Vicksburg Village Council Considers Disaster Preparedness Plan

By Sue Moore

It may seem to village council members that everyday has been a crisis over the last two years. But fortunately it isn’t the same crisis that Fire Chief Tracy McMillan presented to them at the recent Village Council meeting in March.

Tracy McMillan, chief of the South County Fire Authority.

McMillan asked the council to work with him on emergency preparedness should there be a disaster such as a train derailing as it passes through the village or tornadoes touching down.

He said the village needs to be compliant with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) or the federal government won’t provide disaster relief.

For example, McMillan referred to a 2002 train derailment in Potterville, MI, a town about the size of Vicksburg. They were totally unprepared for a disaster where cars containing hazardous materials and gas were leaking. They had to evacuate the whole town for a week.

NIMS requires one person to be in charge in what is called a Unified Incident Command. That person becomes the focal point for all requests during the crisis period.

There also needs to be a public information officer who is the only person dealing with the media, he said. The command structure needs to be on the same radio platform and right now the City of Kalamazoo is on a different frequency than the rest of the county.

McMillan said village officials need to be trained in NIMS, which can be done online. A few people in the command structure also need to take some advanced courses.

The fire department is planning a mock disaster rehearsal this summer, he said.

Water Meters Need Replacement

Ken Schippers, acting village manager, asked the council if they would support a program to bring the water meter readings back as a regular duty of the Department of Public Works (DPW). Right now, Consumers Power meter readers read meters and typically miss some meters because of deep snow or dogs running loose.

Schippers said they miss meters and then the staff has to estimate the amount to bill either higher or lower, causing continual confusion over exactly what should be billed. The cost to change to reading equipment is estimated to be $9,750. The equipment would allow the staff to print the bills out from electronic readers. The catch is that about half of the meters will need to be replaced for this to work and there is a much bigger cost for that.

Schippers said the replacement could take place over time, on a phased in basis. There are 1,252 meters in the village. The DPW person could read about half of them without getting out of the truck with this device. No action was taken.

Audio recordings of the meetings

The council approved a policy allowing for audio recordings of any village council meeting. The recordings are to be used by the clerk’s office for the preparation of minutes of the various meetings. The policy states that, “All audio recordings of regular meetings and work sessions shall be disposed of, destroyed or reused at the discretion of the village clerk, according to the policy.”

Before the recordings can be released, they must be listened to by the clerk, the village manager, and a member of the council. The release form, which officials must sign off on, serves as a FOIA request.

Budget Expenditures

*The bid for replacing the sewer forced main on V Ave., was awarded to Balkema Excavating at $144,795. The work will need to wait until the frost is out of the ground and the village has a successful bond issue.

*The low bid on the lift station bid of $557,700 also came from Balkema. This will also have to wait until the bonds get sold to help finance these improvements.

*The Vicksburg Foundation again stepped in to help the village finance the Downtown Development planning director by picking up half the cost of $29,500. The DDA will pay $14,750 out of its revenues.

*Schippers requested $30,000 for a well improvement that he thought could be delayed until 2015 but now knows the pump on the well is failing rapidly.

“We need to move this up on the priority list,” he said. It will be a two-week job for the DPW, he said, but it couldn’t be ignored any longer. This line item will likely be added to the budget addendum at the April council meeting, said President Bill Adams.

*The council approved the purchase of BSA software for the office staff which had been requested through a grant from the Vicksburg Foundation which funded half of the anticipated cost of $12,700.

*Another project that is waiting for council approval is weed control on the three ponds on W. Prairie Street, but not including Sunset Lake. Schippers is waiting on approval from property owners. Then, he needs $400 for a state permit for the chemical treatment and, finally, council approval of $7,000 to pay the contractor.

*Police Chief Eric West requested a new cruiser as one of the four in service, which was acquired in 2007, has 111,000 miles on it. The actual price will be $25,560, with a lights package an extra $7,500. This expense was approved as it had been included in the budget.

*To save money for the department, Chief West has offered to become an officer as part of the union and still serve in the capacity of chief. With other departmental staff cutbacks, this saves approximately $150,000 over a year’s time.

“Eric has been very cooperative in helping work this out,” President Bill Adams said. “We will wait until the next meeting to take action when we have more budget information from staff, to see if this is a necessary step we need to take.”

Partner of the Year Award Given to Village by South County Community Services (SCCS)

Danna Downing thanked the village employees and the village council for their outstanding work when called upon by the SCCS staff and board members.

“You have been there for us with support and outstanding work,” she said. “You have our deep respect and regards, with many exciting prospects for the future.”

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