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Hart Planning Commission hosts public hearing on ORV ordinance
 John Cavanagh  / 

HART — The Hart City Council recently requested the Hart City Planning Commission’s input on a possible Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) ordinance and Golf Cart Resolution for the city.

At its Jan. 9 meeting, the planning commission had a public hearing to gather further information for the council. In an effort to bring more business and connectivity to rural communities, many jurisdictions in the county have adopted their own resolutions. In the proposed ordinance some vehicles considered ORVs would include golf carts and side-by-side utility terrain vehicles. The proposed ordinance would not consider farm equipment, registered snowmobiles, utility or emergency vehicles as ORVs. Under the proposed ordinance, the operation of three-wheelers, dune buggies and sand rails would be prohibited within the city limits. The proposed ordinance addresses added details such as licensing, legal age of ORV operators, required safety gear, hours of operation, speed and noise requirements, roadways allowed for use and enforcement procedures.

Most of those present at the Jan. 9 meeting were in favor of an ORV ordinance in the city. Kevin Connelly commented that he would like to lobby to set up a trail system that would connect municipalities, “I wish the county wouldn’t have passed this off to the townships. We need a unified ordinance and a way to get from one place to another.”

Hart resident Mark Platt said, “In the letter I provided you can read further about my questions and concerns. My main concern is the insurance on golf carts pertaining to roadways. Police are already stretched to the max. I’m concerned about what kind of liability the city would have.”

Business owner Christy Dold said, “I support an ORV ordinance, but how are ORVs going to even get to town?”

City Manager Lynne Ladner read letters from residents who were unable to attend the meeting. One letter from Brooke Bechtel, downtown business owner stated, “We support an ordinance that would allow dune buggies downtown. We hear all the time how much more convenient it would be. We feel it would cater to tourists and locals alike.”

A letter from residents Bob and Mandy Zaverl stated, “We support an ORV ordinance. Using an ORV is a good way for getting the family out of the house and away from the TV. It affords families another option for spending time together.”

Ladner responded to the questions and comments made after the public comment period was closed. She said, “As far as liability and golf carts, the city could recommend a city permit to operate within the city limits. The city could require a permit where drivers would have to show proof of insurance before being issued a permit.”

There was concern from the commission and the public that those coming from Silver Lake on an ORV, might not know they need a permit to drive downtown, causing all sorts of confusion and extra work for the police. Also would people really want to drive their ORV/golf cart all the way from Silver Lake as not all roads are legal or even safe to travel on.

State law allows ORVs to cross state roads, but does not allow ORVs to travel on them. “The city would have to request a permit from the state for crossing state roads within the city limits. Those would include Polk Road, Oceana Drive and the south end of State Street,” said Ladner.

Planning Commission member Peggy Whitman said, “The intersection of State, East and West Main streets by the Commons can be difficult enough for locals on some days. I am concerned that adding visitors on ORVs in the mix could be very dangerous. Not to mention pedestrians. I’m curious how our police chief feels about this.”

Chief Juan Salazar said, “I would support an ORV ordinance if it passed, but I agree there are some definite concerns from our department.”

Planning Commission member Dianne LaPorte commented, “I have a motorcycle and a convertible. If people want an alternate mode of transportation, why not use something that is already approved for the roadways? Also, I’m not against an ordinance, but there needs to be rules about who can legally operate an ORV in the city limits.”

Ladner added, “We’re in a low income community and many people only have one vehicle. Allowing ORVs on city streets would give people a lower cost transportation option and the ability to access city services if their only vehicle was being used by another family member. Only people with a valid driver’s license and insurance would be allowed to operate an ORV. As far as liability insurance, it can be covered on a person’s homeowner’s or auto insurance policies. In a former municipality I lived in, the cost was only an additional $50 to drive an ORV on city streets.”

At that point, commission member Peggy Whitman moved to table the issue until more information was available. Members Whitman and Gale Goldberg were in favor of tabling the issue with members LaPorte, Rob Splane, Chairwoman Betty Root not in favor. Goldberg said, “Then I move we not recommend passage of an ORV ordinance to the council.” Commission and Rob Splane said, “Ultimately this is a discussion for the council. They will be the ones who have to decide. They passed this issue on to us for our input only and to gather more information. I’d like to add, this ordinance would align with the city’s master plan. It would be an economic strategy.”

Splane moved that the commission make no recommendation for either passage or denial of the ordinance due to the planning commission’s concerns related to liability, safety, drivers and insurance. Members Goldberg, LaPorte, Root and Splane voted “Aye”; member Whitman voted “No”.

Ladner has tentatively placed the first reading of the proposed ORV ordinance on the agenda for the city’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. A copy of the proposed ORV ordinance is available at the city hall and on the city’s website.

Shelby parks plan adopted
 John Cavanagh  / 

SHELBY — After a public hearing at Monday’s village council meeting, Shelby adopted its parks and recreation plan 2020-25. There was no further comment from the public.

“The plan is a living document. So even though we’ve adopted it, it can be edited going forward. This is our vision and our guide, but not all is required. We used a lot of the ‘meat and potatoes’ from the former plan and added to it using citizen input and the ideas that came out of our parks tour,” said village Administrator Robert Widigan. The extensive 105-page document is available on the village website and at the village offices.

On Jan. 6, Widigan and village parks consultant John Wilson attended a Department of Natural Resources Grant Workshop in Lansing. After missing out on a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant for Getty Park renovations, the village was encouraged by Dan Lord, state manager of the Grants Management Finance and Operations Division, to modify their application and reapply in April.

“The workshop was very informative. We learned that besides the trust fund grant we are also eligible to apply for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant or Recreation Passport Grant as well. We will hear before April 1 what areas we are lacking on the application. At that point we will know which grant we have a better chance of receiving and we will drop the other application,” said Widigan.

“In an effort to raise our point standing in April, we’ve scaled back on the original project. We’ve eliminated the splash pad and skate park for now. We could add those in the future and apply for grant funds again,” Widigan said. “We lost points by outlining a tear down of the old tennis and basketball courts in Phase I and to rebuild them in Phase II. Because of the time lapse, the grant committee deducted points from our application. We also lost points on the renovation of the restroom building, which even though it is 40 years old, it did not represent a majority of the project costs. We will eliminate ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Applicant Match’ in the April 1 grant, as we lost points in both those areas last time. But we most likely will gain more points with other adjustments. We will apply for both the trust fund grant and the Land & Water Conservation Grant and see where the chips fall,” said Widigan.

Council member Dan Zaverl asked if the village would run water lines to the splash pad area so it wouldn’t have to be torn up if the village decides to build a splash pad in the future. Widigan and village President Paul Inglis confirmed that future water access, provided a grant is received, has been considered and would be piped to that area regardless.

Village make annual contribution to hazardous waste program
 John Cavanagh  / 

SHELBY — The Household Hazardous Waste Disposal/Clean Sweep Program of the Mason, Lake and Oceana conservation districts has once again contacted local municipalities thanking them for their past support and asking for their support with funding in 2020.

The goal of the disposal program is to provide a way for residents to safely and easily dispose of hazardous materials so that they do not end up in lakes, streams, groundwater or public water supplies. According to the letter received by the village, “The Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Committee wishes to thank you for your financial support of our 2019 Collection Day. As a result over 79,000 pounds of household materials and over 8,900 pounds of pesticides were safely disposed. The cost for the one-day event was $44,000. Because the 2018 collection was also successful it drained our surplus of funds. Therefore in 2019 the HHW committee requested an increase from $0.37 to $0.40 per capita among the three counties per township resident. With increased expenses, the program faces the paradoxical position of having to limit a program because of its own success. The committee is asking for the same amount per capita ($0.40) in 2020 while it continues to look for alternative sources to help supplement funds to pay for disposal.”

The program’s 2019 result summary showed how many residents from each entity utilized the program, the amount each entity was asked to contribute per capita and what each entity actually paid to the program. In 2019, the village donated $500 with only seven households taking advantage of the collection day. In 2020, the HHW committee asked for a donation of $825.

Village President Paul Inglis said, “I am and have been a big supporter of the work the Soil Conservation District is doing with this program.”

There was some hesitation among the council when Inglis asked members how they wished to proceed. Council member Dan Zaverl moved to donate $500 to the annual collection.

“Since we only had seven households represented, I say we keep it at $500,” Zaverl said.

Because there was no support the motion failed. Council member Jim Wyns moved to pay $550 for the 2020 collection program day. Council member Steve Crothers gave support. Council members Bill Harris, John Sutton, Wyns and Crothers voted in the affirmative. Zaverl voted no. Council member Andy Near was absent.

The Clean-Sweep Collection Day will be Saturday, Aug. 15. Some items that will be accepted include pesticides, fertilizers, oils, solvents, fluorescent light bulbs, fire extinguishers, unused medications and obsolete audio-visual and computer equipment. Some items that cannot be accepted include latex paint, large appliances, medical waste and tires. A complete list can be found at https://www.oceanaconservation.org/household-hazardous-waste

Hart Fire Board requests increase to replace equipment
 John Cavanagh  / 

HART — At the Jan. 14 Hart City Council meeting, Hart Area Fire Chief Jack White presented fire department financial standings and requested an additional .35 operating mill, up from the .65 mills the department is currently receiving from the city. The additional .35 mil would bring the city’s annual contribution to 1 mil, the amount the fire district is allowed to receive and is now needed from each entity in the fire district — the City of Hart, Golden Township, Hart Township and Weare Township. This increase would require the city pay approximately an additional $18,000 annually. The increase in funding would mainly be used as a sinking fund for replacement of aging fire equipment.

After becoming chief in 2017, White asked if there was a long-term plan in place to address future needs of the district. Since then, the department has been able to maintain status quo, but has not been able to put aside any monies for replacing aging equipment. In a letter to the council, White wrote, “Using a fire service standard for apparatus replacement, we need to replace our 1991 pumper in 2020; our breathing air compressor in 2025 and our number one engine, a 2004 model, between 2030-2033. While most fire apparatus is recommended to be replaced from 20-25 years of age, we have been trying to get closer to 30 years out of a truck.”

Despite failing its annual pump test in 2017 and 2018, the department had been able to hold off repairs to its 1991 pumper. However, when the pumper failed its 2019 annual test almost immediately, the department sent the pumper for repair. Due to obsolete parts, repairs have not been completed. A new pump for the 1991 pumper would cost between $22,000-$25,000 so the decision was made not to repair it. Because the department’s present insurance rating calls for a pump capacity of 3,000 gallons per minute, another truck was needed.

The department was able to procure a 1997 pumper from Muskegon Township for $10,000. “This truck should give us another 2-4 years of service and allow us to put away money, with hopes of replacing it by 2024. I should mention that at the same meeting Muskegon Township voted to sell us the truck, they voted to replace the front end on it. So we are not only getting a newer truck, but one with a new front end,” White said.

According to the fire department’s December 2019 meeting minutes, the department had $425,821.33 in its checking account, Michigan Class General Fund account and Michigan Class Capital Improvement Fund. White’s information letter continued, “Using a basis of 3 percent per year price increase, it is estimated it will cost $400,000 to replace the newly acquired 1997 pumper between 2022-2024, $35,000-$40,000 to replace our breathing apparatus air compressor in 2025, and $525,000 to replace the 2004 pumper truck between 2030-33.”

The department’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. According to White, income for the 2019-2020 fiscal year includes: Golden- $117,302; Hart Twp. $54,335; City of Hart $31,106 and Weare Twp. $27,787. Income for the 2020-2021 fiscal year would be: Golden Twp. $171,466; Hart Twp. $83,982; City of Hart $48,931 and Weare Twp. $44,272.

The Hart Area Fire Board includes nine voting members; Clancy Aerts and Mike Powers from the City of Hart; Dick Huntington and Jay McGhan (Vice-Chairman) from Hart Township; Dale Stevenson & Mike Potter from Weare Township; Gary Beggs (Chairman) & Jake Whelpey from Golden Township and Bruce Mull, at large member appointed by the board. Non-voting members include: Jack White (Chief), Dwight Fuehring (Deputy Chief) and Dan Leimback (Secretary/Treasurer). The fire board meets at the fire station on State Street the fourth Thursday of each month at 7 p.m.

On a related note, White has plans to retire by the end of November 2020. The fire board plans first to look inside the department for his replacement. They have set a 30-day, internal posting date of March 1, to begin the process.