Councilors promise to donate paychecks

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — Two City Council members have a gift for the city: their paychecks.

Councilmen Kevin Rourke and Kyle Tertzag announced at Tuesday’s meeting that they will be working for the city for free.

Rourke said he will forgo his monthly $355 check for the months of March, April, May and June. He said he made the decision after talking to residents on the phone and through e-mail prior to the meeting.

“It may not be a lot,” Rourke said. “It’s a part-time job. I didn’t get in it for the money. The eight years I’ve been doing this, it’s because of the people, and because I live here.”

Tertzag did not give a specific time frame, but said he will give his paycheck back to the city for the foreseeable future.

“However long I’m here, you can have it,” he said.

The announcements came at the end of a meeting in which many residents called for all council members and the mayor to work for free rather than lay off its Fire Department. The entire 25-member department received 30-day layoff notices Feb. 24. City officials have said they intend to bargain with the department to reduce costs; March 26 is the deadline for an agreement between the two parties.

The possible layoffs are one response to the city’s projected $7 million budget deficit for the next four years. The Allen Park Studio Center is projected to lose $1.2 million a year for that period.

The entire council has come under fire in recent months regarding the property. It is now 80 percent full after Its biggest tenant, Unity Studios, left in the fall after a year in the complex.

“You were all engulfed with the flames of passion about this project, about bringing the city back up,” Sabrina Casteel, an 18-year-old Allen Park High School student, said. “But now you’ve left the city in ashes. Now you want our trust, but we’ve only been burned by you. We need a reason to trust you all again.”

Many residents also called for the resignation of Mayor Gary Burtka. City Administrator Eric Waidelich announced his own resignation last week.

Others said they did not want anyone to resign. Some residents brought up ideas for the complex, such as renting it out to medical marijuana businesses. The city currently has a moratorium in effect on applications for such businesses.

Other residents mentioned they were now paying less in taxes due to decreasing property values and wondered if they could donate the difference to help save the Fire Department. City Attorney Todd Flood said he would review the matter.

“I’m not interested in anyone resigning,” resident Max Rodriguez said. “I’m interested in people resolving the situation we’re in.”