Councilman questions why special meeting was called

BURTON — Following a special meeting called two weeks ago to reconsider a $15 million city sewer project, the mayor was grilled Monday about who called the meeting and why.

Councilman Tom Martinbianco asked Mayor Duane Haskins to explain who called the special meeting, held on a Friday afternoon, and why it was called only four days after the council voted to send the sewer project to the city’s finance committee by a vote of 4-3.

“I want to know who called it, and why they called it,” said Martinbianco. “The mayor called it, but he wasn’t there. I’d be embarrassed if that was me.”

Haskins said he was not in the council chambers, but he was following the meeting on Zoom, and he said he called it on behalf of Council Vice President Greg Fenner and Councilman Vaughn Smith who thought it would be helpful to the council to hear from Burton Utility Supervisor Dave Marshke regarding the condition of the sewer system.

“You want me to respond to this? A bunch of stuff thrown my way. Did you need something from me at the meeting?” said Haskins. “I put in the request at on behalf of council people – I’m not embarrassed about anything.”

“You called the meeting because couldn’t get two council people to vote your way,” said Martinbianco.

The meeting resulted in the reversal of the council’s decision four-days earlier to send the proposed sewer project to the finance committee. Councilman Danny Wells changed his vote in support of the sewer project after Marshke’s input.

Councilman Dennis O’Keefe and Smith, who both serve on the finance committee with Martinbianco, said they saw no reason to hold up the project because it was necessary, so they asked for a special meeting to reconsider the proposal.

In order to qualify for state bonds for the project, the application had to be submitted by Aug. 1.

The $15 million needed for the project will come from the State Revolving Fund in the form of low interest bonds over a 30-year period.

At 2.125 percent for the 30-year loan, the project will go through design this fall, with bidding during the winter, loan closure in the spring and construction beginning on the first phase in the spring of 2021.

Burton’s 231 miles of sewer and 10 pumping stations, with regional treatment by the Genesee County Drain Commissioner District Water and Waste Services, has been in use since the 1960s and is beginning to deteriorate in some places.

Martinbianco, who voted against the proposal with Councilwoman Tina Conley and President Steve Heffner, said he thinks the city could have pursued other avenues within its budget to accomplish the work.