Township Leaders Say Money Concerns Reason For Not Joining Harbor Authority
Saugatuck Township is not quite ready to join the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority.
Township leaders say they want a more comprehensive study of “the pros and cons” of full membership, and they want to make sure township taxpayers are “not obligated” to monetarily support the authority.
The Saugatuck Township Board held a public hearing on the matter at Wednesday’s meeting where authority representatives and Saugatuck area community leaders spoke in favor of township membership, citing that doing so will greatly enhance grant opportunities to improve the harbor.
Some of them included Patty Birkholz, Michigan League of Conservation Voters Director and former five-term Michigan legislator representing the area; Ken Trester, Harbor Authority Chair and Saugatuck City Mayor Pro-Tem; and Jon Helmrich, Saugatuck Township Liaison to the authority.
“The various state and federal agencies, the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and DEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) have spoke very clearly that they are more inclined to approve things (permit applications, grants) if everybody in the affected area is working together,” said Helmrich.
Monetary contributions—specifically, how much the township ought to contribute—is also, as it has been before, at the center of the conservation.
“We simply don’t have the same revenue stream as Saugatuck and Douglas (the two existing harbor members),” said Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich.
That attitude is reflected in a revised resolution prepared by Saugatuck Township Attorney Scott G. Smith.
The initial resolution “of intent to consider joining” was drafted by the authority for township review.
“In brief summary, the revised resolution advances the concept that the Township’s general fund is generally used for essential services while the Township typically funds non-essential functions through extra-voted millages or other special revenues,” noted Smith his June 30 letter to the township.
“In light of these circumstances, the revised resolution indicates that the Township will consider any future monetary contributions to the KHLA on a case-by-case basis. “There is also new language stating that the Township envisions assisting in the KHLA through in-kind contributions and assistance with grant eligibility.”
The modified resolution actually aligns with the way the authority functions, and as articulated in the original resolution, the authority had also agreed to the township not paying for previous authority projects, noted Trester.
“The way we operate, we have to go back to our parent organizations—the City of Saugatuck and the City of Douglas—and if they decide we can’t spend any money on something, then we can’t spend it,” said Trester.