A Community News Organ

Who Were Elberta’s First Settlers?

In Gov't Watch, Historic Elberta, You Mist It the First Time on July 3, 2015 at 11:10 pm

By Andy Bolander

A proposal has recently been presented to the Village Council to honor John and Caroline Greenwood’s contributions to the development of Elberta. The proposal includes the installation of a sign under each of the village limits signs stating: “First Settlers John and Caroline Greenwood 1855.” A second part of the proposal changes the name of Furnace Avenue to Greenwood Parkway.

John and Caroline Greenwood contributed greatly to the development of Gilmore Township. John was a blacksmith and operated shops in both Frankfort and Elberta. He also carried the mail from Manistee to Frankfort when the trail was less than developed. John and Caroline built a house at what is now the southwest corner of Furnace Ave and Sherman St., which was commonly referred to as the Cedar Log House.

An informal school was held at the Cedar Log House from 1855 to 1860. John and Caroline moved south of Elberta to Greenwood Lane, which is the stretch of road extending from Grace Road/M22 to Lake Michigan. The Cedar Log House became the Cedar Log School in 1860 and Mr. B.W. Perry taught the classes.

The Greenwood family relocated to their farm by Lake Michigan which included a big red barn that was visible by sailors on the lake, and it frequently was used as a navigational aid. Shipwrecked crew members received aid and refuge in the Greenwood home.

John and Caroline Greenwood contributed greatly to the development of the Elberta area, yet I am not in favor of adding the proposed signs along our roadways. Why?

1- My first argument is ideological. Renaming roads and placing signs honoring individuals doesn’t fit the image of the Village of Elberta. The town is known for the Iron Works, the railroad and the car ferries. These undertakings created and supported a blue collar and everyman image for the town that refreshingly contrasted the religious and business interests which developed the other regions of the county. Streets are named after important people within the village. Most are named after generals or governors that were popular in 1866 when the village was platted. The street names have remained the same since some street names were changed to honor a number of servicemen who died during World War II. Naming streets after individuals contrasts with the identity of the village. Furnace Avenue is an apt title for old M168. It draws attention to the fact that a large and regionally important iron furnace was located there. It pays attention to the impact the Iron Works had on the development of the county. It also pays tribute to the diverse group of immigrants who worked the long days to keep the furnace profitable and successful for more than a decade.

2- John and Caroline Greenwood were not the first settlers of the area. Joseph Oliver had lived around Lake Aux Bec Scies (now known as Lake Betsie) for ten to fifteen years prior to the arrival of the Greenwood family. There is already a memorial in Gilmore Township Cemetery honoring Joseph Oliver as the first settler of the area.

The Cedar Log Home was the first documented dwelling in Elberta, but I wouldn’t consider the Greenwood family as the first permanent settlers of Elberta. Residences were temporary and fitted the needs of families who lived off the land. The Greenwoods were less than permanent residents of Elberta. Although John Greenwood maintained a blacksmith shop in the village, the family resided in town for a total of five years.

3- The Greenwood’s Cedar Log House wasn’t the most important building at the corner of Furnace and Sherman. The American House Hotel was built in 1887 after the Greenwood edifice burned in 1885. The hotel also served as the township library and election hall, and the building was used for public meetings until the 1940s. The American House was torn down in 1972 after unsuccessful preservation efforts.

So my counter proposal is this: Leave Elberta’s signs as they were. The signs would not be factually accurate and they would detract from the character of the town.

I obtained the facts and dates for this piece from Blacklock’s History of Elberta and Sivert Glarum’s Our Land and Lakes. Both books, and many other books on the history of Elberta and Benzie County, are available to be checked out at Benzie Shores District Library.

Andy Bolander moved to the Village in June 2014 and volunteers at the Benzie Area Historical Museum and other area organizations.

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Solstice Approved: May Council Meeting

In Elberta Farmers' Market, Elberta Solstice Festival, Gilmore Township, Gov't Watch, Law & Order, Meeting Minutes and Recordings, Open Season, Politics, Village Money Situation on May 31, 2015 at 7:14 pm

VILLAGE OF ELBERTA BOARD OF TRUSTEES REGULAR MEETING

—DRAFT Minutes—

May 21, 2015 • 7 PM

||| AUDIO |||

The Village of Elberta Board of Trustees held a regular meeting on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at the Community Building, 401 First Street, Elberta, Michigan.

The meeting was called to order by Diane Jenks at 7 p.m.

Recitation of Pledge of Allegiance

Present:         Joyce Gatrell, Ken Holmes, Diane Jenks, Holly O’Dwyer, Bill Soper

Absent:           vacant seat, Jean Sikes

Public: Gary Sauer (county commissioner), Ken Bonney (DPW), Rosemary Tanner, Frederik Stig-Nielsen, Joshua Herren, Kurt Luedtke, Emily Votruba

Approval of Minutes

Motion by Gatrell, seconded by O’Dwyer, to approve the April 16 meeting minutes as presented. All ayes. No nays. Motion carried.

Approval of Agenda

Motion by Soper, seconded by Holmes, to approve the agenda with the following additions: No. 7: dates for Elberta School Reunion and Methodist outdoor church service; no. 8 New Planning Commission member Patrick McConnell; no. 9 Signature for safety deposit box

All ayes. No nays. Motion carried.

Agenda Conflicts

None.

Public Input 7:04 pm

None.

CORRESPONDENCE

  • Letter from auditors’ attorney stating there is no pending litigation
  • Consumers Energy will be surveying existing street lights
  • Correspondence from DNR regarding management grant

APPROVAL OF BILLS

Council reviewed revenues and expenses. Nonroutine bills were included with budget. No discussion

Items of note: None

Motion by O’Dwyer, seconded by Holmes, to approve payment of bills. All ayes. No nays. Motion carried.

Old Business

  • Council reduction to 5 trustees: The 45-day ordinance posting period ends May 30. Notice was in the paper. No petitions have been filed.
  • Fire ordinance and permits: Proposed fire pit permits at post office and at Village Office. Residents required to get a permit for any outdoor burning. Need signature of DPW (Ken Bonney) and fire chief (Charlie Thompson) on permit. No construction material and no leaves. Council further discussed wording of permit. Suggested that copy of ordinance no. 17 (burn ordinance, est. 2002) be included with permit. Council discussed ordinance for outdoor boilers. A public hearing will be held on that topic before the June meeting. O’Dwyer to write proposed outdoor boiler ordinance using existing state suggested language and other resources.
  • Late water bills: Have done well collecting on late water bills, in some cases tacking late amounts on taxes.

AGENDA 1: DPW Wages and Benefits

Gatrell read the written recommendation of the Employee Relations Committee, of which she is a member. Village will restore Ken Bonney’s former benefits package, raising the monthly premium it pays on his health insurance from $300 to $350, and contributing $1,000/yr toward a retirement fund. Council discussed whether vacation days could be carried over. Decided upon a “use or pay out” policy for vacation and sick days. Bonney has worked for the Village since 2009. He gets 2 weeks paid vacation and 3 days for bereavement. But he can’t take entire days off: has to check the water 7 mornings a week. He makes $18/hr. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays are overtime (time and a half). Bonney is on call 24/hrs a day and is not paid for that. If he did not check the water every day and something went wrong, he could go to jail; the Village would get a fine. This decision would restore the holidays and benefits he was promised when he was hired. O’Dwyer expressed concern over the Village’s financial ability to restore these benefits: “I wouldn’t want to have to take it away again.” Gatrell: “Cathy Anderson says we can afford it.” Backup water operator (Frankfort based) doesn’t charge the village unless he has to come in, at which point it’s $60/day (just water, not sewer). He charges $350/mo to file paperwork. KB: Most municipalities have two employees with water licenses. You have to work full time for a year before you can apply for a water license. Holmes estimates it will cost $10K a year to restore Bonney’s benefits/holidays. O’Dwyer tried to check MML to compare other DPW wages but because the Village hasn’t completed a survey for MML she was not able to access the database. Village will complete the survey and have access in the future. Soper: In favor of getting Ken back to where he started.

Motion by Gatrell, seconded by Holmes, to restore Ken Bonney’s benefit package with time and a half and holiday pay with adjustments as discussed: President’s Day, Thanksgiving Friday, Christmas Eve Day, New Year’s Eve Day, and a half day on Good Friday.

Gatrell, Holmes, Soper, and Jenks aye. O’Dwyer nay. Motion carried.

AGENDA 2: Sewer Maintenance and Water Billing Software

The water billing software keeps crashing. Regular updates were not performed. Now the system is so out of date, it needs a $6800 upgrade. Recent sewer line repairs also exceeded the budget. Bonney noted that Bob Kirby did not charge the Village for his machine that broke during the repair.

Motion by O’Dwyer, seconded by Holmes, to amend (increase) the sewer budget by $4K and amend (increase) the water budget by $6456 for repairs and maintenance.

4 ayes. 1 nay. Motion passed.

AGENDA 3: 2015 Village Parks Mowing Contract

All bidders are insured. Jenks asked for Ken Bonney’s recommendation. He said the only outfit he wasn’t familiar with was Mitchell. Costs the Village $860 per time to mow the parks with labor paybacks, paying seasonal help minimum wage—takes 28-29 hours. The mower is 7 years old and had just broken the morning of the meeting (blades had dropped out due to wear). When Village hired Walkley to do just the Waterfront Park it cost $600/mo. Ken and seasonal

Motion by Holmes, seconded by Gatrell, to contract with Hofmannsthal [?] to mow Village Parks.

Gatrell, Holmes, Jenks ayes. O’Dwyer and Soper nays. Motion carried.

AGENDA 4: Parks and Recreation Budget Amendment

Amendments to move Solstice Fundraiser category to the regular Parks and Rec fundraiser. Diane read the proposed motion. $5,000 from former Solstice budget would be moved to a category for ELSS and Waterfront Park improvements under Dept 753

Motion by Holmes, seconded by O’Dwyer, to approve Parks & Recreation budget amendment.

All ayes. No nays. Motion carried.

AGENDA 5: Property Foreclosure

Brief discussion of whether to make claim for foreclosed property. Property would have to be for public use, could not be sold.

Motion by Holmes, seconded by O’Dwyer, to decline purchase of property on Crapo Street up for tax sale. All ayes. No nays. Motion carried.

AGENDA 6: Solstice Festival Foundation Contract

Contract was prepared at no charge by Frederik Stig-Nielsen, one of the members of Elberta Solstice Foundation, who is an attorney. Rental fee is $2,000, plus $200 cleaning fee and $500 deposit. ESF will take care of trash/recycling disposal not using village dumpster, and intend to contract with Williams for porta-john service.

Motion by O’Dwyer, seconded by Gatrell to sign contract with Elberta Solstice Foundation to run the 2015 Elberta Solstice Festival.

Gatrell, O’Dwyer, Holmes, Jenks ayes. No nays. Soper recused. Motion carried.

AGENDA 7: New Planning Commission Member

Motion by Soper, seconded by O’Dwyer, to approve Patrick McConnell for membership in the Planning Commission. All ayes. No nays. Motion carried.

AGENDA 8: New Planning Commission Member

The Elberta School Reunion Committee wishes to use Penfold Park Saturday August 15 for the School Reunion from 11 am to 2 pm. Elberta United Methodist Church wants to use Penfold Park for its outdoor service on Sunday July 19 from 10 am to noon. Has been holding an outdoor service there since 1984.

Motion by Gatrell, seconded by Holmes, to allow EUMC and Elberta School Reunion to use Penfold Park rent free on those days/times. All ayes. No nays. Motion carried.

AGENDA 9: Safety Deposit Signatory

Need 2 new signatures. Mary Kalbach plus one.

Motion by O’Dwyer, seconded by Soper, to make Diane Jenks a signatory on the safety deposit box. All ayes. No nays. Motion carried.

Committee/Department Reports (unless otherwise noted, Committees submitted written reports)

County Commissioner’s Report (Gary Sauer): FOIA workshop will be held at the county government center June 4 at 4 pm to educate public on changes that will take effect July 1. Handed out a flier about Memorial Day observances.

President’s Report: Jenks tells Kurt Luedtke to stop by the office and Mary Kalbach will cut him a check for the ferry dock removal. Dock removal is being paid for through the Brownfield Redevelopment grant with the Village acting as a pass through.

DPW: Ken has new assistant: Santana Keillor. Well-head protection needs to be updated, due June 15. Both Fleis & Vandenbrink and Gourdie Fraser would write grant if given the contract. F&V overcharged the Village by $5K for work on Waterfront Park. 3 residences had water shut off due to nonpayment. Kidder fixed alternator switch on wells. KB got rid of docks removed and piled in Penfold Marina Park. Dumpster at LSS needs a cover. Fixed “no dogs allowed” signs that had been vandalized. KB issued 8 warnings to dog owners. Lots of complaints about dogs at large. Discussion of what fine is for loose dog or dog in park. No one knows. O’Dwyer mentioned a fine of $50 levied against one resident

BLUA:

Fire & Safety:

Parks & Rec Commission:

Employee Relations:

Budget, Finance & Audit:

Policies, Procedures & Internal Controls:

Public Input 8:25 p.m.

Joshua Herren: Thanked council for allowing ESF to keep the festival going. “We won’t let you down.”

Frederik Stig-Nielsen: Any revenue from Solstice fest will go to a good cause, per their mission statement, to preserve historic or natural objects. Hoping for a long partnership with Village. Thanked council for allowing rental at a slightly reduced rate.

Rosemary Tanner: Solstice quilt (made from former years’ Solstice t-shirts) is complete. Suggested beginning to sell raffle tickets soon and over a period of months to maximize revenue.

Emily Votruba: Thanked Rosemary for beautiful job on quilt. Will be collecting signatures on a petition to put a measure on the November 2016 ballot to ban fracking.

Adjournment

Motion by O’Dwyer, seconded by Holmes, to adjourn the meeting at 8:28 p.m. All ayes. Motion carried.

Emily Votruba compiled these minutes and submitted them to Elberta Village acting clerk Mary Kalbach 5/28/15.

A New Era for the Elberta Solstice Festival

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, Elberta Solstice Festival, Gov't Watch, Village Money Situation on May 4, 2015 at 11:08 am

EDITORIAL

By Emily Votruba

In the space of a couple of weeks straddling April and May, Solstice Fest 2015 went from being on, to off, to back on again.

On April 15, Bill Soper, chair of the Solstice Committee, and Diane Jenks, village council president, had a discussion, based on advice from State Treasury officials, that led to them canceling Solstice. I posted this to the Alert Facebook page that day: “BREAKING: According to chief Solstice organizer and Parks & Recreation Commission member (and council member) Bill Soper, Solstice Fest is canceled this year. Soper spoke with Diane Jenks, who spoke with State officials. It is illegal for a municipality to hold a revenue-generating festival. Were an outside organization to step up and run the festival, it could be held in the Village. Elberta is under intense state scrutiny because of its deficit situation, and village officials are learning all kinds of things they didn’t know before about state regulations.”

A flurry of discussion followed in comments.

Within a few days, Bill Soper, Joshua Herren (longtime Solstice volunteer), Betsy Mas, and Frederik Stig-Nielsen had registered with the State as a nonprofit corporation: Elberta Solstice Foundation (ESF). Jenks asked me (I am currently the main Village web page updater) to replace an announcement I had been asked to post saying the fest was canceled with a note that it would go on under ESF’s auspices.

As of the end of April, ESF did not yet have 501(c)3 status, but that is their intention. In an April 29 email reply to me, Stig-Nielsen, who received his Michigan attorney’s license this year, wrote: “Elberta Solstice Foundation is registered with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs as a ‘domestic nonprofit corporation.’ We decided to incorporate as a nonprofit because we want donors, sponsors, volunteers, participants and the community at large to feel secure that we are not doing this for our own personal gain, and that none of the benefits or profits will inure to any board members or shareholders. Any money that is raised is therefore secure from any impropriety, as our articles of incorporation specifically prohibit (in accordance with IRS standards) such a trickle down of economic or other benefit to the members of the corporation. As far as 501c3 federal tax exempt status goes, we have not yet applied, but are in the process of preparing our application.”

The Village’s contacts at State Treasury had advised Jenks and Council that it is illegal for a municipality to hold a festival such as Solstice. Such events must be run by outside organizations. Solstice was initially run by the Elberta Economic Development Corporation, of which Diane Jenks was a member. After council decided to dissolve the EDC, the Parks and Recreation Commission started running the festival. Several members of Parks and Rec, including Bill Soper, had been active in making the festival possible since the very beginning, and having the Commission run it seemed perfectly natural. No one had any idea that there was a law we were breaking. Under the leadership of Jen Wilkins, a P&R member, Solstice had three successful years, during which it raised revenue rather than just breaking even. The Parks and Recreation Commission currently has about $20,000 in its bank account that is Solstice revenue, some of which, up until early spring, the Commission had intended for use funding Solstice.

Early on this year there had been concerns about how Solstice would come together, after the departure of Jen Wilkins from council, Solstice Committee, and Parks & Rec in September. I personally had decided to pull back from involvement in the festival because of increased work obligations. Bill Soper was confident that he could pull it off, but as of the April Parks and Recreation meeting, it seemed clear to me that much work remained to be done. Cathy Anderson, a member of Solstice Committee and Parks and Rec treasurer, and a member of the Budget Finance and Audit Committee, had expressed concerns about there not being a detailed proposal in place for this year’s festival or any kind of organizational time line. She was unable to make it to the April meeting, but had asked that we hold a vote on whether or not to hold Solstice Festival for real. We did not hold that vote.

The Village is still in a crisis-level budget deficit situation—about $600,000 short in its General Fund Balance. And the Deficit Elimination Plan the Village submitted to the State last year has been rejected. The newly elected (2014) council is saddled with the responsibility of coming up with an acceptable DEP plan and developing and maintaining policies and procedures to cure past improprieties. If the Village fails to produce an acceptable plan and level of progress toward tightening the ship, the possibility of Emergency Manager takeover is real.

In all this, transparency and avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest is crucial. But in a tiny community like ours, inevitably, people wear many hats. I, for example, am currently the secretary of the Parks and Recreation Commission. Bill Soper is a council member and a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission. ESF is legally a separate entity from the Village, but Soper is a member of ESF. This means that Soper may want to recuse himself from voting on ESF related Solstice matters both at council and at Parks and Recreation meetings.

This morning I received this message from Diane Jenks:

“The Elberta Solstice Festival Contract will be presented at a meeting at the community building at 401 First Street Elberta Mi. 5:30 Tuesday May 5,2015 It is not a special council meeting. Council, BFA [Budget Finance and Audit] Committee and Parks and Rec are invited to attend. The Contract with Elberta Solstice Foundation will go before Council at the May meeting and by previewing and input from the governing bodies we can make recommendations to council. This is the first time a private party will be renting the whole park and I hope it will be a positive experience for the village….”

On Thursday May 14 at 7, Parks and Rec holds its regular meeting (also in the Community Building), and we will review a proposal by ESF concerning use of Village Solstice materials/equipment/signage, etc., all of which is Village property, and much of it was created by volunteers who want assurance that their work will be used to help the Village. The Commission may well decide to use this as an opportunity to generate some revenue by selling or renting some of the equipment. With Solstice slated for the third weekend in June, it seems awfully late to be sorting this all out, and some feathers are ruffled, to say the least. But making this transition in as orderly a fashion as possible, with respect for the concerns of all the stakeholders, while making it clear to the State that is really is a complete transition, is vitally important. I have nothing against Solstice Fest, and deeply hope it can go on. But if the transition can’t be made smoothly and thoroughly and fairly, I’d rather see it wait till next year.

*Corrections/additions made after the initial posting are in bold type

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