Home Local Government Chikaming Township discusses beach access, library funding at monthly meeting

Chikaming Township discusses beach access, library funding at monthly meeting

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Board members discussed a request of the Chikaming Township Park Board for them to review Township Ordinance 126 at the Chikaming Township Board’s monthly meeting Thursday, Jan. 12.

As explained by Supervisor David Bunte, the ordinance involves the “accessibility of maintaining who manages the access of our public beaches.” Currently, the Township Supervisor manages the access of the Township’s beaches; however, up until two years ago, the Park Board has had this responsibility.

As explained by Schrader, the Board was merely requesting that they return to the old system before the Supervisor took over the responsibility.

“This would just revert back to the motion that was made two years ago to remove the duties and responsibilities from the elected Park Board to the Supervisor – you’ve had nothing but problems since then,” she said.

In addition, Schrader said Ordinance 126 is located under the Park Board section and not the Township, and states that it helps them “govern the parks, beaches and preserves.”

Schrader cited an incident that took place last November, during which the former Township supervisor opened the gate to the beach without filling out a permit. She said that there was meeting with a lawyer in private without any representation from the Park Board. Schrader said he had decided that he was in charge of the matter “even though he didn’t fill out two permits.”

Trustee Bill Marske suggested that they wait a year to make a formal decision on the matter, which might be how long it would take for them to finish improving their zoning ordinances. At last month’s meeting, Board members approved the hiring of McKenna to help them with their ordinances, ensuring that they aligned with the Master Plan. With regards to the previous incident, he said that the Township acted on advice they received from legal counsel.

Bunte said that, from a legal standpoint, there were “numerous” state and local regulations, and that he wanted to ensure that they weren’t “overstepping our bounds” on accessibility. He stressed that he wanted to ensure that they establish checks and balances and procedures and policies, and that he had yet to see a list of any procedures and policies. He said he would be happy to meet with Schrader or a member of the Park Board to discuss a list of policies that could be put in place and that, based on that list, they would decide on the next steps.

Trustee Richard Sullivan pointed out it’s the Park Board’s responsibility to take care of the beaches, the preserves and the parks. Being elected officials, he said it should be expected that they have at least some say in “any kind of decision of people accessing those gates, not just the supervisor.”

Schrader added that when residents called to complain about certain issues, they were told that there are five agencies in charge of the beach. Returning to the old system, Schrader said, would help “clarify” who was in charge.

Also at the meeting, New Buffalo Township Library Director Julie Grynwich, Village of Three Oaks’ Cheryl Kersey and Bridgman Public Library Gretchen Evans gave a presentation on library funding.

Michigan library funding, Evans explained, included implementing a millage or a service contract, which was a “negotiated amount that comes right out of municipalities’ General Operating Budget.” It includes that payment and “also a designation of penal fines,” which is “money the courts collect for violation of state law.” The money is put into a fund and can only be used for library support paid out by the county once a year.

For many years, she said, Chikaming residents utilized library services through penal fines. A second contract was signed in 2013 that also included the Bridgman library in addition to Three Oaks, Chikaming and New Buffalo. Grynwich said they also received “an amount equal to 1 percent of Chikaming Township’s General Budget,” which included penal fines.

Michigan says the minimum amount of support libraries should be receiving form local municipalities is three tenths of a mill, and that three tenths of Chikaming’s taxable value in 2015 was $174,018. In 2015, the following amounts were the municipal support per capita of Bridgman, New Buffalo, Three Oaks and Chikaming, respectively: $74.82, $62.24, $46.62 and $9.50.
Both Grynwich and Evans acknowledged that Chikaming, unlike the other three municipalities, doesn’t have a millage; however, Evans said, the problem still remained that Chikaming doesn’t pay to use the library services like the residents from the other communities.

Board members agreed to investigate the matter further, with Bunte saying they would soon be going into budget development for the fiscal year and they’d look into the “inadequacies.”

Also at the meeting, Bunte said that 90 percent of Township staff now had a Township email they were using to conduct Township business. Last meeting, Board members agreed that everyone should use a Township email to conduct Township business, as opposed to their personal email.