By Pat Maurer
It was standing room only at the Surrey Township board meeting Tuesday evening.
Several residents in the crowd said they were “not told” about a change in management at the Transfer station, specifically about a new contract with GFL (Green For Life) Environmental, a waste management company headquartered in Toronto, Canada.
The concerns of area residents over the changes continued from the January 10th meeting, when questions were asked about the source of the trash coming to the township facility, odor, liquid from the trash, costs to the township and how the change came about.
Supervisor Russ Hamilton responded to the questions raised in January as did GFL General Manager Rick Fancon.
GFL will be using the Farwell Transfer Station to move the Harrison division’s internal waste. Fancon said, “Surrey Township residents will still be able to use the facility the same way they have; we are just sharing it and no other waste will be accepted from other companies or public citizens.”
GFL has long been contracted to dispose of Surrey Township waste for the township residents that is brought to the transfer station.
With this new contract, GFL is leasing the facility for five years and in return will trade their waste removal service for the lease giving the township a substantial savings. They will also take care of the property and building maintenance, so there’s no cost for Surrey Township.
Tuesday’s meeting brought more of the same discontent, with some confrontations and raised voices during the public comment about the issue and many comments that “more transparency” was needed when the board was making a decision about the changes at the transfer facility.
Currently township residents using the transfer station have a card, which will continue, Hamilton assured the audience. Of 1,650 eligible to have a card, Bradbury said 1,145 cards were issued in the township and two in the Village.
Kate Schefski asked if the residents’ cost to use the facility – $110 per year – would be reduced. She asked how many other townships in the county would be sending waste to, or through the Farwell facility and if there would be unlimited open trash dumping there.
Fancon reported that nine townships use the Harrison transfer station, where the material is compacted. It will be brought to the facility in Farwell and from there removed daily and transferred to landfills in Pinconning and Wexford County.
He said leachates, liquid from trash, would be minimal because the material brought to the facility would be compacted and removed every day. Any leachate that does form goes into a holding tank system at the facility.
Schefski questioned how many trucks would come through Farwell and their size and asked if “open ended” commercial and residential trash would be brought in and when it would be removed, citing piles of construction material seen at the facility recently.
Fancon said the material, after compaction would be removed daily after regular hours. The site is also scraped daily and because of complaints by audience members, Fancon said from now on it would be scraped twice daily.
Schefski said, “The way the contract, this, came about without any notice to the public was disheartening.”
Hamilton and Township Clerk Glenna Bradberry both said the matter had been discussed “many times” at regular board meetings before the board voted on the new contract with GFL.
She said, “We weren’t notified, saying there should have been public hearings published or put on the website for the Township,” adding that the board wasn’t being “transparent.”
Hamilton said the board was in the process of setting up a new website where public information will be posted, but noted that everything that was discussed and done was done during open meetings, and anyone could attend the board meetings.
Bradbury said the meetings, which are posted on the building doors, are almost always held at 6 pm on the second Tuesday of the month at the township offices.
Kathy Jankowski, a long time attendee of the township meetings said, “Every meeting is open and the public is encouraged to come, but there is usually only three or four of us who attend regularly.” She added, “I was at the meetings when this was discussed and when it was approved. They [the board members] do a good job.”
Schefski said, “Why not set up an advisory committee.” Hamilton said they (the board) would take that under consideration.
Negative comments reportedly made by resident Jim Nelson at the local credit union caused raised voices and many board and audience members talking at the same time. Hamilton told Nelson to “stop yelling at board members.” Nelson said he has a naturally loud voice and would quiet it down. He echoed the many concerns of the lack of transparency.
In another matter, Clare County Road Commission Manager Dewayne Rogers, came to the meeting to discuss a traffic study on Old State between the Village and the freeway interchange to see if the State Police would lower the speed limit on the road. Although it isn’t posted, he said, the limit is 55 mph now.
He answered many questions about vehicle speed on that portion of roadway. The Board approved a resolution for the traffic study.
Rogers also updated the board on the development of a round-about planned for the intersection of Old State and Surrey Roads. He said bids for the single-lane round-about would be let in April with construction beginning in June and a planned completion by September. The project will involve detouring traffic around the construction area, but those details haven’t been determined yet.
Rogers said there would be additional funding available for paving this year, possibly for Surrey from the new round-about to M 115.
A discussion over the proposed centralized location for voting during the additional nine days of voting that was approved at the General election in November, led to Clerk Bradbury saying she is not in favor of the County Clerk’s proposals, saying she believes the cost is too high and that the township can handle the additional voting requirements for less money themselves.
Another matter that prompted extensive comment both by the board members and audience was information from the Township Attorney Jaynie Hoerauf about civil infractions for blight and the lengthy process to deal with them. She said civil infractions were less costly than court cases for blight would be, but the process was extremely lengthy. One case mentioned by an audience member, has been in the works for nearly nine months and still isn’t resolved.
Regular business at the meeting included:
*The payment of bills, approval of minutes and the agenda;
*Fire Department Report by Chief Dave Williams;
*County Commission report from Samantha Pitchford;
*Approval for Mark Schefski to tap maple trees in the cemetery.