The Grants Go Marching On

 I’m specifically talking about 3 facade grants and  some creative working around regulations to get 2 more Rental Rehab Grants.

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.

State of Michigan Ethics Act:

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

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16 Responses to The Grants Go Marching On

  1. concern citizen says:

    Why the special treatment? Why did they get the tax cut? The “Blissfield Click” wins again!!!

    • Robin says:

      My guess is, you can’t let all those connections just go to waste. Perhaps they are under the impression that self service is something that benefits the community. I recommend showing up at the Public Hearing on Oct. 26 and ask those particular questions. I also recommend showing up at the next DDA meeting and find out what their thought process was and send your friendly County Commissioner an email here; comm.vandoren@lenawee.mi.us

  2. Robin says:

    I apologize for the typo, the date of the Public Hearing was incorrectly listed as October 26. The proper date that should have been posted is October 25.

  3. Pingback: The Truth About Public Hearings | Blissfield's Blog

  4. Logan says:

    Does anyone know how legal, let alone ethical, it is for the same people to be getting repeated grants with the public’s money. Was it legal for the facade grant progam to be changed in the same meeting period in order to get more money to select businesses? How long is our village going to put up with it “smelling fishey” before we clean the river out.

  5. T. Saxton-Jones says:

    Robin-

    I am not going to release my real name or anything because God telling what the next crazy thing you are going to do to someone who is going to tell the truth about what kind of crazy person that you are, a total psycho.

    I am extremely offended by a woman like you, who of all people does nothing but slam a town that has been selected by the Main Street Program and takes its pride into taking care of it. I just happened to learn from a good friend that works downtown in Blissfield that you are a jerk. You are a woman who is scorned, tends to think that she is the best of the best. Frankly I think you are a bitter angry woman.

    It has come to my attention that you disturbed the downtown through the Downtown Development Authority by contacting the Federal Government on ludicrous charges stemmed by Royal-Guetschow about misappropriation of funds, that they were stealing money and abusing their power in the government. You are a total liar, did you or do you even have any evidence to prove so? Ms. Royal is a great friend of mine, always has been and always will be and I trust her completely, her husband too. In fact the Federal Government came to the town, investigated all your claims about the misappropriation of funds and completely concluded they are false and that the Royal-Guetschow family did nothing wrong or even close. They probably even concluded that you belong in a mental ward, just saying.

    You need to tell the truth of why you did what you did. I am able to put the story together for your bloggers. You wanted the job that is held by Michael Sessions, the Main Street Director. After learning that you weren’t even close to the job and that some 22 year old [maybe 23] beat you for it. I need to tell you that this man, Michael has a lot of qualifications for the job, he became mayor of Hillsdale at 18, the youngest mayor probably in the state. He graduated with a degree in History. He has a complete list of credentials for the job. You a woman on the other hand, after speaking with a close friend of yours, has no college degree, isn’t even from the UNITED STATES. You are a Canadian citizen, I refuse to even call you an U.S. citizen. I would not want to employee you for my town if you do not even know one thing about the history of my town like Michael. You are not even close to be qualified.

    Under the stress that you didn’t get the job, you decided to cause some controversy against those that are on the Downtown Development Authority board, which includes Royal and Valdez…BOTH of whom are owners of two buildings that were destroyed by a fire last January. You did what you did to get back at them for turning you down for the job. To do that, you made such accusations against them that cost them a grant to fix their buildings, especially into turning the top floors into apartments. I am going to point to you for once and for all that Royal owns ONE building, VALDEZ owns the other in a LAND CONTRACT, something that you might not even know, your from Canada, probably are a dumb Canadian. That’s my opinion.

    Under the rules, a business owner may take a facade improvement grant if they can come up with matching funds down the road for the project. Royal Expressions used the grant ONCE, even she will admit it, like 4-5 years ago to do facade improvements on her building. She did a great job on it, then a fire happened to destroy it all a couple years later. You cannot blame them for the act of the fire, which was not even their fault, not even close, it happened in an apartment building that she sold under land contract, that she had no access to. Do you even think she started that fire? If you do, you are even more psycho. In fact, according to people who went to the meeting that you went to, the council, even the town paper says that George Brown asked anyone who had a business in town that if they had applied for a facade grant and been turned down, NO ONE raised their hand. So meaning that everyone that applied has been approved, no one is being cheated.

    I want to stress how annoyed that I am with you, I take pride in my town for doing its best to become a great town. We try our best to clean it and improve it, but funds are limited. Two amazingly great buildings downtown, both rich with history had the opportunity to become a great home to three different tenants, and turn the downtown into a great living area. You cost those businesses their grants for now, but after the Federal Government found your statements to be false, they might have another chance to get at them. I can speak for everyone in this town, that we are mad at you and don’t even want you around here — go back to your forsaken home of Canada, where the hell you belong. You took a chance for my town to look nicer downtown and threw it down the drain, where you should be going yourself. You need a hobby, go learn how to become a Canadian citizen again and start a bitter woman club, that can be your hobby. Just get out of here. You must be a lonely old woman who has no friends, after all it really looks like it from the looks of your blogger… thats all you even seem to do. Do you spend your say and nights alone writing about other people. Do you even spy on your neighbors? I cannot imagine what you do in your free time, other than slam people.

    Finally – if you even think about running for office around here or any office in the state, I can guarantee you that I am going to go do everything in my power going door to door to campaign against you. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that you do NOT get a seat on the council, the Downtown Development Authority, or become the President of the town. That is going to be the ONLY way that I guarantee you will find out who I am. I am not threatening you or anything, I am simply going to do what you did when you went door to door accusing people. Only I am not going to be lying like you. You are a bitter woman once again. I do not welcome you in my town. In fact the sign outside of town that says, “Welcome to Blissfield” completely excludes you. Period.

    YOU ARE A TOTAL CRAZY PERSON. its amazing that the government didn’t even fine you for such stupid accusations.

    • Robin says:

      Dear T.,

      How convenient for you not publishing your name, since most of your content consisted of hurling personal attacks. You don’t have to be held accountable for what you say. That leaves me at a disadvantage; however, I can still prove you don’t know what you’re talking about. Your information sounds pretty convoluted, like it came from a friend of a friend through an Aunt of another friend. You should get your information first hand next time.

      I would like to express my disappointment with you. If you consider three new apartments (as you’ve stated) was going to somehow turn the downtown into a great living area, you don’t live in Blissfield, you live in a fantasy. Maybe you should talk to the existing apartment owners and learn how difficult it is to rent what we have downtown.

      The Federal Government distributes funds to local governments so that they can decide the best way to re-distribute it into the community via interest free, or low interest loans or matching grants. It’s not ethical to distribute it to yourself, for your property if you and your wife own property downtown and you are the mayor.

      The community never even heard about Rental Rehab Grants until Guetschow tried to supplement his insurance on his buildings. Just because someone has the 25% to “match” the 75% granted by the government doesn’t by itself qualify them for dibs on grant money.
      Why do you think they had to hire a third party administrator to fill out the application and submit it on their behalf?
      Why do you think they turned to the County Commissioners Office to put the grant through the county instead of Blissfield? Because they weren’t eligible for the grant.
      Why were they turned down for the grants?
      Because they weren’t eligible for the grant.

      Did you hear Michigan and the Federal government is in the financial tank? How many people have lost their jobs or had had their homes foreclosed on in Blissfield? And you’re worried about your friends not getting grants? How many people do you think are concerned with making two buildings pretty? Why do you think taxpayers want their taxes to go towards making Guetschow’s buildings pretty? If funds are limited, why aren’t those funds spent on feeding and housing people that really need help?

      Which brings me to this point; I think it’s fraudulent to take federal funds (taxpayer money) when you can afford to make improvements on your own accord. That’s equivalent to collecting welfare when you’re working full time. I also believe that if the insurance Guetschow/Royal had on their building was insufficient to rehab their fire damaged building, it would have been due to their negligence of sufficiently insuring their property. Again, I don’t think it’s fair to charge taxpayers for personal negligence. Who knows how or why the fire started; the Fire Marshal couldn’t even claim a definitive cause. It could have been caused by faulty wiring, if it was, was it born out of negligence? Should taxpayers again be footing the bill?

      Royal Expressions applied for two Façade Grants, the first one in 2008, the second one in 2010. The fire didn’t even touch the first façade, they applied for the second grant because they were applying for the Rental Rehab Grant and they couldn’t put an apartment in because of the design decisions they made from the previous grant. The decision to clad the front windows with the first grant had to be reversed to incorporate the RRG. Cakes N Shakes applied for a façade grant just before Royal Expression’s second one, then both buildings applied for the RRG. Five grants in two years.

      Under contract law, if anything happened to the Valdez’s and they defaulted on a payment, who do you think gets the building as the legal owner of the building? Yes, Guetschow/Royal Inc., prove me to be a liar and show me the title!

      “You need to tell the truth” I am telling the truth, the truth is a bitch isn’t it? By the way, I didn’t even apply for Michael Sessions job. How could I lose if I didn’t apply?? But I’m sure a degree in History will go a long way to build economic development. You have no idea what my qualifications are. Frankly, I’m amazed you are taking the stand that you are, in support of your friends doing their best to become a great town. Something horrible went wrong with that one, take a look around and tell me what they’ve done in the last thirty years. Keep in mind that there are many businesses that have done everything for themselves, while paying taxes through the nose, in sometimes a downright unfriendly business environment. And you think Façade grants are the answer.

      Oh and “T”, I don’t need to know who you are, your comments tell me volumes about you, you’re one of the network.

      • Robin says:

        Furthermore, if you take a look near the top of the post, you’ll find the words “two buildings downtown”. You can’t miss it, those words are a different color and are underlined, your cursor turns from an arrow into a hand when you mouseover the words. That my friend is a link to an Adrian Telegram article about the fire. In the Article it states; “Royal Expressions owner Debra Royal owns both halves of the building and is selling the cake shop portion to the Valdezes on a land contract, said Jae Guetschow, Royal’s husband.

        Guetschow, who is also Blissfield’s village president, is hoping the building can be repaired. “We’d like to have the retail space come back,” he said. “We don’t need any more gaps downtown.”

        Valdez said he’s not sure whether he will rebuild there.”

  6. saxtonjones99 says:

    LIAR! – You even wrote about your first experience about applying for a government job, or an attempt to do so on your about section, you even direct a link to that part. Let me tell you something else, the people on the board didn’t even want you on their board after all the negative stuff you say about them. Why in the hell should they allow a job to go to you if you diss the town, after all you would be the one representing the town. That would be extremely bad press. You could cost us the Main Street program funding with all your tactic crap.

    Let me tell you why in the hell it is so difficult to rent what we own downtown…A MAJORITY OF THEM are already stores all three floors. The other problem is that the owners do not have the funds to fix their buildings, hence the reason for the grants. Some don’t even want to apply for the grant because they are going to be needing to bring money to the table, money that they would rather just keep just in case business goes down and they have a cushion to make payments. You screwed three grant applications with your accusations and lies. Three brand new apartments could brought the downtown living to a great destination.

    In response to this piece of crap you wrote:

    “The Federal Government distributes funds to local governments so that they can decide the best way to re-distribute it into the community via interest free, or low interest loans or matching grants. It’s not ethical to distribute it to yourself, for your property if you and your wife own property downtown and you are the mayor.”

    The federal government distributes that money to communities so that they can do improvement projects on their buildings and whatnot for the sole purpose to create a community and keep its people. After all a community is what it takes to raise a child. You mention that its not ethical to distribute money to yourself for your property if you and your wife are the mayor…that has no influence on the damn purpose. Do you think that the government is going to discriminate someone from receiving funds for a job they hold? Its like the federal government is going to send a stimulus check to only the white people and discriminate the blacks…Totally unethical. For your information, those grants were titled “Rental Rehab Grants” they were not going to be used for the purpose of the themselves. They were going to use the money to create a rental apartment — which was to be set at a rent arangment by the federal government. They could not charge what they wanted to for rent… Do you think the Royal Family was going to take that grant and use it on improvements of their own personal residence? Hell No, you freak. The Slusher family applied for the grant, the “RENTAL REHAB GRANT” and were turned down because it was going to be used for their own personal residence since they stated they were going to move into the apartment. At least they admitted to their plans rather than keep hush about it. They were not going to be getting the money because its to be used for a Rental building. Anyone can apply for it, no one in town has been turned down.

    The reason why the community never even heard of the Rental Rehab Grant is because its new, and for some reason, someone had mentioned it to the town after the fires…Jae did no such thing you crazy. There are many different kind of grants out there that no one knows about. Many people don’t know that there is a federal grant that says that if you do improvements to your house to make it energy efficient, they will pay you a portion of your money back based on how efficient your house become, granted its not a major amount.

    On another note, its not illegal to take federal funds to use to improve your building. You just need to understand that in order to give the money to a business, the government sets such rules that you need to follow. How can you prove that the Royal, Valdez’s, Southward’s, or others that took the grant can afford to do it on their own money? Times are tough, the economy sucks, maybe they lost major money in sales and are trying to make for it by fixing their buildings to attract more people and keep people to go to small businesses rather than the big stores. Why should they use their own personal income for that? Thats what business funds are for. I can speak for you on three of the businesses that took grants, their businesses have gone down like crazy. I seen the books.

    Also why is it any of your business the terms of the land contract?
    Lets say that Cakes N Shakes took a mortgage out on the building and were to default on that mortgage, the bank would be getting the property…Well damn the banks received so many bailouts, do you think it would be fair for them to take it too? Why does it matter? Its the way things go. Maybe you don’t know the complete terms of the land contract, maybe theres stipulations in it. Why the hell are you so interested in the title? Can i see the title to your house? Does the bank still hold your title since you are making mortgage payments on it and its not fully done yet?

    On a last note, why in the hell is all this stuff really any of your business?

    You need to get sane or go back to Canada.

    • Robin says:

      Saxton, you are grasping at straws – all the facts are laid out for you throughout the posts. I’m not going around in circles with you trying to explain the same things over and over. Either you are being obtuse or you have comprehension issues.

      Yes I was interested in the Michigan Main Street Manager position, yes I started to pursue the position. Surely you can follow the timeline. Listen carefully…Then I found out what was really wrong with Blissfield – it was the people that were running the show, the same people that were actually destroying the community and praising themselves for being “pillars” even slapping themselves on the backs for a job well done. The players are a clique playing schoolyard politics and bullying (thuggery to keep the outsiders at bay).

      That’s when I started the blog, because no matter how much pretty you try to apply, the ugly still remains (a fresh coat of paint only changes the color) If anyone should be ousted from the community, the clique should go. They are the ones causing the damage, I’m just shining a light on it.

      I know the facts are difficult for you to digest, I know you’d rather just blame me than look at the truth. You’re part of the problem. I am not dissing the town, there are many great, goodhearted people living here, I’m dissing the network, the clique, the ones that have arrogantly hog tied the community. I’m dissing the self serving ones.

      Debbie’s run Royal Expressions for a long time, If she wasn’t making a profit it would be called a hobby. Jae had a 35 year government job – great pay – great healthcare plan – great retirement plan, it’s not too hard to figure they are making good money between the two, don’t tell me they need corporate welfare.

      I don’t care how many times or ways you try and state the same things…you’re still wrong. If someone is operating a business under their own power, it is entirely their own business (unless it’s illegal). If a business is taking government funding, it is my business, it’s every taxpayer’s business because they are providing the funds. In order for the government to give funds to Guetschow, they have to take it from somebody else.

      “Let me tell you why in the hell it is so difficult to rent what we own downtown…A MAJORITY OF THEM are already stores all three floors.” – what?

      “Why should they use their own personal income for that?” – what? How about because it’s their business, they took on the risk, they took on the responsibility and they reap the benefits. Now if taxpayers were shareholders getting dividends; that would be a different story. But that’s not the story!

      “I can speak for you on three of the businesses that took grants, their businesses have gone down like crazy. I seen the books.”
      Well then, you just proved that the facade grants don’t do anything but waste taxpayer money.

      And were not talking about a bank mortgage either, I’m telling you Guetschow/Royal are the legal owners of the building, they are the title holders. If you want to prove that’s not so, provide me with the title to prove it. That’s the interest in the title! You’ve missed the point so many times, no wonder you are confused. I suggest putting your emotions in check and take a little more time when reading. Perhaps if you cleaned up your potty mouth a bit, you might get some clarity. Meanwhile, you can wish as hard as you can for me to go back to Canada, but the truth is…you’re kind of stuck with me. Deal with it, this kind of hatred and animosity will eat you alive.

  7. Logan says:

    Dear T,
    For your information, there are businesses that have been turned down for the grants. They may not have been at that meeting or are tired of fighting the power click. The huge round of grants was only offered to a select few, not everyone was offered the opportunity. If the grants are awarded on an invited basis, of course the other businesses are not turned down. They are just not included. Several of us are tired of the special treatment given to select business owners and appreciate Robin giving us a voice.

  8. saxtonjones99 says:

    Logan – NAME ONE…you cannot count Slusher, it was called a RENTAL rehab grant, the slushers are moving intot he residence, so that does not allow them to use it. They must rent their apartment. Other businesses just dont want to spend their money, they are saving it for a cushion.

    • Robin says:

      Not being told about the availability of a grant that only four business were told about is considerably more dirty than denying a grant because one of the papers were out of order or an “i” wasn’t dotted. I’ve done some research about this and have written another post about it. Some businesses have experienced both.

  9. Logan says:

    I know that only a few businesses were offered the huge grant a couple of years ago. If you bother to look up the minutes of the council meeting you will see that there was a lot of anger that the grants were only offered to a few businesses, including the Royals, not to everyone. I know there were two antique stores that applied for the next round and were turned down. I remember representatives from The Place were very vocal about it at the council meeting and they informed the Mainstreet Committee that they had been turned down. Again, you are spouting misinformation

    • Logan says:

      Dear Saxton,
      Another thought: At that time there was a well written Letter to the Editor from Blissfield Antiques educating the public on the misuse of grant money. They were also turned down on the second round referred to above. So there you go, I’ve named TWO. I imagine you could call either owner and they would be glad to verify the truth for you.

  10. Robin says:

    An update on this post: I’ve since found out the numbers were not 4th and 5th grants Guetschow/Royal was working on…it was number 5th and 6th…I missed one.

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