Jennifer Kwas was chosen as the newest member of the Chelsea City Council Tuesday night, Sept. 8 during a Zoom meeting.
A resident of Chelsea since August 2018, she moved to the city from Madison, Wis. with her partner and their dog, according to her opening statement during the City Council interviews held Aug. 24.
Professionally, she said she works from home as a “security professional” and performs cyber security for a software company. In addition, she said she goes to the Crosstower Cross Fit Gym in the Clocktower Complex where she has fundraised for PRIDE and the LGBT community during a special workout. In addition, she also works part-time at a gym in Saline.
As a new resident to the city, she said she brings a unique perspective as a voice from outside Chelsea who has lived in larger cities in the past.
Saying during the August interview that she has no government experience, she said she is eager to learn all she can. She said she wants to do more with the city’s LGBT community as well as get involved in 5 Healthy Towns.
She said as a newcomer, everything is exciting, and she is ready to get to work and learn all she can.
Kwas was one of nine residents who interviewed for the position left vacant when Rick Catherman moved out of town. Erin Brayton, Fran Brennan, Michael Happy, Greg Janz, Veralynn Klink, Christine Peiter, Mackenzie Pfeiffer and Marcia White also applied for the position and all were encouraged to get involved in the city in other capacities as members of boards and commissions.
The City Council used a new voting system to choose its newest member called the Star Method during which the preferred candidate is determined in two steps.
Current Council Members ranked all the candidates assigning them scores of 0-5. City Clerk Laura Kaiser then tallied the total scores for all the candidates and in the second step, an automatic runoff took place between the two highest scoring candidates. Each council member’s vote was assigned to whichever of the two candidates the council member scored the highest.
Brennan and Kwas were the top two vote-getters and Kwas emerged as the winner.
At the end of the story is a copy of the draft minutes from the meeting for the voting.
Once sworn-in, Kwas cast her first vote for the first item on the business agenda, which was a request for the city to issue a proclamation in honor of Constitution Week, Sept. 17-23.
In a 6-1 vote, the request was approved with Council Member Cheri Albertson voting no. The proclamation was requested by Regina Hageman and Patsy Kemmer, members of the Sarah Caswell Angell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Albertson said her no vote was cast because unless things have changed recently, “the DAR has a very lengthy history of excluding people of color from membership.”
Next up on the agenda, the City Council unanimously approved a proclamation request for new Eagle Scout Isaac Stoker, who achieved the requirements of earning 21 merit badges and built an outdoor classroom at Beach Middle School as his community service project. It’s expected that the proclamation will be awarded on Sept. 21 at the next regular City Council meeting.
Council Members also approved a resolution of support for a Connecting Communities grant application for a portion of the Letts Creek Linear Park Project to connect Weber Fields with Timbertown; the proposed Border to Border north/south segment and the future Westchester Farms connection in Sylvan Township.
According to the resolution, the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission is making available $600,000 per year for the next four years (2020-2023) for the construction of non-motorized trails and accessory improvements, which requires a match by the local community with their own funds, in-kind services or funds obtained from other sources.”
The city, in conjunction with the county and Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative to establish a non-motorized regional path that connects to the Boarder to Border and Iron Belle Trail systems.
The last item on the agenda was a request for the purchase of a piece of property at 400 N. Freer Road. On Nov. 4, 2019, the City Council approved an option agreement and since that time phase 1 and phase 2 environmental assessments were completed.
The City Council voted 6-1 to execute the purchase of the property and set a closing with a payment of $250,000 from the general fund, with the remaining $200,000 to be paid in installments over seven years.
The lone no vote came from Council Member Charles Wiseley who said the purchase was not a budgeted item and he was not in favor of approving non-budgeted items and also objected to buying a piece of property for which there was not a firm plan.
Council Member Jane Pacheco echoed the concern that there wasn’t a plan, but she said it’s the job of government to look forward and she was comfortable that with seven people on the City Council, they would do what’s best for the community.
Council Member Peter Feeney commented that there are so few opportunities for the city to directly influence what happens on a piece of property on Chelsea’s border, he thought it was a good idea.
Mayor Melissa Johnson reminded Council Members that Chelsea was already lacking in a percentage of land for parks and recreation opportunities for the number of people in the city that’s 3.3 square miles. Additionally, she said, the property is ideal for recreation, which is something that is important to residents in the community. She said she thought it was a wise move to add land when the City Council could do so.
Among the ideas for the land are more park space, field space, a recreation center or even for additional housing. Currently, there are several structures on the property that would be removed.Draft minutes 09_08_20