Saline City Council Candidates Jim Dell'Orco, Jack Ceo and Brian Cassise Answer Our Questions

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On Nov. 2, citizens in the City of Saline will elect three peers to Saline City Council for two-year terms that begin in January.

The candidates are Jack Ceo, Jim Dell'Orco, Kevin Camero-Sulak and Brian Cassise. Ceo, Dell'Orco and Camero-Sulak are the incumbents.

We sent questions to each of the candidates. Ceo, Dell'Orco and Cassise responded. Camero-Sulak did not.

Here are the questions and answers.

(Note: Council has taken action on several of these issues since the questions were sent)

BIOGRAPHY

Jack Ceo


My name is Jack Ceo and I am 73 years old. I have been married to Pam for 46 years. We have two children, John, III, and Christina. Their spouses are Crystal and Andrew. John and Crystal are the parents of our two grandsons, Jack and Ryan. I am now retired after 41 years in law enforcement, having served in a variety of positions over my police career. I received a Bachelor’s degree in Public Speaking, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, both from Eastern Michigan University. I have worked in government my entire adult life, as a first-line employee, as a mid-level supervisor, and as an administrator. I have seen both good and bad governmental leadership during that time, and think that has taught me some valuable lessons that I can bring to the table as a Councilperson. I have also volunteered as a baseball coach; a member of several neighborhood association boards; at church on the finance/administration commission and as a lector; and as a Saline School Board member.

Jim Dell'Orco


Age: 47
Family: Wife Nichole, two children (Finnegan 14, Dahlia 12)
Career: Research Scientist (electrophysiologist) at the University of Michigan Medical School
Education: University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Bachelor of Science, Neurobiology
Relevant Gov't Experience: Elected to Saline City Council in November of 2019
Volunteer experience: Served as both Deacon and Stephen Minister at First Presbyterian Church of Saline, Delonis Center homeless shelter of Ann Arbor, Cass community Social services of Detroit

Brian Cassise

Age: 37
Family: I’m the amazing uncle and son!
Career: Engineer
Education: Kettering University

Kevin Camero-Sulak

Did not reply

Why are you running?

Jack Ceo

I have decided to run again because I feel this Council, as it is now composed, is working well together, and we are now facing several critical issues that will need to be addressed in the near future. I feel I still have some positive insights to offer in this work.

    Jim Dell'Orco

    To continue the work I’ve started during my first term in serving the community and to offer my research/technical background as a tool in revealing data-driven solutions to issues that we currently face as a municipality.

    Brian Cassise

    I’m interested in getting involved with local government to support our community needs. I’m an experienced problem solver and will excel at improving Saline

    Kevin Camero-Sulak

    Did not reply

    Why do you think you'll make a good member of council?

    Jack Ceo

    I feel my experience in government work over my life’s working career, as well as a fair dose of common sense, make me a reasonable voice on Council.

      Jim Dell'Orco

      I consider myself an intentional voice on the council because I take the time to read the material, study the issues and consider the problems from multiple points of view. I arrive to the meetings adequately prepared with questions designed to develop a deeper understanding of the matters before us for the public’s benefit and awareness.

      Brian Cassise

      I’d make an excellent council member because I bring a diverse perspective, the ability to break down complex problems and provide logical solutions. I actually care and put the community interests above my own.

      Kevin Camero-Sulak

      Did not reply

      What are the biggest issues facing council and briefly describe the way forward on those issues?

      Jack Ceo

      The biggest issues we now face on Council are: the improvement and expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant; improvements to the sanitary sewer system that feeds into that plant; trying to see to the completion of the as yet undone projects in town – 207 Monroe Street, the hotel, and the carwash; and the health and welfare of our Recreation Center budget in the face of diminished membership and fund balance. Those issues come in addition to the other important work that the electorate expects Council to handle as a regular part of doing business. I believe we have a very good leadership team now in place to help guide us through to the successful completion of those projects and all the other daily challenges facing government.

        Jim Dell'Orco

        Aging infrastructure, staffing levels and succession planning. Much of my first term on council has been occupied by wrestling with issues that arise in and around our city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. I am pleased that we as a council have accepted the reality that most of the plant as it exists today is beyond its useful life. We have arrived at the consensus to move forward with the only real feasible option which is to rebuild the plant in its current location and restore the facility to optimal working condition. It will be critical over the next several years that we have adequate manpower and know-how at both the water division and DPW to adequately maintain and operate all aspects of equipment and day-to-day operations. Addressing the issue of vacancies in high-level skill set positions with the recent hires of our new DPW Director Larry Sirls and our new WWTP Superintendent William Briggs I am confident that we can achieve a higher standard of accountability while providing appropriate direction and training for up-and-coming personnel as senior-level staff employees approach eligibility for retirement.

        Brian Cassise

        In my opinion, the largest issue is advanced planning for the future growth of the city. How to best sustain the small-town feel with the pressures to “grow.”

        Kevin Camero-Sulak

        Did not reply

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        General fund spending has increased from $8M in 15-16, to $10.6M this year. That's 32 percent in 5 years. Is this just the city right-sizing spending to costs? Do see spending continuing to grow at this rate? Or can this be reined in? Tell us what you think about city spending.

        Jack Ceo

        The electorate expects City government to grow to meet the growing challenges that are placed on government. As long as this growth is able to be met without a corresponding exorbitant growth in the amount of taxation imposed, it is “right-sizing spending to costs”. We have an excellent staff, as indicated above, that is able to bring us a balanced budget year after year without increasing property taxes. The budget will normally grow as we continue to have new building and development to contribute to our tax base. This growth in the tax base demands a corresponding growth in the size and complexity of the government. We are also addressing some long-delayed improvements to our infrastructure to keep pace with the services expected of government. I feel that this growth in the budget is a natural result of the growth and improvement of city services to those we serve. As the city grows, so must the budget.

        Jim Dell'Orco

        I truly feel that the budget spending that I’ve overseen in my time on council has been necessary and essential to maintaining our city’s assets through our capital improvement plan and to provide the quality of services that our residents deserve. I do see spending levels increasing slightly over the next two budgeting cycles as we seek to address aging infrastructure issues and legacy costs of pensions for employees approaching retirement age. However, there is naturally an ebb and flow to spending when it comes to the general fund and if history is any indication, that cycle should continue.

        Brian Cassise

        Spending should be reined in. I’ve visited the city’s website and reviewed the projected budget. Without more detail, it’s difficult to quickly identify areas of waste or excess spending. As a city, we must live within our means. Council should spend the money as if it was our own. I'm very fiscally responsible and would contribute my frugality as a councilman.

        Kevin Camero-Sulak

        Did not reply

        People running for office speak often of transparency. In your view, has the city been transparent about the WWTP's environmental violations and remedies? Please explain your answer.

        Jack Ceo

        We are just completing the finishing touches on the Administrative Consent Order (ACO) between the State’s office of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and the City of Saline over the operation of the WWTP. Much of this work was performed on our behalf by our city attorneys. As we completed these negotiations, there were many issues to be hashed out with EGLE, and many of these issues were debated and settled by our attorneys on our behalf. It has been a long journey, beginning in March of 2020, and hopefully concluding with the Council meeting of September 13, 2021. During that time, in order to complete these negotiations with the best terms possible for our citizens, we met with our attorneys in closed session a number of times, and proffered many offers on the issues back and forth with EGLE. Due to the sensitive nature of these negotiations, these closed session meetings took place out of view of the public. These meetings were properly conducted under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as protected under the Attorney-Client privilege provision of FOIA. This was done as a careful balance between being transparent with our citizens, and serving in a manner so as to achieve the best possible outcome on their behalf. I firmly believe that we acted in a manner to achieve this delicate balance, and to obtain the best possible terms in the ACO.

          Jim Dell'Orco

          I have been deeply connected to this issue since I was first elected at the tail end of 2019. Shortly after I was made aware of the environmental violations, I became a staunch advocate for discussing the matter in public meetings as early as April of 2020. It was soon after, however, that the city attorneys advised both the mayor and council that we were entering into an Administrative Consent Order with the state and that the issue needed to be addressed in closed session as it was now a matter of pending litigation with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). At that point, the issue had become a subject of attorney-client privilege and therefore any public disclosure of details referencing the matter could potentially jeopardize our ongoing negotiations with EGLE. As difficult as it was, we as a body were not able to discuss the matter outside of our conversations with legal counsel. Now that the Administrative Consent Order is fully executed with EGLE the attorney-client privilege no longer applies. Both the fines and details surrounding the issue are now a matter of public record. At a recent council meeting, the mayor requested that any media inquiries related to this matter should be directed to the city manager. Is that in the spirit of transparency? I’ll let the public decide. I’ll also grant our city manager the benefit of the doubt. To my knowledge, there have not been any inquiries from either the media or the public requesting further details related to the violations. If such requests solicit a public statement from the city manager that lacks transparency, or that I feel seeks to control the narrative around the issue, I am happy to tell you everything I know.

          Brian Cassise

          The city hasn’t been fully transparent with the WWTP system and its shortcomings.

          My approach is:

          Understand the needs of the system. Now and in 50 years.

          1. The associated costs
          2. Land and equipment requirements.
          3. Timing
          4. Impact to the environment
          5. And benchmark other cities' facilities to better understand what works and what doesn’t.

          Currently, our WWTP isn’t living up to the expectations of all residents.

          Also, if residents are staining the system by disposing items that contribute to system failure, let’s communicate that so folks can assist with a smoother operation.

          Kevin Camero-Sulak

          Did not reply

          Are you satisfied with the city's response to the fairly frequent "brown drinking water" complaints? Does more need to be done?

          Jack Ceo

          No, I am not. That’s why we are continuing to work on the problem, and why we are making this matter the subject of a work session of Council on September 13th. There is obviously a problem that we have yet to determine an exact cause for. The water leaves our Treatment Plant clean and clear, yet it arrives at some homes in the community stained and dirty. Somewhere in the distribution system, something is happening to our water. Something more must be done to clear up this problem. We will come up with an appropriate resolution to insure the clarity and quality of our water to all our citizens.

            Jim Dell'Orco

            The solution to the issue with iron sediment in the drinking water can be resolved with a more proactive approach to when the DPW schedules the flushing of the water distribution system. We intend to have this moved to late summer as opposed to early fall to avoid this issue in the future. This has proven difficult in the past couple years with the aforementioned staffing level concerns. Options are currently being evaluated for restructuring at the DPW.

            Brian Cassise

            Fortunately my exposure has been limited but I do frequently hear of this complaint from neighbors. More has to be done. What’s not clear is that we fully understand the problem. Is is the piping or how the water is being delivered or conditioned or what’s different for parts of the city.

            Kevin Camero-Sulak

            Did not reply

            What are city council's most important accomplishments over the last two years?

            Jack Ceo

            Probably the most important things that have been accomplished are the hiring of key city employees to lead us forward. We now have an excellent City Manager to guide the staff, a Deputy Chief of Police once again to assist the Chief in running the Police Department, and a new DPW director to supervise the activities of that department. We have hired two firms with Wastewater Treatment experience to assist our short-handed WWTP staff with the operation and management of the plant to get through this critical period in meeting the demands of our new ACO with EGLE and in determining next steps in the growth and development of the plant. We have put in place a Risk Management/Mitigation group to assess the City’s potential vulnerabilities, and to recommend actions to be taken to avoid future problems in those areas of operation. We are also appointing a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to keep those concerns permanently in focus in the operations of the City.

              Jim Dell'Orco

              Developing consensus and securing the mechanism through the State Revolving Fund to bond a forty-million-dollar renovation to our city’s aging infrastructure at the Wastewater Treatment plant will have a profound impact on both the quality of life for our residents for decades to come and the ecological health of the Saline River. Additionally, the hiring of our new city manager Colleen O’Toole and adding HR consultants to the organization has enabled us to make key changes in personal that will bring about a much needed shift in culture and morale that will serve to move our city forward in the right direction.

              Brian Cassise

              No Answer.

              Kevin Camero-Sulak

              Did not reply

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