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HARRISON – Visiting the first Hayes Township General Board meeting was Lori Martin, Clare County Clerk/Register of Deeds. She provided the first of her three planned updates for the township.
“In the Register of Deeds, we’re trying to reach out to the community a little more,” Martin said. “Specifically starting with the senior citizens.”
She then described her plan to visit the county’s three senior meal sites and to bring along a county software on a laptop computer, and possibly a printer. Martin said this will allow seniors to look at their properties, which will help with estate planning, such as verifying whether children have been added to deeds. It also will tell if trusts and deeds are recorded, as well as pertinent death certificates.
“Those are things I can look up easily for them,” Martin said. “Answer those questions, print off a document if they need it. They can’t always get to the courthouse, especially in the winter.”
She said she is hopeful that plan will be implemented this year, but that depends on how soon, and if, security assurances can be worked out with the software company, as it would mean accessing secure data from outside the County Building.
Martin also reviewed the circuit court collections program instituted by her office last year, which has shown a substantial increase in fines and fees actually paid to the county.
“We’ve increased our revenue by over $3,000 a month,” she said. “Now we’re implementing a text messaging reminder system.”
She said statistics show that only 25 percent of letters received get opened, but that 98 percent of text messages are opened. Martin said all who are given a payment judgement by the court are put on a payment plan, and the text messages reinforce compliance by reminding of due dates.
The $500 annual cost for that program will be split with Gladwin County, as the two counties share a court districts.
“We’ll try it for a year, and if it doesn’t increase revenue we’ll discontinue it,” she said.
Martin said it is worth trying various avenues of collection, because just looking at old case files from one judge, the outstanding fines, cost and restitution totaled around $2 million. She said a similar amount is outstanding on the second judge’s cases, as well. The restitution portion of that figure is especially important, because that represents judgements that have not been received by the aggrieved parties.
“We’re at about 20 years back now,” Martin said. “We went back farther than that, and we’ve cleaned up tons of them.”
She said those who don’t make their payments are called in for a show-cause hearing and that if they don’t show up, a warrant is issued for their arrest. Martin said that same day, the Sheriff Department had gone to Ingham County and brought someone back on a warrant for their unpaid fines and costs.
“Ideally, they don’t get out unless they pay that bond, which comes back to us,” Martin said.
The clerk also noted the passing of Jury Board member Glenn Freeman, and that she is seeking candidates who would like to serve on the Jury Board. Martin said that some 5,000 questionnaires are sent out around May, and then around October the Jury Board is called in to review them and qualify or disqualify respondents for jury duty service. Disqualifications could include having a felony conviction, residence outside the state, etc. A second round of qualifications is needed in November-December due to the low rate of timely questionnaire returns. She made clear that the Jury Board does not excuse jurors from service, that only the judge can do that.
Martin said pay for the Jury Board is the same as is paid to county commissioners: $25 for a half-day, $50 for a whole day, plus mileage. She said anyone interested in serving could call her or send her a letter to be received by Feb. 8, and she would give further instructions. Circuit Court Chief Judge Mienk will make that appointment to fill out Freeman’s six-year term which expires in 2021.
The Clerk also conjectured about four entities which might be seeking a May election, but none had yet filed. She said the deadline to file for that election is in early February.
Moving on to township business, the Board moved to:
• - Approve the new IRS mileage rate of 58 cents per mile;
• - Appoint Board of Review members;
• - Approve Board of Review total training cost of $385 for all three members;
• - Approve expenditures to attend the April 2019 Michigan Townships Association conference cost of $1,175 for the clerk and $1,175 for the treasurer;
• - Accept, with regret, the resignation of deputy clerk Letha Danberry, effective immediately;
• - Approve unanimously the Resolution 18-09 Budget Amendment, which moves funding for dangerous building and zoning enforcement to the Zoning Administration Budget; and
• - Appoint an interview committee to include the Planning Committee chairperson for filling the position of Zoning Administrator; and
• - Approve BS&A training expenses of $500 for the treasurer to attend.
In some last words to the audience, Hayes Township Treasurer Maye Tessner-Rood spoke of the success of the recent Snowball and its effort to raise statue money for the Veterans Freedom Park.
“As of this afternoon, we made $20,500 profit,” she said. “We’re about $3,500 short of what we need, but since I made some announcements this afternoon, I’ve already gotten some pledges toward that.”
She said more than 500 people attended this year, and also commended Deb Hoyt’s efforts in spearheading the silent auction at the event, which included 270 items. Tessner-Rood also noted there had been a glitch with the raffle license, which didn’t come in until a week prior to the event, leaving scant time for sales.
“That’s why we’re a little under what we [normally] would have made,” she said. “We picked up people for the dinner, so that helped offset it. It was a huge success, thanks to the community – we have a very giving community.
The Hayes Township Board meets at 7 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month at the Hayes Municipal Complex.