2019-20 budget fails to pass
By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — The City Council voted against serving alcohol at this year’s Spirit Fest and to not approve the 2019-20 budget during its May 28 meeting.
With Councilman Tom Wencel absent, the council voted 3-3 on the resolution to award the festival’s adult beverage supplier to the O&W Inc. company. Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko was also absent from meeting.
The council does not have a special meeting planned before the start of the Sprit Fest, and it would be up to Parks and Recreation Director Brian Haddad to call one.
Councilwomen Lisa Hicks-Clayton and Denise Malinowski-Maxwell and Councilman Ray Muscat voted for the resolution, while Councilmen Robert Constan, Bill Bazzi and Dave Abdallah voted against it.
The motion came in front of the council one week before the festival, so they had to vote without all seven council members in attendance.
“I know about how people feel about alcohol because I’m not a drinker either, I don’t drink alcohol but without it we are already going to turn something that’s not doing so well into something that’s a complete disaster,” Muscat said. “I was hoping that we could come together and change somebody’s mind here to vote yes for this just so the Sprit Festival can probably have one last big hoorah.”
Malinowski-Maxwell said she thinks the alcohol beverages help draw the crowd that would help pay for the band and that not passing the resolution could cause the city financial problems.
Hicks-Clayton said she doesn’t drink and respects her colleagues who voted no, but said no alcohol was going to hurt the festival.
“I do agree that it’s about choice and I think for the Spirit Festival and the community when we vote we’re voting not for ourselves necessarily,” she said. “It’s never about ourselves; it’s about who you — our community — who you represent.”
Abdallah said the only problem for him was because there are a lot of children at the festival and he didn’t believe there should be alcohol served anywhere where children are playing games or doing kids’ stuff. Malinowski-Maxwell responded by saying the alcohol is limited to a certain area.
Bazzi said he voted no because he’s received calls from residents in the festival’s area who don’t want alcohol in their neighborhood.
The 33rd annual Spirit Festival will be held at Canfield Community Center, 1801 N. Beech Daly, from June 5 and 9 with one of the major sponsors being Antonio’s Cucina Italiana, 26356 Ford Road.
Corporate Counsel Gary Miotke reminded the council that there is an agreement with Antiono’s in which it comes in and helps the city with the festival as a sponsor.
“It might be considered to be a material change in condition if we were not to end up continuing to have the Spirit Festival held in a similar way,” he said. “In other words, if the revenue is going to be cut because there is not alcohol sales, that could potentially cause Antiono’s to say, ‘No, no, no. We’re not going to bail you out with regard to this because you made a material change in the event.”
On her Facebook, Hicks-Clayton said, “The City of Dearborn Heights has already paid $900 plus to have the beer provider for this year’s Spirit Festival. The sales of beer make up a significant percent of sales. The beer tent is monitored and controlled. Identification of age is required, as needed. Police are on hand to ensure public safety.”
At the same meeting, the council failed to approve the 2019-20 budget.
Muscat had concerns when he went through the budget packet, saying the numbers weren’t corresponding with what the council agreed to one week prior.
One of the topics of concern was the ACT 345, which is “to provide for the establishment, maintenance, and administration of a system of pensions and retirements for the benefit of the personnel of fire and police departments employed by cities, villages, or municipalities having full paid members in the departments, and for the spouses and children of the members,” according to the State of Michigan legislature website.
Hicks-Clayton said the discussion around the act was always about that money collected from ACT 345 were added to the general fund — which is not allowed — in the past 14 years.
“I requested ledgers for all activity, revenue and expenses,” she wrote in Facebook. “A question was raised regarding money. A resident FOIA’d the same ledgers. The ledgers do not match.”
Also, during the meeting Dearborn Heights Emergency Manager Lee Gavin gave residents an update about the flooding as a result of the over three inches of rain that fell on April 30 and May 1.
He said that Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management Agency were out in the field on May 28, but as it was explained to him that didn’t mean FEMA is in town just that a followup to MSP initial assessments to pass on to the governor.
Hicks-Clayton said over 1,100 houses in Dearborn Heights were impacted from the flooding. In a Facebook post she encouraged those residents to write to House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kay Granger because that committee decides what projects are going to recommend to her federal money.
“Suzanne Todd and another resident have offered to help put together a standard letter that you only have to sign if there are residents that don’t feel comfortable in writing: [email protected],” she wrote.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])