Salted with Sharks

Special Meeting to Discuss Village Deficit, Possible Asset Sales

In Breaking, Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Open Season, Politics, Uncategorized on October 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm

By Emily Votruba

UPDATED 10/10/13

Look around you, in our green (and now red and orange and golden) Village. What do you see? Trees, bluffs, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, parkland, and a few small but important business concerns. If you’re a longtime resident, you can’t look anywhere in the Village without also seeing the varied, important history here. The lumber years, the Ann Arbor Railroad and car ferries, the packing plant and other industry that used to provide employment and economic vitality that is now, let’s face it, mostly gone, mostly without a trace.

What we have left to offer and celebrate, as in most parts of this region, is clean air and water, fishing, hiking, water play, and other recreation on unspoiled tracts of land and water, home to about 372 people and countless birds, animals, insects, fish, and rare and common plantlife. For many years, the Village’s leadership has looked to these assets as our key to financial solvency.

This view continues, but may take on a different cast in the next few days. First with the sale of the old Ann Arbor property to Elberta Land Holding Company and the creation of the Waterfront Park, then with the recent acquisition of Elberta Dunes South, the Village has thought that attracting visitors and new residents and developers to the area could create an economic turnaround. That hasn’t panned out so far, and revenues have continued to decline. Meanwhile, costs have mounted because of lawsuits, rising insurance premiums, fuel costs, and other factors.

The Village Council will convene a special meeting tomorrow October 10 to discuss plans to reduce the Village’s deficit. Roxanne Nicholas of the State Treasury department met with president Reggie Manville, treasurer Laura Manville, and clerk Sharyn Bower to discuss preliminary deficit reducing measures during the first week of October week of September 23 and according to Reggie Manville, the state will return to the October 17 council meeting to see what they’ve come up with. Both the meeting tomorrow and the meeting on the 17th could spell big changes for the Village.

Yesterday Laura Manville forwarded an email to me that she’d received from Ms. Nicholas. In the email Nicholas thanks Laura for working on some “statutory compliance questions” and writes: “In anticipation of the Village working on many difficult decisions in eliminating the General Fund deficit, thank you for working to compile an accurate and up-to-date capital asset listing for the Village.  Since there was not a complete listing, that may mean figuring out the current value of the assets and property that the Village owns.  In addition, I appreciate that the Village has taken the recommendation of Mr. Workman and myself and started a conversation with the Frankfort DPW to find out what kind of options there are in terms of the possible sharing of DPW services.”

As the Alert reported earlier, consolidating our DPW with Frankfort’s is on the table as an option for cost-cutting. Also, apparently, Laura Manville is compiling a list of the Village’s property that might be sold to raise revenue. What properties will be considered for sale? I hope we will find out tomorrow and have a chance to express our opinion before final decisions are made.

What’s clear to me is that a lack of vigilance on the part of the public and lack of strong leadership from our elected officials for at least a decade has led us to what may be a fell-swoop of difficult choices, including the sale of Village property to private interests. And yes, Virginia, that may include the Village’s beach access. It happened in Benton Harbor when they were assigned an emergency manager.

[Update: According to the plat map of Thelma’s Cradle (see below with detail), Nels and Polla Bye dedicated “the streets and alleys, and all land lying between the plat, and the water of Lake Michigan as shown on said plat,…to the use of the public.” How much of the platted land around these access roads and the stretch of beach (dedicated to the public) does the Village itself currently own and have the right to sell?]

It may be too late to work together to find community-oriented solutions to our financial problems. But it can’t hurt to try.

Please come to the meeting at the Village Community Building tomorrow at 7 pm, and if you can’t make that meeting, come to the regular Village Council Meeting on October 17, same time, same location. Ψ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: