| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin |

Dexter City Council

Dexter City Council passed a motion that excludes remodeling the current fire station at 8140 Main St. as an option. This is the third time.

What does it mean? Are there penalties for council members who fail to abide by passed resolutions?

Here’s the resolution that was passed by a 4-3 vote on May 28:

Build a new fire station within the City limits of Dexter at a location other than the current fire station and further to cease any efforts or expenditures to remodel, modify or update the current fire station at 8140 Main St. subject to the maintenance requirements of the interlocal agreement.

Council may now be walking a fine line. What does “cease any efforts” mean exactly? Can a council member promote remodeling 8140 Main St. without violating the legislation they’ve enacted?

What the City Charter says

Wherever the line for ordinance violation might be drawn, there are penalties for council members breaching an approved resolution. Such measures, once passed, carry the weight of law.

Dexter’s City Charter reads on page 27 in Section 8.08 (c) The City Council shall cause each ordinance and resolution having the force and effect of law …

In the very next section, Section 8.09, the penalty for not following an ordinance is outlined: The council may provide in any ordinance for the civil or criminal punishment of those who violate its provisions. The punishment for the violation of any city ordinance shall not exceed a fine as prescribed by law, or imprisonment as prescribed by law, or both, at the discretion of the court.

The ordinance excluding 8140 Main St. does not include any criminal penalties for violation, so council members might be legally safe in bringing up the remodel – maybe a formal reprimand, censure or something like that. Attorney’s feel free to chime in.

But the intent of the City Charter seems clear enough: once a resolution is passed, don’t just keep behaving as though it’s not there.

So, what does the passage of the resolution mean?

“From a pragmatic perspective, it doesn’t really change much,” says council member Zach Michels.

What it means dynamically however is that proponents of remodeling the current fire station have failed to convince 4 members of a 7 member council, who are the only ones with all the information, that refurbishing the 60-year-old station is the way to go.

Both sides have hardened their resolve and are now entrenched in their views. And while the preponderance of information fails to compel any council member to switch sides, council members might be hoping public opinion will force a knee-buckling in their opponents.

Another firehall townhall

Another firehall townhall is being planned with lessons learned from the first disappointing attempt. But if remodeling 8140 Main is off the table, theoretically leaving us only one option, why bother with another townhall? There might be some strategy being played out here.

The council majority who seem to favor building a new station on the MAVD property might be hoping for a resounding endorsement from the people that will quell further opposition.

The council minority who favor remodeling the current station is in a pickle because their position can no longer be endorsed. There are people who want to hear more about this. So how can that happen now? Non-council members will have to speak on it or perhaps there will be sufficient public outcry to pressure members of the majority into changing their vote, reversing the resolution and getting remodel back on the table.

Where the public stands

Speaking of dynamics, what will be interesting to see in another firehall townhall is whether the public has also entrenched themselves in one side or another, unmovable – or are they simply jaded at the whole political process in general. It could backfire for both sides.

The challenge for council at another townhall is to make the labyrinthine pile of information they’ve amassed clear, concise, and to a specific point.

Give us six bullet points, pro and con. Short presentation and then let us speak our opinions and ask our questions – orderly, single file at a microphone. If the line is long, put a limit on mic time.

As Ron Miller so succinctly, memorably and honestly pointed out at the first townhall meeting, and I paraphrase here, “Stop kicking the can down the road. We elected you to make these decisions. Make a decision.”