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March 22, 2019 12:37 am

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Harbor Authority Begins To Discuss Possibility Of Township Becoming A Member

   What would be the reason Saugatuck Township would want to become a member of the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority?
        And would that membership be of equal standing and offer the same potential benefits as provided its two existing members, the City of Douglas and the City of Saugatuck?
        These are some of the questions the harbor authority discussed at its Tuesday night meeting.
        The Saugatuck Township Board too has been discussing the matter recently, as both parties aim to get together and begin a dialogue.
        To that end, the harbor authority scheduled a workshop to meet with township representatives on Tuesday, July 15.
        “The door has been slightly opened,” Jon Helmrich, liaison for the township, told the authority. “They (the township board) are willing to hear a proposal from the authority.”
        Although the township was involved throughout the entire process of the formation of the authority, township officials, citing concerns about making monetary commitments, postponed signing the inter-governmental agreement in 2011  that provided the basis for the establishment of the authority.
        By means of that agreement and Public Act 94 - known as the Water Resource Improvement District Tax Increment Finance Authority Act and which Saugatuck and Douglas adopted - the authority was tasked with the job of coming up with ways to correct the deterioration of the harbor and find the resources to do so.
        Thus far, the township’s participation has been limited, only represented by a liaison on the five-member authority board and having no voting power.  
        The authority is currently comprised of two members from Douglas and two members from Saugatuck.
        “What do we mean when we say we want the township to be a member of the authority, even if a less equal member?” Helmrich told the authority board, referring to issues that would need to be hashed out.
        The response to Helmrich’s question came in the form of another question from Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere, Douglas staff liaison to the authority, when he asked, “They really don’t have a reason for joining?”
        To which Helmrich replied, “I don’t think they articulated it that way; I think they are open to conversation.”
        Also, Helmrich pointed out that the township - unlike the cities -doesn’t have discretionary spending.
        The precise implications of that was something Helmrich’s collegues said they needed more clarity on.
        LeFevere further noted that the township may not be able to avail itself of some of the mechanisms available to the cities, such as TIFA (tax increment finance authority) funding, which gives the cities the ability to capture portions of the existing tax base within a defined district.
        Public Act 94, which provides TIFA, had its sunset in 2011, the year Saugatuck and Douglas adopted it, said LeFevere.

Harbor Authority Begins To Discuss Possibility Of Township Becoming A Member

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