CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP — If the task of consolidating the large amount of water drains in this township into one system is to be completed, it will now fall on the shoulders of residents.
After several months of reviewing an initial presentation by Montcalm County Drain Commissioner Sandy Raines to consolidate the township’s 18 drains into one, the Crystal Township Board took no action Wednesday evening in regards to approving a petition to do so.
The petition, drafted by Raines, who originally approached the board in April, would have requested of Montcalm County by the township for the “consolidating, adding branches and extending” of the 18 township drains into one drain known as the Crystal Outlet Drain Drainage District. The petition was pursuant to Chapters 8 and 19 of Public Act 40 of 1956.
In discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, board members raised a variety of issues they claimed to have with the possibility of a drain consolidation.
Clerk Bob Naumann said he was “uncomfortable” as a public official giving more power to the county level as opposed to retaining it at the township level.
“I met with (Raines) again today, and I have a concern,” he said. “Drain commissioners already have a lot of power and by consolidating the drains we definitely allow them to get even more power. I am very uncomfortable as a local elected official to provide the drain commissioner with more power.”
Naumann said he would rather see Raines consolidate the drains by approaching the residents of Crystal Township and hosting town hall meetings to “get the public involved.”
With the board taking no action, Raines can still create a petition for the consolidation of the drains with 50 signatures from residents.
“It’s not like we’re shutting the door on this,” Naumann said. “She can still consolidate the drains, but by approaching the people of the township rather than the board.”
Naumann said he was also weary of the changes that would occur in regards to maintenance work. He gave an example of a current drain that might need work, in which $5,000 can be allocated per each mile of drain.
If the drains were to be consolidated into one, Raines could justify as much as $75,000 of maintenance work to the same section, because the entire drain would be more than 15 miles in length.
“In my discussions with (Raines), she assures me that she would never do that, but by the same token, she agrees that consolidation would make it legal to have that done,” Naumann said. “I struggle with it. I don’t know if it’s my position as an elected official to approve this. I’m opposed to it.”
Trustee Jason Anderson said he was worried about current residents who end up paying for maintenance on multiple drains for which they receive benefits. If the drains are consolidated, the costs of maintenance work performed on the drain would be spread throughout all residents of the drainage district.
“In her speech when she was here, (Raines) mentioned there are township residents who are being charged three or four times for drain work,” Anderson said.
“That hits me hard and that is why I’m for it (the consolidation proposal). I don’t want my neighbor getting hit three to four times when their neighbor is only being hit once.”
Trustee Kurt McCracken said he does not believe Raines is being 100 percent honest and fair with residents.
“I was for this at first, but I’ve only talked to two other residents who said they are for it,” he said. “What gets me … she hasn’t been honest (in discussions) about certain drains.”
McCracken said he felt Raines was holding off on signing permits for work to be performed on two township culverts until the township board would approve the petition.
According to Naumann, in speaking with Raines, her response was that she did tell Montcalm County Road Commissioner Mark Christiansen to hold off on performing work on the culverts until the township made a decision on the drain consolidation.
“In other words, it sounds like if we don’t sign this, she’s going to try to be difficult with everything else,” Supervisor Chris Johnston said.
According to Johnston, with no motion or action taken by the board, the resolution to sign the petition effectively died.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the township board:
• Voted 4-1 with Johnston opposed to approve a contract with Carson City-Crystal Area Schools alternative and adult education programs for use of the Crystal
Township Community Center for one year. Under the agreement, the township will be owed rent of $6,000 for the year, which will increase to $9,000 if the program receives 27 to 29 students, and will increase again o $12,000 if there are 30 or more students. Johnston was opposed to the agreement because he felt the rent should not be less than what the Head Start program is being charged for rent of the same building.
• Voted unanimously to approve up to $500 in spending to create a pickleball court where the current tennis courts are located.
• Voted unanimously to approve the 2014-2015 budget with total revenues of $310,043 and expenditures of $352,495.72, resulting in a drop of the general fund by the amount of $42,452.72.
• Voted unanimously to approve regular meeting dates for 2014-2015.
• Voted unanimously to approve the purchase of a sign for the Crystal Township Fire Department fire barn in the amount of $1,400
• Voted unanimously to create a $50 refundable funeral luncheon cleaning deposit for use of the Crystal Township Community Center.
• Voted unanimously to pay for half of the lift expenses to trim trees with the Crystal Township Fire Department in the amount of $90.