November 27, 2014

Arenac Township right of referendum on trash collection draws contrasting opinions

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ARENAC TOWNSHIP — Arenac Township resident Glen Rice’s attempt to put the township’s trash collection question on the May ballot by petitioning for the right of referendum may or may not have hit a snag, depending on whom you talk to.

Township Clerk Cindy Halamar said that Rice’s 71-signature petition presented at the board’s meeting this month included seven signatures that belonged to people not registered to vote in the township. After he collected additional signatures to cover the ones collected in error, Halamar said she contacted a Michigan Township Association legal advisor.

“They said that Glen had to get signatures … of the registered parcels in the township, not registered voters,” Halamar said, adding the signature number was between 10 and 20 percent of registered township parcel owners. “She (advisor) said he’d need 180 signatures. Then he can take it before the tax tribunal.”

Rice, however, said the MTA advisor gave Halamar advice that may apply in different cases, but not in the one he is petitioning for.

“If she wants to contest it in court, I’m more than willing to go before a judge,” he said.

According to Rice, he is petitioning for the right of referendum not because he is necessarily against trash pickup in the township, but because he feels the board “back doored a tax increase.

“Our township told us that ours (township residents’ trash collection) isn’t taxes,” he added. But, he said the trash bill would in fact be included on tax notes to Arenac Township residents.

Arenac Township approved Sunrise Disposal for garbage collection at its Nov. 5 meeting after surveys were sent out to township residents multiple times over the last couple of years. But Rice and others in the township have been vocally skeptical about the surveys, which were counted as “yes” votes on the survey if they were unreturned. Also raising eyebrows, were the numbers of the surveys, as 194 came back reading “no,” but the board tallied 733 yes votes, despite the township only having 701 registered voters.

Board members have said the trash collection would cost residents $113 per year.

Halamar said in a past interview with the Independent that since the trash collection was an assessment, putting it on a ballot is illegal.

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