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November 18, 2013

Election law may extend City Council’s terms by one year

By Sarah Wojcik
C & G Staff Writer

UTICA — An amendment to Michigan election law allows the city of Utica, if it chooses, to move its primary and general elections to even years, which would effectively extend the current terms of the mayor and City Council by one year.

In order to think about the idea and also to make the public aware of the potential change, the Utica City Council voted at its monthly meeting Nov. 12 to table a resolution to move the elections to even years. The council will revisit the issue at its Dec. 10 meeting.

By rolling the elections into the even year, the city would save $3,000-$5,000 in election costs, said Mayor Jacqueline Noonan. Clerk Beth Ricketts said the money is used for wages, printing ballots, memory cards, precinct kits, publications and postage.

On Nov. 7, Noonan was elected to a two-year term, and City Council members Russell Barthelmeh, William Osladil and Kenneth Sikora were elected to four-year terms. If the council passes the amendment next month, Noonan will serve for the next three years, and the council members will serve for the next five years.

The other three council members — Charles Cuddington, Barbara Montag and Faith Terenzi — were elected to four-year terms in the November 2011 election. If the amendment passes, their terms will be extended to 2016 instead of 2015.

“The only thing I (have to say) about it is it takes away from the individuality of being out there by ourselves. We kind of get mixed in with the rest of the people,” Barthelmeh said. “As far as knocking on doors, we’d probably be the last ones (residents) are going to want to see, but apart from that, the savings is well worth it in this economy, so I don’t have a problem with it.”

Barthelmeh also added that in the election earlier this month, all four candidates ran unopposed, and the city had to spend the money anyway.

Noonan made a motion to adopt the resolution to change the terms and extend the election to an even year in order to “save a significant amount of money in one of the ungodly awful financial crises we’ve ever been in,” supported by Barthelmeh, but Osladil expressed a wish to hold on to the subject for a month.

“I’m for it, but I would like to see the public more educated on it and have the opportunity for them to express their concerns,” Osladil said. “It certainly would be a cost savings that we can’t ignore.”

City attorney James McGrail said that, currently, the larger-scale elections are held in even years, and local elections are held in odd years. By holding both elections in even years, voters will be able to vote for larger-scale and local candidates on one ballot, and municipalities can increase efficiency and save money.

The item will be placed first on the regular agenda for the next council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at the municipal building, located at 7550 Auburn Road in downtown Utica.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at swojcik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.