Salted with Sharks

Archive for the ‘Infrastructure and Planning’ Category

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

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

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

Our New Tax Assessor: Barbie Eaton

In Gilmore Township, Gov't Watch, Housekeeping, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron on May 15, 2014 at 4:18 pm

In late April this year, Marvin Blackford, longtime tax assessor for Frankfort, Gilmore Township, and Crystal Lake, retired, and Gilmore and Frankfort contracted with Barbie Eaton of Brown and Associates. Ms. Eaton kindly took the time to answer a few questions about her new position.

1. What is the role of the tax assessor? My job is to determine value for property in accordance to Michigan tax laws. To do this I use cost estimates, sales, and, when appropriate, income statistics (for commercial and industrial properties, mostly). I also handle the paperwork for various exemptions, including: Principle Residence Exemption (PRE), Veteran Exemptions, and Poverty Exemptions, to name a few.

2. What is NOT the role of the tax assessor?  I cannot tell you what your actual tax bill will be, nor can I see if you have paid your taxes. I also cannot tell you what the amount of tax was that you were billed for. I can estimate tax amounts based on the taxable value of the property and the millage rate, but the [Village/Township] treasurer is the one who actually handles the tax bills/money.

3. When are the Board of Review meetings for 2014/15, and what is their purpose? The Board of Review meets in March to hear protests of the assessed value from residents. In order to protest to the Michigan Tax Tribunal you MUST first attend the Board of Review in March. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure that assessments are fair and equitable. The assessment rate in the state of Michigan is 50%, which means that your assessed value should reflect roughly 50% of the True Cash Value (a.k.a Market Value). The Board of Review also meets in July and December to correct qualified errors.  

4. Who sits on the Board of Review?  I haven’t met the Gilmore board yet, but I can give you the general guidelines of who can be on the Board of Review. It’s a three-member committee that meets three times a year. All three members must be registered to vote in the township and at least two thirds must be property owners. The Board of Review is part of the checks and balances system to property taxes.  The assessor certifies the roll, the Board of Review then reviews the roll and hears protests from property owners before they certify the roll. [Bob Delanoye and Ken Holmes were named to the Gilmore Board of Review at the Gilmore Township meeting in February. Carl Noffsinger, as township supervisor, also sits on the board.]

5. What do you like best about your job?  This job gives me flexibility to work around my family’s schedule. I also enjoy being able to help people better understand our property tax system here in Michigan.  

6. What can we as a community (Elberta/Gilmore) do to create a good working relationship with you and make your job easier?  We will be coming around this summer to do physical inspections of the township. We never have to come into your home; all our measurements are done on the outside. Please allow my field staff to do their job and take a picture and verify measurements. My field staff will have picture IDs and will knock on the door before checking measurements. If you are not home when we come to your house we will leave an orange tag on your door with our office phone number so you may contact us if you have any questions. We will not measure a home that has only children there. If you ever have questions please feel free to contact my office.

We have a website with some really helpful information about Michigan property tax laws and exemptions. You can also find some personal information there about me and my office and field staff. Contact me at 1-888-714-9288 or I will be holding office hours at the City of Frankfort on Thursday mornings from 9:30-12:30, otherwise my Ludington office is usually open Monday–Friday 9 am–4 pm.

A Better Fence Will Make a Better “Tot Park”

In Community Alert, Infrastructure and Planning, Kid Stuff, Open Season on April 28, 2014 at 12:37 pm
Tot Park Fence before

Elberta Parks and Rec has made installation of a new Tot Park fence a priority for this summer. The current chain-link fence is in bad condition and doesn’t fully enclose the play area.

The Commission has sought estimates for a sturdy, attractive new fence that will fully enclose the play area, and we are now looking for funding. The new fence will be compliant with playground fence standards, long-lasting, maintenance-free, and will improve the viewscape for both residents and visitors. Because of Elberta’s tight financial situation, we’ll be looking for outside funding sources.

Other Elberta Parks and Recreation Commission priorities include planning for this year’s Solstice Festival, scheduled for June 21, adding named planks to the beach boardwalk, and discussing enhancements to the Elberta Dunes South Recreation Area. The next Commission meeting is May 7 at 7 pm at the Elberta Library building, the public is welcome to attend.—Cathy Anderson, new Parks and Rec member

Crystal Lake and Cold Creek

In Community Alert, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Environment, Fishing, Health, Infrastructure and Planning, Public Safety, Water on April 11, 2014 at 9:18 pm

April 15, 2014 2:30 pm

Volume of water moving through outlet is reduced, shore line lowered. Sheen still present.


Reduced flow through outlet


Sheen still present, note center blob appeared just before this picture was taken.

April 14, 2014 6:25 pm

Sheen oozing up from submerged shore continues to be flushed through the outlet.


Sheen blob rises up…


… and dissipates.

April 14, 2014 12:20 pm

A significant amount of water was moving through the pond as the inlet and outlet boards had been removed. With the high volume of water, residual sheen from a hydraulic fluid leak should have been flushed to the booms or downstream. Sheen seemed to be percolating up along the shore, upstream of the outlet water control structure.  Could the increased water flow be pulling material out of the soil?


High volume of water through the outlet


Sheen detail upstream of outlet


April 12, 2014 4:10 pm

Dan Hook, Village of Beulah reported by phone that two boards have been removed from the outlet water control structure and that the sheen seems to be significantly reduced. Current pictures should be posted tonight or early tomorrow morning.

April 12, 2104 1:50 pm

As of 11:25 pm, with removal of the first board from the inlet and outlet water control structures and the resulting increased water flow through the pond, there is still sheen on the surface, possibly more than before the boards were removed. Read yesterday’s update below for implications. Photos by Dan Kelly.





IMG_1440  IMG_1443

April 11, 2014 8pm

On Sunday April 6, 2014, a chemical / oil sheen was seen flowing into Crystal Lake from the Cold Creek settling pond.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a draft report on April 7, which provides an overview of the situation. Until the situation is resolved, find ongoing updates and answers to frequently asked questions here.

Who is the dredging contractor?

The Village of Beulah’s dredging contractor is Biotech Agronomics of Beulah, and the company representative is Kevin Bonney.

The DEQ took water samples,  why aren’t the samples being tested to determine exactly what the chemical / oil is? Wouldn’t that help identify the source?

The DEQ’s priority is to determine the appropriate response, which may or may not require the samples or source to be immediately identified. The first phase was to have the contractor deploy oil absorbent booms. Preliminary inspection of the sheen samples by Greg Goundy on site and by his colleagues at the DEQ Cadillac office suggested that the sheen could be either diesel fuel or hydraulic fluid. The dredging barge did not appear to be leaking hydraulic fluid into the pond, but Kevin Bonney stated that there had been a hydraulic fluid issue prior to the barge’s launch, so the next phase was to remove the barge from the pond.

If the sheen disappears, removing the barge was the correct response and analysis of the sample is not needed – the sheen was hydraulic fluid. If the sheen persists, then the barge was probably not the source and the samples might then be analyzed to provide further clues.  Unfortunately sample analysis is expensive and may not provide enough data to identify exactly what the sheen is.

If the sheen is not hydraulic fluid from the barge, what is it?

The sheen could be 1) an oil related consumer product discarded in or near the pond, eg used oil filter or mostly empty quart oil bottle,  2) legacy contamination from 20th century industrial activity (eg trains, fuel depot) migrating towards the pond through ground water, 3) other.

Is there still a sheen on the pond?

Yes, as of 3:00 PM April 11, there was a sheen on the south edge of the pond, west against the stop logs (boards) of the outlet water level control structures and swirling just downstream of the outlet water control structures. The barge was removed on the afternoon of April 10.

What’s the next step?

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires that the boards be removed from the inlet and outlet water control structures so that fish can travel up Cold Creek. With the consent of the DEQ, the boards will gradually be removed by the contractor, starting at approximately 9:00 am on April 12. Oil absorbent booms will remain to catch sheen pulled downstream by the increased flow. Changing flow could effect the situation. If the sheen seems to persist or grow during the day, the barge may not have been the source and further action will be required. Citizens are encouraged to visit the pond and monitor the sheen during the day.

Check out these Facebook profiles for pix, comments and movies.

Lee Sprague
Robert Bushway

The Sacred and the Profane

In Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Politics, Village Money Situation on February 20, 2014 at 11:49 pm

By Emily Votruba

BREAKING: A special meeting of the Village Council will be held this Wednesday at 7 pm in the Community Building to deal with agenda items council didn’t get to at last Thursday’s meeting and to finalize the budget. A great deal of time was spent on 2/20 dealing with the expulsion-by-letter from Parks and Rec of Bill Soper, which several council members said they did not agree to. Reggie Manville promised at that meeting to expel Bill at a future meeting. Let’s hope Council uses its time wisely on Wednesday to deal with the Agenda items related to the state-mandated corrective action plan and the budget, two matters that must be squared away before March 1.

Regular Council Meeting, February 20, 2014—Council approved a budget for FY 2014–15. Full report to come. In the meantime, here’s some audio from this three-hour meeting.

The Manville–Soper Conflict

And here are some primary documents, obtained from Eric VanDussen, relevant to some dramatic public comment at the beginning of the meeting. Bill Soper, who was present at the meeting, declined to be interviewed at this time. I did not attempt to contact Laura Manville on the matter.

In a nutshell Read the rest of this entry »

Frankfort’s Kinda Progressive Zoning Ordinance

In Agriculture, Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Uncategorized on February 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Frankfort Zoning District Map

By Emily Votruba

It’s probably not anarcho-syndicalism in the making, but the City of Frankfort’s planning commission under the leadership of Bruce Ogilvie has put together a fairly progressive and forward-thinking zoning ordinance. The comment period is NOW, and the public hearing is set for Tuesday, March 11. Take a minute to read it and either weep or rejoice, depending on your POV.

Some Frankfort property owners (this one included) will be stoked to find that the minimum footprint for a residential dwelling in the North Residential and Rural districts has shrunk from 1,000 square feet to Read the rest of this entry »

Olson Presents Prioritization Results and Council Begins to Hash Out DEP

In Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Law & Order, On and off the Apron, Open Season, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on January 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Full audio of the Dec. 30 meeting (2 parts):

Full audio of the Jan. 2 meeting: 

At the January 2 meeting, Chris Olson came back with the compiled results of the Dec. 30 prioritization exercise, in which, after a long discussion, council members and staff placed dots next to items in a list of options for cutting expenses and raising revenues. Olson also presented a sample plan, and council discussed details. The next meeting is Monday, 6 pm;  the new deadline for submitting the DEP to the Michigan Department of Treasury is midnight that day. Council will finalize the plan and it will be transmitted electronically.

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Treasury Report on the Village’s Internal Controls

In Breaking, Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Village Money Situation on November 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

This report was given to me by two Village officials (on separate occasions). The officials asked not to be named. One of them said I should publish it on the Alert site and Facebook page, the other asked that I wait to do that until after the council meeting tonight, during which some points in the report will be discussed. I have decided to publish it now, the day of the meeting. This report was compiled by state officials in consultation with Village president Reg Manville, treasurer Laura Manville, and clerk Sharyn Bower (who has since retired); I have heard that Diane Jenks and Linda Manville, trustees, also attended a second meeting with state officials. The Village has been given a period of 90 days from the date of the report, October 22, to “create and file with the Department of Treasury a corrective action plan for those areas identified…and those findings as listed in the audit report for the period ending October 18, 2013…. Upon failure of the Village to respond within the 90-day period, the Department may perform the services as needed at the expense of the Village.”

In what I’ve been told is a separate matter (but for which I don’t have anything in writing), the Village has been given until December 5 (according to Laura Manville) to come up with a deficit elimination plan. I have heard that this plan will be the main subject of tonight’s council meeting.—Emily Votruba

Treasury Report on Village Internal Controls

Council Tables Deficit Elimination Plan, Treasurer to Phone State Tomorrow

In Breaking, Community Alert, Infrastructure and Planning, Village Money Situation on October 17, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Brief update on tonight’s meeting: Council voted to table the topic of the deficit reduction plan until they receive further guidance from the state, preferably in writing. The only documentation of the state’s interest in seeing a deficit reduction plan cited a report the state is supposedly preparing, to be delivered within 30 days of the state’s meeting with three village officials the last week of September. About 40 members of the public attended the meeting and several spoke. Four council members had come up with separate plans that would have cut no more than $58K from the budget. The general fund balance deficit must be reduced by over $100K per year for the next five years, according to Reggie Manville, who said he heard this from an unnamed person he described as “Snyder’s number two guy.” Manville said the state requested that no more than three village officials meet with their reps, because more than that might be a violation of the open meetings act. Reggie was the only member of council to meet with the rep (the others present were clerk Sharyn Bower and treasurer Laura Manville). According to Reggie, Sharyn Bower has been absent from work due to illness since last Friday, and that was the reason for the office closure on Friday and Monday this week. Laura took tonight’s meeting minutes.

In brighter news, Charlie Hendershott was honored by the village with a certificate of commendation for his service of over 40 years in the DPW department and he received a standing ovation. Longer report to follow.

A recording of the meeting:

Important Council Meeting Tomorrow

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Infrastructure and Planning, Politics, Village Money Situation on October 16, 2013 at 10:28 am

(Not that they’re not all important…)

Attention Elbertians (and their friends)! Please attend the council meeting tomorrow night (Thursday, October 17) at 7 pm in the Community Building (401 First St.) to hear our council’s plan to prevent our being taken over by an emergency manager.