October 24, 2014

Arenac Township Board looking for closure on trash issue

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ARENAC TOWNSHIP — As trash collection officially started up in Arenac Township, the township board caught more heat at its Jan. 7 meeting about how the service was introduced, and the board is hoping to get closure on whether or not the issue can be voted on.

“I’ll find out if we can put it on a ballot,” said Township Clerk Cindy Halamar. Earlier in the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, Halamar reiterated that discussions with legal advisers from the Michigan Township Association revealed that a township is not allowed by the state of Michigan to put an assessment on a ballot.

Halamar said that surveys gauging the receptiveness to trash collection mailed out twice with tax notes were being regretted now. The surveys included a stipulation that if a survey were unreturned, it would be counted as a yes vote.

“The majority ruled according to the surveys,” she said. “We should’ve never done the surveys.”

Halamar’s statements came after members of the public in attendance voiced displeasure over being charged for the service.

“I’m very angry that there’s no option-out on this,” said township resident Nola Gasiciel. “It’s costing me $113 to subsidize other people and I don’t think it’s fair at all.”

Township Treasurer Michelle MacKenzie, however, said that all companies that bid for the garbage collection service clearly said opting out was not an option.

“They were all very specific to say it’s all or nothing,” she said, adding that by voting on the assessment, Arenac Township was acting in the same manner as other county townships. “Every township around us has done the exact same thing.”

But resident Glen Rice, who is petitioning for the right of referendum, which would place the trash collection vote on an election ballot, said that despite what MTA representatives have told the board, the question would come to a vote.

“I want to know what’s going to happen with the petition the people signed. … The next step is you put it on the ballot,” he said. “I’m not picking a side here, I’m simply passing out a right of referendum.”

Rice said he has received several different messages about how to collect signatures for the petition. First, he collected 71 signatures to cover 10 percent of registered township voters, but later found out some were ineligible, which prompted him to collect more signatures. Now, he said, he’s been told that he needs to get signatures to account for 20 percent of registered township parcel owners –180 signatures. But at the meeting Thursday, Rice said the 20 percent was only of “affected” parcels, which he said would exempt some people and properties.

Rice said that he is willing to appear in court and defend the right of referendum and bring the issue to vote.

The charge for the trash collection is approximately $113 per parcel, which includes two clean up dates and a fuel surcharge.

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