Salted with Sharks

President Jenks Resigns, Clerk Anderson Resumes

In Community Alert on October 21, 2016 at 3:38 am

Historic Elberta Street Sign for Sale to the public. Sale Starts December 3rd at the Village Office.

Council Meeting Report, October 2016

By Emily Votruba

Holly O’Dwyer chaired this regular council meeting in the absence of president Diane Jenks, who resigned from Council and the Planning Commission effective October 13.

New Shed on Crapo

A Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing was held before the meeting. The ZBA (consisting of Holly O’Dwyer, Ken Holmes, Joyce Gatrell, and Bill Soper) granted a variance to 233 Crapo Street for a shed. Our village zoning administrator, Don Tanner, made some comments about the shed and the application. The shed is too close to the adjacent property, according to our setbacks, hence the need for a variance of four feet. The adjacent neighbors had no objection, and no letters were received regarding the shed or the variance. “It’s a way nicer structure than what was there … it’s an improvement,”
Tanner said as part of his recommendation to approve the variance.

New Volunteers/Planning Commission

Rowana French was rumored to have applied to be a member of the Planning Commission, but since she was not present at the meeting and there was no documentation of the request, the matter was tabled until someone could get a hold of Ms. French and find out whether she actually does want to join or whether she has been the victim of a cruel joke.

Re: the Planning Commission, “You need one,” said Don Tanner. The last three PC meetings weren’t held due to lack of quorum. Two applications are “in limbo,” one from the Cabbage Shed and one regarding food trucks in the lot between the post office and Lane’s. A permit applicant can compel a meeting and the court system might determine the result. Commission meets the first Tuesday of the month. Council reappointed Ken Holmes to the commission and added Robin Rommell to join current members Russ Mix and Jen Whiting. Christeen Crawford’s three-year term is up.

Jason Soderquist applied by letter for membership to the Parks & Recreation Commission and was approved at the meeting.

The Phantom Zone

A letter from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to Benzie County prosecutor Sara Swanson and cc’d to Council claims the mobile home park at 857 Glen Ave, aka McConnell Corner, is unlicensed. Don Tanner said the prosecutor’s office was seeking more information on the matter, and that our zoning ordinance requires all mobile homes to be located in a mobile home park. “It may cause us to address some things,” Tanner said. Updates as soon as we have them!

Vinnie’s service shop is thinking of an expansion. Don Tanner spoke with him about presenting a proposal of his plan. Tanner says the shop is up-to-date with permits and licenses.

Catherine Anderson to Continue as Clerk and Special Administrator

O’Dwyer read a 9/22 letter from Robin Rommell urging council to “do whatever it takes” to keep Cathy Anderson as our Village clerk and provide her with the compensation she sought for nonclerk duties she has been performing (see “Get It in Writing”). Rommell praised Anderson’s “superstar” efforts, which she said had resulted in slashing the Village’s General Fund deficit, among other achievements in fiscal and procedural correctness.

Acting clerk Mary Kalbach had sent a letter to Anderson dated October 3 offering her a contract for $15,000 per year for nonclerk administrative work and requesting that Anderson also stay on as clerk at the regular salary. Anderson responded in a letter that she would agree to do so if Kalbach’s letter was endorsed by Council at this October meeting. Anderson declined, however, to resume membership on the Parks & Recreation Commission. Council voted three to one (O’Dwyer) to endorse that offer.

Resignation of Entire Employee Relations Committee

…over Council’s handling of the matter of Cathy Anderson’s extra compensation, which the ERC had recommended for approval. In a letter to State Treasury read by O’Dwyer at this meeting, former ERC member Rosemary Tanner stated: “The thought of losing [Anderson] because of a conversation and without further study of what she has done is more than perplexing to me.” The committee members felt that “the results of most of our suggestions seemed to be decided even before the board meetings and our suggestions deemed to have no power.” The resignation letter was signed “with great regret” by ERC members Rosemary Tanner, Arthur Melendez, and Joyce Gatrell.

Resignation of President Diane Jenks

O’Dwyer read the following letter from Jenks:

Dear Village of Elberta Residents, Staff, and Council:

I regret to inform you that I must tender my resignation as president of the Village of Elberta and the Elberta Planning Commission effective October 13, 2016. I believe the Village needs cohesion to grow and prosper. When there is disharmony it slows the forward progress. I think the minutes of the special meeting on October 1, 2016, reflect those differences. It has been an honor to lead this community. I’m proud of what I have accomplished in my 26 years of serving this Village. I have served Elberta in many positions: Village Council; Planning Commission; Chair of Solstice Committee; Chair of Relay for Life for nine years; Elberta Economic Corporation that was responsible for the acquisition of the Waterfront Park; the community-built children’s playground and the original zoning ordinance and master plan; the first Brownfield Redevelopment Authority in the State of Michigan. I have done my best. It certainly has been a thrilling and sometimes scary roller-coaster ride. It has been a privilege to serve each and every one of you and although you might not always agree with me I think we can all agree the decisions I made were for the good of the community as a whole. It pained me to ask the office staff to collect all of the past[-due] water bills and to have to raise the water rates. I believe I have always led with the community and the Village’s best interests in the forefront. I am proud of the Village staff and residents for making sacrifices so we could keep the emergency manager out. Our DPW superintendent gave up hours, benefits, and a full-time assistant; office staff also gave up hours and benefits. The residents voted in a millage that raised their taxes so the fire department and first responders were able to be contracted out through Gilmore Township and no longer out of the General Fund and Council took a pay cut [trustees now make $28.50 per meeting; board president makes $50 per meeting; in comparison, our County Commissioner makes $35 to attend our board meetings]. Thank you all for that. Our DPW and office staff continue to look for ways to save the Village money. It has been an honorable effort from everyone. While I regret that I am no longer able to represent this Village, I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve you. This decision was very difficult, but I truly believe it’s the right thing to do. I invested in this community. My home, business, and heart belong to this community. Respectfully, Diane Jenks

Council voted to accept Jenks’s resignation. Initially both Soper and O’Dwyer wanted to vote no, but since it seemed impossible not to accept the resignation, O’Dwyer changed her vote to yea.

Street Sign Sale!

Holiday shopping alert! The new street signs are up all over our great Village, and the old street signs go on sale in the Village Office on December 3 from 10 am to noon. Fifty-four rigs like the one pictured above will be sold for $50 each. First come, first served, in-person only, no refunds, no lay-away, no shipping or delivery, limit 2 per person, check or cash only, and Village residents only. Then from 1 to 3 pm sales open to non-Villagers. Signs are sold in as-is condition, with their authentic grime still on them (not all of them are as straight and clean as the Grant and Lincoln one). Proceeds go to the General Fund for street beautification (flowers, banners). Get your sleeping bag ready for camping out on Pearson the night of December 2! Sales will open up and be discounted in subsequent weeks if signs are left over.

Ken Holmes has been in his house since 1965. Rosemary Tanner has been in her house since 1957 (or ’58).

Regarding the sign on the corner of M-22 and old M-168 that listed the Cabbage Shed, the Conundrum, and several other businesses: Don Tanner received a call from the state, which owns the property, saying the license for that sign, owned by Jim Clapp/the Cabbage Shed, had not been renewed and therefore the sign had to be removed. Permits for such signs routinely go for up to $20,000, per the state rep Tanner spoke with. A “golden opportunity” was missed to sell the rights to that sign. Ken Bonney says anyone who is interested in the sign or parts of it can get in touch with him.

Noise Ordinance

Ken Holmes is working on it. “The state ordinance is 14 pages and I only want to use about six of them.” The proposed ordinance will likely be similar to Frankfort’s. Tabled till November.

Village Dump Truck

…is at Art’s for its annual inspection, according to Ken Bonney. Art used to work for the Manistee County Road Commission. Art said it would be unwise to put a new box on the truck because that model truck has been discontinued and body parts aren’t available. We’re good for this winter (KB has already made the salt/sand mixture) and should price out new trucks after January but before the 2017/18 budget is approved in February. Not worth it to repair the box; but the truck itself could still be used. It can’t haul sand because the cross bars are rotted out.

Brownfield Redevelopment Authority

Ken Holmes said he surveyed 15 people about serving on the Village’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and no one had time, partly because only one of them is still alive. Council voted to join the county’s BRA. Holmes will serve as our representative.

Life Saving Station Improvements

Crystal Lake Glass will make storm windows for the LSS. Their price includes installation. Foundation repairs and crawlspace insulation are also under way, performed by Ross Thorsen.

2nd Annual Thanksgiving Leftovers Party and Solstice Quilt Fundraiser!

Parks and Rec submitted a proposal to use the LSS for the event this year and Council granted permission. On November 27, Thanksgiving Sunday, from 5 to 8, all are welcome to share leftovers and hear a historical presentation of local interest by Andrew Bolander (a regular on the Benzie Area Historical Museum circuit). The evening will also see the auctioning of the Solstice T-Shirt Quilt, created by Rosemary Tanner and Cyndi Larson. Parks & Rec will provide setup and cleanup labor, coffee, and soft drinks and will contribute to heating cost. This event will test-drive cold-weather rentals at the LSS, which could provide considerable revenue if feasible. Council then decided to shutter the building after the event, in early December.

Good News on Village Budget

The General Fund realized about $19,000 more in revenue than expected, requiring a happy sort of budget amendment. The increase was due in part to insurance payouts (a light pole that was damaged by a catering vehicle; claims submitted regarding well no. 3, which was struck by lightning September 2015), but LSS rental revenues were also up, more people signed up for trash carts than expected, and attorney consultations were down by a few thousand dollars. The clerk’s salary budget is being reduced and some of that money goes toward the new department 263 “Administrative Support.” Creating the new position therefore will cost the General Fund about $1,100. We are still coming out ahead in the General Fund by about $11,000.

The Village purchased a new router and a new computer. The Village Office is now wireless. Council approved purchase of a new computer for the DPW, since the existing computer is so out of date that Windows doesn’t work on it anymore.


Bill Soper: “For the first time in 15 years Solstice lost money. So we owe two vendors a total of $3,700. So my proposal is to ask Parks & Rec to pay half and the Village to pay half. Otherwise we have to get creative with how to pay the vendors. So that’s what’s happening.”

O’Dwyer suggested asking Treasury if this is legal, since the Solstice Festival must by law be run separately from the Village. The statement the auditor made when the Village was cited for noncompliance with state finance laws reads as follows: “The Village celebrates a Solstice festival that is not allowed by State statute. MCL 123.851 specifically allows cities, villages and townships to expend money for the observance of Veterans, Independence, and Memorial days and diamond jubilee or centennial celebrations. It is improper for a unit of government to expend public money for an annual picnic or other celebration that is not specifically authorized by law and does not serve a public purpose. The cause of this issue is unknown. We recommend the Village discontinue the sponsorship of the Solstice Festival and instead have a local nonprofit group manage the event.” The Michigan Department of Treasury also made the same recommendation.

It’s hard to get one’s mind around this, I know, but imagine if a bride wanted a refund from the Village because her wedding celebration rental at the LSS didn’t work out the way she’d planned, or if a company held an event at the Waterfront Park and didn’t make as much money as they hoped and so wanted the Village to reimburse them. Soper’s request, from a legal point of view, is analogous. Elberta Solstice Foundation did donate $4,000 to the Village after last year’s Solstice. Perhaps there is a way for ESF to legally rescind last year’s donation to the Village?

DPW Report

The screen on one of the wells needs to be cleaned; this needs repairing because the well can’t be pulled—a whole new well would have to be dug if the well begins to fail. I’m not sure I understand this exactly—questions should be addressed to Ken Bonney. The lightning that struck the well head last year also blew a gas line. That’s what that smell was. Ken Holmes and the Gleaners planted four trees in the Waterfront Park. Several curb stops have been replaced. Hydrants are being flushed October 20/21.

Winter Parking!

November 1 to April 1, no parking on Village streets 2 am to 7 am. Violators will be towed at their own expense! “There’s no excuse for anybody parking where they don’t belong,” said Ken Holmes.

Boat Launch at Penfold/MiniPond/Farmers’ Market Park

Scott Gest announced that Networks Northwest completed a watershed inventory. Water quality/erosion related grants are more available if you name-check this program. Don Tanner said this Networks Northwest survey work is related to the DNR Access Management Plan/Water Trail. The Elberta MiniPond boat launch is already on the Access Management inventory; we are on the radar as needing improvement and are listed as an official Betsie River access point. So far the (revamped by volunteers in mid September) launch donation box has collected $18.06. Small boaters have complained that their boats get stuck at the base of the launch because of washout due to a spring.


New interpretive historical signs for the Waterfront Park are in production and will be ready for installation soon, before winter if weather permits.

November 11, Veterans Day, a service will be held at the park in Benzonia at 2 pm. Working on getting a Civil War reenactment group.

Charlotte Putney is retiring as clerk of Blaine Township after 41 years.

The Maples: The old part of the building was inspected by the fire marshal and found wanting. The state will require repairs to be made before issuing a license, even though that part of the building is scheduled to be torn down. Commissioner Sauer guesses the license won’t be issued until after the first of the year.

Benzie Central is building a new sporting arena and seeks funds.

The Army Corps of Engineers is holding a seminar on “Permits and Processes: Working in Michigan Waters” October 26 geared toward contractors, consultants, and municipalities.

Ken Bonney said Old Pickup is “good to go” after $3,100 in repairs made in September.

$189 was spent to empty the Village Dumpster and other trash receptacles around the Village.

Council voted to contract with the county road commission as a backup in case Ken Bonney is ever unable to plow this winter.

Sue Oseland asked for more light at night/early morning in the east parking area of the Waterfront Park.

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