Montcalm Township hires attorney for possible lawsuits

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 10:08 am on Thursday, October 13, 2011

MONTCALM TOWNSHIP – Montcalm Township moved to hire an attorney for possible upcoming lawsuits regarding a burial plot at East Montcalm Cemetery on M-91.
The board voted during the Sept. 14 meeting to send formal letters to the children of Helen Peer stating that Peer was buried in a plot purchased by the Lepley family 14 years ago and will need to be moved.
However, township Supervisor Michael Adams said Wednesday the letters were never sent because the situation has the potential of becoming a lawsuit, both the township with the Peer family and the township with the Lepley family.
“(The Lepley family) has said they will take legal action if we do not aggressively move (on this situation),” Adams said.
The township has the option of filing a lawsuit against the Peer family because of the family’s unwillingness to allow their mother’s body to be moved.
Because of the possibility of lawsuits, Adams said it was best to have a lawyer write the letters to make sure everything is said correctly.
Board members approved hiring municipal attorney Doug Van Essen of Grand Rapids. Adams said Van Essen will send the letters to Peer’s children Thursday morning.
“I think we need to get moving on this quickly,” said  township Trustee Robert Bunnell.
Adams said it will cost about $4,000 to move Peer and said there’s a pretty good chance the township’s insurance will not cover the move or the cost to get the permission.
“We will probably be paying out of pocket,” he said.
Van Essen was hired to work with the township only on the cemetery situation. He is being hired by the hour and the township does not have to pay to retain him.
“We will be paying him as needed and not monthly,” Adams said.
Van Essen charges between $200 and $250 an hour for commercial services, which the township would qualify as. Adams said the township would be paying closer to $200.
Adams said he also contacted attorneys in Lansing and Ionia but did not receive a response from those two firms.

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