Metro Council Wants To Amend State Law

May 17, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Size does matter to the Grand Valley Metro Council (GVMC), as the regional planning agency is considering proposing some changes to the state law that charters its existence.

The Metro Council is looking at offering amendments to five sections of Public Act 292, the 1989 state statute that gave the organization its authority.

The biggest reason why the changes are being considered is because the Metro Council has grown so large, from nine communities a decade ago to 31 members today.

Some votes, such as admitting new members, require approval from all 31 members. That requirement makes for a bulky process and the council wants it streamlined.

"Hardly anywhere in Michigan statutes is 100 percent approval necessary," said James Brown, a partner at Mika, Meyers, Beckett & Jones and GVMC legal counsel. He suggested that a two-thirds majority vote replace the all-or-nothing approach.

Another change would allow the Metro Council to buy electrical power, adding that ability to its water and sewer authority.

GVMC Executive Director Jerry Felix said none of the proposed amendments would stop members from vetoing any attempt by the council to collect taxes — a constant and major concern of many communities.

In all, council members discussed a total of 16 changes to five sections of the act.

More discussions are expected in future months, especially at the agency's Blueprint Committee. Should the council agree on a list of amendments, area lawmakers would have to introduce the changes in Lansing and then drum up support for the measures in the Legislature.

"We've lived with this for 10 years and time is not probably of the essence this time," said Chairman Jim Buck.

In addition, council members gave Felix a strong vote of confidence in their evaluation of his performance, along with a 4-percent pay hike. Felix just completed his sixth year as the Metro Council's executive director, having joined the agency in 1995.

Also, the council is likely to conduct a marketing study to determine whether it can sell processed sewage treatment sludge, also known as biosolids, as fertilizer to the region's farmers. A similar product from Milwaukee, called Milorganite, has been widely used as lawn fertilizer for 75 years.

The Metro Council will issue a request for proposal soon, and has budgeted between $30,000 and $40,000 for a consultant's report.

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