By Rosemary K. Otzman
The regular meeting of the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees on Dec. 17 lasted only 16 minutes after the board was evacuated from its regular meeting room to the Sheldon Room across the hall.
The problem was a strong odor of natural gas and high CO2 readings.
The main item on the agenda was approving the balanced, amended 2013 budget of $13,172,461 and the proposed 2014 budget of $13,657,027, which board members did, with Trustee Reggie Miller voting no.
There was no change to the documents since the last meeting when the budgets were reviewed and action was postponed since Trustee Brenda McClanahan wanted more precise information on the police salaries.
Trustee Jeff Jahr, who made the motion to approve the two budgets, said, “We cannot afford to continue expending from the landfill fund. I do not consider the landfill a rainy day fund. After the first quarter, we should sit down and discuss this.”
Trustee Jahr said the intention of that fund was for the benefit of the residents to compensate them for having a landfill in their community, such as building a community center or something else. He said he thinks the board ought to be looking at that in the future.
“The same is true of the funds now coming from EQ and the former supervisor planned to have some special purpose to benefit the residents,” Jahr said.
“I don’t agree with the spending in this budget and will vote no,” Trustee Miller said.
The new township fee schedule also was approved, with Miller voting no. She explained she thought residents should not get free notary service, as they have done in the past, because the township needs funds. The new fee schedule carried no charge for residents and $5 for non-residents.
Currently the township handles about 469 notary requests a year, but people haven’t been checked for where they live since it was free for everyone.
Clerk Leon Wright had proposed a $5 fee for residents and a $10 fee to non-residents for notary service, but at a recent work/study session Treasurer Sharry Budd said a charge would be a hardship for township seniors.
Trustee Jahr said a lot of places don’t charge, such as banks for their customers.
“We don’t want to encourage people to come in for free notary service,” he said.
The fee schedule also shows a 2% hike in water and sewer bills in 2014, plus changes to plumbing, building, mechanical, and electrical fees.
Amendments to the Industrial Facility Tax Exemption Guidelines were approved unanimously.
Linda Stevenson, township assessment coordinator, said it has been seven years since the guidelines were updated. The new version is based on the language and regulations of PA 198 of 1974, as amended, and has been reviewed by township attorney Patrick McCauley.
In other business, the board:
• Approved the supervisor’s appointments of Medina Atchinson as an alternate member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, Terissa Wardwell and Lianne Clair as full members with terms to expire Dec. 1, 2016, and appointment of Edward Miller from alternate member to full member with a term to expire Dec. 1, 2015. Member Karren Glass resigned her position effective Nov. 12 due to moving to a new home outside of the township, and member Angela Nettro chose not to pursue reappointment;
• Postponed to a future meeting a planned presentation by Green Zone Initiative and service awards to 14 employees because of the gas odor;
• Announced the township offices would be closed between Christmas and New Year, but those wishing to pay their taxes may use the drop box in front of township hall or in the police department; and
• Announced there will be only one township board meeting in January and that would be at 7 p.m., Jan. 14, with the work-study session at 4 p.m., Jan. 13.
Absent and excused from the Dec. 17 meeting were Trustees McClanahan and Phil Hart.
By Rosemary K. Otzman