Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dog Catching Season

Just a quick FYI. On the Village's website we post photos of animals we catch and take to the Isabella County Animal Shelter. By doing this we hope reunite pet owners with their animals. If the animal has a tag we always attempt to call the owner before calling the pound. Please, keep your animals in your own yard, and have them tagged!

You can visit our page by clicking here:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Survey Says!

A couple of weeks ago the Village mailed out a brief survey to all applicants who applied for a zoning permit in 2006 and 2007. The purpose of the survey is two-fold. First, is to assess our performance as a staff in meeting the needs of our residents in a timely and professional manner. The other purpose is to solicit feed-back for ways in which we can improve the zoning permit process. So far, we have received about 20 of the 80 survey’s we mailed out. By and large the responses have been very positive with several well-thought-out comments.

Foremost among those comments is the need to better clarify the different permits needed to build (soil erosion, well & septic, LIPOA, and county building). Along with that comment is the need to better describe the different roles and duties of not only the Village and the LIPOA, but the Village and the two townships.

This item was discussed at a recent Liaison Committee meeting between the Village and the LIPOA. Work has already begun in creating this document which both organizations will not only make available in their respective offices, but also on their websites as well.

As to the survey, if you received one please return to the office, we really do welcome your feedback.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Red Flag Day

The “red flag” has several meanings. If you happen to be an auto racing fan it signals a temporary stop to the race. If you frequent the beach, you know that a “red flag day” is one where waves and water current conditions close the beach for swimming.

In terms of fire warnings, it is a term used by fire-weather forecasters to call attention to weather conditions of particular importance that may result in extreme burning conditions. The criteria for red flag events requires the combination of high to extreme fire danger and a critical fire weather pattern such as: low relative humidity, very dry and unstable air, and very strong/ shifting winds. These are the conditions that our region currently faces.

This past week the village has seen two fires in the village and one adjacent to the village. One these fires resulted in the tragic loss of a home on Bundy Drive. With that in mind the Village would like to remind residents that it is a violation of the Village ordinance code to burn trash, leaves, brush, or construction material. Our code enforcement department yesterday was busy contacting residents with burn barrels and reminding them of this ordinance which was adopted in August of 2007.

Remember, only you can stop fires!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PASER Ratings; What, Why, When, and How

What the heck is a “PASER” rating you might be asking? PASER stands for Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating. It is a system that was developed at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and it uses visual observation of the physical condition of the pavement surface to assign a numerical rating. This numerical value, from 1 to 10, not only defines the physical condition of the pavement, but also relates to recommended maintenance.

Michigan has taken the system created in Wisconsin, and totally transformed how it is used. What started as a simple way to help townships, cities, and villages in Wisconsin rate their roads, is being used by Michigan as the foundation for statewide pavement asset management. Presently all local units of government in Michigan that manage roads (cities, villages, and county road commissions), are required to submit an annual report detailing the funds invested in the transportation network within their jurisdiction. So far the requirement to PASER rate streets has only been applied to the county road commissions for all roads that can receive Federal funds, but within 2 years cities and villages will be required to have some type of asset management program in place as required by Public Act 499 of 2002.

So how does this all work? Well it is pretty simple. First it is a matter of observation. (We are looking for volunteers who are interested in helping with this project to PASER rate all 27+ miles of streets within the Village of Lake Isabella.) Once the observation has been made, and a number assigned to a street segment, the data will be logged by the Village and then used to plan long term maintenance and capital improvements to the streets in the Village. We are also thinking of creating a page to our website with maps that show the PASER rating of all Village streets, explain in detail what our long range plans are for pavement management. Please give us your feedback; let us know if you are interested in PASER rating with our staff, or if you would like to see a page dedicated to this or the streets in general on our website.

OK, now for the how it works part. Well, as mentioned above, street segments are given a value of 1 for major stress, and 10 for new construction. With 13 miles of new pavement less than one year old, we feel the time is right to put this system in place. Below are two photos taken from streets near the Village Hall. Based on what you see, you can assign a value. That value then tells you what type of work is needed for that segment of pavement. Lets take a look at these two locations.

For the specific criteria used, the City of Novi has a very good “cheat sheet” which can be found on their website at:

Location 1: Clubhouse Drive, in front of the Village Hall

This section of street was given an inch and a half overlay of hot mix asphalt (HMA) in 2006. The street at that time was showing significant distress with both transverse and longitudinal cracking. So far, the only thing that has developed with the overlay are transverse cracks, which are highlighted in red on the picture. Based on all the observed conditions, what rating would you give this section of street? Well, right from the start we can toss out 10, 9, and 8. Prior to the overlay in 2006, the rating of this street segment would have been about a 4. Which is the threshold for what is considered structural distress, meaning that any rating 5 and above only requires maintenance, not structural replacement. Based on the criteria from Novi's website, what do you think? By the way, Novi's cheat-sheet is an adaptation of the official field user cheat-sheet that everyone now uses.

With all that in mind the appropriate rating for this street segment would be either a 6 or a 7, based on the conditions beyond this snapshot area.

Location 2: Birdie Lane, just east of Tee Drive

To be perfectly frank, Birdie Lane has seen better days. At our Village Council meeting this Tuesday the Council approved a bid begin replacing three sections of the street that have become significantly distressed. In the mean time, let’s take a look at what are known as “alligator cracks.” The area boxed in red is shows these cracks. In addition to the alligator cracks, there are also transverse cracks shown in blue, and longitudinal cracks shown in green. Based the interconnection of the transverse and longitudinal cracks, they form what are known as “block cracks.”

So, based on these conditions, what rating should Birdie Lane get? For this section the appropriate rating would be either a 2 or 3, both of which indicate poor conditions.

Now it is important to close on a few rules of PASER rating. First, ratings cannot be done in the rain, snow, or with wet pavement. The moisture often times will hide cracks or make them appear larger. Second, PASER ratings are done only on the travel lane of the street. While shoulders are very important to the street, they do not affect a rating. When rating a street segment with one lane that is in good condition, and one that is not, the rule is to always take the worse number and not average them together. Finally, the rating relates to the physical condition of the pavement, not the quality of the ride. So what do you think? If you care to join us in this project, please feel free to e-mail or call!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Village Manager's Report

As part of our monthly Village Council meeting I prepare a written report. In the past I would e-mail this to residents who requested it. With the blog now in use, my opinion is that this is a good medium to share the information.




TSI Committee/Street Lights
The TSI Committee reviewed the first draft of the street lighting policy at its last meeting. They have held off on action until May as we are still waiting for information from Tri-County regarding converting our current sodium streetlights to LED streetlights. Not only would LED lights be more energy efficient, they also would further reduce light pollution by producing a softer light in a more focused area.

Form Based Zoning
The Planning Commission received a report and PowerPoint presentation regarding form based zoning. I would like to give this same presentation to the Village Council at an upcoming meeting.

Zoning Survey
The Village is sending out a survey to all permit applicants from the 2006 and 2007 calendar years. We look to take the information and gauge our performance and see if there is anything we can improve on in delivering the zoning process to our residents. This includes if they used the website, and how we can improve the content related to zoning online.

Code Enforcement/Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance
As is the case every spring after the snow finally melts away, we have been very busy with enforcement matters. We are focusing right now on blight and trash matters, and have issued several tickets to properties in violation.

We also have had group of residents request again that the Village adopt and enforce a residential rental property inspection code. This was considered by the Village Council in 2005. After discussion, the Council voted to not adopt he enacting ordinance per the advice our legal counsel and based on ability to administer such a program in our former location. We do have the facilities now to implement a rental inspection program, which we simply did not have at out 1096 Queens Way location. If the Council wishes to consider the draft again, I recommend some changes to it. Among those would be that if a location had over 6 separate correction notices in any 12 month period, the rental license could be revoked for 1 year.

MML Public Policy Forum & PASER Training
On April 16th I will be in West Branch for the entire day to receive training and certification to PASER rate our streets. PASER ratings are a numerical scale from 0 to 10 that gives a value to a street section based on its physical condition, with a 10 being the best condition. We be looking for volunteers to help in this process over the summer. With over 27 miles of streets in the Village it will be a big project!

On April 17th I will be in Lansing all day at a public policy forum hosted by the Michigan Municipal League. This is the second of the 4 forums that the League is hosting. The first one was last month in Detroit and focused on new urbanism and zoning practice. This forum will feature presentations from Peter Kageyama of Creative Cities Productions in Tampa Bay, FL and Sean Safford of the University of Chicago school of Business.

The forums were developed after the League received a grant to bring in top speakers and leaders from around the globe to give insights to a selected group of local government leaders from around the state.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

“Yes, Virginia,” there is another Lake Isabella…

Yesterday morning we received the following e-mail in our inbox:

To whom it may concern:

We will be opening a part time cardiovascular practice in Lake Isabella and would like to know what permits and paper work are required. The office will be opened 2 days a month for approximately 4 hours each day

After some initial excitement about another business locating inside the Village, especially one that would be so well received and used by the community, subsided a few red flags came up. For example, the area code on the e-mail signature was “661,” and according to their web-site all of their locations are in the Bakersfield, CA region.

After calling the business contact, and a few laughs on both ends of the phone, it was confirmed that yes indeed they were expanding to Lake Isabella, CA.

So what is Lake Isabella, CA? According to Wikipeda (, Lake Isabella is a man-made earthen resevior in Kern County, California that consists of a main and auxiliary dam. It was formed in 1953 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Kern River at the junction of its two forks at Whiskey Flat. At 11,000 acres (45 km²), it is one of the largest reservoirs in California. The area is in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada range and the lake itself is located in low mountains at an elevation of approximately 2,500 feet (760 m) where summer temperatures reach over 100 degrees (°F) but low enough to avoid winter snows on the surrounding ridges. Lake Isabella is located about 40 miles (65 km) northeast of Bakersfield, and is the main water supply for that city. Lake Isabella can be reached by car from Bakersfield via state Highway 178 and from Delano via Highway 155.

The lake is a dividing point. Upper Kern River flows into Lake Isabella, Lower Kern River flows out of the lake and toward Bakersfield. The nearby towns of Lake Isabella and Kernville receive economic benefit from tourism created by the Lake Isabella Recreation Area and the whitewater rafting attraction of the Upper and Lower Kern River. Much of the wilderness surrounding the lake is part of the Sequoia National Forest. The population in and around the unincorporated community of Lake Isabella, CA was just over 3,000 as of the 2000 census.

Below are a couple of picutures of the "other" Lake Isabella.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Governor says "Save the Dream"

Yesterday Governor Granholm signed into law legislation to assist Michigan residents who are facing foreclosure of their home. The legislation creates a new program that is simply being called “Save the Dream.” This program creates two new refinancing options to protect home ownership.

The Save the Dream products and programs are operated and funded entirely by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The program is focused on two means of support.

The first is option allows homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) the ability to refinance into a 30-year, lower-interest, fixed-rate conventional loan. The new loans are backed by MSHDA.

The other option is “The Rescue Refinance Program” that will assist individuals who have a delinquency on their mortgage and who are at risk of losing their home. Homeowners who qualify for the program will have a chance to get into a more affordable 30-year, fixed rate, conventional loan.

Both initiatives are targeted at existing homeowners, not first-time buyers. To qualify for one of the new loan programs, homeowners must meet the same income and sales price limits that other MSHDA loan products require. Specifically, household income must be under $108,000, and the purchase price of the home cannot exceed $224,500. The initiatives will be funded by taxable bonds, and homeowners will be responsible for the full value of their refinanced mortgages. The original mortgage does not have to be a MSHDA loan; however, the homeowner must meet MSHDA requirements for the refinance product. This qualifying information is available from approved lenders and directly from MSHDA.

For more details on the Save the Dream refinance programs and other services, a visit to will take seekers to MSHDA’s home page and the Save the Dream icon where up-to-date information about the loans, services, and MSHDA-approved lenders and certified counselors is available. There is also a consumer hotline that helps callers find a counselor locally. That toll-free number is 1-866-946-7432.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fiscal Health... According to the State

This weekend the Village received a nice surprise in the mail from the Michigan Department of Treasury. Typically when the office receives anything unexpected that says “State of Michigan” on the return address, it is opened quickly as this was. Trust me; it isn’t because we are so eager to see what good news is being shared. Upon opening these surprise correspondences, we usually get to find out what changes (often reductions) to a beneficial program or funding source for local government has been implemented by our elected and appointed leaders in Lansing.

For a change the news was good! The envelope contained a report from the Treasury which scored the fiscal health of the Village. The report stems from a study commissioned by the Department several years ago which identified nine areas of measurement to gauge a community’s fiscal health. These nine areas comprise core budget numbers and assessment information such as population, taxable value, general fund revenue, general fund expenses, and long term debt. These indicators are then scored based on previous year numbers to generate an overall number. According to the memo which accompanied the report from the Department of Treasury, “Aggregate scoring is based upon zero to one point for each indicator. A low aggregate score reflects fiscal neutrality, while a higher aggregate score reflects significant fiscal stress.”

So, according to Lansing, the best score to have on this report is a zero. It is also worth noting that the best we can shoot for is “fiscal neutrality,” not fiscal health. Recent years have seen massive reductions in critical funding to local government, and an increasing burden on local units of government to find new revenue sources to off-set the imbalance created by the State of Michigan. In fiscal climate of recent years, fiscal neutrality for many communities has been very hard to achieve.

The methodology of the report is fairly straight forward. Of the nine areas that are scored, the only area that is inaccurate for the Village is the population estimate of 1,125. We feel it is inaccurate as our 2000 census number was 1,243. Since that time the Village has approved permits for the construction of over 200 new homes. For us to lose population while increasing the housing stock from 700 to 900 homes is simply not realistic.

The State of Michigan is not alone in their poor estimate of the Village’s population. The United States Census Bureau’s last estimate had our population under 1,100. The census number of a community is much more than just a source of pride, or a benchmark for fiscal health. It is a foundational number in many funding programs that directly impact the quality of services we can deliver. It is highly weighted in both revenue sharing and Act 51 funding formulas. Thankfully for us they have to use official census numbers and not estimates in these formulas.

Back to the report from the Department of Treasury, you might be wondering how Lake Isabella did. Well, we scored a zero (remember according to State, zero is good… I mean fiscally neutral). In viewing the website created by the Department of Treasury on this program, the only other units of government for Isabella County that have been posted are the 2005 score for Isabella County and the 2006 score for the City of Mount Pleasant. Both of these units scored a 1 on the report. Below is a link to view a PDF copy of the report along with the link to the Department of Treasury website detailing this program.,1607,7-121-1751_47023-171423--,00.html