At the beginning of its July 20 zoom meeting, the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees heard a presentation from Plante Moran on its 2020 financial audit. “This was a[…]

At the beginning of its July 20 zoom meeting, the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees heard a presentation from Plante Moran on its 2020 financial audit.
“This was a clean audit,” said Michelle Lewis of Plante Moran at the end of the presentation.
David Helisek, also of Plante Moran, reported VBT got the highest level of audit, an “unmodified opinion.”
The general fund revenue climbed from $17,192,000 in 2019 to $18,100,000, Helisek said, explaining $690,000 was from federal funds and property taxes brought in 3.8% more at $7.6 million. The state shared revenue remained at $2.9 million.
There was a decrease in landfill royalties of $646,000 due to less tipping fees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expenditures were down, from $17,175,000 in 2019 to $17,071,000 in 2020 due to COVID.
The general fund balance went from $7.5 million in 2019 to $8.5 million in 2020, with $6.978 million of that unassigned. He said the fund balance is 40% of the general fund.
The water and sewer fund showed tap-ins were down and operational expenses went down.
Helisek said the police department was outstanding in getting information to the auditors online, instead of in person, which is “an unusual heavier lift.” He also complimented the treasurer’s and clerk’s offices.
He said the township is moving in the right direction as far as legacy costs and retiree health care. He said pensions were 72.57% funded on Dec. 31, 2019 and when the summary comes out for 2020 VBT’s percentage probably will be around 80%.
VBT’s Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) liability funding went from 11.28% in 2017 to just under 30% in 2020, aiming for 40%, Helisek said.
Supervisor Kevin McNamara pointed out there was a $9 million increase in one year for the fund balance.
“How many times does it change in one year by $9 million?” he asked. “How many times have you seen that?” he asked Helisek.
“First time in quite some time,” he said.
McNamara referred to the analysis statement on page five of the report: “During the year the net position (the portion of net position that can be used to finance day-to-day operations) increased by approximately $9.5 million for the governmental activities from 2019.”
Also, “Regarding the township’s total net position, business-type activities comprise $75.6 million, and governmental activities comprise approximately $14.5 million.”
In another part of the audit, Helisek warned the township about cyberattacks. He said he had nothing to report, “but cyberattacks are relentless.”
McNamara said township budget sessions are coming up and he is going to propose a budget line item of $100,000 to hire a firm to help with cybersecurity and IT.
McNamara also said recently, before he left for vacation, he called Helisek and asked him if it wasn’t time for VBT to be re-rated by Standard and Poors. He listed the improvements since the last rating and, “I think we’re in a good position for moving the rating up.”
In other business at the two-hour-and-44-minute meeting on July 20, the board:
• Was introduced to the team selected to design and build the new community center. Director of Community Services Elizabeth Renaud introduced Robert Stempien of Plante Moran Cresa and Jordan Sirhan of Frank Rewald and Sons. She said there were eight bids for construction manager and the committee selected Frank Rewald. At the next meeting the board will be asked to approve this selection and allocate $19,740 for pre-construction services in 2021 for work during the design phase and then 2.5% of the cost of the work. When the bids come in, a guaranteed price of work will be determined, she said. Sirhan will be the project manager and he said his company has been in business for over 100 years and built the Dodge estates in Bloomfield Hills. The company has experience with building gyms and black box theaters and has worked with the Detroit Athletic Club, the Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe, and is building a practice facility for the Piston G League;
• Heard Renaud give the schedule for construction of the community center. With the approval of the construction manager in two weeks, they will come back at the beginning of November with the design for approval. Then they will get construction documents and bidding will be from the end of February to the end of March. Bids will be let in April 2022 and they can break ground. Construction will conclude in April 2023;
• Approved on a 6-1 vote the $165,000 bid of Davenport Construction for the Belleville Area Museum’s Connector Project. Director Renaud said there were two bids opened July 1 and the low bid of $95,000 from Steve’s General Contracting did not capture the whole project. Davenport’s bid of $182,050 was negotiated down to $165,000. Trustee Reggie Miller cast the only no vote, saying the original cost had been estimated at $100,000, then the estimate was not over $150,000. “Now it’s bid on at $180,000 and then negotiated down to $160,000,” she said. “That’s exorbitant. Too much money.” There is $25,000 in grant funding, but $150,000 is required from fund balance, she said. Clerk Leon Wright said he had questioned also why the bid was so high and was told architectural work is required and Davenport has an architect on its staff. Director of Public Services Matthew Best this is the first time they got a bid from a builder on the design presented by Museum Director Katie Dallos. It’s a drawing from 2019. Since then there’s been COVID, a run on products, and higher cost. McNamara said it came in at $200,000 and that’s why they took out the skylight;
• Discussed the museum and whether the City of Belleville and Sumpter Township could be asked to help with the cost of the project. McNamara said the township has one footprint in the City of Belleville and with the library and plaza, it will be in the center of festivals and he wants it to look good. Trustee Frazier asked if the township could incorporate Belleville into it and McNamara said, under law, the City of Belleville could take over VBT, but the township cannot take over the city. “It’s our building and we can do what we want,” he said. “Call it the VBT museum,” Frazier said. “We’re paying the biggest share.” McNamara said it’s going to happen in the future. Treasurer Sharry Budd said the general consensus is that the museum is VBT’s, but they’ve got a little way to go;
• Approved the DTE Community Lighting Contract for Van Buren Park in the amount of $34,000. Director Renaud said the existing lights along the entry to the park are in poor condition, with some of them broken. The township contacted DTE and they developed a lighting design, with bases, new LED lights, demolition, and disposal and DTE will install the new poles and be responsible for maintenance. It will cost the township $2,000 a year for operation. Director Renaud said they are talking about a Master Plan for Van Buren Park so they can get grants. She said for now they are just working with the existing lights and this project is expected to be done within 90 days. Director Best said the last light in the line of poles was knocked over when a truck tried a turn-around;
• Approved a not-to-exceed $25,000 contract with Fishbeck engineers for a Water & Sewer Emergency Response Plan. Water & Sewer Director James Taylor said the EPA issued an order for a study to be done by Dec. 31;
• Approved adoption of the Michigan Township Association Principles of Governance, the Senior Alliance Annual Implementation Plan for Aging Services, and Amendment No. 1 to the 2019-20 Intergovernmental Governmental Agreement with Wayne County Parks, increasing the grant amount from $31,845 to $64,277 for French Landing Park improvements; and
• Heard Steven Darke say, via zoom, that something has to be done about the abandoned bank next to Trilogy Apartments before it draws gangs. Best said they will look into that and see what they can do. Earlier Darke commented that he loved that the Van Buren Park lights were being replaced and he hoped they would put more lights on into the park.

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