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Winfield Township wind referendum scheduled, police investigation continues  

Credit:  By Elisabeth Waldon | Daily News | August 13, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc ~~

The Winfield Township Board during yet another tense meeting on Thursday voted to pay a special clerk to run November’s general election as the current clerk is facing a recall, and voted to place a wind energy ordinance referendum on the ballot at that same election, even as a police investigation of the township board and township documents continues.

Supervisor Phyllis Larson read aloud an Aug. 8 letter to the township from Montcalm County Clerk Kristen Millard, stating in part, “it is becoming apparent that there will be sufficient signatures to move forward with a recall election against (Clerk Colleen Stebbins) on the November general election ballot.”

Millard said she expects to verify recall signatures by Sept. 2 and she informed the township that she has appointed Krystal Hatfield to fill in for Stebbins on all November election-related work. Hatfield is the former Greenville city deputy clerk and she recently handled primary election work in Montcalm Township after that township’s former clerk Jessica Shearer was charged with (and eventually convicted of) a forgery-related crime. Hatfield will maintain office hours from 5 to 7 p.m. every Monday at Winfield Township Hall leading up to November’s election.

The township board voted 5-0 to pay Hatfield $20 per hour to run the general election at Millard’s recommendation, as well as 62.5 cents per mile for any mileage involved.

The township board also voted 5-0 to accept the wording of a wind energy ordinance referendum and to place it on November’s ballot. The wording will ask voters whether they wish to approve or deny the township board’s recently approved wind ordinance.

A solar energy ordinance in Winfield Township was overwhelmingly shot down by voters in the Aug. 2 primary election with 457 “no” votes to 185 “yes” votes, or 71% to 29%.

Trustee John Black brought up an article the Daily News published on Aug. 3 stating that the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post was investigating members of the township board and certain township documents. Black disputed this during Thursday’s meeting.

“I talked to Phyllis. She went up to the State Police Post,” Black said. “They knew nothing of it. We asked the prosecutor, our lawyer did, they said there was a complaint turned in and it was thrown out. Is that going to be in the paper?”

The Daily News confirmed with police on Friday that the investigation continues.

“Our complaint is still an open investigation,” MSP Sixth District Public Information Officer Michelle Robinson told the Daily News.

The township board voted on June 15 to approve a wind ordinance, and they then published a public notice of that ordinance in the Daily News – despite their previous vote to only use two weekly so-called “newspapers.” When questioned on this topic by the Montcalm County Election Commission at a recall clarity hearing on July 6, Larson and Stebbins both said the township board gave its approval at the June 15 meeting to specifically publish the wind ordinance public notice in the Daily News.

However, a Daily News reporter was present at the June 15 meeting and did not hear the board vote or discuss anything regarding how to publish the ordinance.

According to the township’s minutes from that meeting, a vote was not taken on the matter. The very end of the meeting minutes simply state, “Due to time schedule, the notice of adoption to be in the earliest paper to get all paperwork to the county clerk to be on the November ballot as the two other paper (sic) the township put minutes in would be over a week and more.”

“You guys don’t realize that you work for we the people,” township resident Ryan VanSolkema told township board members on Thursday. “You keep throwing this crap at us with solar ordinances that are meant for the liberals and all this stuff … we shot that down. You threw this crappy wind ordinance at us … we referendumed that (meaning gathered enough signatures) in a weekend. You pissed us off enough that we’re recalling three of you. We got those signatures in two weeks. We’re just going to keep going around and around until you wake up.

“As far as the investigation into you altering your minutes … it’s on video,” VanSolkema said. “We saw it. You never voted on it. We saw your minutes. They’re altered. You can’t do that. When are you going to get some ethics and morals and uphold your positions? If you can’t uphold them – resign. You’re going to be recalled anyways.”

Jamie Snyder of Cato Township took video of Thursday’s meeting – as she often does – and Snyder’s mother, Linda Reynolds of Douglass Township, was also present and asked Larson to apologize to Snyder for comments Larson made during July’s meeting implying that Snyder’s June 15 meeting video could be altered.

Larson responded by saying, “When you think about some of the things that have been said to us, nobody has apologized to us. And I didn’t call her out and I didn’t say that she did it. I said videos can be edited.”

Township resident Dave Meyers questioned Larson’s plan for the Planning Commission now that the solar ordinance has been turned down by voters. Zoning Administrator Dave Kelsey noted that he is currently denying all solar residential panel requests as the township doesn’t currently have a solar ordinance.

“Right at this particular moment, there is no plan,” Larson told Meyers.

“You need to have a plan,” Meyers said. “Something needs to happen.”

“We’re waiting for our attorney,” said Larson, a comment which promoted scoffing and protest from residents.

“Attorney! You don’t need a damn attorney for that,” Meyers declared. “You don’t need an attorney for a solar ordinance.”

Black noted that a solar company based in Grand Rapids recently contacted township board members about a potential solar project in the area.

“I’m sure we’ll have the subject come up at our next PC meeting,” Black said.

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Aug. 22.

As Thursday’s tense meeting drew to a close, Trustee Steve Cole had a request.

“May I make a public comment?” he asked.

“No,” Larson told him.

“Steve, you legally you have the right to speak at public comment,” Jessica Kwekel of Cato Township called out from the audience.

“Jessica, you’re done,” Larson told her.

“I’m not speaking to you,” Kwekel retorted.

Cole did not share his public comment, but simply shook his head in frustration.

Source:  By Elisabeth Waldon | Daily News | August 13, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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