GVMC makes room for GVSU

March 6, 2010
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By a nearly unanimous vote last week, the Grand Valley Metro Council cleared a path that will allow Grand Valley State University to become the organization’s first non-governmental member.

Metro Council members amended their bylaws to create a new membership classification for higher educational institutions to let GVSU join as a dues-paying, but non-voting member — a route suggested by Jim Brown, a partner at Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones and GVMC’s general counsel since 1990.

“They’re a major player in the community and they’re the only one that has asked,” said Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County administrator. “Opportunities often don’t come when you ask, and this is one we should take advantage of.”

“There is a possibility that we may receive more from them than they’ll get from us,” said Richard Root, Kentwood mayor.

The other option the council had was to admit GVSU as an at-large member. All four of those posts, however, are filled. So to admit the university as an at-large member, a current member would have had to ben replaced by GVSU.

“This is actually opening the door for this type of membership,” said Don Hilton, Gaines Township supervisor and GVMC vice chairman, of last week’s historic vote.

GVMC Executive Director Don Stypula still has to negotiate the fee structure the university will follow and bring that agreement back to the board for its approval. The council charges governmental units on a per-capita basis. Once the fee structure is set, then the Metro Council will vote to admit GVSU as its first higher-education participant.

By creating the higher-education category, the Metro Council has opened its membership to public colleges and universities with at least one campus in its eight-county region. The council could also create membership categories for nonprofit organizations and businesses, as the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments has done.

GVMC came into existence in 1990 with a membership restricted to counties, cities, townships and villages within its geographic district. The original idea for the organization emerged in the mid-1980s from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and that membership was to have been split between governments and businesses.

“Initially, it wasn’t planned as a council of governments,” said Milt Rohwer, former chamber president and current GVMC board member representing Grand Rapids.

Stypula said he hopes to have the university’s fee structure negotiated by early April.

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