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Continuing conversations

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Township Board will consider tendering its “last and final offer” to manager candidate Dennis Liimatta during its meeting tonight at 7 in the Marquette Township meeting room.

During a special meeting Monday, the board voted 5-2 to respond to Liimatta’s counteroffer, contingent on the board members viewing the final offer before it is sent to the candidate.

Liimatta, who held the elected position of Marquette Township supervisor for six years, is currently the township superintendent in Grand Blanc Township.

In his response to the township’s offer of employment, which was approved in a 6-1 vote during a special meeting on Jan. 9, Liimatta asked that the manager position be removed from the township’s current compensation classification to allow a salary above the $108,650 initially offered, and that the retirement package for the position be removed from the current defined benefits program through the Municipal Employees Retirement System. Liimatta instead is asking for a defined contribution retirement that the township would contribute $18,000 to in the first year, trustees said.

A defined benefit pension, which is what the township currently offers, promises employees a defined amount based on their salary and length of service funded by the municipality as the employer. In a defined contribution plan, which is what Liimatta is requesting, an employee gets exactly what he or she and the employer put in, plus or minus market performance.

Liimatta also asked for a $500 per month car allowance, in addition to no probation period and a six-month severance package including health care.

“This is a conundrum,” Township Supervisor Lyn Durant said, “The consideration that this puts on the township, taking the manager out of the compensation. You can’t pay someone so much more than or outside the rhealm of the employees.”

Township Trustee Dave Wiegand, who voted against the motion, said he was troubled by several aspects of the counter offer including his understanding that the request was about 20 percent above the $150,000 currently budgeted for wages and benefits for the township manager position.

“I am not sure how we justify this to the residents,” Wiegand said.

Treasurer Ernie Johnson, who also voted against the measure Monday, said the request to remove the position from the current compensation matrix is troubling.

“If we start going outside of the range we set…I am very concerned about going down that route at all,” Johnson said.

Ultimately on Monday, the board approved an annual salary of $108,650 for the position, Liimatta will be offered $8,000 for moving expenses. The manager position will stay in the MERS retirement system, and there will be no car allowance. The motion also included four months of severance with no health insurance and a slight increase in vacation time.

“I think this is a fair offer,” Trustee Dan Everson who made the motion said, “If he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t want it. We don’t have time to go back and forth and back and forth.”

The board will also consider the addition of a roof to the ice rink at Lions Field during its meeting.

The township’s planning commission and recreation committee forwarded their recommendations to the board along with a conceptual plan for the proposed structure, which could cost up to $200,000.

According to information provided in an agenda supplement, township staff recommends that the board consider the proposed concept, and if amenable, add it to the next strategic planning list for the township.

The board had tasked the planning commission with providing a recommendation for the possible extension of the ice skating season at the rink which can be affected by temperature fluctuations.

The roof would extend the life of the rink from 30 to 45 days annually.

Members of the recreation committee also researched the possibility of adding an artificial ice surface to the rink, at a cost of $110,000, which would make ice available year-round, the agenda supplement states.

“While considering artificial ice and observe current summer activities at the rink, it is apparent that the year-round ice would eliminate roller blading, skateboarding, boot hockey, bicycling and pickle ball, to name a few,” the supplement states. “Therefore in the interest of providing recreational opportunities to a broader spectrum of the community, it is recommended that a roof be installed over the ice rink, thereby preserving non-ice activities.”

The roof will also address current issues being experienced such as projectiles leaving the rink and debris entering the rink, according to the supplement, and will create a “more desirable and comfortable environment for summer activities.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.