Main Menu

August, 2016

 

Village Water Rates to Increase Oct 1st

water-rates
Share Button

For the first time in 14 years, the Village of Grass Lake water rates are about to go up. After a lengthy discussion at the Village Council Meeting on August 16th, the Council voted to increase water rates for Village residents. The rate changes will go into effect starting with the October billing.

Paul Lammers, Village DPW (Department of Public Works) Supervisor presented the council with proposed rate changes based on current expenses, budget shortfalls, estimated costs of water tower repairs and meter replacements. He also presented comparable rates from other municipalities where they were averaging a 6% annual increase.

The Council voted to raise quarterly rates by $10 ($3.33 per month), add a $2.08 monthly water meter replacement fee and a $2.50 monthly water tower maintenance fee for standard lines at residences. Additional increases for larger lines also increased. Currently the water bills are billed quarterly. The Council also voted to change to monthly billing. Sewer bills are already monthly, so there will be little additional cost. The rate changes become effective with the October billings.

Current rates are $27.50 quarterly, which works out to $9.16 monthly for typical households. Excessive water usage and larger connections incur additional rates.

The increase in base rates will generate an estimated $29,000 per year in additional revenue. Currently the water funds are running an approximate $30,000 deficit.

Monies from the Meter Replacement Fee will be used exclusively for replacing water meters at residences every 10 years. The typical lifespan for a water meter is only 10 years. The current cost of a water meter is $250. Taking the $250 cost, dividing by 10 years, then dividing by 12 months comes out to $2.083333.

Replacing water meters will have long term benefits as well. Currently 41 of the meters in the Village do not work, or are running slow. Lammers said “they never run faster, so folks are getting the benefit of the doubt with those meters.” Those customers are being charged on estimated usage from previous years.

The older meters require being read and entered manually. It currently takes almost 4 days to read the meters within the Village Lammers said. The new meters are ARR (Automated Radio Readers), meaning they can be read without accessing the meter itself, which is often located in a meter box in the ground. The DPW will be able to walk or drive by the house, and read the meter using a radio frequency. These new devices allow for more accurate and faster collection of water usage readings than the current manual method and improve safety conditions for the DPW employees. Lammers estimates the 4 days of work will be able to be done with 6-8 hours once all the meters in the Village have been replaced. Currently only a small fraction of the meters are the newer ARR meters.

The $2.50 Water Tower Maintenance Fee will be set aside for water tower maintenance. Tom Nolte said “The tower will need to be repainted sometime in the next 5 to 6 years and the estimated cost of that process is expected at between $350,000 to $400,000.” While the $2.50 fee will not cover the full costs of the repainting, it will “provide at least the opportunity to bond the cost of repainting the tower”.

A similar project in Norwalk, OH cost $525,000. Josh Snyder, Norwalk public works director, broke down that process. “They will be sand-blasting the rust off and doing some metal repairs.” Snyder said this work is complicated.

“This is specialized work,” he said. “This involves painting systems and epoxy paints. It uses a special primer and requires multiple coats of paint. It also will take a top-coating on the exterior.  “It’s not like we can go up there with a can of Rust-Oleum” he said.

The Village Water system has approximately 540 customers. The bond on the existing system currently has 6 years left, with annual payments of $125,000 due each February according to Tom Nolte.

The Village is in the process of reviewing all their capital improvement funds and rate charges across all their services to verify they will meet both the current and the future needs.


8th Annual School Supply Drive Needs Your Help

IMG_0356
Share Button

The location may have changed, yet the need has not. For the 8th straight year Jason Bruneel, Financial Advisor for Edward Jones and Lina Anuszkiewicz Senior Branch Office Administrator for Edward Jones are organizing a school supply drive for Grass Lake students. “Each year we collect numerous school supplies that are donated to the classrooms at George Long Elementary School in Grass Lake” said Anuszkiewicz. “This is not an Edward Jones program or sponsored event, this is something we want to do to help the community” she added.

The supplies are collected each fall at their offices, then they call the schools and local teachers to let them pick-up the supplies they need. “We box them up and they come pick them up” Anuszkiewicz said. Each year, the entire collection is gone within days.

Anuszkiewicz wasn’t sure if this year’s drop in donations was a result of the earlier school year, their recent move to the eastern side of town or something totally unrelated. Either way, they are hoping to get additional supplies donated for the schools prior to September 6th.

Help a child start the school year right. While just about any school supplies are welcome, including backpacks, these are the most commonly requested items by the teachers: Pencils— #2 , preferably Ticondaroga brand, pencil top erasers, glue sticks, dry erase markers, Lysol wipes, Kleenexes, masking tape, hand sanitizer- alcohol free, Scotch tape, Post-it notes, student scissors, reams of white copy paper, Ziploc bags, permanent markers (all sizes and colors)and  Band Aids.

School supplies can be dropped off through Tuesday, September 6th. The office hours are 8:30-4:30, Monday through Friday.

wwwwTheir location is in the Grass Lake Professional Center at 12365 E Michigan Avenue Grass Lake, MI 49240.

Questions can be directed to Lina Anuszkiewicz 517.522.6269 or Lina.Anuszkiewicz@edwardjones.com


Grass Laker Competes In USA Track & Field Junior Olympics

Drew
Share Button

The 50th USA Track & Field National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships was held in Sacramento, California this past weekend. The USATF Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships is the most visible youth athletic development program in the world. Many of today’s Olympic stars began their track and field careers competing in the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.Entry for this championship is based on athlete performances at preliminary, Association, and Regional levels of the 2016 USATF Junior Olympic Program.

Fourteen year old Grass Laker Drew Allen was one of the participants. Just qualifying for one of these races is quite the accomplishment. The Grass Lake Times spoke with Drew and his mom, Tonya Quinn about the recent experience.

Drew competed in the 1500 meter 13-14 year old boys division this past Friday. Drew has only been running the past two years, at Grass Lake Middle School.  His mom says he has a “gift for running. He’s very competitive, very goal driven.” His qualifying time of 4:31.18 earned him the trip to Sacramento. His 4:30.44 24th place finish (out of 49) in the preliminaries was not strong enough to take him to the finals. Unfortunately for Drew, just before flying out, he came down with strep throat and tonsillitis. “He was just miserably sick” his mom indicated. He started out strong and led for a bit before running out of steam. “he gave it all he had with how he was feeling”.

While being disappointed, Drew seemed upbeat for the future. “I am going to try and get faster” and hope to “get under 4 minites”. When asked about the experience, the typical teenager response of “pretty sweet” with an upbeat tone in his voice and smile on his face. “It was different, but really cool to be there” he responded. Not being a runner, I asked what he thought about when running a race, he said “Going faster, winning the race, going faster.” There is not much time to think about anything else.

For those not as familiar with track distances, or the metric system, a mile is 1609.34 meters.

Drew is eager to “get another shot”. Until then he will keep practicing. He will be attending Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor this fall.

Drew wantedto thank Evan Browne, for helping him train for the race.  Evan is a Grass Lake graduate, played college basketball overseas in Australia, then was Drew’s 7th and 8th grade basketball coach at Grass Lake. He is a personal trainer in Dexter.  His mom added “He has been a wonderful mentor and biggest supporter of  Drew over the last couple years.”

 IMG_5586.jpg

Drew

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


40th Annual Chelsea Sounds and Sights Festival a Success

Share Button

Artist Sue Craig sat serenely beneath her tent at the Chelsea Sights and Sounds Festival in downtown Chelsea last Saturday afternoon, showcasing her oil, pastel, and watercolor paintings.  Amid lulls in patronage she was sketching a familiar image.

Hillary Clinton.

The likeness was striking.  Rosy-cheeked, regal smile, eyes fixated on globalism.  Craig explained that she was drawing the portrait to take her mind off the members of the neighboring tent—the local Republican Party. “To counter their speechifying,” she said.  “I’m a huge Democrat and wanted to equal things out.  I was horrified when I found out that my tent was set up next to the Republicans.”

“She wanted to move us,” countered Cindy Fischhaber,” the Washtenaw County Republican chairwoman.  Her take on the general election between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump?  “Wild and vicious.”  Exactly.  That’s why politics is called bloodsport.

Now in its 40th year, the Sounds and Sights Festival is an annual summer weekend event held in Chelsea that draws visitors from the county and from every finger in the Mitten.  The two-day, three-night festival features live music, independent artists, like Craig, and is decidedly kid-friendly.  All performances and activities happen in historic downtown Chelsea.

On Saturday morning rain pounded the region like buckshot on a copper roof.  The deluge dampened the flora in the area but not the spirits of the festival attendees.  The region needed the precipitation in the middle of this dry summer.  So it was the proverbial raining on the parade but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the many merchants, peaceful and prosperous, and their patrons.

Diverse attendees came out despite the waves of the sea that fell from the sky.  The storms of destruction passed by in the early p.m. but rather than turn humid like downtown Miami on the Fourth of July, bilious cloud cover hastened cool breezes refreshing busy dealers and invigorating pilgrims.  Who can the weather command but Al Gore?

Further on down the road vendors at the farmer’s market broke camp and packed surplus merchandise into their trucks and vans.  Sally Goetz and her husband Luke own Goetz Greenhouse in Riga.  They bake bread, craft cheese, honey, and maple syrup.  Eighteen tubs of corn needed to be hauled beneath their tent that morning to protect their stock from becoming creamed corn.

The weekly farmer’s market happens every Saturday eight to noon from May to October.  “It’s a good little market,” Luke Goetz said.  “This is our third season here at the market, which has been going on for about 20 years.  We sell a little bit of everything—eggs, vegetables, syrup, and bread.”

Downtown, beneath a large beer tent, you could hear the wheezing of an accordion, the crack and smash of a drum kit, and a first-rate horn.  The group named the Kielbasa Kings Polka Band, the headliner of the festival, warmed up for its Saturday night performance.  Dogs, scenting Polish sausage, other than service dogs, were prohibited from the beer garden.

So it seemed to be a good time had by all, organizers—dozens under the direction of the local Chamber of Commerce—and vendors showcasing their concerns and their wares.  Forty is the new 25 and the organizers of the Sounds and Sights Festival in Chelsea, crowned with a plaque administered by the United States Department of the Interior, point their compass north to July 2017.                      


Businesses and Residents React to Proposed Dollar General in the Village

IMG_3302
Share Button

The proposed Dollar General store in Grass Lake has people talking. They’re talking on the street, in the restaurants and they are expressing their feelings on Facebook. It reminds me a little bit of the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail” where struggling boutique bookseller Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) battles the big bad chain store, Fox Books. My wife Karla loves that movie so I may have seen it a few (hundred) times.

Dollar General submitted their initial site plan to the Village of Grass Lake for review by the planning commission. The Village Planning Commission was initially scheduled to review the site plan at their meeting on August 11th. That meeting has been postponed because of scheduling conflicts with the Planning Commission members. Since their initial submission, Village Manager and Zoning Administrator Tom Nolte replied back to the developers informing them of some deficiencies in their original application that need to be addressed prior to it being reviewed by the planning commission. That is not an uncommon process.

Facebook commenters on The Grass Lake Open Forum and the Grass Lake Times were pretty vocal about their disproval of the proposed store. I didn’t hear anyone outside chanting “One, two, three, four! We don’t want your superstore! Five, six, seven, eight! Go away and close the gate! One, two, three, four! We don’t want this superstore.” as they did in the movie, however that was the spirit of most commenters. “Not good, it will take away from local business” typed Jamie. “Just like Walmart runs out smaller business in cities, this will be devastating to local small businesses.” typed Jerry. “We won’t be shopping there. I’ll keep supporting the local businesses.” said Emily.

A Facebook petition opposing Dollar General was created. It’s named Citizens opposed to Dollar General in Grass Lake Michigan.

The majority of the discussions revolved around 3 key points:

1) Protecting the local businesses

2) The clientele of Dollar General

3) The longevity/success of Dollar General

I spoke separately with several local businesses to discuss their thoughts on potential impact of a Dollar General; Frank Bednarski and Loree Jones of Franks Shop-Rite, Todd Raetz, owner of Grass Lake Community Pharmacy and Sharon Coppernoll of Coppernoll Hardware.

The responses were not quite in line with the online commenters. Todd Raetz, also President of The Grass Lake Chamber of Commerce, responded that while Dollar General would “more than likely affect our business”, the impact would be minimal. “Dollar General would not have a lot of overlapping products”. “While buying local products from local owners is the best scenario, buying local products from non-local owners is the next best thing.” Sharon Coppernoll also “doesn’t see it affecting us a lot.” “Shouldn’t have a profound affect in sales”. “We are a hardware store, they are not.” From what she understands, they are “heavy into impulse items and imports” while Coppernoll Hardware is not. “Our big sales are in electrical, plumbing and repair”. She “has been expecting it for years.” Bednarski said his customers will continue to come, “they come for the service”. Frank Bednarski indicated he felt “it’s not gonna affect us.” In similar comments as Coppernoll, he indicated “They are not a grocery store”. The proposed store “will have 9000 (9,100) sq ft of space, we have between 33k and 34k sq ft”

The business owners shared a similar sentiment. “It is nice to see strong feelings, positive comments and defending us” said Coppernoll. However, Raetz asked “what are they protecting us from?” He continued “Our community doesn’t shop exclusively in Grass Lake. They take a lot of money out of Grass Lake.” Coppernoll echoed the sentiment that some of the people wanting to protect Grass Lake are not necessarily supporting the local businesses in Grass Lake with their dollars. “Our customers are our customers.” We know most of our customers by name. Many are here every week or every other week. All three businesses echoed the same sentiment “Our customers are great and they support us week in and week out.

Bednarski ended with “For good or for bad, we’ll just see how it goes”. As Raetz was wrapping up our conversation to attend to customers, he said “more conveniences simply make Grass Lake a better community. Each small investment into the community creates such a profound effect.”

So maybe Dollar General won’t end up like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, “I wanted it to be you”, perhaps it has a spot within the community after all. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out in the coming weeks.


Township Election Brings One Change

IMG_3399
Share Button

Tuesday’s primary election was a nail biter for the candidates vying for positions on the Grass Lake Charter Township Board. Since all the candidates were running as Republicans, the primary would most likely decide the election. Candidates will go on to the General Election in November where they will be unopposed. If elected, the candidates take office two weeks after the General Election. Throughout the day, candidates felt confident yet nervous. You never know what’s going to happen until the votes are actually counted.

Incumbent Supervisor Jim Stormont was facing challenger Bruce Maxson. Trustees Scott Bray, Thomas (Tom) Brennan, Danny Hart and John Lesinski were being challenged by William (Bill) Lester, Greg Cagney, Sr. and James (Jim) Warbritton. The 4 candidates receiving the most votes would move on to the General Election where they would be unopposed. A write-in candidate could still file.

The unofficial votes were posted at the Grass Lake Charter Township Hall by clerk Cathy Zenz as they came in. The votes are unofficial until the election is certified by Jackson County, however that is what news agencies often report.

Tuesday’s turnout was light yet decisive. Jim Stormont beat out challenger Bruce Maxson by 236 votes. Stormont 540 to Maxson 304. When asked afterwards how it felt, a smiling Jim Stormont said “I’m honored. I’m honored that the people support me. Support us (the Township Board) what we’ve done for our community. What we can do for our community.”

In the trustee race, incumbents held on to 3 of the 4 spots. Scott Bray, Tom Brennan and John Lesinski retained their seats while Danny Hart lost out to Bill Lester. Scott Bray 474; John Lesinski 435; Tom Brennan 421; Bill Lester 394; Danny Hart 378; Greg Cagney, Sr. 357; Jim Warbritton 334.

Scott Bray said “Thanks to everyone who supported me. I am humbled, honored and incredibly excited to serve for the next 4 years.” Tom Brennan echoed “Thank you to everyone that came out and voted today. I’m honored to serve another term in our great community.” John Lesinski when reached was very excited as well. “I am so excited. I am honored that people support me, the township board and what we are accomplishing.”

Incumbent treasurer Tom Loveland and clerk Cathy Zenz were unopposed.

The township has 4,351 registered voters. With 23.1% of the registered voters casting a ballot, that totaled 1006 ballots. That number was higher compared to the statewide average. Township Clerk Cathy Zenz, who is in charge of the elections, said “everything went well. There were no problems. The voting went in spurts throughout the day. She was thankful for the election workers who did a great job and made her job easier.

Complete election results are available online at:

www.co.jackson.mi.us/Elections/Aug/16Results.asp