By Scott Sullivan
The Saugatuck Township Board May 2 tabled voting on the Saugatuck Township Fire District’s proposed 2017-18 budget, claiming it wanted more salary information.
Trustee Roy McIlwaine asked why the fire board proposed a 4.7-percent raise for Chief Greg Janik (from $65,090.84 in 2016-17 to $70,000) while other district employees would receive only 2-percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases.
“If anything, Greg is underpaid,” said fire board vice chair Eric Beckman, one of two township representatives on that body. “He works long hours and has a passion for what he does. I believe the township is getting a helluva deal.”
“No one questions the work Greg puts in,” said McIlwaine. “I have only praise for him. But does he do it because we need or because he wants to?
“Why does one person get more than COLA at this time and others not? We have a responsibility to our taxpayers,” he said.
Saugatuck Township supplies slightly more than half of the three municipal member fire district’s yearly budget, based on two mills levied against property owners. For 2017-18 that would be $576,070 of a requested $1.213 million.
Saugatuck City Council April 23 approved its proposed $283,060 share. Douglas City Monday weighed its $289,850 portion.
Janik’s leadership role in a campaign to recall four of the five township board members — clerk Brad Rudich, treasurer Lori Babinski, trustee Doug Lane and McIlwaine —was not lost on the board nor those in the audience May 2.
The chief has been particularly critical of the board amending the International Fire Code. Some members did so thinking district enforcement efforts had been over-reaching for smaller home builders. Janik, who lives in the township, and his supporters say the changes put lives at risk.
The board voted 5-0 to table voting on the budget.
“I don’t think we should be funding a district employee (photographer Erin Wilkinson) videotaping our meetings,” added Rudich.
Wilkinson said the district does pay her part-time for photography, but she has shot recent township meetings voluntarily.
“It’s a gray area,” said supervisor Chris Roerig, who with Beckham represents the township on the fire board.
“If that’s the case,” McIlwaine told Wilkinson, “I’d ask you to film Douglas and Saugatuck city council meetings also.”
“I was asked,” said Wilkinson, “to shoot these (township meetings) because when you were asked to have meetings videoed at no cost, you refused. I do not feel they (the cities) have put my firefighters in danger.
“I do it on my own time and publish it for your constituents,” she said.
“I don’t think there is a person in the community who doesn’t think what Greg (Janik) has done is terrific,” said resident Patrick Stewart, who also noted the COLA/chief’s salary discrepancy. “Tonight is an example of how far things have come.
“This is really hurting the community,” Stewart said.