Tensions high over Duck Lake issues in Crystal Township

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 11:14 am on Tuesday, November 19, 2013


CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP — After a lengthy meeting that became heated at moments, with accusations of personal interests interfering with goals and objectives of the Duck Lake Improvement Board, the fate of which entity will handle administrative matters for the board will ultimately be up to its own members.

Robert Gagne

During Wednesday evening’s Crystal Township Board meeting, a resolution that would have the township contract with the Duck Lake Improvement Board for $1 per year to handle administrative matters failed in a 2-3 vote. Supervisor Chris Johnston, Treasurer Ted Padgett and Trustee Jason Anderson voting “no” and Clerk Bob Naumann and Trustee Kurt McCracken voting “yes.”

The resolution would have allowed the township to be responsible for matters the Duck Lake Improvement Board is not authorized or capable of, including processing checks and similar matters. The resolution also would have allowed the use of the Crystal Township Community Center at no charge for the Duck Lake Improvement Board to conduct meetings deemed necessary by the Duck Lake Improvement Board.

Marv Sandborn

There was much conversation on the topic of the Duck Lake Improvement Board before the vote was taken.

Members or not?

At the beginning of the meeting, during public comment, former Duck Lake board member Robert “Bob” Gagne addressed the board, citing minutes from the Aug. 8, 2012, Crystal Township Board meeting, asking the board to review two appointments that were made to Duck Lake Improvement Board at that meeting.

According to those meeting minutes, a motion by Naumann to appoint Bob Muscott and Richard Walthorn to the Duck Lake Improvement Board as Crystal Township representatives was approved in a unanimous decision. However, Gagne said there were no open positions on the board at that time.

According to Gagne, at the time that Walthorn and Muscott were appointed, he and fellow former Duck Lake board member Marie Nico were still members of the board and there were no openings on the board.

When asked by The Gazette whether he believes he is still a member of the board, Gagne said he and Nico are in a state of limbo

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know the answer to that. We were never voted off and we never resigned, yet two new board members were voted on to take our place.”

While addressing the board, Gagne said he believes Naumann arranged the appointments out of personal interests.

“Mr. Naumann proposed these appointments without the knowledge of lake property owners and we feel that Mr. Naumann hand-picked the appointees and tried to accomplish what we feel may be a personal agenda,” Gagne said. “Where did you appoint them to? You never removed anyone from the board to appoint new members to it. I feel that you really need to seriously review what happened at that point in time and possibly suspend those nominations until you can sort out exactly what was going on.”

For more than a year, Gagne said he stayed quiet and continued to attend meetings as a concerned property owner, but after the recent resignation of Duck Lake Improvement Board Chairman Marv Sandborn, he said he felt “enough was enough.”

Gagne created a petition with 43 signatures of property owners around Duck Lake, which reads, “We hereby request the township board of Crystal Township, Montcalm County, to review the appointments made by the set board to the Duck Lake Improvement Board. The reason we ask for this to be done is we feel the current appointees are not keeping the best interest of the lake in mind with the decisions that have been made.”

Johnsson said he would speak with Gagne at a later date to address his concerns.

‘If it isn’t broke, why are you trying to fix it?’

The meeting’s conversation then shifted to the topic of where Duck Lake Improvement Board meetings should be held.

Sandborn said Duck Lake Improvement Board meetings are currently held at the Montcalm County Drain Commissioner’s Office in Stanton, where meetings have been held since the board was established in 1989.

“If it isn’t broke, why are you trying to fix it?” asked Sandborn, regarding the resolution that called for allowing the meetings to be moved to the Crystal Township Community Center.

Naumann responded that the township board isn’t doing anything other than agreeing to take over certain responsibilities of the Duck Lake board, if the board so chooses.

“This motion is simply saying, if they’d like Crystal Township to take over certain responsibilities, we’d be willing to do that,” Naumann said.
Sandborn then accused Naumann of working to arrange an agreement to have the township take over certain responsibilities of the Duck Lake board.

“That’s what you’ve been working for, for the past six months or so,” Sandborn said. “To get the board in this situation so they can vote to have the township take it over. You know damn well that’s what you’ve been working on.”

Montcalm County Drain Commissioner Sandy Raines, who serves on 15 lake boards throughout the county, including the Duck Lake Improvement Board, said she thought the resolution was a “premature” decision.

“I have 15 lake boards, we provide this service at no cost and all the records are in our office,” Raines said. “It’s up to the lake board, but I think they’re leaning toward the township. I think it’s kind of premature to make a decision without the lake board making that decision first.”

Naumann pointed out that Raines had made a comment at the previous Duck Lake Improvement Board meeting stating that she actually wanted the township board to make a decision first before the improvement board did.

“I was at the last meeting when (Raines) mentioned, ‘We don’t even know if the township wants to take this over. We need to ask them first.’

Now (she) is saying it’s premature of us to make any statement,” Naumann said. “The only statement we are making with this motion is if the board decides to come this way, that we’re going to do that.”

Raines admitted she made that comment, but said hardships to her office as a result of moving the meetings to the community center would be too much for her department to handle. She said she doesn’t believe she would be able to attend the meetings in Crystal Township due to time restraints, and would have to appoint one of her employees to take her place, which she is entitled to do. But she believes this would cause problems at her office as it would be then be operating temporarily with just one employee.

Raines added that she believes there are problems with the current lake board and she accused lake board members of currently drafting new bylaws outside of meetings.

“There’s a lot of problems with the lake board right now,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that should be happening during meetings that are happening outside of meetings. I’m disappointed with the lake board at this point. I think we need to step back and take our personal agendas out of it … I think the township started this in July of 2012, wanting to take over control of the administration.”

Walthorn responded to Raines, saying her accusations are false.

“I can speak to that and there was no (outside) meeting,” he said.

Who should be responsible?

Before the vote was taken on the resolution, the board was asked by Crystal Township resident Ron Masonry, who lives on Duck Lake, to clarify why the township board would want to take over certain responsibilities of the Duck Lake board.

“I’m not really sure why we’d want it,” Johnston responded. “I really, myself, would like to stay out of it and let the lake board make their decision … I think as soon as we sign this, it’s going to move here. We just open up doors by approving this, we don’t close them.”
Naumann said he doesn’t want Crystal Township to take over lake board responsibilities.

“I don’t want it,” he said. “I want the Duck Lake Improvement Board to operate as the Duck Lake Improvement Board. But I feel because of the involvement of the drain commission that sometimes the board members haven’t been as active as they need to be in making decisions.

It’s not a matter of wanting something, it’s a matter of allowing a committee to operate freely.”

Naumann added that because Duck Lake is in Crystal Township, he believes there should be frequent meetings in Crystal Township in order to have as many meetings at possible at a time such as 6 p.m. so people can attend regularly, as opposed to the current meetings at the Drain Commissioner’s office in Stanton at 1 p.m.

Padgett said he’d rather see the property owners of Duck Lake make the decision.

“I personally would like to see that it be brought up at an annual meeting while everyone is there, everyone from Duck Lake, to give their voice and opinion and have them speak out,” Padgett said.

The board then voted 3-2 against the resolution.

Johnston said he would have looked at the resolution differently if the Duck Lake Improvement Board had approached the township board directly.

Naumann said he believed that’s what he was doing.

“I did this because they made a statement at their meeting that this should be brought before the Crystal Township Board,” Naumann said. “I was at that meeting, so I put it on the agenda,” he said.

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