Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adopt-A-Family 2009: Another Successful Year

On behalf of the Village of Lake Isabella and the Lake Isabella Property Owner’s Association we would like to thank you for your generous gifts. Your commitment to helping United Way and families requesting assistance in our community is sincerely appreciated.

Each year the Lake Isabella community continues to help families in need have a happier holiday season. Through United Way’s Adopt-A-Family program we have seen many lives changed for the better.

In particular the Adopt-A-Family program has enjoyed great success from Lake Isabella in the past years and 2009 was no different. Lake Isabella shined at its best bringing in over $1,300.00. Even though we all are aware that times are financially hard for many including ourselves. That is a little over a hundred dollars more than we brought in last year and our second highest donation total for this program since its start in 2004. In these tough times we were only anticipating half of what we raised in 2008 and yet our community rose above all else and surpassed all anticipated donations. Congratulations and thank you Lake Isabella residents and businesses!!

We not only helped a family of six through the United Way program we also donated items to the Weidman Food Pantry, bought $300.00 worth of toys for Toys for Tots and made cash donations to St. Jude’s and Salvation Army. What a wonderful season you all have given so many families with your donations this year.
The goal of the Village of Lake Isabella and the Lake Isabella Property Owner’s Association is to continue to make a difference in the Adopt-A-Family program. With the help of donations from supporters such as you we will continue to see improvements in all who are involved. Thanks again for your generous support of our efforts to the Adopt-A-Family program and we would like to personally thank the following:

George & Barbara Dunn
Dave & Kathleen Ochander
Roger & Jill Kerr
Todd & Audra Buchanan
Thomas & Marie Kelly
Ed Nurski
Arnie & Jan Griffin
Danny & Linda Tinker
John & Vicki Boyd
Elmer & Joan Ledbetter
Alain & Carol Shannon
Georgia Warner
Harry & Marge Kuhn
Dave & Kathy Shoemaker
Charlie & Jane Kiel
Bob & Ann Laraway
John & Janice Terry
Warren & Nancy Spragg
Richard & Brenda Donley
Larry Hiither
Dan Grisdale
Tom & Mary Henson
Max Pinkney
Alice Spayd
Dan & Mary Pattison
Rich & Toni Lacca
Arvil & Geraldine King
Lucky & Betty Jean Robison
George & Carole Colby
Bob & Sally Burgess
Bob & Ardith Gloden
Jim & Sandy Kenney
Bill & Arlene Dunham
Mike Scherba & Carla Gill
Bruce LaPointe & Beth Miller
Out of Bounds
Bud’s & Blossom Gift Shop
Twister Fitness
Bella’s Salon
Cindy’s Salon
Mt. Pleasant Excavating

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Finished Salt Barn





Our new salt barn has been finished just in time for winter! Today is the first day that we have done any winter maintenance. We spread 2 loads of sand/salt mix this morning to help melt away the ice and snow from last night.

This November the Village was able to get by without any plowing expenses. This is the 4th time in 11 winter seasons that has happened. A snow-free November sadly is no sure sign of what's to come. 2001-02 was a mild winter, also with a snow-free November. That year the Village only spend 217 hours plowing the 68 inches of snow we saw. However, 2006-07 also saw November come and go without plowing. That year we ended up just shy of 100 inches.

Your guess is as good as mine, but here's to hoping for a warm winter!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Info

The Village Hall will be closed on Thursday and Friday this week for Thanksgiving. All recycling pick-ups will be a day late due to the holiday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Open Memo to Charter Communications

November 19, 2009

Charter Communications
4670 E Fulton Ste 102
Ada, MI 49301


Dear Charter Communications:

Since the conversion to digital broadcast television signals in June, our residents have seen a reduction in the cable service offered to Lake Isabella. As we have previously discussed, this relates to our residents no longer receiving channel 20 (WPBN) as part of their cable package. While the loss of one station in and of itself is not a major issue, our residents have seen a message from Charter on this channel for over 5 months. The message is polite, but leads one to believe that the loss of this channel is only temporary and that Charter is trying to resolve the matter.

I believe that it is safe to say that WPBN is no longer part of our cable package at Lake Isabella and the channel deleted from the available listings. In light of this I am compelled to request that Charter elect one of two options. The first option is simple, a reduction in the monthly service fee to reflect losing 1 of our 48 stations. The other option which I feel could rectify this problem is to replace WPBN with another station.

I believe the second option would be in the best interest of our residents and also Charter. If Charter is serious about this option, I would offer to have a survey in our office for people to recommend a channel and forward the results to your office.

Granted, all of this may become a mute point if Charter is successful in obtaining federal stimulus funds to complete the long overdue upgrade of our cable system. In doing so I am confident that our residents would finally enjoy the level of service that most Charter custumers have.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,


Tim Wolff
Village Manager

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Salt Barn Taking Shape

The upper half of our salt barn is taking shape. Weather permitting the project should be nearly done sometime next week. Below are pictures taken this afternoon.







A Day in Lansing... Recap

Yesterday I spent the bulk of my day in Lansing. While there I visited the office of our State Senator, Alan Cropsey. Addressing important items of Village business with the our state and federal elected officials is part of my duties as Village Manager, it was not the single reason for my visit.

The Village of Lake Isabella is a member of the Michigan Municipal League. The MML has been advocating for the needs of local units of government since 1899. The position the MML takes on the numerous issues and bills which could impact local government start with recommendations from their policy committees. Presently the MML operates with six committees which make recommendations to the Board of Trustees. Lake Isabella is represented on two of these six committees.

Village President Pro-Tempore Dan Pattison is a member of the Municipal Services Committee. My visit yesterday was the committee I happen to be a member of. The Economic Development and Land Use Committee. This committee is charged with reviewing issues which relate to economic development (Brownfields, TIFs, DDAs...) and land use (planning and zoning).

In recent years the bulk of bills before the committee have dealt with economic development. Hot topics are Brownfields, Liquor Licenses, and help to communities which were connected to the auto industry.

While in Lansing yesterday our committee reviewed and made recommendations on several bills which are at various points in the process of becoming law. In addition to reviewing the bills currently in the legislative process, these committees are often turned to by members of the legislature for insights on how to improve the laws on the books. For example, one member of the legislature submitted a list of all the tax credits allowed under the Michigan Business Tax and asked for feedback on which ones are used by local units to help encourage job creation.

For more info on the MML and their committees, check out their website... http://www.mml.org/home.html

Friday, November 13, 2009

Proposal would change Michigan term limits law




By The Associated Press & Wikipedia
November 12, 2009

The electors of the State of Michigan adopted an amendment to the Michigan Constitution in 1992. This amendment limits the length of time any individual may serve as a member of the Legislature.

Pursuant to this amendment, one may not be elected to the State Senate more than two times or to the State House of Representatives more than three times. The result of this is that there is now considerable turnover in membership in both houses of the legislature.

Formerly, many seats were held by the same office holder for sometimes decades, which is still common for federal offices. Although measures to repeal the term limits amendment have been introduced in both houses since it took effect, none of them have yet reached a vote on the floor of either house or received serious deliberation in the legislature... But that may be about to change.

A bipartisan group of first-year lawmakers is the latest to propose changing Michigan's term limits law for state legislators. The proposal detailed Thursday would continue to limit lawmakers to 14 years in the Legislature but would allow lawmakers to split their time between the House and Senate or spend all 14 years in one chamber. If lawmakers approve the proposal, it would go before voters next August.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Village Office Closed for Veteran's Day


Our office will be closed on Wednesday, November 11th, in remembrance of Veteran's Day. We will resume normal business hours on Thursday.

Monday, November 9, 2009

ZBA Meeting Tonight

Just a reminder that tonight at 5:00 PM there will be a meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Three cases will be heard, with each having a public hearing. You can view each respective case file by using the hyperlinks in the meeting agenda found online.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Baseline Road




Several years ago the Village attempted secure funding for road improvements via our local "task force." This task force is comprised of Lake Isabella, Shepherd, Rosebush, the Tribe, ICTC, and the Road Commission. It is charged with developing a multi-year spending plan to allocate state and federal dollars. Lake Isabella had requested in the area of $100,000 for Baseline Road, and $300,000 for Birdie Drive. When funds are awarded from the task force, the local unit is allowed to use the funds to cover up to 80% of the construction cost of the project. The other 20% and all design and engineering costs are covered by the local unit.

In 2006 we actually made it onto the funding schedule. Baseline Road was planned for 2010-2011 and Birdie Drive for 2012-2013. Shortly thereafter we were notified that our roads did not qualify for the program as the roads had to part of the federal collector system. We were told by MDOT that this was done by the Governor to secure as much federal money as possible so more jobs could be created.

Since that time the Village has attempted to have those streets, along with El Camino Grande, classified as rural collectors per the federal system with no luck. Without a change in the status of these roads, they will remain off the list of projects from our local task force.

The Village's capital improvement plan, which is part of our budget, outlines projects for the next 6 years. Baseline Road has not been on our project list for the previous 2 budget cycles due to our inability to secure funding for the project. It was last in our CIP as a long range project (08-09 thru 2012-2013) in the 2007-08 Budget.

Our zoning ordinance requires that all new commercial development be serviced by a paved road (1212.57). In light of the lack of funding for the project, the Village intends to wait for the remaining 9 acres of "green" commercial space to be developed on Baseline Road, and require the developer of that property to pave it. This is a common practice, and is part of ensuring that adequate public services accompany development. Most recently this was done in the Village by the Isabella County Road Commission. When Whispering Pines sought approval for their Site Condo project, the County granted its approval only on the condition that River and Rolland roads be paved where it serviced the development.

So that's the scoop on Baseline Road. If there are any more questions or grading requests please call the Village Hall, email me directly at tim@lakeisabellami.org, or even stop by.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday's ZBA Meeting



On our website we've added a new option that we will be testing over the final months of 2009. Starting with Monday's ZBA meeting, we will be working on having more zoning related items online for public inspection. As a first test of this, we have included a digital link in the Agenda to each application under consideration Monday.

Check it out for yourself and let us know what you think. A copy of Monday's ZBA agenda can be found here.

For next year, we are thinking of going even further with digital documents with approved permits posted online. More PDF forms, and tables which we help will better serve you in your planning and zoning needs.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What is that Building?





Slowly taking shape is a new building set far back off from Coldwater Road. While the Drive-Thru addition to Isabella Bank is front and center for all to see, one other project is going on in the Village.

Located behind Mt. Pleasant Excavating the Village is having a new salt storage facility constructed. Last year environmental tests showed that our former salt building was causing ground water contamination. In reviewing the options, it became clear the best solution was to construct a new facility designed under the guidelines of the DEQ's and the American Salt Institute.

Once completed, the new building will triple the amount of salt and salt/sand mix the Village is able to store at one time. This will help reduce operating costs as our ability to buy in bulk will increase. The Village purchases road salt through a program run by the State of Michigan. Under the program local units of government are able to buy "early delivery" and "in season" salt shipments. Typically the early delivery runs about $5 per ton less than the in season salt.

In a typical winter the Village will use in the ballpark of 200 tons of salt. Most of which is mixed with sand to form a 50-50 blend. With our former building we were limited to shipments of only 50 tons. With our new building we should be able to accommodate 100 to 150 tons with ease.

In place currently are the cast-in-place walls and the asphalt pad for the site. In about 2 weeks the Village expects to see the side walls and roof arrive and the building completed. Below is a photo from another location with a building similar in style to what ours will look like once completed (except for the block walls).

Election Day



Today is the 2009 general election date. Lake Isabella residents have one issue to vote on. Our local school district has the renewal of their 18 mills non-homestead operating millage on the ballot. The 18 mills are levied against non-homestead residential properties and commercial/industrial properties. The polling place for Lake Isabella residents is the Weidman Elementary.

If you have never been there before, simply take Coldwater Road north until it turns into School Road. Keep going north and the School is on the right hand side just as you enter Weidman.

As is the case with all elections, please bring a photo ID in order to vote.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Michigan has a Budget...

Governor Granholm Friday signed the FY 2009-10 general government budget, which includes funding for revenue sharing to local government. In her accompanying letter, Granholm remained concerned about the cuts to local governments and the lack of revenue sharing funding provided by the budget. She again called on the Legislature to supply additional dollars and assure appropriate revenue sharing payments in support of critical local services.

The budget contains an overall 11.1-percent decrease to revenue sharing from FY 2008-09 (the reduction is to the combined total of constitutional and statutory revenue sharing payments to each community). When looking at only statutory revenue sharing (the dollars the Legislature can control), the FY 2009-10 budget averages to a 19-percent decrease to communities.

The total budget for revenue sharing to cities, villages and townships in the general government budget is $936.3 million. $622.15 million of that total is constitutional revenue sharing, and $314.15 million is statutory revenue sharing.

Lake Isabella is projected to have a reduction of 4.1% in the new state budget. The Village's total payments for the state's upcoming fiscal year is projected to be just over $78,000. This is just outside of the projected $79,000 that the Village's 2009-2010 budget was based on. According to the State of Michigan, the communities hardest hit in Isabella County will be the City of Mt. Pleasant and the Village of Shepherd, each seeing a cut of 11.1%. Mt. Pleasant's cut is projected to be nearly $315,000 which is more than the entire General Fund budget for the Village of Lake Isabella.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Return of the Tipping Fee!




Yesterday, the Michigan House of Representatives reintroduced a bill package to create a $7.50 per ton recycling and waste diversion surcharge. Less than 24 hours later, these bills were considered at 9 am today in the Great Lakes and Environment committee where two of them were adopted on a party-line vote.

House Bills (HBs) 5558-5559 and House Joint Resolution (HJR) MM together would create the $7.50 per ton recycling and waste diversion surcharge on landfill owners and operators. The bills would distribute the surcharge dollars back as grants for recycling programs and as a per-capita distribution to communities to promote the health, safety and welfare of residents. HJR MM would attempt to constitutionally dedicate this surcharge revenue for those purposes.

This package is the same as legislation that passed House committee last legislative session which the Michigan Municipal League (Which the Village of Lake Isabella is a member of) opposed. The tipping fee increase bill was adopted by the House early in 2007, but received no action in the Michigan Senate.

Testimony this morning from each bill sponsor indicated an interest in making sure communities are kept whole for any of their costs incurred by passage of these bills. HB 5559, which prescribes the distribution of the tipping fee revenue, remains in committee with the sponsor indicating a desire to work with local government units to arrive at an agreeable formula.

As drafted, the Michigan Municipal League has indicated opposition to these bills. To view the proposed legislation yourself, please visit the following links:

HB 5558
HB 5559
HJR MM

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lost/Found Dog






Today our Code Enforcement Department found a stray dog near 1060 Barcelona Drive. He is an friendly older black lab mix. He is altered, and was found with a faded collar, but no tags. He was taken to the Isabella County Animal Shelter around 1:00 PM.

Trick-or-Treating 2009


The 2009 trick-or-treating hours for Lake Isabella are 5-7 PM on Saturday. Be safe and enjoy!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Broadband Grant Update... From the AP

This was posted on the Detroit News' website this morning, and is a wire story from the AP. http://www.detnews.com/article/20091012/BIZ04/910120313/1022/Tough-choices-for-feds-giving-out-broadband-money

------------

Tough choices for feds giving out broadband money
Joelle Tessler / Associated Press
Washington -- The federal government will soon start handing out the first $4 billion from a pot of stimulus funds intended to spread high-speed Internet connections to more rural communities, poor neighborhoods and other pockets of the country clamoring for better access. The challenge is that the government has received $28 billion in requests.

So the reviewers at the Commerce and Agriculture Departments who will award the broadband money must make hard choices. The 2,200 applications each envision something different -- more fiber-optic lines, for example, or computer labs or municipal wireless networks. But they all promise that their proposals will create jobs and bring new economic opportunities.

What follows are snapshots of four projects representing a cross section of the broadband stimulus hopefuls. It's too soon to know which plans will win federal grants or loans, either in this round of funding or in the next, as the total broadband stimulus expands to $7.2 billion. Those that do get picked may not get the full amount they are seeking.

But perhaps one -- or more -- of these projects has a chance.

------

For the Coeur d'Alene Indian tribe in the Idaho panhandle, the stimulus money could mean a lifeline to the outside world.

The tribe is asking for $12.2 million for a ring of fiber-optic lines that could connect up to 3,500 homes on one side of its rural reservation, which is about half the size of Rhode Island.

Right now, the tribe's landline broadband options are limited. The local cable company has pulled out of the market. And the phone company, Verizon Communications Inc., offers digital subscriber line (DSL) service to just a small slice of the reservation.

Although the tribe launched its own wireless network in 2005 with the help of Agriculture Department funding, that network reaches less than half the reservation and slows to a crawl whenever too many people get online at once.

Valerie Fast Horse, the tribe's information technology director, says stimulus money would let the Coeur d'Alene Indians build a network that is "more stable and more reliable" and could deliver faster connections at lower prices.

The tribe's wireless network currently offers top speeds of 1.5 megabits per second, comparable to standard DSL service available elsewhere. But it charges users about $100 a month, about four times the standard price. The proposed fiber network would deliver a 20-megabit connection -- faster than what most cable subscribers get -- for $100 a month. Or tribe members would be able to get a 1.5-megabit connection for $25 a month.

Fast Horse envisions all sorts of uses for the fiber lines, including distance learning. Tribe members already use video conferencing to participate in classes at North Idaho College, about 35 miles away, when the roads are too icy to drive. But that requires them to travel to the tribe's education center, which has a landline connection to the Internet. A fiber-to-the-home network would let tribal members take classes without leaving their kitchens, she says.

It would also enable Coeur d'Alene members to consult with medical specialists around the country. And it would help the tribe preserve its language and culture, by allowing more members to access the tribe's video-sharing Web site, Rezcast. Among other things, the site features clips of powwows and online tutorials with tribal elders speaking their native language.

------

Clearwire Corp., a company pioneering the use of a next-generation wireless technology known as WiMax, is upfront about the fact that some markets don't make sense for telecom providers that need to show a profit.

So Clearwire is asking for $19.4 million to build a high-speed wireless network in a handful of poor Detroit neighborhoods that it otherwise might not serve anytime soon.

Although those neighborhoods have more than 800,000 people, high unemployment and poverty levels make for a tough business case. But federal dollars would change the equation, says John Bunce, president of the Clearwire unit applying for stimulus funding.

And with that seed money as a starting point, the company pledges to spend its own capital to expand the wireless network across metropolitan Detroit, including more lucrative suburban markets.

The company offers a range of wireless plans, including a $45-a-month package that delivers speeds averaging 3 megabits to 6 megabits per second. On the low end, the company offers a basic 1-megabit connection for $25 a month.

In Detroit, Clearwire says, it would also provide free and discounted accounts for poor residents through nonprofit partners.

------

In Appalachia, a nonprofit Internet provider called the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) wants help expanding a service started back in the dial-up Internet days so that people in the mountains of North Carolina wouldn't have to make a long-distance phone call to get online.

MAIN is asking for $2.5 million to extend its wireless network in Asheville, N.C., and several remote mountain communities. A sister non-profit is asking for $38.8 million to install fiber lines that would connect that network to the Internet.

Launched in 1996, MAIN today has about 1,200 dial-up subscribers, 400 wireless subscribers and several hundred additional customers who pay to access a Wi-Fi connection for a few hours or a few days at a time. Stimulus money would enable the non-profit to spread its wireless "cloud" to 11,000 additional homes in Asheville public housing projects and surrounding low-income neighborhoods.

Wally Bowen, MAIN's executive director, says the service would bring inexpensive mobile Internet connections -- with speeds of 3 megabits per second for $30 a month -- to a transient, low-income community that includes struggling artists and young entrepreneurs. Many of those people, he says, cannot sign up for the typical one-year or two-year contracts required to get the cheapest Internet rates from the big phone companies.

MAIN would also use federal funding to bring wireless connections to 1,700 homes in Graham County, an isolated, rural district that has no four-lane highway. Although the library and community college in Graham County's only town, Robbinsville, do provide high-speed Internet access, budget cuts have restricted the number of hours that those computer centers are open.

In addition, MAIN would use stimulus money to extend its wireless service to Mount Mitchell State Park, home to the highest point east of the Mississippi. That would allow campers, park rangers and visiting scientists studying acid rain and biodiversity to get real-time updates on weather and trail conditions.

------

Philadelphia is making its second run at a big municipal broadband project.

The city is asking for $21.8 million to connect police precincts, fire stations, libraries, housing projects, recreation centers and community organizations across three inner-city neighborhoods.

Allan Frank, Philadelphia's chief technology officer, envisions doing this with a combination of fiber lines and a wireless network. That would bring high-speed links to city buildings to handle municipal affairs -- while also enabling garbage collectors, emergency responders, fire inspectors and other city workers to stay connected using handheld devices in the field.

Philadelphia also has two other stimulus proposals: The city's public housing authority would like $2.4 million to place computer labs in housing projects. And the city's library system, working closely with community groups, is asking for $15 million to set up Internet training programs, supply laptops and install Internet connections to get low-income residents online.

Five years ago, Philadelphia partnered with EarthLink Inc. to blanket the city with wireless access, in hopes of providing cheap connections for poor neighborhoods. But that effort ended in failure: EarthLink concluded the venture had no business model and pulled out. Now the city hopes to buy the network assets that EarthLink left behind.

Frank says the stimulus money is an opportunity to "restart the conversation about what our technology future should look like." By retaining control over the project and focusing on broadband adoption as well as access, he added, the city would avoid the mistakes it made last time.

"This is a game reset for us," he says.

Friday, October 9, 2009

And "Thank You"


Yesterday afternoon the Village placed 4 traffic cones on Queens Way to mark a washed area of the road shoulder that we are having fixed. This morning, 3 of the 4 traffic cones are gone. Sure the cost to replace those cones will only be about $50 or $60, but that really isn't the point.

This isn't the first, nor the last time somebody will help themself to a traffic cone or even a street sign. Afterall, they do look great in your basement or garage! But I wonder, what makes lifting a few cones so meaningful? Heck, next time why not go for the grand-daddy of them all, a stop sign! Or how about the irony of stealing a neighborhood watch sign. I probably should not be offering up suggestions, even if it is in jest.

So thank you, to whoever you are I hope you enjoy your trophy cones. Oh, and if you happen to drift off the road and into the washout rut, sorry about that...

Sincerely,

Tim

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Feedback!



This week 2 Focus Group meetings were held to help the Planning Commission and Village Council in updating the Master Plan. Our current Master Plan was adopted in March of 2006. While we are less than 4 years into our plan, the Village feels that enough progress has been made on goals laid forth in the plan that an update is justified.

Several suggestions and goals were offered for consideration each night. Two of the most common feelings expressed were the following:

Appearance matters. For both future residential and commercial development. Ensuring future growth is harmonious with the current neighborhoods of the Village was a strong feeling from those who participated. Likewise, they also felt that how the Coldwater Road commercial area develops matters for not only what type of businesses come, but also how the area looks when built out.

Another feeling shared each night was that additional bike and walking paths are needed. And that to have a successful path network, there must be some means of crossing from one side of the community to the other by foot or bike.

Later this week the Village will be posting the PowerPoint presentation from the focus group meetings on our website at: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/masterplan.htm

The PowerPoint will also be shown again at Tuesday's Planning Commission meeting.

Still under consideration is whether or not an additional survey is needed as part of this update. Our current Master Plan was based largely on results from a 100+ question survey mailed to every property owner in late 2004. Over 600 of the nearly 1,600 surveys were completed and returned at that time.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Master Plan Focus Groups

On Monday and Tuesday, the Village will be hosting an evening focus group to gather feedback on our current Master Plan. Each session should last about an hour. If you are free and would like to attend, please call the Village Hall. Seats are still open for each session, but space is limited.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Countdown to Chaos...

As I write this blog on Wednesday afternoon, less than a week remains for the state to adopt a budget for the 2009-2010 year. Yogi Berra once said "It's like deja-vu, all over again." A fitting statement which describes the financial health of the state for the better part of the last decade. The exception was the last fiscal year when the state's coffers were showing signs of life, due in large part to the sales tax on gas (which was around $4 per gallon at the time and Lansing had based its budget on sales tax collection of $2.50 per gallon).

Where this year's debate is even more complicated than 2 years ago (when the state government actually shutdown), is that the easy cuts were made a long, long time ago. Cuts being discussed in Lansing currently effect programs and services enjoyed by large sections of the state.

As the clock continues to click down, the question is what is really on the chopping block? The hole in the state budget this year has been reported anywhere from 1.2 to 2.7 billion dollars. As of today only 3 of the 16 budgets have even made it out of the committee process. To further complicate matters, the Legislature has left the Governor out of the process. As a lame-duck there is little for her to lose if she sticks to her guns that vital cuts to services will not be tolerated. Thereby creating an impasse with the direction being taken by House Speaker Dillon and Senate Majority Leader Bishop.

More than likely a continuing resolution will be adopted giving the legislature another month to figure things out. If you'd like to keep score on your own about the process, I can recommend a couple of good places to frequent:

http://skoopsblog.blogspot.com/
http://www.countdowntochaos.org/

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Village Council Meeting 9-22 Topics

Due to the election on Tuesday, the regular Village Council meeting for the month was moved back 1 week. The meeting this Tuesday the 22nd, has several items on the agenda. The bulk of the meeting is geared toward the 6 public hearings that are scheduled. The first hearing is to establish single parcel special assessment districts for two parcels. These parcels were mowed by the village this summer due to failure to comply with our lawn height requirements. The assessment district is our means of recovering our cost to abate.

The other 5 public hearings all address proposed ordinances. A copy of the proposed ordinances and a summary can be found on our website at: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/Ordinancepage.htm

Other items of interest on the agenda include renewal of the Village Manager's contract, a naming request for the airport, deer management discussion, bond payments, and the upcoming liaison committee meeting with the property owners association.

Friday, September 11, 2009

We're Back...

Long time no see! Shortly after our last post, the Village Hall experienced some technical issues. During one of the thunderstorms in early July our office was hit by lightning (again). This was the second time in the 2 years that we have been at the 1010 Clubhouse location that lightning has knocked us off-line. Specifically, the wireless internet beacon on the roof was hit. Thankfully, when the building was built we had a universal surge suppressor installed with the electrical system. Both times this has limited the damage to only the point of entry, and nothing beyond.

To complicate the matter we were also in the process of moving our internet service from ISP to Winntel. But now everything is up and running. We have been able to update our website for a couple of weeks and will be returning to regular blogging.

Mark your calendars, this Tuesday, September 15th is the general election for Village Council. Polls will be open from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM. Please stop by the Village Hall and cast your vote!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Tax Bills are On-Line

The 2009 Village of Lake Isabella summer tax bills will be mailed out later this week. But did you know that you can view your bill on-line? Right on our homepage we have a link to "Tax & Parcel" information. This will take you to a page where you can search by name, address, or property ID number.

Once you have searched, select the parcel you are looking for. You view current and past tax bills, assessed value, equalized value, legal description, a breakdown of each part of the tax bill, and if google maps can find it the property on a map. Check the link out for yourself and see it before you get it in the mail by clicking here.

In addition to the tax info, just below that link on our homepage is another link for Special Assessment Payoffs. These payoffs are sorted in numerical order by the property ID number, and reflect a payoff amount after the 2009 Village tax bill has been paid. To view the payoff spreadsheet, please click here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2009 Election Update

The 4PM deadline for residents wishing to file paperwork to run for Village Council came and went today. Four seats on the Council are up for election at this September 15th election.

Those seats are currently filled by the only four people to file paperwork to run on the ballot this fall. Those four Council members are Village President Dave Torgerson, Village Treasurer Charles Kiel, Village Trustee Arnold Griffin, and Village Trustee Richard Lacca.

Terms to be elected at this year’s general election begin in January 2010, and run until January 2014. The other three terms on the Council were elected at the 2007 election, and have terms expiring in January of 2012.

The last day to register to vote for the election is August 17th. Residents wishing to run as a write-in may do so by filing the required paperwork by 4:00 PM on September 4th.

The polling place for this year’s general election will once again be the Village Hall, 1010 Clubhouse Drive, Lake Isabella, MI 48893.

Also, the Village is currently accepting applications for appointment to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. A copy of the application is on our website, and can be obtained at the Village Hall.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

South End Natural Gas & Newsletter Update

Consumers Energy held a public meeting tonight at the Weidman Community center to present the natural gas build-out. Around 30 people were in attendance. Those in attendance were informed that the cost to connect for this project is $2,250, and Consumers needs at least 90 customers to begin the project.

A complete copy of the informational materials presented at the meeting can be found on the Village's homepage at www.lakeisabellami.org.

Consumers will be mailing information materials to those were not in attendance tonight. In addition to the mailing by Consumers, the Village will be mailing information next week to everyone in the project area with information on financing from our local banks.

Unlike DTE, Consumers is not able to offer financing "in-house" for the project. As such, residents will need to pay the entire $2,250 connection fee up front. Check back for more updates.

Also, the Village's summer newsletter will be in the mail shortly. But, as an exclusive to our friends on the blog you can check it out for yourself on-line right now!

The link to the newsletter is: www.lakeisabellami.org/2009-Summer-Newsletter.pdf

...and, the link to the insert is: www.lakeisabellami.org/2009-Summer-Newsletter-Insert.pdf

We hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

July 4th Fireworks!

Fundraising is underway for the 4th of July Fireworks. As of Wednesday, June 17th we have raised nearly $4,000. This is over the half-way goal for this year of $7,000. If you are able, please consider making a donation to help cover the cost of this annual community event.

Lake Isabella is not alone in struggling to reach donation goals for fireworks. Below is from the Chicago Tribune:
(http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-july-fourth-half-off-17-jun17,0,2604382.story)

4th of July fireworks canceled in some towns, scaled back in others...

In years past, thousands of residents have gathered at Joliet Memorial Stadium and surrounding parking lots to watch the free fireworks display on the 4th of July.

If they want to watch this year, they may have to pony up.

Officials for the committee that raises money for the show said that, because of the recession, they are seeing fewer donations from city businesses. That, in turn, has forced them to do something they've never done before: ask residents for donations.

With less than three weeks until the holiday, the Joliet July 4 Celebration Committee is $9,000 short of the $23,000 it needs to cover the cost of the fireworks display and save the show, said Russ Slinkard, the committee's secretary.

"We've had several calls about it, and people [are] saying they want this to continue," said Slinkard, also president of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce. "We're confident that the community will respond."

In dozens of communities throughout the Chicago region, officials are struggling to find funding to keep their 4th of July celebrations alive. In some towns, parades, street festivals and shows that are annual community traditions are being canceled or scaled back because of budget cuts.

North Aurora already has scrapped its fireworks show and instead is helping sponsor Aurora's, officials said.

In Elmhurst, there will be no 4th of July parade this year, said Shazad Mehta, whose Elmhurst Jaycees struggled to raise money for the event after the city cut its financial contribution by two-thirds. "The money we were being offered wasn't good enough," he said.

For the first time in its 87-year history, the Evanston Fourth of July Association is charging participants to ride in its parade.

Even with the entry fee, the organization had to scale back its performance budget and shorten the fireworks display, said Joan Ducayet, the association's vice president and celebration manager. "This is how we responded to the economic challenges," she said. "We wanted to do everything we could to avoid canceling the parade."

But not all towns are tightening their red-white-and-blue belts.

Despite Chicago suffering through a budget crisis, there won't be any cutbacks to this year's 4th of July celebration, said Cindy Gatziolis, spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office of Special Events. The Independence Eve celebration will take place July 3 at the Taste of Chicago and will feature a pyrotechnic show coordinated to music.

Oak Lawn, celebrating its 100th anniversary, will have a parade with more than 100 entrants including military color guards, bands, clowns and antique cars, followed by a celebration at Centennial Park and a fireworks show at a local high school.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Natural Gas Update

DTE & Kent Power have dropped off several small bags of grass seed at the Village Hall. If you need additional grass seed to help restore your lawn from the gas project, please come by and get a bag. Bags will be given out on a first come basis!

Also, for our residents in the unserviced Consumer's Energy side of the Village, we are pleased to announce that you should be receiving a mailing shortly from Consumer's about building out that remaining section of the Village. The notice from Consumer's will have information on a meeting later this month in Weidman where Consumer's will present the project.

As was with DTE, Consumer's will need half of the 180 homes to "sign-up" for the project before they can proceed. Look back for more information later this month!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update - Airpark & Canterbury Estates

The Village of Lake Isabella is pleased to announce that this morning applications for "plat review" were submitted to the Central Michigan District Health Department for the Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates plats. Along with the application, copies of the soil testing report from this past September and a water quality report from this April were submitted. Copies of both reports can be found on our website.

Check back for future updates!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Burning Regulations Updated

At the May 19th Village Council meeting a public hearing was held on a proposed ordinance to update the burning regulations in the Village. In response to a mandate by the DEQ regarding composting operations, the Village is no longer able to operate our brush-dump site. With this site now closed, the only option on the table for Village residents was to take their materials to Mt. Pleasant. As such, the Village wanted to provide an alternative means of disposal to our residents. While the burning of leaves, trash, construction lumber, and hazardous materials is prohibited, residents may burn brush after calling 1-866-922-2876 to obtain a burn permit. Campfires and cooking fires are permitted without calling for a burn permit.

A complete copy of the adopted regulations can be found at: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/Code-624.pdf

In other non Lake Isabella news, the economic conditions in Michigan have created numerous issues budgets and public service. The residents of California are not fairing much better. A California law passed in 2004 allows the state to demand loans of 8% of property tax revenue from cities, counties and special districts; under this same law, the state must re-pay these loans with interest within three years. The borrowing can occur only after the State Legislature approves of the plan. The citizens of California though are speaking out about what this would do to local services in their community by creating a YouTube like site: http://saveyourcity.net/

In Michigan no such law exists. Where State government can most impact the delivery of local services is in the amount of revenue returned to local government. The program started in the early 1930s and was a trade off between State and local government. In return for giving up home rule collection of certain taxes, the state agreed to collect and distribute the funds back to local units of government.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Status Update - May, 2009

Seven months have passed since conducting soil tests in the five plats at Lake Isabella with restrictions to on-site well and septic systems. Since that time the Village of Lake Isabella and Rowe Professional Services have been working to address the restrictions in these plats. While there are five plats with restrictions, we feel that there are only three unique areas. Those three areas are; Lake Isabella North, Lake Isabella Airpark - Canterbury Estates, and Lake Isabella South - Lake Isabella Golf Estates II. The Village of Lake Isabella would like to take this chance to provide an update to the other stakeholders to the restrictions on the work done since the soil tests in September.

Lake Isabella Airpark - Canterbury Estates
The series of soil tests conducted in these two plats showed conditions suitable for additional on-site septic systems. The Village has since moved on to testing and documenting the potable water resources of the plat. In late April Rowe Profesional Services was able to obtain a number of water samples from wells in this area to test for nitrates, bacteria, and arsenic. The samples were sent to an independent laboratory in Howell for testing. We expect to have the results of those samples back in mid-May. Assuming the samples show no areas of concern, the Village will be submitting the collected information from the soil and water tests to your organizations with a request to lift the restrictions in these two plats.

Lake Isabella North
The soil tests conducted in September showed conditions that generally were suitable for on-site septic systems with the exception of the northwest corner of the plat. To address this area, the Village has drafted a lot swapping plan. This plan would allow a property owner who owns a lot that fails to be approved for an on-site system by the Central Michigan District Health Department to swap that lot for a lot owned by the Village of Lake Isabella that is suitable for development. Village would like to finalize this plan with the other stakeholders yet this spring. This would allow the Village to move on to testing and documenting the potable water supply in the plat. As an alternative option to on-site wells, the Village has requested that Rowe conduct a feasibility study to determine if acquisition and expansion of the Forest 2 water system, presently owned and operated by Isabella County, is a viable option to consider for potable water in Lake Isabella North. This is part of a larger feasibility study due back in July. A copy of the Village’s agreement with Rowe is attached which outlines the specifics of the feasibility study.

Lake Isabella South - Lake Isabella Golf Estates II
The soil tests conducted in September lead us to believe that on-site septic systems are a legitimate option for all lots in the three plats discussed above, that is not the case with Lake Isabella South and Lake Isabella Golf Estates II. Our tests in these two plats found wide-spread areas where unsuitable conditions exist for on-site septic systems.

In reviewing this matter further the Village has found at least 4 different studies which detail a sewer construction project to address the restrictions. While it is clear that in order to lift the restrictions some type of off-site treatment method is needed in this area of Lake Isabella, it is the opinion of the Village that a traditional sewer system may not be the only option worth consideration.

The Village has contracted with Rowe Professional Services to develop a feasibility study to address the geotechnical conditions with a series of decentralized wastewater systems. Attached is a copy of our initial concept map and also our agreement with Rowe to produce the study.

As part of our efforts in these two plats, the Village is also currently requesting qualifications from additional firms to conduct an independent review of this feasibility study. Our intent in doing so is to provide two independent and professional opinions to property owners that a suitable and less costly option is available to them compared to a traditional collection and treatment sewer system. Furthermore, with the four previous studies all directing action towards a traditional sewer system, we feel it is in the public’s best interest to undertake as much “due diligence” as possible in providing this alternative option for their consideration. Rowe’s feasibility study is due back by July, and we anticipate the independent review to be conducted by October of this year.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ready for the Switch?

The long talked about switch to digital TV is almost here (again). If you are wondering what stations might come in at Lake Isabella, we recommend the following link.

Not only will it give you a solid result for signals you can expect to get, but also has lots of good info on what options you have to increase your stations.

http://www.antennaweb.org

Thursday, April 30, 2009

US Census Bureau at Lake Isabella

Some of you may be wondering who the people driving around and talking to residents at Lake Isabella are. Well the answer is the U.S. Census Bureau. Every decade since 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has conducted a constitutionally mandated census to determine the number of people living within the United States and our territories.

We became a Village in 1998 and was able to participate in the 2000 Census. Here are the results that came from that Census:


2010 starts the begining of a new census count. One of the primary goals of the 2010 Census is to increase the national mail back response rate. This not only reduces the overall cost of the census, but it also increases the accuracy of the data. The Complete Count Committee is a major vehicle for planning and implementing this goal.

As always your answers to the U.S. Census Bureau are confidential and protected by law. All U.S. Census Bureau employees have taken on oath and are subject to jail term, a fine, or both if they disclose ANY information that could identify you or your household.

You can find out more about the federal laws surrounding the census and other relevant information at:
www.census.gov/2010census

Let's help get the most accurate information for the Village of Lake Isabella.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The History of the US Income Tax

Since it is tax day, we figured we could share a historical perspective on how the tax came to be. The following is "borrowed" from the Tax Foundation.

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The nation had few taxes in its early history. From 1791 to 1802, the United States government was supported by internal taxes on distilled spirits, carriages, refined sugar, tobacco and snuff, property sold at auction, corporate bonds, and slaves. The high cost of the War of 1812 brought about the nation's first sales taxes on gold, silverware, jewelry, and watches. In 1817, however, Congress did away with all internal taxes, relying on tariffs on imported goods to provide sufficient funds for running the government.

In 1862, in order to support the Civil War effort, Congress enacted the nation's first income tax law. It was a forerunner of our modern income tax in that it was based on the principles of graduated, or progressive, taxation and of withholding income at the source. During the Civil War, a person earning from $600 to $10,000 per year paid tax at the rate of 3%. Those with incomes of more than $10,000 paid taxes at a higher rate. Additional sales and excise taxes were added, and an “inheritance” tax also made its debut. In 1866, internal revenue collections reached their highest point in the nation's 90-year history—more than $310 million, an amount not reached again until 1911.

The Act of 1862 established the office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The Commissioner was given the power to assess, levy, and collect taxes, and the right to enforce the tax laws through seizure of property and income and through prosecution. The powers and authority remain very much the same today.

In 1868, Congress again focused its taxation efforts on tobacco and distilled spirits and eliminated the income tax in 1872. It had a short-lived revival in 1894 and 1895. In the latter year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the income tax was unconstitutional because it was not apportioned among the states in conformity with the Constitution.

In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution made the income tax a permanent fixture in the U.S. tax system. The amendment gave Congress legal authority to tax income and resulted in a revenue law that taxed incomes of both individuals and corporations. In fiscal year 1918, annual internal revenue collections for the first time passed the billion-dollar mark, rising to $5.4 billion by 1920. With the advent of World War II, employment increased, as did tax collections—to $7.3 billion. The withholding tax on wages was introduced in 1943 and was instrumental in increasing the number of taxpayers to 60 million and tax collections to $43 billion by 1945.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Earth Day 2009 Event

Lake Isabella residents are invited to celebrate Earth Day with the Isabella County Recycling Center. This Saturday, April 18th the Recycling Center will offer the following service free of charge:

*Free yard waste drop-off for Isabella County residents.

Also... the first 200 vehicles will recieve a free tree sapling.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Anyone Missing a German Shepherd and a Black Lab?



Around 12:45 this afternoon this friendly young German Shepherd male and an even friendlier Black Lab male were picked-up by our code enforcement staff on Putter Drive. Since both animals lacked tags, the Village took them to the Isabella County Animal shelter. The black lab had a small white scar under his left eye.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Understanding Proposal A


Proposal A was adopted by the voters of Michigan on March 15, 1994. Proposal A changed the property tax system significantly. The reliance on local property tax to fund schools was reduced via the voter approved measure. There is now a six mill levy for the State Education Tax (S.E.T.) levied on all taxable property. In addition to the six mill levy, local school district voters also can approve an additional 18 mills which is then levied on all non-homestead properties. The 18 mill levy is subject to the provisions of the Headlee rollback, linked to inflation and increases in the Taxable Value (TV) of the properties in the district.

The method of determining the amount of value subject to property tax also was changed via Proposal A. Homeowners may claim exemption from the local operating millage (18 mills) levied by the local school district. The exemption requires the homeowner to own and occupy the homestead.

A “Homestead Exemption Update” must be filed with the local assessor if the property is sold or transferred. A “Property Transfer Affidavit” form must be filed by the new owner whenever a transfer of real estate takes place. There is a penalty if this is not done within 45 days of the transfer. If the property changes use and is no longer a homestead, the owner must rescind the exemption claim in writing within 90 days. This includes the sale of the property and enables a new homestead exemption to be claimed where you purchase your new home.

Determining the value of the home to tax was also changed by Proposal A. The old system used State Equalized Value (SEV) while the new system uses Taxable Value (TV). Here are definitions for the various values shown on your tax assessment and tax bill:

Assessed valuation: This is 50% of the true cash value of the property as determined by the local assessor. This amount appears on the assessment notice.

State Equalized Value: This value is the result of county and state equalization of the assessed valuation after all factors are applied. If the factors are all 1.0000, the assessed value and the SEV are the same.

Taxable Value: This is the valuation the millage will be levied against. It is calculated by starting with last year’s taxable value, adding the inflationary increase allowed for the year, deducting the taxable value of any losses, adding the value of any new construction. The taxable value cannot exceed the assessed value. This value is also re-adjusted to the SEV upon sale or transfer of the property.

What this did over time was create two problems. The first was for local units of government that were limited on the amount of property value increase that could be captured on the tax roll. This was in fact one of the main selling points for Proposal A. By raising the sales tax from 4 to 6 percent, the measure tried to effect a trade off for local units of government. In that, the proposal was supposed to protect local revenue by limiting the capture from property values while increasing the capture from sales tax revenue.

This formula worked for the 6 years after Proposal A was adopted. In 2000 the State of Michigan began to withhold revenue sharing payments to local governments to offset state budget shortfalls. According to the Michigan Municipal League, this broken promise on the part of the state has cost local units of government over 3 billion dollars.

Proposal A also created problems for homeowners. Under Proposal A, the taxable value of property was capped in a measure to help protect senior citizens and others on a fixed income from large swings in annual tax bills. In previous years some communities experienced real estate difficulties in selling properties that had never been uncapped. This "pop up" can often times double or triple the annual tax obligations of a property if it is located in a hot real estate market, or has been owned by the same person for a long period of time.

In recent years a different issue has surfaced for homeowners. Due to state and national economic problems, property values have declined while the taxable value has increased. This frustrating problem has been caused by the capping of taxable value under Proposal A. As properties have increased in value over time, the taxable value has only risen at the rate of inflation, or 5%, whichever was lower. In recent years when assessed value has decreased, it has not done so to a point where it has been lower than the capped taxable value. Once the assessed value falls below the taxable value, only then will actual tax bills decrease.

This week is your chance to file protest letters with your local Board of Review on your proposed 2009 assessed and tentative taxable value. Last week you should have received a notice from your local township assessor about the proposed changes for 2009 with instructions on how to protest. If you have questions, please contact your assessor or stop by our office for help.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Village Council Meeting Recap

At the February Village Council meeting two main items of business were considered. The first was the second of the four required resolutions to renew the special assessment to provide fire and rescue services to Broomfield Township residents living at Lake Isabella. After holding a public hearing during the meeting, the Council approved the resolution to continue the special assessment renewal process.

This special assessment has been in place since 2000, and covers the properties in Lake Isabella that are in Broomfield Township. There are two more resolutions that are part of this annual renewal, and one more public hearing yet to be scheduled.

Also on the docket this month was the consideration of a proposal to conduct a feasibility study for decentralized wastewater systems in southern Lake Isabella. This study covers the following items:

- Researching the various technologies in this field, and which ones would be best suited for Lake Isabella.
- If the soils and technologies are suitable for these systems.
- If conditions are favorable, a concept design of the decentralized systems.

In addition to the wastewater research for southern Lake Isabella, this study also will include a review of cost of expanding the water system owned by Isabella County into Lake Isabella North. In order to amend the restrictions which limit the number of on-site septic systems and wells, one of the requirements is to provide a safe drinking water source. Presently Lake Isabella North is serviced by individual wells, this study will examine if suitable soil conditions exist to allow wells to be utilized plat-wide, or if the water system will need to be acquired and expanded.

This report is due back to the Village Council in July of this year. In addition to this report, the Village will be requesting qualifications from other professional firms in March to conduct an independent review of this report. This is being done to ensure that whatever the final proposal is for dealing with wastewater, it will be environmentally safe, and economically feasible should the property owners support moving forward.

A couple of quick Planning Commission notes. Due to several members being out of town, there will NOT be a meeting in March. Also, applications are currently being accepted to fill a vacancy on the Commission. An application can be printed off from our homepage.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fire Coverage Special Assessment FAQ

Our office has fielded a few questions regarding the public hearing on Tuesday, February 17th for the renewal of the Broomfield Township Special Assessment Fire District. In summary, here are a few of the questions we've seen so far...

Q. Why in this economic times are you proposing a new Assessment?

A. We are not... this is a renewal of the existing 1 Mill Assessment that has been levied since 2000.


Q. Why do only village residents in Broomfield Township have to pay the Assessment?

A. Village residents in Sherman Township pay an additional 1 Mill for fire protection services via a voter approved ballot issue.


Q. What if the district is not renewed?

A. Fire protection for Broomfield Township is provided by the Wheatland Department, located in Remus. As such, without the district in Lake Isabella service will revert back to the township.


Q. What benefits does the fire district provide to us?

A. Most importantly, decreased response time for emergency runs. As another vital benefit in these economic times, by being serviced by a higher rated and more local department home owner insurance costs are lower.


Q. Why is the Village holding a public hearing this year?

A. The district needs to be renewed and the village is required to hold a public hearing prior to proceeding. This process will be followed each year as the district is renewed.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update: Lake Isabella North

Last, but not least, we want to update the owners of Lake Isabella North on the results from the soil tests this fall. By and large we found very favorable conditions for on-site septic systems in the plat with one exception. That exception is the far northwest corner. In this area of the plat heavy soils and a seasonably high water table were found. While not wide-spread in the plat, the discovery of these geotechnical conditions does prevent us from moving forward with water the next step (water testing).

Presently the Village is working on two proposals to submit to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to address the geotechnical problems. One proposal is included in the feasibility study mentioned yesterday for Lake Isabella South and Lake Isabella Golf Estates II. We have requested that the proposal from Rowe include a decentralized wastewater system design for Lake Isabella North.

The other proposal being worked on is a lot swapping plan. This plan would reserve lots owned by the Village which have suitable conditions that could be swapped with lot owners who have poor geotechnical conditions. This option has several advantages. First, it would obviously be the most cost effective. This option would also allow lots to be kept by the Village as a natural green zone, thereby reducing the overall density of the plat.

Once the matter of wastewater treatment and disposal has been addressed, the Village can proceed with the next requirement in requesting the restrictions be lifted, drinking water. A series of well tests exactly like those being conducted this coming spring in Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates will need to be conducted in Lake Isabella North.

For more information on the progress on all of the plats, the Village will be providing an update i our next newsletter.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update: Lake Isabella South & Lake Isabella Golf Estates II

Last February when the Village began to examine the best avenue to proceed regarding the larger issue of the unbuildable lots, we requested feedback from those directly impacted by the restrictions. The strongest feedback received was from the property owners in Lake Isabella Golf Estates II and Lake Isabella South. Combined, nearly 75% of the owners in these two plats replied by stating that this is an important issue to them and wanted the Village to continue to work on resolving the matter. Nearly that same percent endorsed the current course of action of working together with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Central Michigan District Health Department.

Working together, this past September the Village, DEQ, and CMDHD conducted a series of soil samples to test whether or not suitable conditions existed for on-site septic systems. A major factor on whether or not on-site systems can be utilized is not only the soil, groundwater, and drinking water source (geotechnical) conditions, but also the size of the lots as platted.

It is the combination of these two factors (geotechnical information on soils, water table, and potable water & available space) which must be accounted for as proceed to work on amending the restrictions. The existence of geotechnical problems alone is not a death sentence to development as given ample space the technology exists to solve these problems. Given the average size of a platted lot in the Village of 75' x 150' ample space per lot is not our situation.

In order for the restrictions to be lifted, each individual lot must have some mechanism which would permit development. What we found this September were conditions that varied greatly across this area of the Village. Maps of these tests can be viewed on our website at... http://www.lakeisabellami.org/unbuildable_lots.htm

From the tests conducted in September a geotechnical situation is present which will prevent on-site septic systems to be utilized on all lots in these two plats. As such, in order for the restrictions to be lifted, some mechanism must be put in place which is environmentally suitable which would permit development.

To satisfy that requirement, the Village is presently working with our professional consulting firm (Rowe Professional Services), to develop a feasibility study which would address the geotechnical problems with decentralized wastewater systems. These systems, also known as cluster systems, work like a conventional on-site septic system but on a much larger scale. In a very basic nutshell, they collect either the grey water, or a slurry of liquid and solid waste, from homes and move the effluent to a community collection and treatment site.

These systems are becoming more and more common across the United States. The EPA estimates that over 1/3 of all new housing development uses some manner of decentralized wastewater treatment, and not a conventional sewer system. In the late 1990s a paradigm shift occured with the EPA and DEQ regarding the long term use of decentralized systems. Prior to that they were viewed at best as a bridge between traditional septic systems and conventional sewers. Today they are seen as a legtimate and long-term solution to wastewater management.

With that in mind we feel this new study is warranted. The previous four studies done all recommended that a conventional sewer system be built, and the wastewater be treated and dumped into the Chippewa River. The financial requirements of the previous plans have been a major factor in the lack of action or progress. Not to mention the depletion of our ground water drinking source by treating and discharging to a surface water body.

With the advances made in decentralized technology over the past decade, they have become more and more common. As this has happened they have become much more cost effective in the construction and operation when compaired to a conventional sewer system. In addition, becuase of their construction and design features, they do a superior job at protecting the evironment from leaks. This is a major concern for the Village as in no manner will an option be presented or considered which would pollute our surface or sub-surface water resources.

Ultimately, it will be the property owners of these two plats which determine the end result and if any type of wastewater collection and treatment system is built. We view our job and role in this situation as a facilitator of discussion and options. With four studies done dating back to the mid 1970s that directed the community towards a conventional sewer system, it is our position that an alternative solution be considered with decentralized systems.

The next step for the Village is to receive the proposal to conduct the study from Rowe. We expect this proposal no later than the March meeting. In discussing this aspect of the greater project of the unbuildable lots with Rowe, we have expressed our desire to see a final copy of this report this summer. In addition to the study, we have also requested that in Rowe's proposal the submittal of the report to an independent third party which specializes in decentralized systems to comment on prior to final submission and acceptance by the Village of Lake Isabella.

For more information on decentralized systems, please visit any of the following links:

http://www.epa.gov/owm/septic/pubs/onsite_handbook.pdf

http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Water/W04-21_ValuWstWtr.pdf

http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/ID/ID-265.pdf

http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/ocrm/plan_tech/docs/septic_rtc_exec.pdf

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update - Lake Isabella Airpark & Canterbury Estates

In early December, the Village mailed the following update to all owners in the Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates plats.

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Dear Property Owner:

As you may know, this past September the Village of Lake Isabella, Rowe Incorporated, the Central Michigan District Health Department, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality conducted a series of soil tests to review the plat-wide restriction which limit the number of on-site well and septic systems in the five plats at Lake Isabella which contain this restriction.

The Village would like to sincerely thank those of you who allowed us to enter your property to obtain soil samples. We were granted permission to test numerous locations in these two plats, and ultimately sampled soils at 16 locations. The results of these samples, along with the results from the other three plats with similar restrictions were drafted by Rowe Incorporated and submitted to the Village in mid-November.

The final report, which is available on our website (www.lakeisabellami.org) in its entirety, details the following regarding Lake Isabella Airpark & Canterbury Estates:

Observed Conditions (Page 2)
All of the sixteen borings revealed soils conducive to the construction of septic fields based on the criteria set forth in the rules for Subdivisions of Land when solely looking at the soil characteristics. The sandy soils extended well below the six foot depth, and no signs of mottling, or detrimental seasonal high groundwater elevations were observed.


Recommendations (Pages 3-4)
Since the field observations in September, 2008 revealed no undesirable soil characteristics within these two plats, Rowe Incorporated would recommend the next step of testing be completed to determine whether the restrictions should be lifted, or amended to allow the construction of septic fields and further development. Per the rules contained within the Subdivisions of Land document, section R 560.406 states that a potable water supply should be confirmed. This testing could be completed by obtaining samples from existing residential wells within the two plats, then sending the samples to a laboratory to be analyzed for potable water quality. If in fact, the samples all were determined to be suitable for human consumption, and there is an isolation layer between the absorption field and the aquifer, it would be our recommendation that the Village pursue having the restrictions lifted, or amended to allow additional septic field construction and further development. In addition to the above, each lot owner would still be required to have their septic field and potable well construction permitted by the Central Michigan District Health Department.


These tests confirmed the long held belief that the soils in these two plats are suitable for additional on-site septic systems. With a positive report regarding the soil conditions, the Village would like to move forward with the final required area of testing. Per the statewide regulations of subdivisions explained in the previous paragraph, the Village must show that there is a safe drinking water source. In order to confirm that a safe drinking water source exists, the Village will need to obtain samples from external spigots of a representative number of wells in the Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates area for testing. All samples must be collected on the same day to insure uniform conditions for laboratory testing. To test for safe drinking water conditions, the laboratory will test for bacteria, nitrates, and arsenic.

It is our belief that an aquifer suitable for drinking water does exist below the surface of these two plats. From reviewing well log information, we believe this aquifer is located at a depth of about 80 to 100 feet. Obtaining current water samples to verify this belief, coupled with the favorable results from the soil tests, will allow the Village to submit sufficient information to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to request the restrictions be removed.

For parcels in these two plats that have wells, a representative from the Village will be contacting you after the start of the New Year to discuss obtaining a water sample. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the soil test results, or water sample request please call the Village Hall.

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An Open Letter to Our Congressional Delegation on the Stimulus Package

January 27, 2009

The Honorable Carl Levin
269 Russell Office Building
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-1388

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
133 Hart Senate Office Building
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 228-0325

The Honorable David Camp
341 Cannon Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-9679


Dear Congressional Delegation:

I would like to thank you in advance for your consideration on this matter, and the work you respectively do for mid-Michigan. I am writing you today to express my deep and sincere concerns over the proposed stimulus package that is currently under debate by Congress. This proposed stimulus package has been seen by many in the local government field as a long awaited infusion of desperately needed funds. The state of local government finance in Michigan has been on a long and sharp decline over the past decade and these new funds could go a very long way in helping us build excellent communities with a defining sense of place, which in turn only makes Michigan as a whole stronger.

This is a fact that I am certain you are all too familiar with. When the new President began to speak in terms of massive funding for public infrastructure my colleagues and I began to collectively sigh in relief. For years local government professionals such as me have been forced to cast aside numerous projects which build stronger communities in Michigan due to our economic condition. The concept that the new President embraced prior to taking office seemed to be a move in the right direction. A move that would help improve communities across Michigan. Sadly, the beast that is Washington is close to wasting over 825 billion dollars in a manner that will do little to anything to help communities or their local government.

The bottom-line is that local governments are ready and willing to implement an economic stimulus program with speed and efficiency. We can do so in virtually any policy area that is a priority to the Congress and the new Administration, including the environment, housing, public safety, transportation, education, and basic infrastructure. We perform these functions everyday. The same simply cannot be said with any certainty with respect to our State government. As Lansing finds itself heading towards another billion dollar budget battle, it is critical for the health and recovery of our state that any money from the Federal government be utilized in the quickest and fullest extent possible.

The proposed stimulus package has two critical flaws which will deeply dilute the impact that it could have. These two factors which will reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of implementation and the impact on the greater economy must be remedied in the legislative process. They are simply the following: (1) non-supplanting rules and (2) passing funds through the states.

Non-supplanting rules served a rational purpose in their original construction. They were applied to programs where the federal government had an explicit objective to expand services in a particular policy area. For example, the COPS program was intended to put more police officers on the street. By prohibiting supplanting, the federal government sought to avoid funding services that would have otherwise been provided without federal support.

That is not the local government environment today. Given the dramatic decline in local tax revenues, local governments are forced to reduce services and employment levels. In Michigan alone, we have lost over 2,000 public safety professionals in the past decade. The Michigan Municipal League and National League of Cities have done countless research on this very problem. The facts are clear; a majority of local governments in Michigan are less able to meet service demands based on the current funding formula than they were just a few years ago.

This is an extraordinary situation that goes well beyond local government, which is exactly why many feel an immediate economic stimulus package is needed, especially for Michigan. Federal assistance is critical to mitigate the decline in current service levels and repair the needed infrastructure to market Michigan in the new economy. Non-supplanting requirements in a stimulus package would render the assistance virtually unusable, especially in areas where it is needed the most.

The second issue is passing stimulus aid through states. To the maximum extent possible, I strongly urge the Congress to use mechanisms that directly fund local governments and avoid the non-value added step of passing the funds through the states. Direct funding will get the funds on the streets quicker and more efficiently.
The context of this point is best viewed via a memo dated January 21st by Kirk Steudle, the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. While the proposed stimulus bill requires 45% of transportation funds to go to local agencies, MDOT plans to use the existing structure of Act 51 to distribute the funds. The formula for Act 51 allows only 25% of funding to be sent to local agencies. This is a unquestioned attempt at the State of Michigan to high-jack $175,000,000 away from local agencies with needy projects that are "shovel ready" to cushion the blow on the state budget due to our economic downturn.

For another example, please consider the community where I live and work, Lake Isabella. We are small community of about 1,500 just outside of Mount Pleasant. I presently have nearly $10,000,000 worth of "shovel ready" projects that would grow our local economy, reduce energy costs for my residents, protect the environment, enhance recreation opportunities, increase property values, and ultimately improve the overall quality of life enjoyed by my community. None of these projects are pork or wasteful. You will not find a “mob museum” coming to Lake Isabella, but rather new roads, natural gas, high speed data services, decentralized wastewater systems, recreation paths, and LED streetlights.

With quick funding from the Federal government, I could have all of my projects completed in 2009. The impact from just Lake Isabella alone would be noticeable in mid-Michigan, and I assure you that we are not alone. With zero doubt, I can assure you that if the proposed stimulus package is adopted “as-is” without reconsideration of the two points above, Lake Isabella and most communities in mid-Michigan will not see one dime of funding via the traditional channels.

Sincerely,

Tim Wolff
Village Manager

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Unbuildable Lots Update & 1999 Village Minutes

Two items to note today. First, yesterday we uploaded all of the minutes of the Planning Commission, Village Council, and Zoning Board of Appeals from 1999 on our website. That leaves only 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 as the only years which need to be uploaded. Our goal is to have all of them online by the end of February. When this is completed we may just be the first municipality to have ALL of its minutes online... granted it helps that we only have 10 years worth of minutes.

The second item is an update on the unbuildable lots. We are going to provide updates this week based on the work done late last year in the following order:

Wednesday, January 28th - Lake Isabella Airpark & Canterbury Estates
Thursday, January 29th - Lake Isabella South & Lake Isabella Golf Estates II
Friday, January 30th - Lake Isabella North

We are breaking the updates up into these individual reports as it is the best representation of the work. While there are five individual plats with restrictions which has resulted in lots being "unbuildable," the issues are not uniform across the five plats. As such, we have been able to connect Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates together and Lake Isabella South and Lake Isabella Golf Estates II as to the nature of their unique challenges and the resulting work needed to resolve the matter.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's Your Take on Fences?

...He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence...

From the poem "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost...


Last Tuesday, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on a proposed update to the Village's zoning code. The proposed ordinance is a comprehensive update and overhaul of the regulation of fences in the community. This past summer the Planning Commission formed a sub-committee to review the matter. The proposed ordinance is the work of that group.

At the public hearing on the 13th no comments were offered on the proposed ordinance. With that in mind the Planning Commission has asked for additional input prior to making a recommendation to the Village Council. Your input can be submitted either in person at the Village Hall, via phone, or e-mail (office@lakeisabellami.org). Or, even better... if you're free on Tuesday night, February 1oth, stop on by the Planning Commission and participate in person!

The proposed draft represents a major substantive change in the regulation of fences by the Village of Lake Isabella. To make a comparison of the proposed changes with the current regulations would be done in vain. The proposed draft should be viewed not as an amendment to the current regulations, but a full replacement of them. In summary, the new regulations establish the following:

... A section has been added which details the purpose of the regulations.

... The definitions have been greatly expanded to reflect the different items regulated in the draft. This includes several pictures and illustrations for examples of fences.

... The General Regulations have been expanded. This includes prohibiting fences within 3 feet of property lines unless a professional survey is submitted and written consent from adjoining owners is granted.

... The placement and construction of fences is regulated in section 1222.07. This section prohibits chain-link fences in residential districts, regulates pet enclosures, and garden fences. A list of prohibited materials is also included.

A copy of the proposed draft can be viewed at the following link: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/Proposed%20Ord%202009-01.pdf

A copy of the current fence regulations can be viewed at the following link: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/Code-1222.pdf

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Natural Gas Update

To begin with, I want to apologize for the delay in posting an update on the gas project. Some of you may know that my wife and I celebrated the birth of our first child in December. With that change in my home life, I took 3 weeks off from work to help mom and baby settle in.

Tim

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Words has been passed to us that the last sections of gas main on the east side of Queens Way will be pressure tested and gassed by Thursday, January 22. As such, if you live on any of the streets to the east of Queens Way please feel free to contact DTE at your pleasure to schedule your conversion.

The gas mains along Duquesa and Barcelona are also completed and gassed. Weather permitting the last areas of main should be completed in the next 2 to 3 weeks. As of yesterday, DTE reported that 120 of the 260 hook-ups were completed. The map below shows a rough estimate of where the project is. In total there is only about 25% of the 2" and 3" mains let to be installed. If you have questions or concerns, please contact our office or DTE directly.