Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Council-Manager Form of Government

This year the government model of “Council-Manager” celebrates its 100th birthday. The first City Manager position was created in 1908 in the town of Staunton, VA. On April 2, of that year Charles E. Ashburner was hired as the general manager of the town. Mr. Ashburner of Richmond, VA was selected over several other candidates to fill the position. An engineer by profession until that point, Ashburner would go on to manage communities in Ohio, Virginia, and California.

In present day Isabella County, this form of government is utilized by not only Lake Isabella, but also the City of Mount Pleasant, Isabella County, and the City of Clare. The managers of all four of these units of government also happen to be members of the Internation City/County Manager’s Association.

The ICMA was founded in 1914. At that time only 32 communities in the US and Canada has adopted the council-manager form of government. Today the ICMA claims over 8,000 members world-wide. In the US, the council-manager form of government is the most common form of government in communities of 2,500 or more. According to the ICMA, since 1990 over 1,100 communities had adopted this form of government. As of 2007, 49% of the communities in the US over 2,500 in population used this style of government. 43.5% used the strong mayor form of government, while 7.5% had other forms of government.

According to Wikipedia…The council-manager government is one of two main variations of representative municipal government in the United States. This system of government is used in the majority of American cities with populations over 12,000. (for contrast, see mayor-council government).

In the council-manager form of government, an elected city council (typically between five and 11 people) is responsible for making policy, passing ordinances, voting appropriations, and having overall supervisory authority in the city government. In such a government, the mayor (or equivalent executive) will perform strictly ceremonial duties or will act as a member and presiding officer of the council, similar to a chairman. The council will appoint a city manager or administrator who will be responsible for supervising government operations and implementing the policies adopted by the council. The manager serves the council, usually with a contract that specifies duties and responsibilities. Ideally, the manager is apolitical, but this is often difficult.

Municipal governments are usually administratively divided into several departments, depending on the size of the city. Though cities differ in the division of responsibility, the typical arrangement is to have the following departments handle the following roles:

  • Economic development and tourism
  • Public works - construction and maintenance of all city-owned or operated assets, including the water supply system, sewer, streets, stormwater, snow removal, street signs, vehicles, buildings, land, etc.
  • Parks and recreation - construction and maintenance of city parks, common areas, parkways, publicly-owned land, operation of various recreation programs and facilities
  • Emergency medical services
  • Planning & Zoning (Community Development)
  • Police & Fire (Public Safety)
  • Emergency management
  • Accounting/finance - often tax collection, audits
  • Human resources - for city workers
  • Legal counsel/risk management - legal matters such as writing municipal bonds, ensuring city compliance with state and federal law, responding to citizen lawsuits stemming from city actions or inactions.
  • Transportation (varies widely) - if the city has a municipal bus or light rail service, this function may be its own department or it may be folded into the another of the above departments.
  • Information technology - supports computer systems used by city employees; may be also responsible for a city website, phones and other systems.
  • Housing department
The council-manager system can be seen to place all power into the hands of the legislative branch. However, a city manager can be seen as a similar role to that of corporate chief executive officer (CEO) in providing professional management to an organization. Council-manager government is much like a publicly-traded corporation. In a corporation, the board of directors appoints a CEO, makes major decisions and wields representative power on behalf of shareholders. In council-manager government, the city council appoints a city manager, makes major decisions, and wields representative power on behalf of the citizens.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guess Who is Coming to Town...

Guess who is coming to Lake Isabella, actually what is coming to Lake Isabella...

If you guessed Michigan Consolidated Gas, you are correct! Yes, it is true, the DTE natural gas project is "a go." The first pre-construction meeting was held this afternoon at the Village Hall with members of DTE/MichCon, Rowe Incorporated, the Village, and the LIPOA in attendance. The meeting covered many of the preliminary information for constructing the project. Two main issues stressed by the Village were protecting the streets and paved driveways in the Village, and ensuring that where yards are disturbed proper restoration is completed. In summary, there is a lot of work ahead for all of the stakeholders, the first of which is staking out the right-of-way areas in the service areas.

If you have traveled down El Camino Grande in the last 2 days, you may have noticed the flagging done at the edge of the right-of-way. El Camino Grande and Queens Way both are wide ROWs being 80 feet, rather than the normal 66 feet. In addition to the ROW area, many of the plats in the Village have an additional 15' public utility easement along the front lot lines.

This project will be one of the largest, if not the largest under taken by Michigan Consolidated Gas this year. The total project, including service mains from the current Weidman sub-station, will total nearly 100,000 feet of pipe. For comparison purposes, last year our local streets paving project covered about 70,000 linear feet of paving.

If you haven't signed up for the project and still want to, you can do so at anytime. Information is available on our website, and also at the Village Hall.

Monday, July 21, 2008

4 Ordinaces Adopted this past Tuesday

At the regular Village Council meeting this past week, the Village Council adopted 4 new ordinances, and introduced a fifth ordinance. The adopted and introduced ordinances reflect the body of work of the Planning Commission since August 2007, and continue to implement the goals of the Village's Master Plan. The ordinances are as follows:

Ordinance 2008-02 (Effective 7/30/2008): This ordinance is a comprehensive update to the Village's zoning code. While there are numerous changes in the 170+ pages of the zoning code, the major changes are as follows:
  • Fertilizer requirements have been changed from low-phosphorus to non-phosphorus.
  • All new commercial development will be required to have hard surfaced drives and parking areas, and be located on a hard surfaced street.
  • Design requirements in the Multi-Family Residential District have been added.
  • New zoning districts and design standards for the commercial areas in and around Coldwater Road.
  • Updated structure requirements in the LR-1 and LR-2 districts. This includes width to length ratio and requiring new development to have an attached garage.
Ordinance 2008-03 (Effective 7/23/2008): This ordinance updates the regulations of the Village's general nuisance provisions. Included in this update are several areas of regulation (Signs, Land Divisions, Vehicles, and Pools) which were previously located in the zoning code. By including these regulations in a general police power ordinance the Village will be better able to regulate and address areas which may have been grandfathered by a zoning ordinance.

Ordinance 2008-04 (Effective 7/23/2008): This ordinance establishes a residential rental properly inspection and licence program. Under this ordinance any residential rental property will be required to undergo an annual inspection and license.

Ordinance 2008-05 (Effective 7/23/2008): This ordinance approves a 30 year non-exclusive natural gas franchise for Michigan Consolidated Gas.

Ordinance 2008-06 (Public Hearing scheduled for August 19, 2008): This ordinance will allow the Village to establish single-lot special assessment districts. The purpose of which is to allow the Village to recover costs incurred if the Village is forced to take corrective action on a property in violation.

Copies of all of the above ordinances are on the website for your review. If you have any questions, feel free to call the office.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Birdie Drive Spoils Improve Baseline Road

This week the Village's primary street maintenance contractor, Wilcox Excavating, was hard at work taking the spoils from the Birdie Drive project of this spring and reshaping portions of Baseline Road. This spring when several sections of Birdie Drive were fixed, the spoiled base materials ended up in several piles at our lagoon property. This material made largely of road gravel, has been reused to help improve areas of Baseline Road which are maintenance issues.

Tuesday is our regular monthly Village Council meeting. The agenda has been posted on our website and at the Village Hall. This meeting will also include 4 public hearings for proposed ordinances. Drafts of the proposed ordinances can also be downloaded from our website.

Once again thank you to all who helped with the fireworks. We are still short on our fund raising goal, if you haven't made a donation to help cover the cost of the event, please consider it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Still the Lowest...

In light of our recent mailing of the summer tax bills, the Village has checked into what other incorporated communities in mid-Michigan levy for their operating Millage. For the 2008 tax year, the Village of Lake Isabella had a collection of 0.8463 Mill.

Municipality................ Millage........... Tax Bill (50k SEV)
City of Mount Pleasant..... 14.14 Mills...................$706.80
Village of Shepherd............12.00 Mills..................$557.68
City of Alma........................16.59 Mills...................$829.50
City of Saint Louis..............13.41 Mills...................$670.50
City of Clare........................17.50 Mills...................$875.00
City of Ithaca.....................14.03 Mills....................$701.50
Village of Breckenridge.....17.60 Mills...................$880.00
Village of Farwell..................7.98 Mills...................$399.00
Village of Edmore...............12.52 Mills...................$626.00
Village of Barryton.................9.5 Mills...................$475.00
Village of Rosebush................3.0 Mills..................$150.00
LAKE ISABELLA..................0.85 Mill.....................$42.32

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Check out the Fireworks on YouTube

Right from our homepage and also via YouTube, we have posted the final three and a half minutes of the fireworks show last night. We have a few more clips that we are working on and hope to have them all up soon.

Once again, thank you to all who donated, and everyone who helped with the show, it was an awesome night!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Village Hall Closed...

Our office will be closed on Friday, July 4th to observe Independence Day. Our office will also be closed on Monday, July 7th. It isn't a holiday, both of our office employees (myself and Jessica) had made plans and are using vacation time. We will re-open for regular business on Tuesday morning.

The weather is looking great for our fireworks on Saturday night. We are launching from the dam again this year. Also on Saturday, the LIPOA is hosting a 5k run and 2k walk.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pure Michigan

In case you haven't come across them yet, the folks at Travel Michigan have hit a real "home run" with their latest ad campaign. The "Pure Michigan" ads invoke a nostalgic sense of what it means to live and play in our great state. Each ad focuses on a different niche as to what makes Michigan such a great place. For example the first one listed on is titled "The Potential of Water."

Other ads focus on golf, agricultural, and the unique names found across the state. Whatever it is that you connect to on a personal level as to why you still call Michigan home, is likely to be in at least one of the spots. Perhaps it is because in a way you can connect to most of the spots. Not only is the message very well done, the imagery in the ads is also excellent.

If you have a few free minutes I invite you to check it out for yourself at...