing’s recent letter to the editor suggesting he was resistant to training. “I’ll go to training that I think is worthwhile for me to benefit this township,” he said. Bassing replied that he did need training to make sure the township approves claims at the meeting.

“We all make mistakes on this board,” Ralston said. “If you put all that energy into positive things, this township would be much better served.”

Ralston’s comments drew very loud applause from the audience.

Recycling

canisters

Supervisor Carmen DeLuca told the board he had forwarded a littering complaint to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s department after someone left several large cardboard boxes outside of the canisters. The boxes had identifying information, and the sheriff will be following up on the littering complaint.

DeLuca said the township should look at installing a new sign at the canisters, that clearly states the rules concerning the site. DeLuca will get a quote and preliminary sign design from Mesabi Sign for the next meeting.

“It’s too bad a few people are going to ruin it for everybody,” said Supervisor Paul Skubic.

DeLuca said he hoped that once the word got out that littering violations will be forwarded to the sheriff, things will improve.

Treasurer Pam Rodgers noted that this recent issue was with a local property owner, not a tourist.

Maus claims

Fire department member Jeff Maus sent an email to the township “to report multiple disrespectful workplace incidents.” The incidents included failure to consider an employee grievance in good faith, derogatory comments, and untrue statements.

Clerk Sue Drobac read the email out loud. Copies had been emailed to all the supervisors but it was not included in the public packet.

The incidents all concerned the town board’s reaction to Maus’s earlier grievance about the township’s refusal to pay for training time he had documented. Maus also singled out Ralston’s comments during the open meeting on the grievance where Ralston said that Maus’s request was due to “greed or saltiness.”

“Statements of this nature are derogatory and untrue,” wrote Maus, “and I believe seek to intimidate, retaliate and harass. There is no reason those words should have been used in the hearing.”

Maus also noted that he had been told his attendance at the meeting was required, and he was told “it would go very badly” for him if he did not attend. He said this contradicted the township’s assertions, when denying his compensation request for time spent on the grievance, that he was not required to be on the “premises at any time during which the grievance was processed.”

Maus asked the board to investigate his complaints in accordance with the township’s personnel policy, adopted by the board in July 2017, under the disrespectful workplace section. The township policy defines disrespectful behavior to include harassment and intimidation.

Ralston noted that the complaint had been forwarded to the township attorney, and no further discussion was held.

Fire department

The town board accepted a $15,000 donation from the Bois Forte Band for the fire department. The band makes an annual donation to the department for fire protection on the Vermilion Reservation, including Fortune Bay. Chief Dave Fazio said the department is planning a training at the resort casino in the near future.

Fazio told the board the department had also received a grant to purchase a mechanical CPR device, at a cost of $10,000. The so-called “Lucas” device assists emergency responders in providing longer-term CPR. The Tower Ambulance Service already has a unit. Greenwood was chosen for this special grant for townships which do not have their own ambulance service. Fazio said the Lucas device will be an important addition to the township’s emergency response equipment and could be especially important when responding out on the lake, allowing responders to perform safe CPR while transporting a patient on the fire boat back to a waiting ambulance.

Fazio reported that new fire fighter Roth Indihar has completed all his required training, including a live burn exercise, and that another member is starting EMR classes.

Jeff Maus told the board that he is pursuing, at his own cost, Fire Instructor II training, and once certified this will allow him to oversee live burn and other advanced training for the department using equipment like the live burn trailer that can be loaned out from the state fire marshal.

The board reviewed the changes being made to the department’s Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) and Paid-on-Call policy (POC) and will forward them to the township attorney for review. The changes clarify what training the township will pay for and clarifies it will only reimburse for hours spent on in-classroom teaching. The changes also set up procedures for removing inactive fire fighters or EMRs from the department roster, and the process for returning township equipment once a member is terminated.

Other business

In other business the board:

 Will advertise for quotes for winter snowplowing.

 Heard that the township attorney will be forwarding information on the process for assessing property owners for paving on a township-owned road. Ralston noted the process appears to be complicated and expensive. He also said they will be sending out a letter to Birch Point Extension residents about brushing, which the township hopes to complete in the spring.

 Clerk Drobac reported that the township has spent about $9,100 on maintenance related expenses such as plowing, lawn mowing, and cleaning the last 12 months.

 Heard that there are more people interested in being election judges.

 Heard that their MAT insurance will increase by $115 per year to cover the cost of insuring the new playground equipment and the new “snow-bulance” rescue sled. The township’s regular policy is about the same cost as last year, at $8,468.

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