2016-10-27 / Front Page

St. Ignace Township To See Complete Turnover November 8

Campbell Unopposed for Supervisor
By Stephanie Fortino


At right: The St. Ignace Township Board of Trustees will see a complete turnover following the Tuesday, November 8, election. The current board is pictured at the Wednesday, October 12, meeting. Donna Harju (from left) has served as township clerk for 45 years since 1971, Sheryl Schairer has served as treasurer for 28 years since 1988, Dale Nelson has served as supervisor for 32 years since 1982, Don Schairer has served as trustee for 24 years since 1992, and Steve Campbell has served as trustee for 26 years since 1990. Mr. Campbell is running unopposed for township supervisor. At right: The St. Ignace Township Board of Trustees will see a complete turnover following the Tuesday, November 8, election. The current board is pictured at the Wednesday, October 12, meeting. Donna Harju (from left) has served as township clerk for 45 years since 1971, Sheryl Schairer has served as treasurer for 28 years since 1988, Dale Nelson has served as supervisor for 32 years since 1982, Don Schairer has served as trustee for 24 years since 1992, and Steve Campbell has served as trustee for 26 years since 1990. Mr. Campbell is running unopposed for township supervisor. Following the Tuesday, November 8, election, St. Ignace Township will have an entirely new board of trustees. Four trustees are not seeking reelection, and Trustee Steve Campbell, who has served on the board since 1990, is running unopposed for supervisor.

The current township board has 155 years of accumulative experience. Dale Nelson has served as supervisor since 1982, Donna Harju has been clerk since 1971, Cheryl Schairer has been treasurer since 1988, Don Schairer has been trustee since 1992, and Mr. Campbell has been trustee since 1990. Ensuring a smooth transition will be essential, Mr. Campbell said, and the current board members have agreed to help during the transition until next March.

With 97 square miles of land and 45 square miles of water, the township has 939 residents, many of them elderly residents and people on fixed incomes, said Mr. Campbell. Road maintenance and the affordability of local taxes, he says, are big concerns in the township. If economic growth is to happen, he says, Evergreen Shores likely has the most potential for it.

The township includes a portion of the I-75 business loop, state and federal lands, and the Kewadin Shores Casino and associated Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians tribal lands. It extends north from the City of St. Ignace to the Chippewa County line. To the west is Brevort Township and to the east is Marquette Township.

Campbell Runs for Supervisor

Mr. Campbell grew up in St. Ignace Township and has lived here most of his life. During his childhood, his family moved a few times because his father worked for Michigan Bell, and his father was in charge of converting the St. Ignace area from operator-assistance to dial telephone service. Mr. Campbell is a graduate of LaSalle High School in St. Ignace.

For a time, he lived in Louisiana and worked on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. He returned to St. Ignace Township and started working for the Mackinac Bridge Authority. After 34 years working in maintenance for the bridge, he’s considering retiring soon.

The Township’s Pressing Issues

Mr. Campbell believes the township residents care about the roads and their continued upkeep. Taxes are another major concern, he said, and residents want to ensure their board carefully considers any tax proposal. Instead of having the township board decide on its own to raise taxes, Mr. Campbell would rather put millage proposals to a public vote. One example was the new St. Ignace Public Library mileage that the community passed in August.

“You can only do so much, and leave it to the public,” he said. “The board can’t decide it on their own.”

The same can be said for new projects, Mr. Campbell said, such as the new water mains proposed in Evergreen Shores. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plans to upgrade about a mile of the I-75 business loop from South Airport Road to Mackinac Trail, where the new pavement from the recent I- 75 overpass work ends. While the road is dug up, work could be done to replace the existing cast iron water pipes with ductile iron water pipes. The City of St. Ignace owns the water and sewer lines in the township. But the township board can’t decide to spend money without talking to residents, Mr. Campbell said. The project could cost between $400,000 and $600,000, which would be levied through increased water fees or a special tax assessment.

“You can’t ask us [the township board] to pay for it,” Mr. Campbell said.

Many of the board members, including him, he said, have septic systems and wells. The city suggested the project be paid through increased water rates, which would only impact the 191 residents in Evergreen Shores, or a special property tax assessment that would affect everyone in the township.

Rather than those two options, Mr. Campbell said, “The best way is to find another solution.”

Maintaining the township’s roads is an ongoing concern for the board, he said, and the township has been saving money for continued maintenance. In the past 15 years or so, the board has completed many big projects, including installing new water mains and hydrants and upgrading the drinking water and sewer lines. The board also oversaw repaving projects on Mackinac Trail, South and North Pine River Roads, Ingalsby Road, the roads in Evergreen Shores, and others.

“Our board managed to do a lot of roadwork,” he said.

Charles Moran Road, which sees a lot of truck traffic, may be one of the next to be upgraded, Mr. Campbell said. Paving it will enhance improvements that the previous township board already made, he continued, when the road was raised and ditches were redone.

“If there’s any federal funding available, we’ll get it paved,” he said.

Potential for Economic Growth

A challenge for St. Ignace Township is its small tax base, Mr. Campbell said, which is mostly owing to the high percentage of state and federal land and low percentage of private land located in its boundaries. But the vast amount of federal land also allows the township to qualify for federal grants to fix and upgrade many of its roads, like Mackinac Trail.

“It’s an ace in the hole,” he said, “because we have so much federal land.”

St. Ignace Township has no industry other than tourism, and very few businesses. But in his view, Evergreen Shores presents the best opportunity for economic growth in St. Ignace Township, with its close proximity to the city and location on I-75 Business Loop. The seasonality of the tourist economy is challenging, he added, although some of the motels receive business from wintertime recreation activities like snowmobiling.

As far as attracting shopping, he said, it’s difficult for the township to compete with the amenities and choices larger cities can provide.

“We do have potential for growth,” Mr. Campbell said. “Some motels are being torn down and upgraded sites. If that can continue, I can see Evergreen Shores becoming its own community, especially if a restaurant opens up.”

The Pines Trading Post is an existing asset to Evergreen Shores, providing some retail grocery options in the township. Castle Rock is the main tourist attraction. A few campgrounds help add to St. Ignace Township’s business community, including Reddmann’s Sleepy Hallow, Moose Campground, and Castle Rock Campground. And several motels accommodate visitors.

An encouraging sign of growth in the township, Mr. Campbell said, is the recent work at the old Cabaret Motel. While he hasn’t thought about specific ways to increase economic development and bolster businesses, Mr. Campbell said the biggest potential growth exists in Evergreen Shores. Many of the mom-and-pop businesses have gone through tough times and closed. Some improvements are being made, he said, such as the Melody Motel that was recently torn down to make way for rental cabins.

“I see a lot of potential out there in that some of those old buildings are coming down and getting replaced. Evergreen Shores is coming back and can be an asset to the township and city.”

Kewadin Shores Casino also adds to the township’s tax base and generates money in the community. Improvements to housing to the elder community are being made, Mr. Campbell said, which will generate more revenue for the City of St. Ignace because of the new water and sewer hookups.

A Close Relationship With the City

St. Ignace Township has a close relationship with the neighboring City of St. Ignace, and Mr. Campbell will work to foster ongoing communication between the township and city. After election day, he’ll encourage the new board members to attend city and county meetings when township-related issues are raised, such as construction or emergency medical services (EMS).

For years, trustee Mr. Schairer served as a sort of informal liaison to the city through his business, St. Ignace Auto. With his retirement, the board will miss having that presence in the city, Mr. Campbell said, although he’ll work to keep abreast of issues by talking to city leaders.

“Because he’s in town right there, people were coming in talking to him,” Mr. Campbell said. “He’s been the board’s ambassador to the city, and we’ll miss that.”

In addition to receiving water and sewer from the city, the township also relies on the city for some of its emergency services. The St. Ignace Volunteer Fire Department responds if needed in the township.

St. Ignace Township is also part of the regional Straits Area Ambulance Service, which is operated by Cheboygan Life Support Systems. Area ambulance manager Mark Wilk keeps the township informed on issues such as the upcoming purchase of a new ambulance. The Straits Area group includes the township, city, and some of the other nearby townships in Mackinac County.

One upcoming issue the new township board will likely consider after the first of the year will be hiring a new building inspector. Currently, Ron Wartella issues permits for the township and a building inspector from the Lower Peninsula performs inspections. The City of St. Ignace recently hired Brian Olsen to be its new building inspector after receiving state approval to take building inspector duties back, and the township will likely hire the same inspector, Mr. Campbell said.

Navigating the Transition

Mrs. Harju will swear in the new officers Monday, November 14, at 6:30 p.m., at the township hall on Gorman Road. The board’s regularly scheduled meetings are held once a month on the second Thursday, unless otherwise posted on the township hall door or in the newspaper. The next township board meeting will be Thursday, November 10, at 6:30 p.m.

While the township will be losing the experience of the current township officials, having new members, especially younger members, will be refreshing, Mr. Campbell said. The board, he said, did a great job overseeing the township.

“They left the township in good shape,” Mr. Campbell said. “Financially, we have enough money to run the township for four years – that’s without bringing in any revenue at all. They’re leaving it in really good shape.”

Return to top


Click here for digital edition
2016-10-27 digital edition