The president and his wife own two buildings downtown that have received and are slated to receive a total of 5 different grants, while most building and business owners have received none.
Mr. and Mrs. Slusher (Slusher Flooring) at 135 S. Lane Street were originally included as one recipient of the Rental Rehabilitation Grant that was passed to the County Commissioner’s Office, specifically to handle the application (to avoid a conflict of interest).
Mr. and Mrs. Slusher did not qualify for the grant as they were planning to reside in their upstairs apartment. Jae Guetschow and his wife Debbie Royal own the other 2 buildings that are the remaining recipients for the grant. Together they own 131 South Lane Street (Royal Expressions) and 133 South Lane Street, where the business is operated by Kathy Valdez and her husband Roberto Valdez, known as Cakes N Shakes. The Valdez’s are renting to own the building through a land contract.
If the Rental Rehab Grant is indeed awarded, these two buildings will receive a total of 5 grants within a two-year span, plus they’ll get a 50% tax abatement for five years. Even more luck came their way when Michigan Main Street selected Royal Expressions as a recipient for an Architectural Design. Royal Expressions drained Blissfield’s DDA façade grant program fund for the fiscal year 2010/2011, to implement their new design. Our fiscal year began October 1/ 2010.
The Guetschow/Royal’s received a lump sum $14,000.00 instead of having to follow the regulated maximum $5,000.00 per year over a three-year term. The DDA board had to hastily vote on the matter as Guetschow/Royal wanted to get the work started ASAP. This is the second façade grant issued to 131 S. Lane St. Update: Guetschow/Royal withdrew their most recent application for one facade grant just after the facade work was finished. Another facade grant was issued to 133 S. Lane Street approximately a month ago.
I believe there was impropriety enlisting the help of the County Commissioner’s office. Guetschow has abstained from the actual vote but not before his assertive involvement with negotiations and discussion (written accounts in the Advance newspaper), pleading his case at Council meetings and DDA meetings, even saying his wife’s alternative solution was to bulldoze the building. See State of Michigan Ethics Act below.
Wouldn’t it be good if someone was keeping a tally for who gets what, how often – and they were sharing pertinent details, like who legally owns the building?
A Public Hearing is to take place at the meeting room in the Library, October 25/2010 at 7:00 pm for you to voice your views about the rental rehab grant. Please attend and voice your opinion.
Here’s some background from the Village Council Meeting files:
February 2008 draft newsletter – Page 68 of 94
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Facade Improvement Project
The Village (through the Downtown Development Authority and in partnership with the affected property owners) is in the process of implementing a CDBG that will be used to help make façade improvements to up to 7 buildings downtown (Southward Custom Wood Products, D&N Upholstery, The Packrat, Mohr’s Barber Shop, The Place, Royal Expressions, and Blissfield Insurance). The grant will cover about $78,000 of the improvements, while the property-owners will cover about $32,000. The remaining $46,000 will be covered by the DDA, to supplement its Facade Grant Program. These improvements should be completed this summer.
CDBG façade improvement grants.
- The bids we received were considerably over the grant budget, but MSHDA is considering grant increases as other projects’ bids are coming in higher, as well.
- Council rejected the bids, and the project will be re-bid.
- The DDA sent in another Notice of Intent (NoI) for this year’s round of grants, covering the same buildings as the unsuccessful NoI last year (Southward Custom Wood Products, Blissfield Insurance, and The Place).
- We have been notified that we will receive the 2nd grant.
- We will work to get the new bids out for all 7 properties, and I will complete the environmental review for the 3 new ones.
- We should get our amended grant agreement by the week of January 21.
- I will keep Council and the DDA apprised as events warrant.
The total expenditures for the CDBG/MSHDA Façade Improvement Grant was $177,230.00 distributed to Royal Expressions, Southward Custom Wood Products, Blissfield Insurance, The Packrat, D & N Upholstery and Mohr’s Barber Shop.
15.342 Public officer or employee; prohibited conduct. [M.S.A. 4.1700(72)]
Sec. 2. (1) A public officer or employee shall not divulge to an unauthorized person, confidential information acquired in the course of employment in advance of the time prescribed for its authorized release to the public.
(2) A public officer or employee shall not represent his or her personal opinion as that of an agency.(3) A public officer or employee shall use personnel resources, property, and funds under the officer or employee’s official care and control judiciously and solely in accordance with prescribed constitutional, statutory, and regulatory procedures and not for personal gain or benefit.(4) A public officer or employee shall not solicit or accept a gift or loan of money, goods, services, or other thing of value for the benefit of a person or organization, other than the state, which tends to influence the manner in which the public officer or employee or another public officer or employee performs official duties.(5) A public officer or employee shall not engage in a business transaction in which the public officer or employee may profit from his or her official position or authority or benefit financially from confidential information which the public officer or employee has obtained or may obtain by reason of that position or authority. Instruction which is not done during regularly scheduled working hours except for annual leave or vacation time shall not be considered a business transaction pursuant to this subsection if the instructor does not have any direct dealing with or influence on the employing or contracting facility associated with his or her course of employment with this state.(6) Except as provided in section 2a, a public officer or employee shall not engage in or accept employment or render services for a private or public interest when that employment or service is incompatible or in conflict with the discharge of the officer or employee’s official duties or when that employment may tend to impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of official duties.(7) Except as provided in section 2a, a public officer or employee shall not participate in the negotiation or execution of contracts, making of loans, granting of subsidies, fixing of rates, issuance of permits or certificates, or other regulation or supervision relating to a business entity in which the public officer or employee has a financial or personal interest.Photographer: Filomena Scalise