Snow machine purchase heats up meeting
Feb. 19, 2015 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
By: Don Howard
The purchase of a cold weather amenity led to some hot tempers during the meeting of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees last week.
A request by Treasurer Ron Edwards for board action to approve the purchase of a SMI-Snow Markers Inc. PoleCat Snow Gun snowmaking machine prompted questions from the audience and Trustees Bob Doroshewitz and Chuck Curmi.
Edwards told Trustees the machine was required right away so they could see if they had adequate water pressure and find out if, “it works.”
Doroshewitz asked several questions about the safety of adding the machine to the public sledding hill in the township park, including the impact on insurance coverage and township liability should injuries occur.
His questions prompted vociferous answers from both Township Supervisor Richard Reaume and Edwards, along with loud comments from members of the audience that prompted an unscheduled 10- minute recess called by Reaume.
The proposed motion to purchase did not include background information about the equipment, an operational budget or a time line for the installation. The information packet submitted to board members included only a single $21,820 line item price quote and six pages from the manufacturer’s sales catalog.
Doroshewitz said his concerns were not about the specifications or the cost, but what he described as safety concerns for children and citizens and liability for the township.
“I don’t think this is a good idea…you’re creating a risk,” he told Edwards.
“No–I’m not,” Edwards replied heatedly.
Curmi, too, expressed concern about turning the sledding hill into an “attractive nuisance.”
Citing examples of communities across the country where sledding is being banned as a risk due to serious injuries, Doroshewitz said statistics show there are 20,000 sledding-related accidents each year.
“You get a written opinion from MMRMA (Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, the township insurance carrier) and from our township attorney, and I’ll shut up,” Doroshewitz said.
Edwards angrily denied Doroshewitz’s risk claims.
“I’ve sat on this board for a number of years and all of sudden we’ve got to get an insurance opinion and the attorney’s opinion before we can move something,” he said.
“Someone has to be there to supervise,” Doroshewitz said.
Reaume vehemently defended the purchase and the need, “Unsupervised hills provide lower risk than supervised hills,” he said, obviously agitated, as several loud comments could be heard from audience members.
Reaume quickly rose from his seat at the table and heatedly shouted, “We’re recessed,” and ordered Police Chief Tom Tiderington to join him in the adjacent hallway.
While Reaume and Tiderington spoke across the hall, several residents stood and approached the dais to express their displeasure with the conduct of the officials to other board officials.
Reaume and Tiderington returned in 10 minutes and Reaume reopened the meeting.
Despite Doroshewitz’ continued examples of potential liability, parking and staffing problems, the question was called and the immediate purchase of the $21,820 snow machine approved by a 4-3 vote. Trustees Doroshewitz, Curmi and Mike Kelly cast the opposing votes while Reaume, Edwards, Clerk Nancy Conzelman and Trustee Kay Arnold, the four board members currently facing a recall petition drive, carried the question.