WATERVLIET — City commissioners approved a number of diverse items at Tuesday night’s meeting, including a major change to the city’s street-lighting system, purchase of a new piece of city maintenance equipment, and creation of a fee system when city police officers provide court-ordered Breathalyzer tests.
Commissioners signed off on a proposal for Indiana Michigan Power Co. to this year replace the city’s existing mercury-vapor and sodium-vapor street lights with more-efficient LED lights. The switch to the cheaper, brighter lighting – which is being done in connection with a Michigan Public Service Commission program – won’t cost the city any funds.
“Sounds like a win-win to me,” observed Commissioner Jennifer Helms. The board voted unanimously to approve the measure.
With Tuesday’s vote, the city opted to have its vapor lights replaced all at once. Had it voted down the proposal, the lights would still be swapped out, but over a period of several years.
The city of Bridgman, as well as Lincoln Township and Benton Township are among the local municipalities that have already entered into the accelerated LED-replacement program, City Manager R. Tyler Dotson said in presenting the proposal.
Separately, commissioners approved the $4,606 purchase of a piece of brush-clearing equipment known as a “Brushcat.” Public Works Supervisor Jeff Allen, who was at the meeting, said the equipment will provide savings both through reduced labor costs and because the city’s current, less-robust mowing equipment is suffering undue wear from being put to heavy brush-cutting chores.
In addition, commissioners voted to adopt a fee structure related to “preliminary breath tests,” or PBTs, performed by the Watervliet Police Department.
When a person is placed on parole or probation, the court sometimes orders they must abstain from alcohol, plus and be subject to random, unscheduled PBT’s to prove compliance. In Watervliet, those court-ordered tests are currently performed for free by city police officers, typically at the station.
“We used to do eight or 10 (PBTs) a month,” explained Police Chief Timothy K. Sutherland. But as a result of certain legal changes “we now do four to six per day.”
In a letter to the city manager, Sutherland explained that each test requires one of his patrol officers “to come off the road, administer the test and then write a brief report” on the results. That’s hurting department efficiency, he said.
In response, Dotson recommended the commission approve a fee system, with county residents paying $5 per visit, and non-county residents charged $10 per visit. If the police have to administer the test at a site other than the station, the fee would be $15 a visit.
The proposal, which would give Watervliet a policy similar to those adopted in a number of other local departments, passed unanimously.