2017-10-05 / Front Page

Manager Proposed For Clark Township

By Erich T. Doerr

Hiring a full-time township manager, leasing five of six available Hessel airport lots to an aviation company, and concerns about potential harmful effects of chemical sprays used to stop the spread of phragmites dominated discussions at Clark Township’s Wednesday, September 20, board meeting. Township attorney Tom Evashevski and Supervisor Mark Clymer will begin negotiations on the airport lease, but no action was taken on the manager or chemical issues.

In other developments, Steve Honnila has become the acting township fire chief following Clark O’Brien’s resignation and Tim Bright will replace retiring Allan Huff as a township grounds and maintenance worker.

Cedarville resident Ken Drenth presented the board with a letter from several area residents suggesting the township consider hiring a professional township manager to carry out non-statutory duties elected officials are now performing, such as oversight of the community’s marinas, the Department of Public Works, and the airport. Mr. Drenth said Clark Township is the fourth largest municipality in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, behind Sault Ste. Marie, Newberry, and St. Ignace, and the need to promote the community may be stretching beyond what can just be done by interested citizens. If a manager role is created he said he would like to avoid filling it with someone who is good intentioned but unqualified for it.

“This is a good time to do this,” Mr. Drenth said, noting there is not an election coming up and no one has stated interest to run for the supervisor position yet, so this move would not be seen as a slight toward a potential supervisor.

Mr. Drenth noted that the township has the authority to create a manager position but would need to raise money to pay the person. To draw a qualified candidate, he estimates, would require $100,000 for salary and benefits, which could be raised with about one-third mill. The board took no action on the proposal Wednesday. Mr. Drenth suggested the township hold an educational meeting on the topic at a later date to gauge what township residents interest is in the proposal. Trustee Sarah Patton complimented Mr. Drenth’s information as well researched.

Industrial Park Lease

The board authorized attorney Evashevski and Supervisor Clymer to communicate directly with the owner of a proposed aviation development following a closed session with the attorney to discuss township options. The township will not release the name of the business.

The proposal is to lease four of six five-acre parcels in the designated industrial park at the Albert J. Lindberg Airport north of Hessel for an aeronautical business. Development would include construction of a hanger. The developer is asking the township to extend the runway apron to the proposed hanger, which the company wants to begin building this fall. A 10-year lease of the four parcels with an option to purchase the property is proposed. Such a development would require the township to extend utilities to the area.

One parcel at the industrial park is already in use. A machine company erected a building on the site with the promise to create 12 jobs, but the business never materialized and the building is used only for storage.

Trustee Pat Schuster said the township wants to avoid a situation where work could start on the project only to have the concept fall through.

Trustee Sarah Patton asked if the proposed aeronautics business would create many local jobs and noted another business at the industrial park would be a positive change. Mr. Clymer responded the township should work to create jobs that pay enough to support a family, and noted it could bring more families to the area and increase enrollment at the school.

Herbicides

The proposed application of herbicides to control invasive phragmites grass that along shorelines and in ditches prompted appeals to the township board from local citizen Kate Rudolph and Monica Katy, who are concerned about the chemicals. Ms. Rudolph said she wants to stop large scale spraying and believes no plant is as dangerous as the chemicals being sprayed. She favors the use of chemicals only in the most extreme, most threatening cases. The pest control project is a program of the Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District.

As reported in The St. Ignace News August 24, non-native phragmites will be treated with herbicides along shorelines in Clark, Marquette, St. Ignace, Brevort, Moran, Hendricks, Hudson, Garfield, and Newton townships. Treatments may be applied as late as Tuesday, October 31, depending on weather conditions and staff availability.

Non-native phragmites is an invasive tall grass that grows densely along shorelines, choking out native plants and obstructing views. Treating phragmites with herbicides is part of ongoing attempts to prevent the plant from completely overtaking shoreline areas. People in the areas where treatments are planned will see signs that explain the dates of applications, chemicals used, and any restrictions for swimming and irrigation (if fronting a lake or beach). According to the Conservation District, the herbicides are not harmful to fish or wildlife when used properly and are registered for use with the Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Agriculture, and approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

People should not swim for one day where the glyphosate products Aqua Neat and Rodeo are used. The chemicals are used primarily for aquatic emergent control, like nonnative phragmites, non-native cattails, and other similar plants. Cygnet Plus, a spray herbicide, may be used in conjunction with other products.

Township Personnel

Clark Township Fire Chief Clark O’Brien has resigned and Assistant Chief Steve Honnila is now acting in the leadership role. Mr. O’Brien declined to comment to The St. Ignace News on the reasoning behind his resignation but will remain with the fire department in a different capacity. The board has asked him to submit a formal letter of resignation.

DPW grounds and maintenance worker Allan Huff has retired because of health issues and Township Clerk Susie Rutledge took a moment to thank him for his 13 years of service. The board hired township cemetery sexton Tim Bright to fill Mr. Huff’s former role. Mrs. Rutledge said Mr. Bright has been looking to move up to a full time job with the township and had applied for Mr. Huff’s position. The township will now advertise the vacancy for sexton with Mr. Bright continuing in both capacities as the cemetery’s 2017 season winds down.

Other Business

The 51-minute closed session at the meeting, in addition to the airport development, included a discussion of the lawsuit by Cedarville residents Bob and Beth Christians over short-term residential rentals. The township recently prevailed in the case in a federal court when a judge threw out the suit and said it could not be retried in a federal court after prior decisions in Mackinac County’s 11th Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals had ruled in the township’s favor. The case is now being appealed in a federal appellate court. The township used its time with Mr. Evashevski to discuss mediation.

The board approved the purchase of new anti-virus software for its computers, serving as a replacement to the as-delivered software on the computers to cover updated threats. The software will cost $180 plus an additional charge for three hours of labor for the township’s contracted computer consultant, Sean Henrichs, to put it in place.

Treasurer Jason Sherlund said in his report that the marina staff is being laid off, buildings would be shut for the season, and bathrooms drained, but, with hot weather continuing, public restrooms are still needed. The township could employ portable toilets as a less expensive alternative. They cost $110 a month to rent. The rental of the portable bathrooms did not require board action.

The township hall is getting a new color copier and the board approved rates it will charge the public for its use. Black and white copies will cost 25¢ and color will cost 50¢.

The board discussed parking signage in Cedarville during Mr. Clymer’s report, the supervisor noting that it was found to be confusing after a recent inventory of it was taken, leading people to dispute their tickets, and these issues need to be improved if it wants to step up enforcement. People often ignore no parking signs on the southern side of Hodeck Street. The Michigan State Police has recommended the township set aside an area designated for overnight parking, with Grove Street as a possible location. Mr. Clymer said he is not looking for anything but potential future feedback on the possible overnight parking location right now.

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