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Hayes Talks Airport, COVID, and yup, Blight

Township Courting Possible County Assistance

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HARRISON – The March general meeting of the Hayes Township Board began as it has for the past few months, with no report – either written or in person – from any of the three county commissioners which represent the township.

Deb Hoyt, clerk and Hayes representative on the Harrison District Library Board, reported the library is still open on limited hours, and that the Surrey House project is “moving along.”

In describing the ongoing Clare County Airport concerns, treasurer Maye Tessner-Rood spoke of a remote meeting which included representatives of the county, township and City of Harrison, and state Rep. Jason Wentworth. She also noted another planned meeting at the airport to view the pilots lounge and get a better understanding of what would be required to complete it, and the other runway repair work, etc., required to bring the airport up a class, enabling the selling of flight fuel, as well as making it eligible to seek grant funding.

Tessner-Rood noted there had been a grant sought for funding to complete the lounge, but that the “county had dropped the ball on that,” and the grant opportunity was lost. She said if the facility ceases to be an airport, the state could sell it back to the community, with one possible use being an industrial park.

“One positive would be it would get put back on the tax rolls,” she said. “Or they can opt to keep it as an airport.”

Under Public Comment, resident Ginnie Collins requested the board reinstitute the township’s former blight ordinance and put it up for a vote. Terry Collins inquired about the opening of the township’s health facility and was told it would not be opening up simply because there is currently no maintenance person to do the strict sanitization regimen required.

“Until we can get someone on board – and then we have to look at the fees,” Tessner-Rood said. “Because if we have to clean it up to the standards the state is saying, we can’t do it for $15 a month for a family.”

Another resident spoke to thank the board for its effort in “thinking outside the box” at the workshop preceding the meeting, in its efforts to address the township’s blight issue.

Part-time resident Pat Adams also spoke to commend the township and previous board for its financial diligence in bringing the township’s fund balance up by several hundred thousand dollars over the previous four years. Tessner-Rood clarified that a couple of the items were “a one-time shot” such as the sale of property and would not yield recurring gains.

In Department Reports, Tessner-Rood noted that tax season was done, and that she and her deputy treasurer had collected more than $1 million in taxes in just the previous month.

“It’s been a busy year, regardless of COVID,” she said. “Even though we were not open, with our appointments coming in we remained busy the whole time.”

In his Zoning report, Ken Hoyt listed two zoning permits issued in February, and that to-date in March he had passed out 15 permit applications, with four or five already returned. Hoyt also noted the township had 285 calls to 911 in February, the lowest for February since he started keeping track in 2016. He said there had been one Criminal Sexual Conduct call, but no Narcan, and that for the most part the road patrol calls showed crime as being “way down.” There also were five fire calls in the township: three assists for auto accidents/two with injuries; one possible gas leak at Dollar General; and one listed as Public Service.

Clerk Deb Hoyt spoke of the Michigan House Bills in committee and otherwise which deal with elections.

“Pretty much everything that’s out there, we’re already doing,” she said. “Such as maintaining a permanent Absent Voter list, keeping accredited with continuing education classes. I feel good about where we are with elections, but there’s some national movement out there too, and we’re just waiting to see where that’s going.”

The Hayes Township Municipal Complex has been the site of many vaccination clinics in recent months, and supervisor Rick Jones pointed out that the total injections would hit about 4,750 by the following Friday. He said the county had done about 1,200 vaccinations offsite.

“It’s been run very well,” said Tessner-Rood. “Lots of good comments from everybody.”

It also was noted that the previous Friday, five nurses had provided a total of 345 shots, and that Rep. Wentworth had dropped by to acknowledge all the hard work being done by the health department to vaccinate area residents.

Under New Business, the board moved to:

-Approve renewal of the Consumers Energy Electric Franchise Ordinance 20-05;

-Accept the Wade Trim Inc.’s Master Plan Update quote of $9,750 with the understanding it will take place next fiscal year, which will begin July 2021;

-Approve paying Planning Commission/Zoning Board of Appeals members who attend the Master Planning Process webinars March 30 and 31;

-Approve rehiring of Steve Phelps as maintenance technician for the grounds, cemetery and township hall at the rate of $15/hour with a 50-cent increase after 90 days; and

-Approve the purchase of two HP printers for a total cost of $977.12.

In providing a blight update, Jones explained the township is not looking at reenacting the former blight ordinance, but to contract with the county to enforce building codes, do rental inspections, and getting rid of junk, unlicensed, uninsured, non-running cars.

“Those are the complaints we hear the most,” he said. “There’s junkyards, which we don’t really talk about, but we’re looking at contracting with the county and getting a bid for them, too.”

Tessner-Rood explained that the county would be looking at a department, because there are other townships with the same problems as Hayes. The hope would be to make it countywide, so that all across the county all the agencies would be working together and “would all be on the same page.”

“People are getting more violent, more ornery,” she said. “You need a professional that can handle it; none of us are capable of it, and there’s a lot who aren’t.”

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