CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP — The Crystal Township Board voted unanimously to spend $35,000 of its share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money in support of the Crystal Township Fire Department.
The township will receive a total of $284,803 in ARPA money over the next few years. The fire department has requested some of that money be used to purchase a $25,000 natural gas generator, as well as $10,734 toward the overall cost of upgrading to 800 megahertz radios (the fire department is seeking additional money for the radios from Evergreen Township, which has already approved the request, as well as from Montcalm County and Ferris Township, neither of which have acted on the request yet).
“I think it’s time for us to start making some decisions on this money we’re going to spend and I think the most important ones are the two requests from the fire department,” Treasurer Nancy Mills summarized. “These people serve and protect us and I don’t think these are frivolous things that they need.”
Crystal Fire Chief Mike Fitzpatrick said if Montcalm County ends up approving his request to upgrade all local fire departments to 800 megahertz radios, the townships won’t have to pay for it.
Regarding the generator, “It’s something we need,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve got an old diesel generator out there. It does become a big safety issue.”
Mills, Supervisor Curt McCracken, Clerk Patty Baker-Marek and trustees Roger Martin and Diane Rydahl all voted to approve the fire department purchases using ARPA money.
Board members also discussed other possible uses for the township’s ARPA money. McCracken would like to see a pavilion with picnic tables put in South Shore Park and a playground put in Noll Park. Rydahl suggested designating a parking area for South Shore Park so vehicles don’t park in the grass. Martin suggested making the parking area paved or at least more handicap-accessible at parks.
McCracken said he would also like to replace the roof over the old portion of the Crystal Community Center, as well as taking out two rooms on the north side of the building, tearing a wall out and making a large meeting room with a sound system. The Community Center building has long been a complicated and contentious issue for the township and some board members didn’t sound thrilled at the idea of discussing it again on Wednesday.
“The first step is getting bids,” Mills told McCracken.
“I’m not going to get bids because if the board’s not going to go along with me, there’s no use in wasting time in bids,” McCracken responded.
WEBSITE TABLED, AGAIN
A website for the township does not appear to be coming soon, despite the promise of “Crystal Township, Montcalm County, coming soon” greeting anyone who visits crystaltownshipcom.wordpress.com online. That message has been there for months now.
The township board tabled the topic of a website in April and table the topic again on Wednesday despite efforts by Rydahl to move forward. Rydahl previously obtained four bids for the website and she requested that the board vote on adding website service development and maintenance to the township budget at their July meeting. However, the board did not vote on the matter Wednesday.
Rydahl recommended the township hire Jane Basom of See Jane B Creative Solutions in Stanton for $6,000 to build a new website and $2,000 per year to maintain the website with several hours of work per month.
“I’m moving that we do it right, right out of the gate,” Rydahl said. “No more nickel-and-diming it. I’m looking at Jane. I think the website’s a great thing, it will provide transparency to our community. I look at this as an investment. It’s something pretty important for the township.”
However Mills wanted to review all the bids further before deciding.
“We’ve got time,” Mills said.
Meanwhile, Baker-Marek was concerned about a website creating more work for her.
“Everyone is quick to find me doing something wrong and not doing the appropriate thing and I don’t want to open up another avenue to be called out on the carpet,” Baker-Marek said. “I’m the one who’s going to be held accountable and I don’t think that’s fair.”
The board tabled the website topic, again. The lack of a website means residents wishing to stay informed about special township board meetings — such as the May 3 special meeting about police and road millages, the April 6 special meeting about the 355 North Shore Drive property and the March 18 special meeting about a DPW employee resigning due to an “ongoing contentious issue” with Mills — must physically visit the Community Center daily to look for meeting notices on the door. Residents also are not easily able to access township board meeting minutes, township official contact information or learn about upcoming community events.
In other matters …
Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the Crystal Township Board:
• Had a moment of silence for Brandon Bogart, a local firefighter who died on Wednesday.
• Answered questions from residents about a special township board meeting on May 3 which was only 10 minutes long. At that meeting, the township board voted 4-0 (with Trustee Roger Martin absent) to place a police millage and a road millage on the August primary election ballot, as well as to hire Wideman Appraisal Services in Ithaca to appraise the small beach property at 355 North Shore Drive on Crystal Lake, which the township board is looking to sell. Boundary Assessing Services is the assessor for the township and recently assessed the property at state equalized value (SEV) of $12,000 and therefore a market value of about $24,000.
• Vote to appoint Phil Foster to a vacant position on the Duck Lake Improvement Board.
• Voted to contact the township attorney about changing language in the township’s marijuana ordinance to match state law in order to allow a drive-through window at The Twisted Sista, a local marijuana dispensary.
• Voted that township marijuana businesses must have their taxes paid to the township by the end of February.
• Voted to advertise to fill a part-time job vacancy with the township’s Department of Public Works with the pay starting at $16 per hour.
• Voted to approve allowing the Sewer Department to purchase a 1999 International Digger Derrick truck for $10,000.
• Discussed the no parking rule between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. at township businesses and the no parking rule between 3 and 6 .m. on township streets. Township officials have been receiving complaints about this ordinance not being enforced with everyone.
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