New city commissioners rethink old business
After being sworn in as new Mount Pleasant City Commissioners on Jan. 11, Allison Lents, who was appointed vice mayor, Nick Madaj and Lori Gillis went straight to work.
The three brought up items passed by the commission in 2015, before they were officially part of Mount Pleasant's governing body.
The three new commissioners raised the possibility of terminating the contract with APM Mosquito Control on sprays in search of a more environmentally-friendly option.
At its Nov. 23 meeting, several residents spoke during public comment about their concerns for the environment and public health because of inorganic mosquito control spray.
When the contract was first discussed in May, organic options were available, but it was indicated that they came at a much higher cost.
“I’d like to look into some options that are more environmentally conscious,” Gillis said. “There were people that were opposed to the spraying. I would like to request to research if there are any options for terminating the mosquito contract.”
Madaj said he favored taking another look at the contract in the light of environmental concerns.
The APM Mosquito Control contract is a one-year contract that will cost $85,000 spray. It would reach 50-acres of land in Mount Pleasant.
“When I voted in favor of the mosquito contract, I looked at it as a one-year experiment and I’m not interested in going back and revisiting the issue until we see how it works,” said former mayor and commissioner Jim Holton.
Newly-appointed Mayor Kathleen Ling said that while she’s unsure if she’s interested in terminating the contract, she would be willing to discuss the city's options.
Because the issue was unable to be brought to vote during public comment, Gillis hopes to soon reopen the discussion, but the timeline for potential change is short.
“I’d like to do it as soon as possible. I don’t want the contractor to believe that there's a job in the summer and then we decide to terminate the contract,” she said. “I just don’t want to wait too far into the future to impact their business."
Another ordinance passed in 2015 created as a safety precaution to keep solicitors away from automobile accidents may contain added restrictions that abridge citizens’ freedom of speech, Madaj said.
He looked to review a past decision of the city commission of guidelines to regulate behavior during public solicitations and keep solicitors further from city streets.
Madaj said with the way the ordinance is written, if there are things the commissioner specifically wants to prohibit, there may be First Amendment issues. The ordinance is meant to go into effect on Jan. 13, and a delay will be considered at the commission's next meeting.
“This ordinance is obviously directed at panhandlers found dangerous by the previous board,” said Mount Pleasant resident Tim Caldwell. “This includes veterans, firemen, those paid to advertise businesses, protesters and workers picketing. It’s clear this ordinance has veered into First Amendment issues and should be withdrawn and reexamined.”
One claim of possibly affecting freedom of speech is that the ordinance calls for bans on certain regalia worn by various fundraising groups.
Commissioner Tony Kulick defended the ordinence changes. He said they were meant as a safety precaution to keep solicitors away from automobile accidents like the death of a Lansing fireman in a hit-and-run who was collecting money for muscular dystrophy research near an intersection in September.
“I don’t really care if it’s panhandling or the Lion’s Club, nobody belongs in traffic,” he said.