Facts prove federal wetlands proposal wrong for Michigan

Dear Editor,

Regarding the proposal to move Michigan’s wetland permitting and enforcement from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Corps of Engineers (COE):

Representative Tom Pearce in the March 5, 2009 Rockford Squire stated, “This is an issue that needs to be decided on facts, not emotion.”  I agree with that comment, however the “facts” do not support this move.

In February, I provided Governor Granholm, Representative Pearce and Senators Jansen and Hardiman and several other key representatives comments on the proposal and referred them to two federal documents published in late 2008. Those documents are titled Stagnant Waters: The Legacy of the Bush Administration on the Clean Water Act and Decline of Clean Water Act Enforcement Program. Both of these reports conclude the EPA/COE are not doing an adequate job of protecting our nation’s wetlands in their permitting and enforcement process and have insufficient resources to pursue Clean Water Act investigations and enforcement actions.

Most permits are issued by DEQ in less than 90 days. The average permit is issued in 60 days. It is my understanding permits issued by the EPA/COE takes 600 to 700 days with many exceeding that. And, federal law does not protect 930,000 acres of small wetlands presently protected by state law and  local ordinances.

I also referenced them to a paper from Grand Valley State University titled Integrated Valuation of Ecosystems Services Tool. The report details the economics of some land uses in a seven-county west Michigan area including Kent County. The report examines the value generated on a per acre basis for the benefits derived from wetlands including recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, nutrient recycling, waste assimilation, erosion control and water supply. The total value for the 58,579 acres of wetlands in the seven-county study area is estimated to be $81,483,097. All of Michiganís wetlands are obviously worth hundreds of millions when all of Michigan’s 83 counties are included.

Following his comments to the Squire on March 5, Representative Pearce on March 10, 2009 introduced HB 4542 for the purpose of turning administration and enforcement of Michigan’s wetland laws back to the federal government.  It would appear he already had all the facts of his choosing for a decision.

The conclusion I come to is the EPA/COE are not capable at the present time of protecting Michigan’s valuable wetlands as adequately and in as timely a manner as the DEQ does. It would seem the current $2.1 million dollar cost to administer the Michigan Wetlands Program is a good investment protecting an annual income to Michigan of many millions of dollars.

It would also seem returning wetland regulation to the federal government is not in keeping with President Obama’s commitment to maintain and protect our natural resources and Michigan’s historic commitment to protect our own natural resources without interference from the federal government.

I suggest readers contact Representative Pearce and Senator Jansen or Hardiman’s (or your Representative or Senators) office and ask them to keep administration and enforcement of Michigan’s wetland laws under DEQ.  The DEQ should also be adequately funded for those duties that provide significant income to Michigan.

E. John TrimbergeR

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On which side of history

138 North Main Street.

138 North Main Street.

Dear Editor,

“Narrow streets, shaded by towering trees, and lined with well-kept, two story homes….families strolling throughout the neighborhood, chatting with friends along their route to the ice cream shop(s) downtown…such scenes are commonplace in Rockford, a picture of small town America” (Rockford Master Plan, p. 18).

I am not a fan of felling homes, especially historic ones.  I am in favor of preserving them “to the fullest extent possible.” I am especially not a fan of “demolishing viable housing to make way for parking lots.”  Residential charm, once lost, can never be put back ( Rockford Master Plan).

Take a stroll down the east side of North Main Street, from Rocky’s Ice Cream north to Lewis Street.  Since the earliest pioneers came to Rockford, in 1842, this stretch of street has always been residential. It was filled with homes and yards and trees and the lives of the many families who lived there. Over half of the street is now paved parking lot.  Of the sixteen homes that once graced this street only eight of them remain.  And in their wake we are left with two large commercial parking lots ( both owned by Wolverine World Wide), one medium-sized parking lot (owned by Pederson Funeral Home), and one small city parking lot (created when the old Oatley Theatre was removed in the 1960’s).  How did this once tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly street become a parking lot for parking lots?

I don’t think anyone planned it this way.  I don’t know as if much long-range planning was involved.  One by one the homes disappeared, and whether the objections come before or after, it was always too late. Commercial needs took  precedence.

With eight family homes now removed from but just one side of a street, one hopes that the stark result will speak for itself.  But then another home comes on deck to be demolished in mid-April of this year. This home, just north of Rocky’s  Ice Cream is 138 North Main Street. It will be sad to see another piece of Rockford’s history slip between our fingers.

It’s always sad to see them go. I know for I have seen some of these homes fall right before my eyes.  Just north of Rocky’s Ice Cream stood the Hunter House, once operated as Sally’s Antiques and then as Pegasus Sports.  A fully intact deed verifies that Merlin Hunter, a pioneer from 1842, was the first owner of this home site.  The structure was razed in 2002.

A charming blue carriage house once stood behind the well-kept residence at 134 North Main St. This small carriage house added a lot of character to North Main Street.  “Built in the Colonial Revival Style, probably dating from the late 19th century, it had fine detailing and moldings and was very unique to the landscape of Rockford,  perhaps the last carriage house in Rockford of this age and style,” so wrote a local Preservation Architect.  Both homes were moved to a new location in 2002.

My neighbor down the street still mourns the loss of two North Main Street homes, one whose backyard  abutted her property.  Both were sturdy, attractive homes situated on pleasant lots. The sea of asphalt that replaced them in the mid 1980’s ( for the WWW employee parking lot)  added neither beauty nor charm.  Another older resident who once lived on North Main Street, near Rum Creek, recounts the days before the WWW customer parking lot claimed the site of his boyhood home sometime in the 1940’s.  He remembers the large trees, green grass, and the wonder of catching crawfish in the creek.  Some of the neighborhood boys even caught trout by hand and sold them to the factory workers.

These examples put flesh on a pivotal paragraph in our Master Plan, one which highlights the essence of vibrant neighborhoods and the need to maintain their integrity:

“An issue closely related to protecting Rockford’s small town charm is that of protecting the residential character of the City’s established neighborhoods from the threat of non-residential expansion….  [This] should be given priority over other competing interests.  Existing homes should not be sacrificed to non-residential uses without serious consideration of all other possible alternatives” (p. 19).

I do not own the property at 138 North Main.  I am aware of its historical significance, however.  It sits on Plat #11, next to the old Jackson Coon home at 148 North Main.  Jackson Coon was a merchant from Rockford’s early days and contemporary of Smith Lapham, our town’s founding father.  Jackson owned both plats of land, the deed of which dates to 1845.  His home was built first, and his daughter later lived in the house next door, the one to be razed.

The owner of the home at 138 North Main is certainly within his rights to demolish it.  It’s removal, however, tugs at a greater loss as one more piece of our history will vanish.  Nor does its demolition reflect the spirit of the master plan, as stated above.  Whatever appears in its place can never breathe of authentic 1920’s charm.

If I had a golden tongue and gold in my pockets to back it, I would try to save this house.  Though it needs interior and exterior repairs, it is structurally sound and, in my mind, has possibility written all over it.  I would ask WWW for but one small section of its large employee parking lot, pay to have the home moved to the other side of the Jackson Coon house  (saving the present owner demolition costs), and honor WWW and it’s founder by naming it the Krause House.

The Krause House could be offered back to the Rockford community in a multitude of ways.  It could be used as a resource for history, education, or the arts.  Maybe the home could become a residence for a returning veteran and his/her family, or perhaps Habitat for Humanity could join forces and help restore the home for a family in need.  These are only a few ideas.  I am sure others could offer more.

The closing of the tannery is imminent.  Many changes will come as a result.  Why not keep this home to remind us of Rockford’s past and pave the way for the re-charming of North Main?

G.A. Krause, who launched the WWW shoe factory and tannery in 1886 is believed to have said at the time, “I see possibility here.”

What would he say today?

Lynn M. McIntosh

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Main Street

Roger Allen, publisher

Roger Allen, publisher

Power!

Hooked on oil? Want alternative energy? We’re all overlooking something that’s right in our back yards. The neighborhoods are full of squirrels looking for food and even risking their lives darting across streets. We should harness this power source.

Here’s my plan: We buy a bunch of live traps and catch those little devils. Then we put each squirrel into a cage with an exercise wheel. Like hamsters, they’ll run on those wheels all day. We’ll also need electric generators, very small ones, to attach to the wheels. Our neighborhood squirrels will spend all day generating power for our houses.

We should arrange an automatic system that drops a peanut into the cage with, say, every 300 revolutions of the wheel so the squirrels are encouraged to keep running. We wouldn’t have to feed them otherwise, just keep the hopper filled. Peanuts are cheap. The shells can be used as mulch for growing our own vegetables.

Sadly, we know nothing lasts forever, even hard-working squirrels. After their efforts to power our microwaves, fax machines and other electronics, some will eventually pass on. The remedy for their earthly remains is also simple. The bodies can go in our backyard composting bins where they will continue with their usefulness.

I see no drawbacks to this plan. I’m online right now, looking up the number of the Patent Office.

Trouble on the job

…Your accountant’s letter of resignation is post-
marked Zurich.

…Your suggestion box starts ticking.

…Your secretary tells you the FBI is on line 1, the DA on line 2, and CBS on line 3.

…You make more than you ever made, owe more than you ever owed, and have less than you’ve ever had.

Trouble at home

…People send your wife sympathy cards on your
anniversary.

…You spot your wife and your girlfriend having lunch together.

…The plumber floats by on your kitchen table.

Classifieds from elsewhere

FREE YORKSHIRE TERRIER.

8 years old. Hateful little dog. Bites!

FREE PUPPIES.

Mother, AKC German Shepherd. Father, Super Dog. Able
to leap tall fences in a single bound.

GEORGIA PEACHES

California grown – 89 cents/lb.

JOINING NUDIST COLONY!

Must sell washer and dryer, $300.

WEDDING DRESS FOR SALE

Worn once by mistake. Call Stephanie.

FOR SALE BY OWNER:

Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, 45 volumes. Excellent condition. $1,000 or best offer. No longer needed. Got married last month. Wife knows everything.

Work habits

A small manufacturer of office equipment hires an older man who says he’s retired from the Navy. Jim turns out to be a good worker, pleasant and efficient, and he works for a modest salary. However, he’s always 10 or 15 minutes late in the morning. The boss prides himself on arriving early. It begins to grate on him that Jim is always late.

Finally he calls Jim into the office. “Jim, you’re a good worker and I’m glad you’re with us, but it bothers me that you are always late to work. When you were in the Navy, what did the guys say when you came in late?”

Jim replies, “They said ‘Good Morning, Admiral.'”

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The Tax Attic

Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent

Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent

Answers to two more frequently asked questions

I had some good comments on last week’s article concerning the most common questions that tax professionals ask of the research company I deal with the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). It doesn’t matter how experienced the tax professional is, how long he or she has been preparing tax returns, or how many tax returns he or she completes. Our tax system is just too darned complicated for any one person to know all of the answers. NATP has several retired and currently practicing tax professionals manning the telephones when guys like me call with questions.

The reasons I call come from two different types of scenarios. In the first situation, I am pretty sure I have the correct answer but want an independent third party, such as NATP, to back me up. They can provide me with that warm fuzzy feeling that my thought process was correct.

In the second type of situation, I need help with a scenario that has me stumped. I usually have a potential answer, but am unwilling to prepare a return based on a potential answer. In these second situations, I am just slightly disappointed when I call and the researcher knows the answer without having to look anything up. That usually means I called with a question that the answer was right in front of me in one of my reference books and I just didn’t recognize the answer or look hard enough. Of course, sometimes the researcher shares with me that a recent caller had asked that same question and that is the reason the answer flowed so smoothly.

The comments I received on last week’s article encouraged me to bring up another common situation that tax professionals are asked about. I will also add a Michigan situation that I am commonly asked to explain.

Since we are closing in on April 15, a common question that is asked concerns extensions or the lack thereof. An extension is granted automatically by filing Form 4868 and simply asking for the extension. That delays the filing of the return until October 15 with no questions asked. The catch 22 in the system is that there are still penalties and interest that are accruing as of April 15 if there is tax due. The Internal Revenue Service does not ever waive accrued interest, but I have seen them waive penalties for “reasonable cause.”

The frequent question we are asked is: What constitutes “reasonable cause?” According to NATP, there is no common definition to reasonable cause. The IRS tells us that each case must stand on its own, based on the facts and circumstances of that case. Some of the factors that can cause the IRS to waive a penalty due to reasonable cause would be serious illness, unavoidable absence from home, natural disasters, or an inability to obtain proper records to prepare a return. Since there is no one definition of reasonable cause, it really behooves a taxpayer to ask for the penalty to be waived and not just automatically pay that penalty.

Next, a frequent state of Michigan question concerns the homestead property tax credit. The homestead credit is based on the actual taxes that are billed during 2008. Michigan does not care when these taxes are paid. They base the calculation on the summer and winter taxes that are billed. Unfortunately, the federal return is based totally on the amount of taxes that are paid. The IRS couldn’t care less when the taxes are billed. They only care and allow a deduction when the taxes are paid.

The question that we answer frequently is: Why do we want to know how much tax was paid in February 2009 when we are filing the 2008 tax return? The answer is that when the state of Michigan created the homestead property tax deduction, they decided to count property taxes that were billed and not paid. For 2008’s homestead property tax credit, the only taxes that count are the 2008 summer and 2008 winter taxes, and they count whether they were paid in August 2008 or February 2009. I’ve had lots of practice answering that question!

As our tax system gets more complicated-and who would dare say that our tax system isn’t getting more complicated-the questions will always be there. I’m just hoping that I will know the majority of the answers and, for those I don’t know, fortunately I know where to get the answers. This is Jerry Coon signing off.

Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent. He owns

Action Tax Service on Northland Drive in Rockford.

His e-mail address is jcoon@actiontaxservice.com.

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Rockford Register – April 1, 2009

Tuesdays -Now through April 21

Free Health Program-6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Sparta Health Center, 475 S. State St., Sparta. The Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) workshop provides knowledge and skills to adults with chronic health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, bronchitis, asthma and depression. Registration is necessary; enrollment limited. For more information or to register, call (616) 685-1300.

Thursday, April 2

Auditions for “Paris on the Brain” Original Musical-6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (and Saturday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to noon) at Kent Theatre, 7 N. Main St., Cedar Springs. Performances will be August 7, 8, 14, 15 and 16. Four adult males and four adult females are needed. Some roles require only minimal singing. Be prepared to sing at audition (may bring your own sheet music). For further details, call Scott Phillips at (616) 696-3746 after 5 p.m.

Rockford Area Historical Society Meeting-7:00 p.m. at the Community Cabin, 220 N. Monroe St., Rockford. Sue Osgood, writer for the new Grand Rapids Food magazine, will present “Small Farms in the 21st Century.” Open and free to the public.

Saturday, April 4

Old-Fashioned Pancake Breakfast-8 to 11 a.m. at Courtland Township Fire Station, 7480 Fourteen Mile Road. Breakfast includes pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, coffee, orange juice, and milk. Cost is $4 for adults, $2 for children 6-12, free for children 5 and under, or $12 for families (2 adults, 3+ children). Proceeds to benefit Courtland Fire Department. Sponsored by Courtland Fire Auxiliary. For more information, call (616) 866-3511.

Free Concert Series-noon to 4 p.m. at Mancino’s Pizza, 218 S. Lafayette, Greenville, the first Saturday of every month. Performing this month are Zachary Graft and Roosevelt Diggs, presented by the Greenville Area Community Center.

Preparing for a Prescribed Burn-10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Howard Christensen Nature Center. Learn about the benefits of prescribed burning along with the legal considerations, contractor information, and if weather permits, a demonstration burn. Cost is $10 for members; $15 for non-members. Register at www.stewardshipnetwork.org, or call the nature center at (616) 675-3158 by March 30.

Tuesday, April 7

Mended Hearts Meeting-7 p.m. at Spectrum Health Fred & Lena Meijer Heart Center, 100 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, in Room 8815 on the eighth floor. Mended Hearts, a volunteer nonprofit support group affiliated with the American Heart Association, offers hope, information and encouragement to heart patients, families and caregivers through those who have experienced heart disease. For more information, contact Jim Oldfield at (616) 891-9395.

Country Music-9:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday at Rockford Ambulance Community Center, corner of 10 Mile Road and Shaner Avenue in Rockford. Music by the Rogue River Band. Enjoy free coffee, tea and snacks.

Rockford Rotary Club Meeting-noon at the Community Cabin, 220 N. Monroe St., Rockford. Larry Linsley will speak about the Rockford Lions Club. Members enjoy lunch, socializing and speakers, while organizing local and international service projects. To find out more about the Rotary Club or to visit as a guest, contact any local Rotarian.

CHADD’s Adults with AD/HD Meeting-7 to 9 p.m. at Calvin College’s Meeter Center Lecture Hall off the library lobby. Tim Zwart, Ed.D., and Jennifer Sochak, MA, Ph.D., of Pine Rest’s Psychological Consultation Center will present “Assessment of AD/HD in Adults.” There is no cost or pre-registration required. All are welcome. For more information, call Linda Brauer at (616) 874-5662.

North Kent Toastmasters Club Meeting-7 p.m. at Prudential Preferred Realtors, 502 Northland Dr., Rockford (at 11 Mile Rd.). Members enhance public speaking and leadership skills through practice and encouragement. Guests welcome. For directions, call Sue at (616) 866-3509 or visit www.nkctm.org.

Sunday, April 12

Breakfast-8 a.m. to noon at American Legion Post #102, 330 Rockford Park Drive, between 11 Mile and 12 Mile roads on Northland Dr.). Cost is $6.50 for adults, $5 for seniors over 70, and $3 for kids, which includes eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, coffee and juice.

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