A Community News Organ

Guerrilla Beautification Incursions

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Freshly weeded and mulched trees along old M-168

By Emily Votruba 

When the Michigan Department of Transportation began ceding M-168 to the Village of Elberta four years ago, they paid to improve the roadway with sidewalks, street lamps, and 60 new trees lining the old highway. The maples, thornless honeylocusts, and Callery pears alternated along the road, each with a huge pile of mulch at its base.

Most residents I talked to were happy about the improvements (though wistful about the enormous elms that once towered here). But with near unanimity, the cry went up: “Now the Village has to maintain it! With what money!”

Now in 2014 we are down to just one full-time member of our Department of Public Works, Ken Bonney, and his helper Doug McPherson, to take care of the Village’s 70-plus acres of public space and parkland.

Enter the Guerrilla Beautifiers! Village residents and fans who are taking matters into their own hands.

With the Village council’s permission, Friends of Elberta created a community garden in Penfold Park at the end of May. Since then, colorful annuals have mysteriously appeared, and weeding has occurred. Randomly, stealthily.

In July, Phil and Rosemary Mix were spotted weeding and mulching every tree along M-168, a gargantuan task they accomplished quietly and *totally without permission.* Don’t embarrass them too much with your gratitude, but do embarrass them a little.

Also in July, when a westerly storm blew a bunch of horribleness over to Elberta Beach from Wisconsin, Jen Wilkins and Sue Oseland got down and dirty and did what they could to restore our pristine sands.

Parks & Rec held a work party one morning to clean up Tot Park. They threw down some mulch, scooped the feral cat poop out of the sand box, and picked up trash.

And the lovely plantings in the whiskey barrels along Frankfort Avenue? These are the work of Linda Manville for the second year in a row.

In a world of seemingly endless red tape and bureaucracy and cries of “liability,” it’s nice to know that some people still have the courage to stand up (or crouch down) for what they believe in. Sometimes it really is OK, if not better, to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. It’s your Village, after all.

One of Linda Manville’s planters from 2013

 

Village Offers Beautiful, Affordable Event Locations

In Community Alert, Farmers' Market, GOOD NEWS, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on July 31, 2014 at 2:21 am

By Diane Jenks

The Village of Elberta is struggling to survive with low fiscal scores and the threat of an emergency manager. The State of Michigan has many communities in this situation and is willing to help the village work its way back into the black. The departure of the former clerk, Sharyn Bower, and treasurer Laura Manville, with no notice and nothing in place for the incoming staff, has been traumatic. The new clerk and treasurer (Mary Kalbach and Sheila Applebee) are in training and working diligently to get the office up and running. Elberta residents have survived a lot of pitfalls and we continue to be the mouse that ROARS.  This community will roll up its sleeves and trudge on and fight for the right to shine like the gem this little village continues to be. I can’t help but wonder sometimes what keeps this little community together, but I realize that when good people gather for a good cause amazing things happen. I am proud to be part of Elberta and urge everyone out there to support this village, because it is here to stay.

The Village of Elberta is offering the opportunity to rent several of its facilities.

The Elberta Life Saving Station at the Waterfront Park is already available for weddings, private parties and events that require indoor space and a beautiful setting. A large deck overlooking Betsie Bay is a perfect way to watch the night sky calm the hectic day. Check out the Lifesaving Station page on our website at villageofelberta.com.

We also offer our Waterfront Park Bandshell (performance pavilion) for $100 a day. This venue is available during the week for concerts or a performance with hillside seating overlooking our beautiful park and Betsie Bay. It makes holding your own concert or other event affordable.

You can rent the Amphitheater for your own little Film Fest. Elberta Parks & Recreation held the first annual Mushy Peach Film Festival in 2012.

You can rent the Bandshell for your own little event. Elberta Parks & Recreation held the first annual Mushy Peach Film Festival here in 2012.

If you’re looking for a place to hold your family reunion, birthday party, class reunion, or private party, our Waterfront Park Picnic Pavilion is only $75. The pavilion offers a beautiful fire pit, electricity and picnic tables. The children’s playground adjacent to it is one-of-a-kind in the area. The playground is handicapped accessible and starts with a ramp that little tykes can hop right on. Nearby is a swing set that includes with a handicap swing.

Perhaps you are looking for a little more privacy. If so, Elberta’s Penfold Farmers Market Park is a great venue for a more intimate gathering, but still conveniently located on the Betsie Valley Trail at the junction of old M-168 and M-22. For just $50, you get a spacious pavilion, picnic tables, two grills, a porta-john, and electrical outlets. Your guests can kayak down the Betsie River and put in at the small boat launch to get to your party.

If you’d like to hold a birthday party, open house, meeting, or baby shower indoors, we have our Community Building on First Street with a capacity 68. You can rent this space for $150. Although there is no kitchen, the building does have tables and chairs and places to plug in crock pots. This facility has the ball diamond and ample parking with restrooms that can be entered from inside and out.

The newest addition to Elberta is our Dunes South Park. It is located on the south side of the village on the west side of M-22. This fabulous rustic setting offers a parking lot and a flat space big enough to set up for a festival or event. Imagine your group or organization incorporating hiking the dune and embracing nature at its finest. You can rent this park for only $300.

For more information on renting any of these spaces, contact Diane Jenks at shear.class@yahoo.com

Thank you for your support of the little village that can. Ψ

Parks & Rec Cites Improper Transfer of Funds by Village President Pro Tem

In Gov't Watch, Politics, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on June 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

By Emily Votruba

At their June 12 regular meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to submit a letter to Council reprimanding president pro tempore Robin Rommell for improper transfer of funds. (Full disclosure: I am one of the signatories of that letter.)

A statement obtained by P&R secretary Jennifer Wilkins from State Savings Bank on June 12 (see below) shows a transfer of $20,000 from the P&R/Solstice account on May 22 to another Village account. The sum reappears in the P&R/Solstice account on June 10.

Wilkins and clerk Mary Kalbach discovered that the P&R/Solstice account was $20K down on June 10, as they were preparing to send out checks to pay expenses for the Solstice Festival, which takes place this Saturday. When they discovered the missing funds, which would have resulted in the bouncing of these and other checks, Kalbach alerted Linda Manville, and Rommell transferred the money back into the P&R/Solstice account.

In an email to me, Rommell stated: “It was a mistake. Instead of transferring money out of the deposit account into the checking account, we mixed up the numbers and pulled it from the wrong account. When we realized our mistake, we transferred it back.”

Mary Kalbach, acting treasurer Toni Flynn, and trustee Linda Manville, who has been helping out in the office in budget and other matters, all say they were not aware Rommell had transferred that sum. The transaction was not logged in the General Ledger accounting program.

Kalbach told me she alerted Rommell in May that the Village had about $18K in checks out to BLUA and that money needed to be transferred from another account in order to cover those checks. She says she did not specify an amount. She says Rommell later told her she had transferred money, but did not mention the amount or account of origin.

Kalbach says it’s been customary to draw from the Streets account or from the Tax account when money is needed for general expenses. A “cheat-sheet” listing each account number and its corresponding fund name is in the Village office and copies were made available to everyone involved in transferring funds.

In the letter of reprimand, the P&R Commission states that the transfer was a violation of the Interfund Borrowing Policy Council adopted in March. They request

  1. “That a review of all village bank accounts be conducted and checked against the journal entries to find, and remedy, any other unauthorized transactions that may have been made,
  2. That Ms. Rommell be censured with an official reprimand to be entered into the Village record, and
  3. That Ms. Rommell be removed as a signatory from all village accounts and that all Village financial access passwords be changed and withheld from her.”

The Interfund Borrowing Policy (see below) specifies “the Treasurer may utilize short-term interfund borrowing to satisfy Village cash flow needs, provided that the loaning fund is repaid by the borrowing fund within 90 days. … If a short-term interfund loan is necessary, then that condition shall be disclosed, in writing, to the Council by the Treasurer.”

Because of the cut in hours at the office and personnel turnover, both Robin Rommell and, less frequently, Linda Manville, have been performing financial transactions that would normally be performed not by the Village president or pro tem but by the Village clerk and treasurer.

In an email to me, Linda Manville explained the current system in the office: “The process regarding bill paying has settled in, for now, to coding and authorizing by staff and BFA [Budget, Finance, and Audit Committee] members. Once bills are coded, Mary [Kalbach] will total them and go online to bank and check balance in checking account. Depending on balance she will call Robin. If money needs to be transferred to the checking account, Robin will tell Mary how much to take from specific accounts and move to checking.”

According to Kalbach, some checks have bounced and some payments have been returned or charged late fees because payments were sent in without stubs and the receiving institution did not know where to apply the payment. Some other loose ends may remain: According to Wilkins, Village bank account cards issued to former employees Sharyn Bower and Laura Manville have still not been deactivated.

The Parks & Recreation letter further states: “The Village can ill afford to suffer additional financial harm, trigger additional audits, or be found to be in direct violation of the recently enacted Corrective Action Plan and ordinances. As residents and friends of the Village of Elberta we have the gravest concern that Ms. Rommell has shown poor judgment and a blatant disregard for the rules and regulations that she has sworn to uphold.”

Last Thursday, P&R secretary Jennifer Wilkins asked that the issue be added to the agenda for the meeting tonight. According to Wilkins the agenda, which was compiled by Robin Rommell, does not show that item or any of the other items Wilkins requested.

 

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