By Gari Voss
Allegan Township has some unique characteristics. Like most townships in Allegan County, its approximate 6 mile by 6 mile borders create a well-defined square. But unlike other townships, within those borders, just south of the center, lies the City of Allegan. The geographic composition of Allegan Township brings challenges for the supervisor and trustees.
The City of Allegan is rather landlocked which leaves a strip of Allegan Township along the southern border and jagged edges around the city. Special needs must be addressed along the Kalamazoo River to the south, Miner Lake to the east and Dumont Lake to the north.
Ordinances for wind and solar and for shipping containers were approved during the December 2023 meeting. At the Feb. 5, 2023, meeting, Jim Connell updated the trustees on rezoning property from agriculture to residence, but no decisions had been made.
The Township has been working with the City of Allegan to adjust the sewer ordinance. Allegan Township waste is trucked to the City’s plant for disposal while properties in certain areas are tied to the City’s sewer system. A few sections of the township have properties that should have been hooked to the city system years ago. A special monetary deal of $900 has been designed for those properties to tie into the city. This must be done by 2025 or the property owners will have to pay $5000 to hook up when their current systems fail. The question arises as to whether, or not, the sewer lines should extend further into the township since the city is running at only about a quarter capacity. This could include Miner Lake.
Connell explained that the new sewer ordinance is ready for approval. A motion for approval was tabled until some typos could be corrected by the township lawyer.
During the Dec. meeting, the trustees had approved the 2024 poverty exemptions to facilitate decisions of the Zoning Board of Appeals. On Feb. 12th, the Zoning Board of Appeals will meet to discuss a variance for a 5th wheel on Miner Lake.
At the Dec. meeting, County Commissioner Scott Beltman encouraged the group to create an ordinance for wind and solar to align with the new state legislation. In Dec., Beltman also updated the progress of the Lake Allegan Association December 2023 meeting to save Calkins Bridge Dam.
During the Feb. meeting, Beltman updated the progress of finding a new Health Department director. In the interim, Randy Rapp is holding the position while interviews are conducted. The broadband update informed the board that the county 123.net work group will have one more meeting, then it is anticipated the group will disband.
When questioned about the ground water study, Beltman shared that data is still being collected. More wells may need to be drilled. It is anticipated that the data will be presented sometime in mid-summer.
One goal of the County Commission is to better utilize the Allegan Game Area. A proposal has been presented to add a bicycle path through the Game Area in a section away from the hunting areas, but the DNR is not helping to open the proposed trail. DNR has also rerouted the snowmobiles around a portion of trail that supports the Blue Butterfly.
Allegan Township is part of the Allegan Fire District. Jon Cook presented material on the usage and costs. During the Dec. meeting, the Township trustees approved payment for $252,000.
A positive for Allegan Township was when they hired their own patrol officer, Cody Oonk. The agreement was made with the Allegan County Sheriff Department. Deputy Oonk works in collaboration with the county and the City of Allegan. This has been working well.
During the Feb. meeting, the Deputy Cody Oonk updated the group on his work. There were 198 calls during January. Most were weather related car or car/deer accidents with only one B&E. Over-all, Deputy Oonk spends about 77% of his time in the township.
One of Deputy Oonk’s responsibilities is ordinance enforcement. There are 7 properties that have been through the court system. None of these have made the corrections outlined in their signed agreements. One was scheduled for car removal, but this was postponed because of the weather.
A special presentation was made by Judge Margaret Bakker and Director Linda Teeter regarding the Allegan County Legal Assistance Center (ACLAC) that is currently located in the basement of the courthouse. Since opening, a staff of Teeter, five parttime assistants and one intern have assisted 2700 clients. In the last period, 234 were assisted compared to 199 during the same period last year.
Bakker and Teeter explained how important the LAC is for people who do not understand the legal system. Zoom and phone calls served 316 people, which has increased the assistance given to the courts. When the courthouse renovation and addition are completed, LAC will move to a space close to the entrance. Bakker felt this would facilitate access. Another plus is that the county charges no rent for the space, computers, or copies.
Three candidates seeking the third 48th circuit court judgeship introduced themselves to the gathering. Elizabeth Peterson shared her experiences as an assistant prosecutor, circuit court clerk, probate advocate, arson prosecutor, investigator of sexual assault, plus child and domestic violence.
Jonathan Blair currently serves as Probate Register and Administrator and is an experienced attorney and a previous assistant prosecutor.
The third candidate is Alice Bernal who has been a licensed attorney since 2017 and served as a paralegal. She is a certified domestic relations mediator and assistant professor of legal studies at Lansing Community College.
Under new business, the election workers were approved. The extended voting period requires additional workers to cover the extra 11 days which includes weekends. The ACLAC contract was tabled until it could be reviewed. Approval was given to move the Board of Review date to March 13, 2024, to help the assessor’s schedule.
Connell wanted all to understand that letters have been sent to each property owner who is affected by the new sewer ordinance. The letter explains what is being done and why. In addition, the choices of the owner are outlined, and the timeline given.