Newaygo Council Questions The Stream - “It Just Keeps Losing Money”
By N3 News Team
The Newaygo City Council meeting saw some fireworks Monday when Council member Mike Hikade questioned the Stream/Ops group stating “A few months ago I asked what this group was about and I was told it as economic development. It seems to me to be more about personal development.”
Mr. Hikade cited dinners, hunting trips and...
...other activities engaged in by the Stream/Ops group as well as his displeasure with recent bonuses paid to the Stream employees. He offered 5 recommendations including:
1. To stop bonuses to Stream employees stating that if all employees are not eligible for this no one should receive them.
2. To put control of The Stream under the City Manager.
3. To dissolve Stream/Ops.
4. To consider selling the 2nd floor of the facility (Visser Bros Contractors the company that built The Stream owns the first floor).
5. To have the TIFA board that currently operates The Stream to provide regular reports to the City Council and become more transparent.
Council member Roger Palmiter also questioned the activities being carried out by Stream/Ops.
“There’s no plan,” he stated. “We sat down with Stream/Ops and they sold us a great idea but it hasn’t panned out. We just keep losing money and there’s no plan.”
“If I was coming to town to start a business I wouldn’t be going to The Stream I’d go to City Hall. Economic Development starts at City Hall. People here are capable of doing it. Do we move City Hall there? Do we sell it? We need a plan.”
“Do we really want to lose another half million dollars the next few years? We need to represent the taxpayers of this community and there is no accountability for the money being spent.”
Mayor Ed Fedell responded by defending the actions of the group stating Stream/Ops is made up of himself Scott Faulkner Ron Armstrong, and Larry Lethorn adding that former City Manager Rich Blachford had left the group as of October 1st.
“Ron, Scott and I are business people. To say it’s not run like a business is absolutely not true.”
Mr., Fedell continued, citing events that led to the TIFA board taking over operation of The Stream.
“If we had a crystal ball and knew this was going to drop in our lap would we have done it? I don’t know. But to close that building would be the worst thing you could do. It sends the wrong message.”
He went on to explain that the bonuses were actually incentive compensation and that the controversy over it began after Mr. Schneider had approached him about having others get paid these as well and that he refused.
“Jon asked to meet with me about this and at the meeting I said no. These were not bonuses they were incentive compensation. I said no and all of a sudden The Stream was this evil person.”
“Let’s put it on the market,” said Mr. Hikade.
“Putting it on the market with an exclusive listing ties our hands.” said Mr. Fedell. "If it’s an exclusive listing there’s nothing we can do about it."
“No one’s mentioned an exclusive listing but you,” said Mr. Hikade.
“We have to do something,” he continued. “It’s just keeps losing money every year. It has to stop.”
Mr. Fedell defended the comments about out of town dinners and activities stating “in business you have to wine and dine people.”
He spoke of the effect from NCEDO (Newaygo County Economic Development Office) leaving The Stream and that now with The Right Place coming in there is discussion about establishing a new board made up of the Stream/Ops group and 2 new members.
“With the business people in Stream/Ops, I find it difficult to believe if they lost a quarter of what The Stream loses in a month that they would be paying out $2000 bonuses,” said Mr. Palmiter.” You say there’s a plan. Where’s the plan? We’ve never heard of it.”
“I’ve said it over and over again” replied Mr. Fedell.
“I haven’t heard it then and I find it unacceptable to keep this going” said Mr. Palmiter.
“It’s not like we’re not trying” replied Mr. Fedell.
A motion was brought to eliminate future bonus payments and was passed 5-2 with the Mayor and Council member Douglas Day dissenting. The Council also agreed to set up a meeting with the Stream/Ops group when it could be scheduled.
During public comment Newaygo citizen Cal Dietz questioned the city’s direction with regard to The Stream and questioned the amount of money paid to Mr. Blachford for his involvement in the organization as well as stating current City Manager should be fired for allowing it to continue.
The TIFA board meets this Friday at 7:00am at the City Council Chambers. The board members are:
Ron Armstrong, Chairperson, Scott Faulkner, Vice-Chair, Wayne Bumstead, Douglas Day, Larry Lethorn, Larry Ivens, James Badgero, Ed Fedell, Morgan Heinzman,Peg Mathis, Adam Geers and John Buckley. Mr. Schneider is listed as director and Kim Biegalle serves the board as secretary.
Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Faulkner Mr. Lethorn, and Mr. Fedell make up the Stream/Ops group.