Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Summer Newsletter Coming Soon

Early next week the Village will be taking a copy of our next hard-print newsletter to our printer. Included in the edition will be the update on the unbuildable lots mailing, Master Plan progress report, and many more stories and tid-bits.

As a reader of our blog you'll probably recognize several of the stories that will be featured in the hard-print edition.

Tonight at the Village Hall we are hosting a pilot's safety program presented by the Michigan Department of Transportation. We expect around 20 local pilots to attend the safety presentation.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Desperate Times?

Earlier this month a package of bills were introduced by State Senator Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac) dealing with transportation funding. One of these bills is Senate Bill 1322, co-sponsored by Senator Alan Cropsey whose district includes the Village of Lake Isabella.

Senate bill 1322 calls for the mandated consolidation of all city and village road agencies which receive less than $250,000 in revenue from the state tax on gas and diesel into their respective county road commissions. In case you are wondering, the Village of Lake Isabella receives around $150,000 a year from the State, so it would apply to us. In Isabella County, this proposed bill would also apply to the Village of Shepherd and Village of Rosebush. If enacted, the only road agencies in Isabella County would be the Isabella County Road Commission, City of Mount Pleasant, and MDOT.

It was just 10 years ago last month that the Village of Lake Isabella was incorporated. Two of the primary reasons that incorporation was proposed were for control over zoning, and control over our roads. If enacted into law, SB 1322 would send the Village back to the days of pre-incorporation by turning jurisdiction of our 27+ miles of streets over to the Isabella County Road Commission.

With 2008 being an election year and the legislature having split chambers, the prospects of legislation which makes significant changes to the governmental structure are low, but then again anything can happen. The legislation is ultimately a product of the problem which is facing our state’s entire transportation system... money. The money that local governmental units receive from the state to maintain street networks are a share of the tax revenue from the state’s 19 cent per gallon tax on gasoline and 15 cent per gallon tax on diesel. Close to 22% of the funds generated from this tax go directly back to cities and villages, 39% go to the county road commissions, and the rest is of course kept by the State. This formula is established by Public Act 51 of 1951. (As a historical side note; Harry Truman was President, and planning was in the early stages for the Mackinaw Bridge in 1951.)

The funding formula for all local agencies is based on a shrinking pool of revenue, in a sea of expanding costs and demands. With the price of gasoline about to crest the $4/gallon mark, more and more people buying fuel efficient vehicles, and in turn driving less, the pool is only going to shrink further in terms of revenue generated from a gallon by gallon tax. The Village of Lake Isabella 2008-2009 fiscal year budget projects that our funding from the State, via Act 51, will shrink to under $150,000 a year for the foreseeable future. This is down from over $171,000 in the 2003-2004 fiscal year. Since that time the cost to maintain infrastructure has increased dramatically. Our situation is far from unique, and it is this reality which has been a driving force to adopt better management practices across the state, such as our PASER system.

It is in light of this reality that SB 1322 and the other bills in this package are born from. There are tough choices ahead for all levels of government in terms of providing essential services in the most cost efficient manner. As a matter of policy, the Village of Lake Isabella will be sending notice to the members of the Senate’s Transportation Committee and the Michigan Municipal League of our opposition to this bill. While we are open to options in terms of cost savings, it is our position that losing control over our streets is not the first step in solving this problem.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Village Manager's Report

Village Manager’s Report
♦ May 2008 ♦

LSSAPP Punch List
We have done stage 1 of the finishing spots on the LSSAPP project. I will be doing a walk through the week of June 9th with Rowe Incorporated for the final list. If you have, or know of anyone, with an issue that want to have addressed, please contact me ASAP. The additional cul-de-sac paving was completed last week, and we have recieved positive feedback for doing this.
Stage 1 of the Birdie Drive/Clubhouse Drive rehab project was compelted on Monday.

June ZBA Meeting
The ZBA will be hearing an appeal for 2 variances on June 9th. Variance request #1 is to allow a 66' communication tower/antena to remain on El Camino Grande. It is a violation of the zoning code for a communication tower to be located in the LR1 district, or for an antena to be over 35'. Variance #2 is for a front yard setback of only 20 feet at 1038 Cantabrian. This is a vacant lot at the end of Cantabrian next to Termino Park. The normal setback is 35'.

Revenue Sharing
I have had 2 meetings in Lansing with Sen. Cropsey’s office regarding our revenue sharing situation. He plans to approach Sen. John Poppageorge about the situation this week. Sen. Poppageorge is the de-facto expert in the Senate on this matter, and if Sen. Poppageorge supports Sen. Cropsey and us, we stand a good chance at finally getting statutory dollars.

In a Village-to-Village compairison of how Lake Isabella stacks up in terms of revenue sharing dollars, our projected state FY 2009 capture of $84,535 places us in the same dollar capture neighborhood of the Village of Merill and Village of Farwell which have populations of around 800. Our 2000 census number was 1,248. For Villages of our same population in the state, the average statutory capture is nearly $40,000.

Truck Routes Posted
The "No Trucks" signs have been posted at El Camino Grande, local section o Queens Way, and Fairway Drive. A courtesy letter was sent out to several companies that will be effected by this. A complete copy of the ordinance can be found at...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Birdie Drive Rehab Work to Begin Friday May 16th

For those of you who reside on the south side of the Village, you will get to dodge the orange barrels for the next week along Birdie Drive. Central Asphalt is set to begin work the morning of Friday, May 16th.

Birdie Drive and Clubhouse Drive from Birdie Drive to Channel Drive are the lowest scored Major Streets per our PASER ratings. The Village’s capital improvement plan calls for numerous spot fixes to these streets over the next 6 years with the end result being a road surface and based ready for a final overlay of asphalt. In the 2007-08 Fiscal Year, the Village allocated funds to address the intersection with Coldwater Road and the two sections of the east bound lane that have completely failed. This is the initial stages set to begin on Friday. In the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1st, an additional $25,000 has been budgeted towards the next sections for rehab.

Work is to begin this Friday with a mill of the existing asphalt and gravel stabilization over the weekend with paving to occur the following week. Please observe all flagmen and drive safe for the worker’s behalf.

As mentioned above, funds have been budgeted over the next 6 fiscal years to account for the work needed on these streets. Two factors that will play greatly into our ability to complete the work ahead of schedule will be the winter maintenance expenses and the revenue received from the state for road funding. These funds are distributed to local road agencies via Public Act 51 of 1951. A portion of the tax on each gallon of fuel sold in the state goes back to local units to use on their road projects.

Presently we are projecting a 10% reduction in this revenue stream. With the ridiculous price of gas these days, people across the state are driving less, buying more fuel efficient vehicles, and ultimately consuming less gasoline. With less consumption comes lower tax collection, and ultimately funding issues for local units of government. Coupled with the increase in fuel and materials needed to operate it is a no-win situation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Updating a Few Items

Updating the posts from last week…

Last Thursday morning myself and several interested residents discussed the Duquesa Road situation with the Isabella County Road Commission. While no major progress was made (sorry folks the County didn’t agree to take the problem onto themselves), there was very good discussion and direction established. In summary, the Road Commission has asked us to work with Sherman Township in applying for 2% funding to resolve the issue. One of the main issues that the Road Commission stated whether or not they would ultimately accept the road into their network is if it is paved or not. Per their standards, it must be paved. This presents an issue for the Village. Mainly paving that as a straight shot road would create nothing short of a drag strip into the Village. As such, any design of the road would need to include traffic calming measures to ensure traffic moved at the posted speed. There are other issued to be worked on with this matter, mainly proper compensation for the owner as it is private property. At the very least we have some good direction established to build on this spring and summer.

Last Friday the Village did contact the Supervisor for Sherman Township about the situation. He agreed to present to matter to the Township Board at their next meeting and go from there.

…The new gate on the dam. The LIPOA did receive an anonymous letter regarding the new gate after the Village received the note on the door and published the story here on the blog. Sadly the letter was not signed. It is unfortunate that the author has chosen to remain unknown. Not because anyone in the Village or the LIPOA would seek vengeance or try to punish this person for their opinions. Rather, when correspondence comes to either body that is anonymous it prevents us from seriously addressing the concern and having any type of responsible dialogue. As matter of practice, the Village of Lake Isabella does not respond to anonymous letters, or calls to Sound Off. If you have a concern of question, please do not hesitate to call or write either office. Both the Village and LIPOA take the concerns, comments, suggestions, and questions of our residents very seriously, and we both strive to find solutions to the problems that face the residents of the community.

Last night the Planning Commission held its regularly monthly meeting (minutes of which are posted on our website). In a nut-shell, they scheduled 2 public hearings for their June meeting regarding the comprehensive update to the zoning code after several months of review and discussion. Next week the Village Council meets. While the agenda and meeting materials are still being prepared, the items of note for next Tuesday are as follows:

2008-09 Budget, Property Tax Levy, and Capital Improvement Plan
2008 Fireworks Permit & Contract
Unbuildable Lots Update
Streetlight Master Plan

Don’t forget that this Saturday is the annual LIPOA garage sale weekend. For more information please call their office.

Finally, at last month’s Council meeting, several residents voiced concerns regarding residential rental property inspections and licensing. The Council has asked that this matter be brought up again after additional work has been done to address the concerns when it was last considered in 2005. Look for this to be on the Council’s agenda at the June meeting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Duquesa "Road"

For those of you living in the northwestern sections of the Village, you likely are very familiar with the orphan child of roads in Isabella County. For lack of a better term we will simply refer to it as a road, even though it is privately owned. The picture shows this ½ mile road segment in red. This road has long been a concern for the Village of Lake Isabella as it serves as the second point of access to this area of the Village. The only other means to access this part of the Village is down Queens Way.

This past July when the Village was hit by a severe thunderstorm, Queens Way was 100% obstructed for nearly 2 hours as crews and residents worked to clear numerous trees down over the roadway.

Earlier this year, the Village adopted a resolution (2008-07) calling on the Isabella County Road Commission to accept the road into its network via “Highway By User.” Highway by User is a clause in Michigan law (MCL 221.20) that allows local units of government to declare an otherwise private roadway a public roadway under certain circumstances. Those four conditions; a defined line for the road, worked on by public authorities, use for 10 consecutive years, and notorious public use have all been met in the opinion of the Village.

The Village of Lake Isabella is prevented from declaring the Highway by User as this portion of Duquesa Road is outside of our incorporated boundary.

This Thursday at 8:30 AM, the Isabella County Road Commission will be considering our request per the resolution we adopted earlier this year. If you are an interested party to this issue, I invite you to attend and make your views known. The meeting is being held at the Road Commission offices on Remus Road in Mount Pleasant.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday Morning

This morning the staff was greeted with a nice love note tied to the front door of the Village Hall. Monday mornings can be rather interesting in terms of the messages we receive at the office. The messages found on voicemail or in our e-mail box from the weekend typically are the more interesting ones we get. Previous favorites include a resident upset at his neighbor's barking dog, who left a message on voicemail of the dog barking at night, numerous calls regarding weekend conduct in the parks, or a recent request to "get somebody out of jail." This however was the first time that we have been graced by a correspondence inside a plastic Meijer bag tied to our door (see picture).

Right away I knew it was going to be something interesting, and more than likely the result of frustration on the part of a resident. Inside the bag was a one page note, which simply said “Gate on Dam Sucks!!” (see second picture). At first we thought it might be in reference to the gate we have at the end of Baseline Road restricting access into our lagoon property, but that wasn't the case.

Not to disappoint anyone (yes the note was anonymous), but the Village of Lake Isabella does not to any degree administer or involve itself in the maintenance of the dam. That falls to the privy of the Lake Isabella Property Owners Association. We contacted the LIPOA, to inquire if there was a new gate to the dam area. Sure enough there is. While the Village in no manner wishes to speak on behalf of the LIPOA, I can personally say that the bridge over the dam and spillway is an area that restricting the access to is long overdue in my opinion. The location has been posted with no less than 5 “No Trespassing” signs on each side of the spillway for several years, but until very recently the bridge over the spillway was not physically gated to prevent unauthorized access.

The dam complex is an area that is inviting to play in for people of all ages. When the water is high the current above and below the dam are extremely dangerous, and is not to be toyed with. The bridge itself was never intended to be a public thoroughfare, and the 20+ foot drop off from it onto solid concrete would do some lasting damage to a person of any age.

The note does bring up a very good discussion point regarding community recreation. Specifically that is the need for biking and pedestrian paths in the community. The Village has been aware of this need for at least four of years and has been attempting to secure a funding mechanism to fund this project without success. Our Village Charter limits our property tax collection to 1 Mill, as such the Village is prevented from addressing and funding needed projects like that and public safety requests. Village-wide we collect a total of $55,000 annually in property taxes. The estimate for a 2 mile path along Queens Way and El Camino Grande is over $200,000. We have applied again this year for 2% money from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and hope that the Tribal Council members will see the merit in our request and fund the beginning stages of this project which not only would increase the recreation in the community, but also address a glaring public safety need in separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic.

- Tim