Big Rapids will contract with Mika Meyers PLC for legal services

BIG RAPIDS — The Big Rapids city commission approved a contract for legal services with Mika Meyers, PLC during its meeting this week.

Earlier this year, Big Rapids attorney Eric Williams, who has represented the city for about 36 years, informed the board of his intentions to retire at the end of the year. Since that time, a search committee has worked to find a replacement for Williams.

“We are not excited that Eric is retreating at the end of the year, and we are going to miss his wisdom for the city,” said city manager Mark Gifford, who sat on the search committee. “We (the committee) looked at the process of having an attorney on staff as we have had in the past. That didn’t go very far, so we turned to looking into working with law firms.”

During a meeting in May, Gifford told the board the committee had been actively looking for a replacement but were having difficulty finding qualified candidates for city positions.

Commissioner Jennifer Cochran, who was also on the search committee, said at the time they had received six applications, only two of which were viable.

“The question before us is to how best utilize our financial resources for the kind of work we need to have done by a legal consultant,” she said. “An option we talked about is to contract with a large firm for the services as we need them.”

Gifford said they opened it up to any firms across the state and had some “wonderful” submittals.

“We did interviews with all of them, and Mika Meyers rose to the top,” Gifford said.

Bradley Fowler will be designated as the city’s attorney, with additional attorneys also serving the city in the areas of finance counsel, employment counsel, ordinance enforcement and tax tribunal counsel, according to information from the firm.

Fowler is a graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He has eight years of experience representing municipalities and other local authorities. He served as the assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan prior to going into private practice.

Local government law is one of the firm’s largest groups and is an area in which the firm specializes. Their municipal law practice dates back to 1956, and since that time has grown substantially, they said.

A significant advantage the city would have by retaining the firm is to eliminate the need to hire outside counsel for any special projects, because the firm can provide a full spectrum of services the city may need.

“We are excited about working with them, and Eric is working with Brad to make that transition as smooth as possible,” Gifford said.

The contract is effective as of Jan. 1, 2023, for a term of two years, expiring Dec. 31, 2024, and will automatically renew for two additional three year terms unless terminated by either party. For the initial term the rate of fees will be $250 an hour.

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