Like Local 3 News on Facebook:
MANISTIQUE — After years of tension and continuing issues between the Manistique city government and the Tourism and Commerce organization it seems the situation has come to a head with letters being sent to the local newspaper by city officials and online posts from business owners.
But what caused this division in the city? Well, there’s been multiple accusations from both sides. Claims that the City Manager, Sheila Aldrich, has purposely undermined the Schoolcraft Tourism and Commerce (STC) or allegations that the STC Executive Director, Alan Barr, is looking for taxpayer money to fund the organization. In fact, Manistique Mayor Michael Perilloux says that is the main issue.
“They’re seeking city money and we as a public…we as a government cannot provide public taxpayer money for private business or for a non-profit, 501(c)(3), which is exactly what the STC is. It’s a 501(c)(3),” says Mayor Perilloux.
The Mayor goes on to say, “These funds are better used for keeping water rates low or better providing the services that the governemnt provides to its citizens.”
Alan Barr of the STC told Local 3’s Korinne Griffith they aren’t looking for funding from the city. He agreed that the STC had previously spoken with city officials about getting monetary support to get work done within Manistique but says they do not expect or need any money from the city.
“That’s not what this is about, this is about just being collaborative. We have 116 paying business members and so we have a budget. We do not need the city to survive. I think what we want is a city government that works and plays well with others. That it’s at the table. That it’s at the table honestly, that it’s at the table fully, and that it’s participating with all the work that everyone in this community is trying to do,” explains Barr.
Barr mentioned that the city could show their support by attending community events, making it easier to schedule meetings, and allowing new businesses and developments into the city.
At the February 25th city council meeting there had been talk of creating a new Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for the city of Manistique. At that meeting, Mayor Perilloux told Local 3 that it was merely an exploratory discussion.
At the time, Perilloux said, “…there’s no plan to replace an EDC by the city.”
When reporter Korinne Griffith brought the subject up once again to Mayor Perilloux he said, “We, as the city of Manistique, have not seen any legitimate work done by the EDC. They are, we believe, also not in compliance with the Public Act, and therefore the city of Manistique will continue to offer their own EDC services to businesses that approach us. Even if there was a competing EDC out there, what are they afraid of? Can they not operate with the prospect of a legitimate competition?”
A large point of contention between the groups stems from a twice failed meeting between members of the Manistique City Council and members of the STC. According to Alan Barr, two STC members met with City Manager Aldrich and Mayor Perilloux to set up a joint meeting to work through the two group’s issues. A meeting was set for March 15th but cancelled by the city. The meeting was rescheduled for March 29th but was also cancelled by the city.
The city has made claims that they were not given input on the time, date, and location of the meetings but Barr says the opposite.
“The city agreed to the meeting. They agreed to the date, they agreed to the time, they agreed to the location, they agreed to who was going to be at the meeting. I sent them an agenda in advanced to say, ‘Please look this over. Make any changes that you think need to be made.’,” Barr says.
Following the cancellation of these meetings, City Attorney Bruce Plackowski sent a letter to Alan Barr making requests for the meeting going forward; including employing a third-party mediator to facilitate the meeting. Barr responded with a letter of his own. Local 3 was given copies of both letters as well as the intended meeting agenda. All three can be found below.
The city has also been very vocal about bullying of city employees. Mayor Perilloux even alleged that recent resignations of the former Manistique Mayor, City Clerk, and a City Council member were due to stress from this situation. Local 3 cannot substantiate these claims at this time.
“Tone it down. We’re all adults, we all live in the same community, we all love our city. Tone it down. Come in and speak with us. Our door is always open,” says Perilloux.
At the City Council meeting on Monday night, Mayor Perilloux placed packets with a Facebook comment thread from a local business in support of the STC on the seats of community members. Some public commentators at the meeting, claimed that this was a personal attack and favored the city. The Mayor defended his actions saying it was meant to prove that online bullying was occurring. Local 3 has provided the first page of this packet below.
Some Manistique community members and business owners say they are confused by the continued issues between the city and the STC saying they just want both groups to do what’s best for the city.
Alycia Kaiser, a Manistique resident, says, “I feel like the community is just very confused on why these two groups seem unable to work together on what should be a super common issue and that’s the betterment of Manistique.”
“Anytime there’s dissention in a community there’s a tendency to blame or put labels on the opposite side. I think that the STC/EDC membership is 115 of our local businesses representing about 1400 jobs, so it’s not a small group…We wish the best for all people. That’s really what we’re after,” says Kathy Jerde, Co-owner of Bostique, a business in Manistique.
While there were strong opinions on both sides of the issue, a common theme from members of the community was reuniting the divided city.
One community member said during public comment, “I’m not blaming anybody, I just want to know when everybody shares a responsibility. Not just one or the other.”
While no decisions were made at the meeting last night, City Council members agreed to look into a public work session where members of the STC and community were welcome to attend and work through the issues. The idea of a mediated meeting was also proposed.
Both Mayor Perilloux and Alan Barr said if members of the community had questions or concerns, to reach out. Perilloux said to call City Hall and set up a meeting with either himself or City Manager Aldrich. Barr says that the Schoolcraft Tourism & Commerce building is staffed everyday and always welcomes visitors.
You can contact Manistique City Hall at (906) 341-2290 or by stopping by the building at 300 N. Maple Street.
You can contact the Schoolcraft County Tourism & Commerce at (906)341-5010 or by stopping by the building at 1000 W Lakeshore Drive.
The following are documents provided to Local 3 News:
Agenda for the STC meeting with members of the city government. This meeting was cancelled.
Letter from City Attorney Bruce Plackowski to STC Executive Director Alan Barr.
Letter from STC Executive Director Alan Barr to City Attorney Plackowski.
Page 1 of 8 of the packet from Mayor Perilloux to community members at the council meeting.
If you would like to contact the reporter, Korinne Griffith, email: firstname.lastname@example.org