Rochester having trouble seating an ethics board, and more

In 2009, Rochester City Council adopted an ethics ordinance. It calls for appointment of a three-member board to handle ethics questions as they arise. But the board has never been seated, apparently because of a lack of applicants for the positions.
On Monday, City Manager Jaymes Vettraino suggested that the city focus on ways to find more applicants. He said there are currently only four viable applications. Councilman Stuart Bikson said he was prepared to vote for two of them.
“I think it’s time to move forward. I think we could find talented people in town who are willing to serve,” he said.
But Councilman Ben Giovanelli said the city needs to “cast a wider net.”
“This is just too important,” he said. “This first board especially has got its work cut out for it, I think.”
The board must include at least two city residents. Unlike other committee appointments, ethics board appointments require the votes of at least six of the seven council members.
Mayor Jeff Cuthbertson said he is looking for “how we might go outside of our existing protocol. … I don’t think it’s the whole universe of people that we need to hear from.”
Anyone interested should visit the city Web site,, for an application.
Rochester City Council also took up the following issues Monday night:
New businesses, take note
Council approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment that would require a new certificate of occupancy anytime a new tenant moves into a commercial building.
Currently the city only requires the certificate if a building permit is involved. The change would give the city an opportunity to make sure all new businesses fit the zoning of their building before they move in.
“The certificate of occupancy is really a test of the appropriateness of the building for the use that’s proposed,” City Manager Jaymes Vettraino said. “I think it provides us a tool to make us aware of issues earlier.”
He said the city has experienced instances where a new business moved in that was not allowed under the existing zoning. After a lease is signed, “it becomes a much more difficult process,” Vettraino said. “We’re hoping if we catch that at the beginning of the process, we would be more efficient for the owner and the tenant.”
If the amendment is adopted, likely at the next council meeting, the city will notify all owners of nonresidential buildings.
OPC budget to get review
Under an agreement between Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township, the three municipalities have the right to approve the annual budget of the Rochester Older Persons Commission. But the city of Rochester hasn’t historically chosen to do so. Now, that will change.
Council voted to notify the OPC board that in future, it will approve OPC budgets, along with any budget amendments over $3,000. The same will also be true for the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority, which operates under a similar interlocal agreement.
The change was prompted by the OPC board’s decision late last year to give full-time employees pensions through a budget amendment. After much criticism, the vote was rescinded.
Councilman Stuart Bikson, council’s current representative on the OPC board, said a subcommittee has already formed to begin looking at the interlocal agreement for possible amendments.
“There were many things in the interlocal of the OPC that were inconsistent or were not being followed,” he said. The OPC has sent the budget to the city every year, “but we’ve never taken action on it. … And the same with the RARA budget. We’ve never acted on that as well.”
Emergency siren updates
The noon whistle will continue to sound from the fire hall, but the city will make a couple of tweaks to its emergency siren system to provide better coverage.
Fire Chief John Cieslik got permission to add one siren in a city parking lot east of Main Street and eliminate sirens at the DPW and the cemetery. The changes will close a coverage gap in the southeastern part of the city and save money by eliminating some phone lines.
“We will keep the sirens at the fire hall. It seems everybody likes the noon whistle,” Cieslik said.
Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson said he “will never vote to eliminate the noon whistle. There’s a few things that are sacrosanct in the city, and I think that may be one of them.”

Police to buy motorcycle

The Rochester Police Department already puts officers on bicycles each summer. This year, a motorcycle will be added.

Council approved the purchase of one Harley Davidson motorcycle out of the 2011-12 budget at a cost of $14,450, including a maintenance package. It will be delivered after July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.
Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm said there are several good reasons to use motorcycles, especially since Main Street through the city will be under construction next year.
“It is a very mobile and agile vehicle,” Schettenhelm said. “When you have traffic backed up, it’s a lot easier to get around. The other aspect is the community policing. It’s a very unique patrol method; people will come up and ask questions. And it’s just a natural extension of our community policing policy to put officers on motorcycles.”
Schettenhelm said the Harley was chosen because it’s American made and is the motorcycle of choice for police in the eastern United States.

By Annette Kingsbury

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  1. dore' McGowan says

    Chief Schettenhelm has brought updated ideas to our police department and we are safer for it and that is innovated thinking. Stuart Bikson has always been involved in fairness on any committee he is involved with. He thinks for the people who don’t get a vote on changes.50 Year Anniversary for our library? That deserves a lot of press of then and what is now and what for the future. Comparisons because as a reader I know we’ve come a very long way.

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