Monday, November 15, 2010

La Niña is Coming


In the past couple of weeks both the Morning Sun and Grand Rapids Press have had front page articles highlighting the weather pattern shaping up for this winter, La Niña. La Niña and her more well known and common brother El Niño are terms used to describe the water temperature around the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

The weather pundits from Sunday's Grand Rapids Press all predict a pretty snowy winter, with most of flakes coming after the first of the year. They also agree, as did The Morning Sun, that there will likely be big swings in the weather this winter.

In looking over our weather records at Lake Isabella we've seen La Niña winters four times since the mid-1980s.

Since the 1984-85 winter we've seen on average just under 70 inches of snow per winter here Lake Isabella. Three of the four La Niña winters resulted in below normal snow totals. Those winters were:

1988-89: 49.5" of snow
1998-99: 59.0" of snow
2000-01: 62.6" of snow
2007-08: 96.4" of snow

What stood out in the 2007-08 winter was that the snow was steady all winter. In tracking the number of hours the Village plowed that winter, we saw a fairly event hit for December (19 days), January (20 days), and February (19 days). We also saw an early break from winter with only 20 hours spend on snow and ice control in the month of March.

So, what are we in for this winter. Nobody honestly knows. Many factors play into what will happen to our weather. AOL.com describes it this way. "While extreme events are more likely to occur during a La Nina year, it's not as if La Nina gives long-range forecasters all of the answers to the winter forecast.

Although periods of warmth are likely in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, very cold air will also not be too far north of these regions, so occasional periods of extreme winter weather there are still possible. This is true particularly for the upper Midwest, which will be on the boundary between persistent cold to the west and persistent mild air to the south. The winter could go either way or fluctuate back and forth depending on the precise location of the dominant northern jet stream
."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Sirolli Method of Economic Development

As many of you know the Village is working on an update to our Master Plan. In this update one new section will be focused on economic development. When that phrase is cast out it has many meanings. The typical Michigan mindset has been to go after a major industrial project with a big-game hunter mentality.

Statistics show that a community, if lucky, will land one of those big-game projects about every 25 years. Not the greatest model to build a diverse and sustainable economic base in a community.

Other schools of thought focus on creating a vibrant and diverse small business base and connecting them in a network which feeds and supports the members. It is a system coined "economic gardening." The idea is that it is not the government's role to pick winners and losers in terms of the business climate and tax structure, but rather the government's role is to create an environment friendly to starting businesses.

As with a garden, when seeds are planted in the spring the gardener has no idea how big each plant will be, or even if it will yield a crop. Yet the gardener provides water, fertilizer, and care equally among the garden.

As part of gaining more insights into creating an environment friendly to small business start-ups I attended a training session today in Ludington with Ernesto Sirolli.

The Sirolli method is very simple, yet very effective. It focuses on what he calls the "Trinity of Management." Mainly there are really only three key elements that go into starting and growing a business:

1. An excellent product or service.
2. Incredible marketing/sales skills.
3. Strong financial management/control.

The Sirolli method also expands upon this by noting that it must be done by a team. The team can be organized in many ways, but that no single one person can equally do all three with great passion. They call this the myth of the solo entrepreneur.

Sirolli studied 100 of the top companies and found that none of them were the product of a single person filling these three vital roles. For example:

Microsoft: Bill Gates & Paul Allen
Ford: Henry Ford & James Couzens
Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg & Eduardo Saverin
Walmart: Sam & Helen Walton
McDonalds: Richard & Maurice McDonald (and you thought it was Ray Kroc)

When Sirolli sums it up, it works like this. Business works best when people are in vital roles that are passionate about that specific kind of work (one of three from above).

For more information about the Sirolli method, you can check them out online at... http://www.sirolli.com/

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Classic Great Lakes Storm

On November 10, 1975 last major shipwreck happened on the Great Lakes. The famous sinking of the mighty Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship, and all 29 crew members, were lost in an epic fall storm that hammered the northern lakes.

Novembers storms are legendary on the lakes. In 1913 the lakes were battered by "The White Hurricane" with winds gusts over 80 MPH. That storm was the convergence of two major low pressure systems. One coming from Colorado and the other from Alberta.

The resulting low pressure measured 28.60 inches. Barometric pressure is the measurement of how much downward force the atmosphere has, and often is measured with the use of a mercury barometer that has a starting reading of 30 inches.

Historically the lowest pressure points are found with hurricanes and other major tropical weather systems. The 1979 super Typhoon Tip in the Pacific recorded a record low of 25.63 inches. In the United States the 2005 Hurricane named Wilma holds the record at 26.05 inches.

Back to the Great Lakes, in addition to the 1913 storm, there is one other major storm that stands out, the Blizzard of '78. In late January of 1978 two major low pressure systems merged over the Ohio Valley and left a mountain of snow. The open water of Lake Michigan resulted in lake enhanced snow in Muskegon of over 50 inches from the storm. Chicago saw nearly 60 inches. For nearly 3 days the storm crippled the region.

According to Wikipedia, the pressure reading from that storm is the lowest recorded non-tropical reading in United States history. The pressure went as low as 28.28 inches in Cleveland, and was even lower in parts of Canada where reports have it as low as 28.05 inches.

The storm that sank the Fitzgerald had a low pressure that measured 28.88 inches, or 978 hectopascals (hPa). At 9 AM this morning the low pressure moving towards us from Minnesota was already at 971 hectopascals, or 28.67 inches. Below is a barometric map showing this.



So what are we in for? According to Bloomberg.com the following:

A storm stronger than the one that sank the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 is expected to slash across the Midwest tomorrow, snarling Chicago travel and whipping waves as high as 30 feet across Lake Michigan.

A line of severe thunderstorms driving wind gusts of 50 miles per hour will arrive in Chicago before 10 a.m.

The storm will be a cyclone, with projected central pressure, a measure of its strength, forecast to be 28.35 inches. That would make it the second most severe system to strike the Great Lakes, according to the weather service.

The Edmund Fitzgerald sank on Nov. 10, 1975, in Lake Superior about 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan, with a crew of 29, according to the Great Lakes Ship Wreck Museum's website. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts in 1976.

The Edmund Fitzgerald storm had a central pressure of 28.95 inches. The strongest storm recorded in the lakes was the “Great Ohio Blizzard” of January 1978, which had a central pressure of 28.05 inches.

In comparison, when Hurricane Earl reached Category 3 strength in the Atlantic at the end of August, its central pressure was recorded at 28.20 inches.

Great Lakes cyclones are not like hurricanes. The storms gather their energy from the Jet Stream and the upper atmosphere, while hurricanes draw their power from warm ocean waters and have the strongest winds wound tightly around the core.

Aside from the heavy thunderstorms that arrive with the first blast of wind, the weather will be drier and breaks may appear in the clouds.

In advance of the storm, the weather service has issued a high wind watch from South Dakota to Ohio. A watch means sustained winds of as much as 40 mph are possible. In addition, a high wind warning, meaning gusts of 75 mph are possible, has been issued for parts of northern Illinois and Wisconsin, according to the weather service.

A storm warning has been issued for Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Website Traffic

Ever wonder how traffic the Village's website gets? Well here is a breakdown of some tracking data from the past 6 months.

Total Page Views: 24,093
Total Unique Visitors: 6,343
Total Visitors: 13,224
The page most often viewed... The History, Maps, and Profile.

In addition to the above, we have some international traffic. Over the past 6 months 840+ hits have come from Russia and nearly 150 from Japan.

The numbers for the past 6 months in terms of total page views is on par with previous years. Our site annually gets about 50,000 page views, which isn't too bad for a community our size.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Speed Limit Changes



Drivers this afternoon on El Camino Grande will notice an increased speed limit. After conducting traffic speed studies in 2009 and again in 2010 the Village Council adopted a Traffic Control Order this summer to raise the speed limit. The studies were done to comply with Public Act 85 of 2006. Under PA 85, specific requirements were set in law by which speed limits need to conform to in order to be legal.

These requirements are for the speed limit to be set either at the 85th percentile, or at a speed in relationship to the number of access points on that particular roadway.

This spring and in the autumn of 2009 speed studies were conducted on El Camino Grande, and on Queens Way between Pequena Drive and Drew Road. After conducting the studies last autumn, the Village worked with the Isabella County Sheriff and the Sherman Township Marshal to increase presence this spring to see how that impacted the overall speed of traffic.

This was done as the 85th percentile numbers in 2009 would have resulted in a speed limit of 45 MPH for both areas. Conducting the study again this spring after a period of increased enforcement allowed the Village to determine if the numbers from 2009 were due to driving conditions which warranted an increase in the speed limit, or to poor enforcement.

When the study was conducted the results showed a decrease of about 4 MPH from the 2009 numbers.

After reviewing the data and options, the Village Council elected to adopt the lower of the two possible changes to each road. The options on El Camino Grande were 35 MPH based on access points, or 40 MPH based on the 85th percentile. On the section of Queens Way studied the two options were 40 MPH based on the 85th percentile or 55 MPH based on access points.

The signs on Queens Way are scheduled to be updated later this week. Once the new speeds have been posted the Village plans to conduct a third speed study to ensure accuracy later this year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blood Drive this Wednesday

This Wednesday at the Village Hall there will be Red Cross blood drive. Earlier this year the Lake Isabella and Shepherd entered into a friendly little wager to see which community could host a blood drive with the most blood donated. Shepherd held their blood drive in August, and now it is our turn.

If you are able, please come out on Wednesday between noon and 6 PM. Refershments will be provided.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yard Waste Bags for Sale

In case you missed our last newsletter, the Village has begun accepting bagged yard waste & leaves at our new property on Coldwater Road. Bags must be purchased from the Village Hall, and are sold in bundles of 5 bags. A single bundle will cost $5, and 5 bundles will cost $20.

Bags can be brought back to our property on Coldwater Road for disposal. In addition to bagged yard waste, we are also accepting truck loads of brush for $5.

In our first month of operation we've seen about 10 loads of brush come in and sold about 10 bundles of bags.

Next year we hope to expand the program to include scheduled pick-up days.

Friday, August 13, 2010

July Financials Online & August Council Meeting

As our recent newsletter reported, in response to feedback from the Master Plan survey the Village has begun posting our monthly financial reports online. The page, which can be found by clicking here contains our monthly financial report, all of our previous audits, copies of our financial policies, and links to other sites with municipal fnance information.

Also online is the agenda for Tuesday's Village Council meeting. At the meeting the Council will be considering action on three ordinances. The first is an update to the ZBA section of the zoning code. The second ordinance allows the Council to enact no parking zones via resolutions. The last one is the sign code update. In addition to these three ordinances the Council will also be introducing an update to the zoning code to address medical marijuana.

Copies of all the proposed oridnances can be viewed on our website by clicking here. A complete copy of Tuesday's agenda can be viewed by clicking here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

7-13 Planning Commission Meeting Recap

At Tuesday's Planning Commission the Planning Commission dealt with two ordinances. The first makes technical changes to the Zoning Board of Appeals section of the zoning code. In summary the changes clarify the review and application process, set standards for review, defines conflict of interest, and sets grounds by which a variance may be voided. It also places a 1 year time frame from the date of granting by which work approved by a variance needs to be complete. A copy of this ordinance, which has been recommended to the Village Council can be found by clicking here.

The ordinance for Tuesday's meeting is an update of the home occupation and home business regulations in the zoning code. The ordinance also establishes regulations pertaining to medical marijuana operations in the Village. This ordinance was introduced and a public hearing set for August 2nd. To view a copy of the ordinace, please click here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lots and Lots of Streets

In our most recent newsletter we had a did you know feature where we pointed out that geographically Lake Isabella is the second largest village in the state. The largest "village" in terms of square miles is the Village of Mackinaw City. While the name has "city" in it, the town is actually a village form of government... confusing I know.

As part of updating our Master Plan the Village is creating a spreadsheet of all Villages in the state to see where we rank in terms of several key factors like population, taxable value, streets, and growth since the 2000 Census.

In terms of streets Lake Isabella once again comes in second. Our street network of 26 miles is second only to the Village of Franklin. The two tables below show the largest 15 village street networks in Michigan, and also the networks of other municipalities in our region.

Top 15 Village Street Networks


Mid-Michigan Region Street Networks

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010-2011 Budget Message

The Village's fiscal year begins on July 1st. As part of the annual budget I prepare a message which details the operations of the Village, budget projections, and long-term fiscal picture. Below that message for the 2010-2011 Budget.

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As required by the Village charter in section 9.03 the annual budget requires narrative messages which outlines the budget, and discuses the overall financial condition of the Village.

As a local unit of government, the primary goal of the Village of Lake Isabella is to provide essential services in the most cost effective manner possible. The Village’s budget and Capital Improvement Plan reflect this goal by taking a multiple year approach to fiscal planning. Over the past five years, the Village of Lake Isabella has adopted several financial policies which reflect this approach to budgeting. The Village has in place a “Fund Balance Policy” which establishes a minimum balance which must be maintained at the end of each fiscal year in the General Fund, Major Streets Fund, and Local Streets Fund. In addition to this policy, the Village also has policies which cover purchasing, credit cards, investing, and capital assets.

This sound approach to managing the public’s funds has allowed the Village of Lake Isabella to remain largely free from the financial problems that other local units of government have faced in recent years.


The above chart shows Operating Millage levies for other local municipalities and other selected communities around the state. As you can see from the chart, the Village of Lake Isabella not only has the lowest levied millage in the region, but also the entire state. This is due to the cap placed in the Village’s charter which limits the general operating tax to 1 Mill.

With all of the fiscal constraints placed on the Village of Lake Isabella, the service package provided is limited. Village residents receive the following services done in part or in whole through the Village government:


Fire/Rescue Service
Bi-weekly curbside recycling
Home Rule Zoning
Code Enforcement
Street Maintenance & Paving
Road Shoulder Mowing
Snow Plowing
Rental Housing Inspections
Animal Control
4th of July Fireworks
Lake Isabella Municipal Airport
Village web-site and blog


Additional services and projects can be provided upon the approval of funding from the residents of the community, or if provided for via special assessment. Examples of this which are not included in the budget would be the construction of a decentralized wastewater system in southern Lake Isabella if so requested by the property owners in that area, and recreation paths which the Village has been seeking grant monies to fund.

The numbers used to comprise the revenue forecast for the Village are based on a prolonged economic downturn for the state. Research has shown that Michigan is presently in a major economic transition, and the decade long depression is not simply a reflection of normal market swings.
The state has failed to invest in an highly educated work force and has established a government structure which addresses long-term funding for state and local budgets. In terms of revenue sharing, the 2010 census should have a positive impact on the Village.

The Village is one of about 30 villages in the state which does not receive statutory revenue sharing funds. Receiving only constitutional revenue sharing dollars does free Lake Isabella from having funds cut or limited by the legislature. The funds received by the Village are solely depending on the actual collection of sales tax by the State of Michigan.

The 2010 Census should also have a positive impact on Act 51 revenue based solely on an increase in population. However, due to the numerous discussions on amending how transportation is funded, the long-term Village budget does not reflect the likely increase from the census.

Based on the current revenue structure of the Village and the State of Michigan, the long-term financial condition of the Village becomes questionable the further the budget is projected. With a 1 Mill tax cap placed in the Village Charter, the Village is crippled in terms of raising funds to ensure long term fiscal stability.

A serious look will need to occur in the next 3 years on amending the tax cap if the Village is to continue to provide a high quality of life. With the Village’s high taxable value, a small increase does account for a significant increase in funds. The adjacent chart shows the difference that the same millage rate (without Headlee roll-back) generates for municipalities in Isabella County.


The chart above clearly shows that to generate the same revenue as other local communities, the Village can raise a significant amount of revenue with a small rate. In terms of dollars, to raise the same funds as the Village of Shepherd presently does with their 13 Mill levy, the Lake Isabella would only need to levy 5.28 Mills.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meeting Change

There will not be a Planning Commission meeting this month. The public hearing that was scheduled for the meeting regarding the ZBA ordinance will be held at the July 13th meeting.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Findings from the Michigan Public Policy Survey on the Federal Stimulus Package



The University of Michigan's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) surveyed local government leaders from over 1,300 Michigan jurisdictions as part of the 2009 Michigan Public Policy Surveys (MPPS). Lake Isabella is one of those 1,300 communities that has participated in the research. Below is a link to a new report from the MPPS on Michigan local officials' opinions on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) -- also known as the Federal Stimulus Package-- and its impact on local economies and the economy of the state as a whole.

http://closup.umich.edu/publications/mpps/mpps-fiscal-stimulus.pdf


A majority of Michigan local officials think the Federal Stimulus Package has not helped yet and will not help in the long term to improve local economic conditions in their communities.

In the Spring of 2009, 61% of local officials predicted that funding from the Stimulus Package would not significantly help improve their communities’ economic conditions, while only 14% predicted that it would help. By the Fall of 2009, when asked how much the Stimulus Package had helped improve their communities’ economic conditions to-date, 67% of officials reported “not at all” while only 1% reported “very much” and 21% reported “somewhat.”

Even among those officials who are most optimistic about the program – including Democratic leaders, officials whose communities had already received funding in the fall of 2009, and officials from larger jurisdictions – fewer than half believe that it helped improve their local economies.

Local officials tend to be more optimistic about the long-term impact of the stimulus package on the overall state economy rather than on their own local communities.

Early in the stimulus’ implementation, nearly half of Michigan officials reported that they felt uninformed about the funding opportunities available to their communities. Among officials who did not apply for stimulus package grants, many indicated lack of information as a primary reason.

Last fall, about 80 percent of all Michigan jurisdictions said they hadn’t received any stimulus funds through existing formulas (one major stream of funding). Most of these jurisdictions were among the state’s smallest communities – those with a population less than 1,500 people. In addition, these smaller communities often did not apply for grant-based funding (the other major stream of funding) due to lack of resources or concerns that too many strings were attached to the funding.

Among the most important reasons officials cited for believing that the stimulus would not help included concerns that the respondent’s jurisdiction would not receive funds, that the money would go to bigger cities, and that the Stimulus Package was a temporary solution to a structural economic problem.

The findings in this report represent but one small part of the Michigan Public Policy Surveys. CLOSUP released a report on the key findings from all of the data collected in the Fall 2009 MPPS last month, and we are currently collecting data for the Spring 2010 wave.

The MPPS is conducted by CLOSUP in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Municipal League, and Michigan Townships Association. The survey program is unique in the country as the only ongoing survey targeted at every unit of general purpose local government across an entire state. Funding for the MPPS comes from CLOSUP as well as a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The views reported here are those of local Michigan officials and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Michigan or the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

For more information, contact MPPS staff by email at closup-mpps@umich.edu or by phone at 734-647-4091. More information is also available on the CLOSUP website at http://closup.umich.edu.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

MDNRE Considering Changes to Burning Law

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is asking the public to weigh in on proposed amendments to update the open burning provisions of the air pollution and solid waste management rules.

DNRE officials said the changes would eliminate the current exemption that allows for the burning of household trash, including plastics, rubber, paper, shingles, treated wood and other household waste.

If adopted, the change would mean that the state would no longer consider the open burning of residential trash an approved method of disposal under state regulations after April 1, 2011.

The changes would not effect the provisions that allow for the burning of leaves, brush and other yard clippings, nor would they prohibit recreational campfires.

The DNRE said that by eliminating the exemption in the state rules, local communities will be better able to enforce existing ordinances or use the state rule as a means to address trash burning complaints when an ordinance does not exist.

The proposed amendment and additional information about the changes are available online at www.michigan.gov/openburning, click open burning rule amendments.

Reduced exposure to this type of pollution should benefit the thousands of Michigan citizens with respiratory conditions and also lessen the wildfire and property fire risk posed by this type of burning, reads the website.

Written comments on the proposed rule amendments are being accepted until June 4.

Comments can be mailed to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Air Quality Division, P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, Michigan 48909 7760.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recapping Tonight's Counicil Meeting

Tonight was one of the shortest meetings in recent memory, lasting all of 23 minutes. With 3 of the 7 members absent, the agenda was kept short and action held to only 4 critical items of business.

The Council held a public hearing regarding the annual renewal of the Broomfield Township Fire Protection Special Assessment District. For our residents who also live in Broomfield Township, the Village has levied a 1 Mill special assessment for the past decade to contract with the Nottawa-Sherman Fire Department. Broomfield Township has elected to contract with Wheatland for their protection. The difference to our residents is 2 full points in protection and lower home insurance policies. In addition the Nottawa-Sherman Fire Department is located in Weidman, where Wheatland is in Remus. The resolution to confirm the special assessment roll was adopted.

The Council conducted a second public hearing on a proposed ordinance to conditionally rezone a large parcel of land near Baseline Road. This location has a proposed development which requires a Light Industrial land use designation, and is currently zoned commercial and residential. This is the same parcel that the Council approved the creation of a PA 198 Industrial Development District at their April meeting. The ordinance was adopted, and will go into effect 7 days after the notice of adoption has been published.

In addition to these two items the Council approved the 2010 Fireworks Contract for the July 3rd show with Freedom Fireworks of Mt. Pleasant. The Council also adopted a resolution to begin the special assessment process on a property on Carmen Drive where the Village was forced to abate a public blight nuisance.

The minutes form the meeting should be online by the end of the week. As always if you have any questions please feel free to call or email the Village Hall.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Michigan Municipal League Supports Online Notices

The following was posted on the MML's blog:

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Yesterday, the League, along with Ann Arbor city clerk Jackie Beaudry, testified in support of legislation to allow public notices to be published online. The legislation would require a notice be posted in the municipal clerk's office as well as one of the following: the municipality's website, a newspaper's website or on a PEG channel. A substitute was adopted today that allows it to also be posted on TV or radio stations.

The city of Ann Arbor amended their charter by vote of the people at the end of last year to allow for public notice posts on their website due to the Ann Arbor News going out of business. They have an email notification option you can sign up for on the website so as soon as the site is changed an email is sent to notify (much like when a new post is posted on this Inside 208 blog). People don't have to proactively look at the website now because they can be automatically notified. They have not received one request for the public notices to be mailed, hard copy, to anyone and have not received one complaint by operating this way.

As would be expected, the press associations opposed the legislation because of what they feel would be a lack of transparency. We countered that argument by saying this would actually bring about more transparency since it expands public access to legal notices. We also informed the committee of the cost savings impact this would have on local communities. A poll of about a quarter of our membership showed it costs about $1.2 million for those communities combined to publish public notices. That doesn’t include the city of Detroit, who had their clerk, Janice Winfrey, testify today that they have already spent $350,000 this year on public notices. The committee did not vote the bill out today because of lack of time for people wanting to testify. Please continue to contact your legislators and ask for their support on this legislation.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What's that Noise???



On the first Thursday of the month, weather permitting, Isabella County tests the early warning sirens across the county. Isabella County currently has 29 outdoor warning sirens located throughout the county. The purpose of these sirens is to warn the public of impending disasters or emergencies. The sirens will be activated immediately to warn the public of an emergency situation. These sirens indicate to the public to go inside and turn on the radio or television for further information.

Isabella County's outdoor warning system utilizes two distinctively different siren signals, each with their own meaning. The SEEK SHELTER signal is a siren sound that slowly increases to a steady sound lasting 3 to 5 minutes. The ALL CLEAR signal is described as an intermittent air horn sound, also lasting 3 to 5 minutes. When testing the sirens each month, the county first sounds the seek shelter signal, then the all clear signal.

For more information on Emergency Management in Isabella County, including a map of the siren locations, and audio files of what each signal sounds like, please click here.

A Follow-up to Yesterday's Morning Sun Opinion Page

In the Wednesday edition of the Morning Sun, the opinion page featured a piece by Mike MacLaren of the Michigan Press Association about proposed legislation which would allow local units of government to publish certain notices electronically and no longer in print media outlets.

His article can be read by clicking here.

I would like to provide a reply to this opinion piece to tell the other side of the story. The debate centers around a package of bills introduced in the Michigan House (HBs 5845, 5847, 5848, 5853, 5916, and 5917) which would allow local units of government the opinion of providing certain notices electronically.

It is completely understandable that the print media industry would be opposed to these bills. Mr. MacLaren, as the director of the Michigan Press Association, is no doubt duty bound to rally against the reality that these proposed bills embrace.

Newspapers across the state have seen their circulation decrease dramatically over the past decade. This in turn has reduced revenue to the point where several papers have either reduced the number of print editions (Saginaw News & Detroit News) or have ceased printing all together (Ann Arbor Daily News). Allowing local units of government the option to provide notices in a more user friendly manner is a reality that needs to be embraced in this day and age.

The way in which people get their news has changed, and is evolving away from the print media format that our current notice system is designed to embrace. For example the Detroit News has seen a 12% decline in circulation over the past 6 months, while its website traffic has increased by nearly 26%. While not all local units of government have implemented web 2.0 technology, many here in mid-Michigan not only have fine websites, but also blogs, facebook pages, and many other useful means to connect and dialogue with their community.

This package of bills allows local units of government to place a notice at the office of the clerk, and at least one on their website, a local newspaper’s website, public access channel, or printed in a newspaper of general circulation. The choice is entirely up to the local unit of government, and in no way would prevent a local unit of government from publishing any notice in a printed paper.

Let us also not forget that several of the notices local government must provide are to be done via a first class mailing to impacted property owners and residents in addition to the required published notice, this proposed legislation does nothing to remove any mailing requirement. Sadly Mr. MacLaren is either unaware of this, or has chosen to ignore it when he states; “under the guise of ‘saving money,’ this legislation will make it easier for municipalities to have special meetings, make assessments, and other important decisions with nearly no knowledge or input from the community.” I’m sorry, but that is an outright falsehood.

There is no legal requirement that notice of a special meeting be published in a newspaper. The Michigan Open Meetings Act only requires that notice be posted at a public location at least 18 hours in advance of any such special meeting. There is absolutely zero connection between this proposed legislation and the ability of a local unit of government to schedule a special meeting.

Furthermore, local units of government cannot levy assessments without conducting a public hearing, which by law they are required to provide notice of to property owners via first class mail. This notice must include the location, time, date, and purpose of the public hearing and must also inform residents how they can object and file appeals to the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

Since Mr. MacLaren feels there is a public obligation to post notices in print media outlets, it is fair to ask if there is also a public obligation for the print media to make print editions free to all members of the public in order to get said notices? Also, many of the required notices that local government is required to publish are to be done only once in a “newspaper of general circulation” in that community. But what happens to the community where there is no longer a newspaper of general circulation?

It is also confusing where he stands with respect to the cost saving aspect of this matter. He begins by noting that the City of Niles spends more on umpires for summer baseball than it does with respect to public notices. Yet, towards the end of his argument notes “yes, newspapers charge to publish these notices. More often than not, they are done at cost. But without these notices more than a few community newspapers face the specter of shutting down.”

It is a far stretch to claim that the cost is so low that more money goes to umpires in one community that it should not be an issue, yet the revenue from these notices is so vital that without them papers could under. It sounds more like a public subsidy for the print media industry.

All of that aside, the issue is what is the best manner to serve and inform the public while best using the limited resources that so many local units of government must accommodate for. I ask you, what is more convenient. Allowing residents the ability to find public notices on a website or public access channel which are posted for multiple days, or a onetime publication in the legal section of your local newspaper?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Sunset Worth Sharing

For those of you who may have missed sunset tonight, it was a good one!







LIPOA Annual Meeting is Today @ 2 PM

The 2010 LIPOA Annual Meeting will be held today @ 2:00pm at the Weidman Community Center located directly East of (behind) the IGA grocery store. Several director positions are up for election, and also voting to adopt a new set of bylaws for the organizational structure of the LIPOA.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Tour of Homes Reminder


This years Women's City Club tour of homes features several Lake Isabella Homes.

Come and see the following homes of Lake Isabella residents:
Sharon and John Bishop, 1004 Pueblo Pass
Dana and Doug Moore, 1037 Pueblo Pass
Angie and Aaron White, 1051 Pueblo Pass

Additionally, the tour features the home of Mary and Tom Harter, 1375 N. Cedar Pt Drive, Coldwater Lake, and the 2010 Mt. Pleasant Area Tech Center Voc House at 1520 Batson.

Tickets are $8 if purchased in advance, and $10 the day of the house walk. Proceeds help to fund music scholarships and community projects. To purchase tickets in advance please call Terrie Zitzelsberger at 989-506-8586.

Also, the Morning Sun did a feature on this last weekend, click here to read the full story.

We hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Golf Carts & 4 Wheelers on Village Streets



Our office has recieved a handful of concerns this month about riding golf carts and 4 wheelers on Village streets. Under Michigan law, golf carts and 4 wheelers are allowed on public roadways under very limited and specific conditions. The infomartion below is taken from the Michigan State Police website:

Question: My husband saw on the news last night that golf carts were allowed on the county roads in the state of Michigan. Is this true? What are the requirements?

Answer: In late 2006 the Michigan Legislature amended MCL 257.25b and modified the definition of a low speed vehicle to conform to federal standards. As now defined, a low speed vehicle means a four-wheeled motor vehicle whose speed attainable in 1 mile is more than 20 mph but not more than 25 mph on a paved level surface.

A low speed vehicle must be equipped as necessary under both federal standards and Michigan Law. The operator must have a driver license and the vehicle must be registered and insured.

If the cart is not equipped as necessary it can only be legally operated on a highway, (including the right-of-way) in the state of Michigan, under very strict circumstances. In those situations it would be defined as an ORV found in MCL 324.81101 and circumstances allowing operation on a highway while severely limited can be found in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, MCL 324.81122 .


Question: I have a Polaris Ranger and want to know if I can operate it on the road?

Answer: A number of questions have been received concerning use of motor vehicles on public roads that were originally designed and manufactured as off-road vehicles. As a result, we published Traffic Services Section Field Update #21 that discusses this question in depth.

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Under Michigan law, certain counties, and municipalities within those counties are able to create ORV routes. In doing so, it can become permissible to allow golf carts and other ORVs on public roadways. A map of those counties is below.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mark your Calendars... May Tour of Homes--Sunday May 2nd 1-4 pm

This years Women's City Club tour of homes features several Lake Isabella Homes.

Come and see the following homes of Lake Isabella residents:
Sharon and John Bishop, 1004 Pueblo Pass
Dana and Doug Moore, 1037 Pueblo Pass
Angie and Aaron White, 1051 Pueblo Pass

Additionally, the tour features the home of Mary and Tom Harter, 1375 N. Cedar Pt Drive, Coldwater Lake, and the 2010 Mt. Pleasant Area Tech Center Voc House at 1520 Batson.

Tickets are $8 if purchased in advance, and $10 the day of the house walk. Proceeds help to fund music scholarships and community projects. To purchase tickets in advance please call Terrie Zitzelsberger at 989-506-8586.

We hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another Red Flag Day



From the National Weather Service:

...RED FLAG WARNING IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM EDT THIS
EVENING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN GRAND RAPIDS HAS ISSUED A RED
FLAG WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM EDT
THIS EVENING.

STRONG SOUTHWEST WIND GUSTS OF 25 TO 30 MPH ARE EXPECTED BY
AFTERNOON. THIS WILL COMBINE WITH TEMPERATURES AROUND 80 DEGREES
AND LOW HUMIDITY AROUND 25 PERCENT. THIS WILL CREATE A HIGH FIRE
DANGER.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF
STRONG WINDS...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL
CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Strong Showing So Far!




Lake Isabella residents should be very proud, as of today, you are #2 in terms of your census return rate at 76%. Deerfield Township is leading the county with 81% returned. Here is how things are shaping up for the major governmental units in Isabella County:

81% Deerfield Township
76% Lake Isabella
74% Clare
71% Rosebush
69% Shepherd
68% Mount Pleasant
61% Union Township

The information above is provided by the Census Website, which has a pretty cool map to show you the return rate of each area. The map can be found by clicking here!

Right now Michigan ranks 5th in terms of the return rate with a statewide 69%. Isabella County is just 1% above the statewide rate at 70%. Two adjacent counties, Gratiot and Midland have very strong rates each at 78%.

Again, excellent work, and lets strive for 100%!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Burning Ban in Effect



...RED FLAG WARNING IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN GRAND RAPIDS HAS ISSUED A RED FLAG WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING. THE FIRE WEATHER WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

GUSTY SOUTH TO SOUTHWEST WINDS OVER 20 MPH WILL COMBINE WITH TEMPERATURES IN THE 80S AND RELATIVE HUMIDITY VALUES BELOW 25 PERCENT TO CREATE VERY HAZARDOUS FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Return to Golden Pond



When Lake Isabella decided to list the features of the community and register with the Michigan Film Office, nobody could have expected such fast results. The bedroom community of just under 1,000 homes has been chosen as the setting for the recast of On Golden Pond.

The original which was shot in 1981 won three Oscars and starred Hollywood legends Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, and Dabney Coleman. Based on a 1979 play of the same title, On Golden Pond focuses on an aging couple Ethel and Norman Thayer, who spend each summer at their home on a lake called Golden Pond.

During the year the story takes place, they are visited by daughter Chelsea with her fiancé Bill and his son Billy in tow. The film explores the often turbulent relationship the young woman shared with her father while growing up, the difficulties faced by a couple in the twilight years of a long marriage, and the special bond forged by Norman and Billy while his father and Chelsea spend time in Europe.

The new installment is set to reexamine those relationships as Chelsea and Bill are now in their golden years, living nearly the same life that her parents did. Casting is in progress with Hollywood gossip site TMZ reporting that recent Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges being a front runner for the role of the elder Bill. Rumors also abound regarding the casting of Chelsea.

Universal Pictures has been stedfast that since the original resulted in Academy wins in Best Actor and Best Actress, the new installment needs to carry the same magnitute of acting ability. The studio, while not publically hinting at their wish list, is reported to be seeking either Sissy Spacek or Susan Sarandon for the role of Chelsea.

24 front man Kiefer Sutherland is also rummored to be cast as Billy Jr., now in his middle ages and with a family of his own. Also in the mix will be local casting calls for extras and other minor roles in the film. No exact date has been set for the start of filming, but late this fall is a possibility.

In addition to this breaking news, the Village would like wish everyone a very happy April's Fool Day!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2% Grant Applications

This morning the Village is submitting funding requests to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe totalling $316,921.20.

Foremost among the requests is just over $200,000 for a walking/bike path along El Camino Grande and part of Queens Way. The Village has sought funding of this project in the past without sucess.

In addition to this request. The Village is also seeking funds for various road paving projects, and maintenance of the runway.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monday's ZBA Meeting



On Monday at 5:30 the Zoning Board of Appeals will consider an appeal request to establish a non-conforming parcel on El Camino Grande. To view the application, please visit our website where the Agenda has been hyperlinked with the application. As is with all agendas, they can be found on our Meeting Minutes page.

Under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, public notice of the meeting was mailed to all property owners within 300 feet of the location. Before taking action on the request, the ZBA is required to conduct a Public Hearing. If you have comments that you would like submitted pertaining to this case, you are free to attend the meeting or send them via email or snail mail to the Village Hall prior to the meeting.

To go directly to the Agenda, please click here!

Monday, March 22, 2010

An Open Letter to Senator Cropsey

March 19, 2010

Senator Alan Cropsey
S-8 the Capitol
PO Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909

The Honorable Alan Cropsey:

Over the past 2 years I have met with your staff several times to discuss the Village’s lack of statutory revenue sharing dollars. As your staff is aware, Lake Isabella is the only Village of our size in the state which does not receive statutory revenue sharing dollars.

This is due to the expired formula that was once used to set the dollar amounts returned to local units of government. In 1998 the formula was amended and future payments were based on a percentage of that unit’s 1996 capture.

Lake Isabella incorporated as a Home Rule Village in 1998. As such, we did not have any capture in 1996. For the past 14 years our residents have been short changed due to the circumstances of a no longer used formula.

Recently the House Appropriations Committee agreed to a 1% increase in statutory revenue sharing for the upcoming fiscal year. While this is still very early in the budget process, I cannot help but ask for your support in correcting the omission of Lake Isabella from statutory revenue sharing dollars.

In working with your staff we estimated that a community the size of Lake Isabella should receive anywhere between $25,000 and $30,000 annually in statutory revenue sharing dollars. For a community of nearly 1,000 homes to not receive anything more than the constitutional minimum in terms of revenue sharing is very troubling. It places us at a competitive disadvantage in terms of building a quality community within your district. The money that has been historically denied to us could have been used for worthwhile projects such as parks, roads, and of course public safety.

In light of the current situation, I would like to request that your staff schedule a meeting where I can present our situation to you directly. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Tim Wolff
Village Manager

Monday, March 15, 2010

County Deer Pickup Begins...

Trusties from the Isabella County Jail, along with sheriff’s department employees, began picking up dead deer over the weekend.

Trusties collected and disposed of 45 animals Saturday and Sunday, Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said.

They will continue to pick up the animals until the weather warms and results in health and safety issues, the sheriff said.

Anyone wanting to have an animal removed is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 989-772-5911 to report the location of the deer.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Winter Plowing Budget

The weather outside might make one feel that spring is here. At worst spring is just around the corner, but for our road budget purposes we are still in what we classify as our winter season. So far this winter has been a very welcome break from the trend of the past 6 winters. Below is a charter and a graph showing where we are at as of March 1st.



Monday, March 8, 2010

Library Meeting tonight in Weidman

As many of you may know, the future of the Weidman Library is in question. For several years the library has been operated under contract by the Chippewa District Library. Operational funds come from the township, Isabella County, and court fines. In November, the District Library informed the County that when their current contract expires in the fall of 2010, they would no longer operate the out county locations.

Tonight at 7 PM there will be a public hearing before the Sherman Township Board to hear feedback from the community on what they wish to happen to the library. The Township Hall is located at 3550 N. Rolland Road, which is just west of town off of Airline Road.

More information, please read this article from the Morning Sun.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lake Isabella Airpark & Canterbury Estates Update



Yesterday afternoon documents were recorded which lifted the restriction of on-site well and septic systems allowed in 2 plats at Lake Isabella. Lake Isabella Airpark, originally platted in March of 1975; and Canterbury Estates, originally platted in May of 1978, had limits which resulted in only 30 of the 80 lots being able to obtain permits for on-site wells and septic systems.

Due in large part to access granted by individual lot owners; the Village, working with Rowe Professional Services, was able to conduct a series of soil and water tests in these plats. The tests, which began in 2008, involved documenting the soil composition, water table depth, and subterranean water flow to determine if the conditions were favorable for additional on-site systems.

The tests were done with the oversight and cooperation of the Central Michigan District Health Department and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The tests showed that the conditions in this area of the Village were acceptable for additional on-site systems.

The amended building and use restrictions for each plat now show no limit on the number of permits available, but do require new wells to be drilled to a minimum depth of 80 feet. This was done to ensure that there was adequate distance between the drinking water source and wastewater discharge.

With the restrictions lifted in these two plats, the Village is left with only 3 of the 17 plats having similar restrictions. Soil tests were conducted in those remaining plats at the same time as the tests for Lake Isabella Airpark and Canterbury Estates in 2008.

The results of the tests in those plats showed areas where additional on-site systems may not be environmentally appropriate.
In light of the information obtained from those tests in 2008, the Village commissioned a study by Rowe Professional Services to examine ways to address the issue in each remaining plat. This past autumn Rowe presented their findings to the Village Council.

Upon receipt of the study, the Village Council selected a firm to conduct a peer review of the report. This peer review was recently presented to the Council at their meeting in February. Copies of both reports can be found on the Village’s website.

In an effort to increase the public’s knowledge of not only the historical nature of the problem, but also provide transparency for the efforts being taken the Village created a separate page on its website to highlight this issue. The Village is planning to include a full update on this project in its upcoming spring newsletter.

###

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Master Plan Survey Update

The following was released to the Morning Sun last week. We have been told that it will likely run on Monday or Tuesday of this week.

------

As part of updating the Master Plan for the community, the Village of Lake Isabella has launched an online survey. The survey of about 40 questions can be taken by clicking on the link provided on the Village’s homepage (www.lakeisabellami.org).
On January 29th the Village mailed nearly 1,600 postcards to all property owners and non-owner residents inviting them to take the survey online. As of the middle of this week about 275 surveys have been completed.

The link to the survey has been on the Village’s website since the start of the month, and will continue to be on the Village’s website until the start of business on Monday, March 1st.

For residents who are unable to take the survey online, the Village has printed copies which can be mailed to them, or picked up at the Village Hall. So far about 20 residents have stopped by to obtain a printed copy of the survey.

By going online with the survey as opposed to traditional printed surveys, the Village will be able to save between $3,000 and $6,000. In addition to this cost savings, since the surveys are counted as they are submitted, results will be ready as soon as the survey closes.

The last survey conducted by the Village was done in early 2005 as part of the last Master Plan update. That survey, which was a traditional paper survey, saw nearly 600 responses. That high rate of return ensured a margin of error of about 3%. With the current number of replies the margin of error for the current survey is just over 5%.

Since the 2005 survey, the community has seen numerous changes which were guided in large part by the direction provided from that survey and resulting Master Plan. High among the residents’ wishes in 2005 were natural gas service, paving local streets, and high speed internet access.

The Village was able to successfully carry out those wishes to varying degrees. In 2006 high speed internet access came via wireless service from Winntel on a service tower located on Queens Way. Since 2006 additional companies have also added Lake Isabella to their service area. Still on hold is word from Charter Communications regarding the Village’s grant to upgrade the cable system at Lake Isabella. This update would not only provide quality cable television service, but also additional broadband access.

In 2007 the Village undertook an extensive street paving project of over 13 miles, leaving only a handful of local streets untouched per the request of a majority of property owners on those streets. The Village has also adopted a long-range asset management plan for their street network, and includes these long-range projects in the Capital Improvement Budget which is annually adopted by the Village Council.

In 2008 DTE/MichCon developed a natural gas infrastructure for most of the northern half of the Village servicing about 600 homes. Then in 2009 Consumers Energy proposed building out the remaining un-serviced areas in southern Lake Isabella totaling about 180 homes. That project stalled after an insufficient number of residents opted for the service being offered by Consumers.

The new survey not only covers future infrastructure desires, but also provides property owners with a chance to express their desires for any public new services and other quality of life issues.

###

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gift shop opens at Lake Isabella


By SUSAN FIELD
The Morning Sun, Clare Managing Editor

After working for 14 years as a designer in flower shops in Mt. Pleasant and Weidman, Sue Chapman decided to go into business for herself.

She always wanted to open a gift shop, and her experience in floral design prompted her to open Buds and Blossoms Gift Shop in Lake Isabella.

Located in the Sunset Plaza at 50 N. Coldwater Road, Buds and Blossoms features floral arrangements, plants, baby items, gourmet instant coffees, candles, jewelry, cards, gift wrap, Jelly Belly candies, country items and Country Home Creations dip mixes.

Gearing up for Valentine's Day, Chapman also has a supply of Valentine candy and is extending her hours for the holiday.

While Chapman is normally closed on Sundays, Buds and Blossoms will be open Feb. 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Chapman, who lives in Sherman Township, opened the shop in Lake Isabella because of growth in the area.

She saw a need for a flower and gift shop in the mostly residential community.

Chapman delivers floral arrangements to Mt. Pleasant, Beal City, Weidman, Remus, Barryton and Mecosta.

So far, business has been good, Chapman said, adding that owners of other businesses in the Plaza, including Out-A-Bounds Pizza and Bella Salon and Spa, have been very supportive.

Candles are a best seller at the store, particularly the warm cinnamon-bun scented, soy candle.

"Some of the ladies come in and buy two or three at a time," Chapman said, adding that more and more customers are discovering the shop and stopping by.
Soy candles are becoming popular because they burn cleaner than wax candles, she said.

Chapman opened the shop Sept. 14.

She was tossing around potential business names when her granddaughter, Makenzie, suggested Buds and Blossoms.

That fit perfectly, Chapman said, with Makenzie being the "blossom" and her grandsons, Lukas and Jakob, being the "buds."

Chapman wanted to open a business close to her home.

"I don't like the drive in the winter," she said. "I just thought this was the perfect place.

"I've always wanted a gift shop."

Chapman hosted an open house in November, with positive results.

"That was awesome," she said.

Sales spiked around the holidays as well, she said.

Chapman isn't alone in her first business venture.

Her family helps out with deliveries, along with a good friend who was once a co-worker.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

From USA Today...

Below is an article from today's edition of USA Today. For the record, there are no plans, thoughts, or discussion to convert any of our streets back to gravel. Rather, this provides an interesting insight into the measures being taken to find a new balance of resources and services for public road agencies in these difficult times...



Tight times put gravel on the road

By Liisa Rajala, USA TODAY
Gravel roads, once a symbol of quaint times, are emerging as a sign of financial struggle in a growing number of rural towns.

High costs and tight budgets have prompted communities in Maine, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Vermont to convert or consider converting their cracked asphalt roads back to gravel to cut maintenance costs, officials in those states say.

New technology allows asphalt to be recycled into a durable gravel-like surface that is cheaper to maintain and adequately prevents potholes and mud, said David Creamer, a field operations specialist at the Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

Thirty-eight counties in Michigan replaced a total of 100 miles of asphalt roads with gravel because of decreasing funds in 2008-09, said Monica Ware, a spokeswoman for the County Road Association of Michigan.

In Montcalm County, Mich., 10 miles were converted to cut patching costs in 2009, said Randy Stearns, managing director of the county's road commission. He cited one road that cost a combined $39,244 in 2008 and early 2009 for patching, but only $7,300 to crush into gravel. More roads may be converted this summer, he said.

A 2006 study by the University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies found gravel is cost-effective when daily traffic averages 200 vehicles or less.

Even so, some have concerns.

"None of these decisions should be made overnight," said Chris Plaushin, director of federal relations at AAA. "I think that gravel brings some conditions that they may not be used to. The drivers are going to have to exert a little more caution."

Elsewhere:

• Hancock County, Ind. County engineer and superintendent Joe Copeland said budget cuts required 11 miles to be converted last year. "They are holding up well," he said. Copeland said about three more miles may be converted this year.

• Cranberry Isles, Maine. Town Selectman Richard Beal said high asphalt and transportation costs led him to support gravel. The town will decide March 8 whether to replace its three major roads, he said.

Resident Gaile Colby, who lives on one of the roads being considered, called it a terrible idea. "Have you ever lived on a gravel road? In the summer it's like clouds of (dirt) coming through your house," Colby said.

• Tuscarora State Forest, Pa. The Department of Forestry converted 3 miles to gravel in 2008 and 2009, Forest Program Manager Matthew Beaver said, and more could be converted this year.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Winter Budget as of 1-31




The weather has proven to be much kinder this year to our winter plowing budget. As of the end of January we have only expended 30.8% of our winter plowing budget. This is ahead of not only last winter's mark, but also historical trends. While February is a short month, on average the Village will spend just under 1/4 of the entire winter budget during the month.

I know we are among the many who hope that Punxsutawney Phil was wrong this morning, and we are treated to an early spring!

Friday, January 29, 2010

2010 Master Plan Survey is Online!

As part of updating the Master Plan for the community, the Village of Lake Isabella has launched an online survey. The survey of about 40 questions can be taken by clicking on the link provided on the Village’s homepage (www.lakeisabellami.org). The link to the survey will be on the Village’s website until the start of business on Monday, March 1st. On Friday, January 29th the Village mailed 1,593 postcards to all property owners and non-owner residents inviting them to take the survey.

For residents who are unable to take the survey online, the Village has printed copies which can be mailed to them. All they need to do is contact the Village Hall to request a copy.

By going online with the survey as opposed to traditional printed surveys, the Village will be able to save between $3,000 and $6,000. In addition to this cost savings, since the surveys are counted as they are submitted, results will be ready as soon as the survey closes.

The last survey conducted by the Village was done in early 2005 as part of the last Master Plan update. Since then the community has seen numerous changes which were guided in large part by the direction provided from that survey. That survey was also conducted “in house,” however it was a printed survey of over 100 questions with results tallied by Village staff and volunteers over several months.

High among the residents’ wishes in 2005 were natural gas service, paving local streets, and high speed internet access.

The Village was able to successfully carry out those wishes to varying degrees. In 2006 high speed internet access came via wireless service from Winntel on a service tower located on Queens Way. Since 2006 additional companies have also added Lake Isabella to their service area. Still on hold is word from Charter Communications regarding the Village’s grant to upgrade the cable system at Lake Isabella. This update would not only provide quality cable television service, but also additional broadband access.

In 2007 the Village undertook an extensive street paving project of over 13 miles, leaving only a handful of local streets untouched per the request of a majority of property owners on those streets. The Village has also adopted a long-range asset management plan for their street network, and includes these long-range projects in the Capital Improvement Budget which is annually adopted by the Village Council.

In 2008 DTE/MichCon developed a natural gas infrastructure for most of the northern half of the Village servicing about 600 homes. Then in 2009 Consumers Energy proposed building out the remaining un-serviced areas in southern Lake Isabella totaling about 180 homes. That project stalled after an insufficient number of residents opted for the service being offered by Consumers.

The new survey not only covers future infrastructure desires, but also provides property owners with a chance to express their desires for any public new services and other quality of life issues.

###

Thursday, January 28, 2010

FY 2008-2009 Audit



After our last Village Council, our most recent audit reflecting the 2008-2009 Fiscal Year was placed online. This audit, and several of past audits can all be found on website on the History & Reference Materials page. In addition to the audit, Yeo & Yeo also provides a summary report of comments concerning the financial management and oversight of the Village. This report is also hyperlinked on the same page.

The Village is pleased to report that once again we were issued a "clean opinion," which is the best that can be issued. This year also saw no comments on areas where additional oversight and policy adoption are needed.

Coming next month to the Village's website will be a survey for our Master Plan update. One of the questions on this survey asks for your desire to see us post additional financial documents online. We look forward to the feedback from the surveys. If you have any questions pertaining to the audit, please feel free to call the Village Hall 644.8654

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stimulus Funding Map




The State of Michigan has created an interactive map showing how funds from President Obama's "stimulus package" have been released and spent. The map can be found here.

The map is broken down by counties, and provides a summary report of which agencies have received funds in the county that is clicked on. Municipalities in Isabella County have not fared too well under the program. The only city or village to see funds is the City of Mt. Pleasant. In addition to the city, Isabella County, and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe have received funds. Along with many of the local school districts.

One of the main factors in why funds have not been seen by the other local units of government in Isabella County was the funding system approved by the legislation. The administration allowed the funds to "pass through" the states before reaching local communities. In more than a few cases the state used the funds to plug their own budget gaps. For the funds that were not used to cover the state's shortfall, the money was put into existing programs.

This took away the ability of many smaller units of government from having access. Michigan designates certain "Core Communities" which have greater access to state and federal funding. In certain cases non-core communities are shut out entirely.

In terms of road funding, money was added to the rural and urban task forces. Lake Isabella is a member of the rural task force. However, in order for funds to be captured and used locally, the road has to be a "rural major collector" or above on the "National Functional Classification System." The only roads in and around Lake Isabella which meet this level of classification are Drew, Coldwater, River, and Rolland. All of which are under the jurisdiction of the Isabella County Road Commission.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tuesday's Planning Commission Meeting

Online is a copy of Tuesday's Planning Commission agenda. The business items on the agenda have been hyperlinked, so you can see what the bulk of the meeting entials, not just the agenda. The Village started doing this late last year with the ZBA agendas, and hope to expand it as we work through 2010.

The first business item on Tuesday's agenda is a review and discussion of the upcoming Master Plan Survey. This survey will be done online unlike past surveys which have been paper based. In going online, the Village hopes to dramatically cut down on costs and increase the speed by which results are published. Right now the "in the works" schedule for the survey has the community opinion survey on our website during the month of February.

Prior to that, the Village plans to mail out postcards to all residents and property owners inviting them to take the survey. For those who cannot take the survey online, paper copies will be at the Village Hall.

In addition to the survey, the Planning Commission is also going to consider the drafted language to place an expiration date on approved variances. At the December meeting, the Planning Commission opted for a 12 month period of validity, with a possible 6 month extension. As part of the discussion the Planning Commission is also going to review the entire ZBA code to see if there are any changes to our procedures that may be desired.

If you would like to comment on any of these items please feel free to attend Tuesday's meeting, or send us an email. tim@lakeisabellami.org

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

So Far, So Good...



Unlike last year, this winter has been decent in terms of the Village's snow plowing budget... so far! While we are actually still above our 10 year average in terms of the number of service events, the duration of the time plowing is down considerably from last year.

Through the end of December, the Village has seen 16 winter service events. A winter service event is anytime our trucks are working. This includes plowing, salting, sanding, drift control, and cul-de-sac and intersection cleaning.

Our average for a typical winter season is only 12.5 events for November and December. But, most of the events this year have been for drift control, salting, and minor cleaning. We have only had the one big storm, and nowhere close to the 4+ feet of snow we had last December.

In terms of budgeting, there are two ways to gauge the winter. The first is using an equal distribution method. This gives the bookend months of November and April each 10% of the total budget. The remaining 80% is given equally to December, January, February, and March.

The other method bases budget expense guidelines on historical trends. This breakdown only gives the month of November 4.5% of the total budget. Likewise, April only sees 0.8% of the total winter budget. Not only does this method give a more realistic foundation for the budget, but also is not nearly as depressing as it shows only 4 solid months of winter, and not the 6 that the equal distribution method does.

As of December 31st, the Village has spent only 17.7% of our winter budget. When all of this is dumped into a spreadsheet, it looks like this:



The resulting graph from this spreadsheet is seen at the top of this post. What is in store for the rest of the winter? Nobody knows for certain. Historical trends show that January is good for 12 service events, February sees about 10 or 11, and March 6 events.

However, if by Divine mercy it got very mild, I'm sure we could live with that too!

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Recycling Dates



With a new year upon us, it is time for you update your recycling calendars. On our website you can find the new calendar for 2010. The pickup days are still Thursday & Friday, every other week, starting this week! The only exceptions are Thanksgiving week and Christmas week, for details on those changes, please reference the calendar.

2010 Recycling Calendar