Perhaps most concerning, Almas seconded a motion to approve and ratify a decision to send a Feb. 1 letter to the public regarding the township’s wind ordinance process — something which the township board had previously failed to vote on before sending out the letter and thus voted to ratify to approve at March’s meeting to correct the oversight. According to MCL 41.77, “The deputy, in case of the absence, sickness, death or other disability of the treasurer, shall possess the powers and perform the duties of the treasurer, except the deputy shall not have a vote on the township board.”
DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP – The Douglass Township Board did not properly publish notices of budget meetings/hearings recently, leading to multiple rescheduled meetings.
Also, the township’s deputy treasurer voted multiple times at the last regular board meeting – something state law forbids.
The township board attempted to meet on March 24 for a budget workshop, but township resident Wendie Switala was in attendance and pointed out that notice of the meeting wasn’t posted on the township website until about five hours before the meeting.
“You guys didn’t give adequate notice for this meeting tonight,” she said.
Switala read aloud from the Michigan Open Meetings Act which states that notice of a meeting must be posted on the township website at least 18 hours in advance, as well as at the township hall.
Township board members still began to proceed with the meeting until Treasurer Amy Laper noted they could hold the budget workshop next week instead. The meeting then abruptly adjourned and was rescheduled for Tuesday evening (see below for a recap).
Meanwhile, the township posted a public notice in the Daily News on Monday, March 28, stating that the annual budget hearing was scheduled for Friday, March 31. However, MCL 141.412 requires a notice to be published at least six days in advance, and this notice was only published four days in advance. Also, the notice didn’t say where a copy of the proposed budget was available for public inspection, nor did it reference the property tax millage rate proposed to be levied – two items that are required by state law in a budget hearing notice.
On Monday afternoon, a notice posted on the township hall door stated that the budget hearing would now take place at 5 p.m. on April 6; however, that same day, the township’s own website said the budget hearing would take place at 4 p.m. on April 8.
By Tuesday afternoon, the notice on the door had been corrected to match the notice on the website. A new public notice stating the same – that the budget hearing will take place at 4 p.m. April 8 – is scheduled to be published in Friday’s Daily News, along with the rest of the required information.
The Daily News reviewed the township’s prior budget hearing public notices in recent years. While the majority were published correctly, the township’s budget hearing notice in March 2020 was similar to this year’s incorrectly published notice in that it didn’t list where a copy of the proposed budget was available for public inspection, nor did it reference the property tax millage rate proposed to be levied.
DEPUTY TREASURER VOTES
Treasurer Amy Laper was absent from the March 2 township board meeting, while Deputy Treasurer Holli Almas was present and sat with the elected board members at the table. According to those meeting minutes, Almas supported five motions and made one motion of her own during the meeting.
Almas seconded motions to approve the agenda; to correct February’s meeting agenda; to approve bills totaling $20,301.44 plus any that come in before the end of the month; and to adjourn the meeting. Almas also made a motion to approve February’s meeting minutes.
Perhaps most concerning, Almas seconded a motion to approve and ratify a decision to send a Feb. 1 letter to the public regarding the township’s wind ordinance process – something which the township board had previously failed to vote on before sending out the letter and thus voted to ratify to approve at March’s meeting to correct the oversight.
According to MCL 41.77, “The deputy, in case of the absence, sickness, death or other disability of the treasurer, shall possess the powers and perform the duties of the treasurer, except the deputy shall not have a vote on the township board.”
The Daily News asked Clerk Ronda Snyder if she was aware the deputy treasurer is not allowed to vote.
“Yes, and it is being taken care of at the next meeting,” Snyder said.
The township board spent an hour Tuesday evening assembling a proposed budget to be presented at the April 8 budget hearing. All five board members were present, along with 10 residents and the Daily News.
Some highlights of the proposed budget:
• The township is proposing to contract with the Road Commission for Montcalm County for four township road contracts: asphalt overlay one mile of Musson Road from 522 to Klees Road ($92,000), three applications of chloride on all township gravel roads ($32,000), gravel resurfacing Briggs Road to M-66 to one mile west ($12,000) and spraying brush along roads ($2,000). The board is proposing to budget $120,000 for the $138,000 worth of projects but is also hoping to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to fund the projects as well. The Road Commission is also matching township road project costs at 15% to 20%, which will help defray costs even further.
• The township is proposing to budget $25,000 in legal fees, compared to the $8,000 budgeted last year. The township spent $55,000 in legal fees in the past year – meaning they went $47,000 over budget, due largely to ongoing wind ordinance work. The township is also proposing to budget $25,000 in planning/consulting fees. They spent $21,000 on this item last year, also in part related to work on the wind ordinance.
• The township is proposing to pay $16,000 toward new fire department air packs, a cost which will be split four ways between four townships. The board is hoping to use ARPA funds to help pay for this.
• The township is proposing to upgrade the township hall’s security camera system at an estimated cost of $4,343. They are hoping to use ARPA funds to help pay for this as well.
[rest of article available at source]
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