STANTON — The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners rejected an engineering firm’s agreement Monday after a Brownfield Authority member called out his colleagues for an uninformed vote when they recommended the agreement.
Montcalm County was awarded a $400,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Cooperative Assistance Agreement grant last year to assess local Brownfield sites for hazardous substances and petroleum. Six statements of qualification to administer the assessment were submitted to the county.
Five out of nine Brownfield Authority members voted Jan. 18 to approve a professional services agreement with Soil & Materials Engineers Inc. (SME) in Plymouth to conduct the assessment.
According to Brownfield Authority member James Freed, Brownfield Authority Chairman George Bosanic, District 6 Commissioner Ron Baker, Mark Christiansen, Doug Hinken and Lonnie Smith voted to approve the agreement with SME. Freed cast the lone “no” vote. Members Brian Blomstrom, Mark Borden and S. Michael Scott were absent from the Jan. 18 meeting.
Baker, Blomstrom, Bosanic, Christiansen, Hinken, Scott and Smith had previously selected SME at a Brownfield Authority review meeting Dec. 15 based solely on a recommendation from Franz Mogdis. Freed also voted “no” at that meeting. Borden was absent.
JAN. 26 CORRECTION: Brownfield Authority Chairman George Bosanic voted to approve an agreement with Soil & Materials Engineers Inc. (SME)to conduct a Brownfield assessment based on Bosanic’s own review of submitted documents.
Freed explained both of his “no” votes at Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting and asked commissioners to send the recommendation back to the Brownfield Authority for a complete review of all statements of qualification from SME and the other five bidders — AKT Peerless Environmental & Energy Services of Farmington, ASTI Environmental of Grand Rapids, Environmental Consulting & Technology Inc. in Lansing, Lakeshore Environment Inc. in Grand Haven and Heartland Environmental Associates in Southbend, Ind.
“It became evident when I got there (the Dec. 15 review meeting) that I was one of the only people in the room to have a copy of the statements of qualifications and in fact only four members of the Brownfield Authority (Blomstrom, Bosanic, Freed and Hinken) actually had the documents before the meeting out of a nine-member board,” Freed said. “Yet, based on evaluations that nobody saw, a motion was made, and there was only one no vote, mine, to go with the engineering firm in your packet.”
Freed specifically called out Baker, who is the county’s liaison on the Brownfield Authority, for voting “yes” without reviewing the documents.
“We owe it to the taxpayers to ensure that a fair, equitable and transparent process takes place,” Freed said. “That did not happen. How can you have a nine-member board with only three to four members actually having the documents vote to recommend an engineering firm?”
Baker and District 4 Commissioner John Johansen both said they were under the impression that a subcommittee had already reviewed all statements of qualification and made a recommendation. Freed said there was no such subcommittee.
“I was comfortable with it,” Baker said. “As far as reviewing those documents, the professional people who do that on a a regular basis are the ones that should do that. There’s four or five members on there (Brownfield Authority) that do that all the time. It’s part of their job on a regular basis and those are the people that I saw did it and they did it and I thought they did it well so I voted on it. I think we should vote and continue on with this program at this point.”
Baker made a motion to approve the agreement with SME, but the motion failed 5-4.
Baker, Johansen, District 9 Commissioner Betty Kellenberger and District 5 Commissioner Carl Paepke were the only commissioners who voted in favor of the agreement.
District 3 Commissioner Ron Retzloff then made a motion to send the recommendation back to the Brownfield Authority so all members could review all statements of qualification. The motion was amended to allow the Brownfield Authority to proceed after they reach an agreement instead of bringing the recommendation back to commissioners for a full board vote a month from now.
The board unanimously approved the motion.
Johansen emphasized that timeliness is of the essence as Montcalm County has three years to utilize the grant.
“There are facilities, there are municipalities that have been on this issue for a long time and we worked on the Economic Development Committee and also on the Brownfield Authority Committee to get to this point,” he said. “It took us four years and two different suppliers to get us the grant. Every day that we delay this is just that much longer in delaying facilities that we need to be dealing with and we have municipalities pleading with us to see that this process is put into place and that we are moving forward.”