Where is evidence local government has failed? by BETH ALTENA The Plainfield Township Board joined nearly every other township in Kent County in approving a resolution asking backers of the One Kent Coalition to clarify the details of the plan. Only Clerk Scott Harvey voted against the resolution. “I believe it needs to be put before the voters,” he said. “When you talk about the prosperity of Grand Rapids and look at the names of things in the town, you have to believe their hearts are in the right place.” The resolution regarding the plan to establish a metropolitan government in Kent County and Grand Rapids is a two-page document. It spells out that the township is aware of the coalition’s goal of changing state law to create a metropolitan government, which would consist of a 25-person metropolitan commission with a full-time chief executive with broad powers, including the power to veto ordinances. It states that the Board is not aware of any “reports, studies or other objective evidence suggesting the need for such a radical transformation of government in the County, nor whether, if undertaken, it would result in any continuing benefits for the people of the City and the County.” It states the Board recognizes “Kent County, Grand Rapids and the townships in the County have separate powers, and functions, long established by law, that do not overlap and that enable these municipal bodies to provide services efficiently to their respective constituents… The members of the Township Board desire to adopt this resolution to express their serious concern about this proposal and to suggest the need for sufficient consideration as to whether there are such shortcomings on the part of Kent County and Grand Rapids local government as would justify establishing an entirely new kind of local government never before attempted in Michigan.” The resolution goes on to state strong support of local government and services as close to the people, responsive to their needs and respectful of the cost of government. It asserts that local government has flexibility in how services are provided to constituents and states that local government and Kent County already share public services by agreement through cooperative authorities and “continue to develop innovative ways to providing public services […]
Kent County Board of Commissioners
‘Unending determination and steady leadership’ cited Rockford’s own Roger Morgan has been recognized by two boards recently for his years of service. The Kent County Board of Commissioners, on which Morgan has served since 2000, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) since January 2006 both honored Morgan for good works and service. “Roger has been a huge cheerleader in Kent County,” said Doug Small, managing director of the CVB. He said Morgan worked hard to make sure visitors realize what Rockford has to offer when they come to Grand Rapids for conventions or other reasons. During his tennure Morgan positioned the City of Grand Rapids as a destination that is more and more popular. He said people come for leisure as well as congerences and conventions. With the lake 30 minutes away, and downtown known for culture, as well as rich in natural resources—the Grand River and White Pine Trail—it only makes sense to promote Rockford to that market. Morgan has done a good job of that, Small said. “Rockford is in all the information we provide.” Daryl Dellabio, Kent County Administrator, said Morgan has had a unique and influential term as Chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners. He is the first since the early 90’s to chair for four years. “It is a lot of responsibility for a part time job and it is a pretty thankless position,” Delabbio said. The county recognized Morgan for accomplishing over 500 resolutions during his four-year term. The position of chair is chosen by his peers on the 19-member board. The county thanked him for unwavering, steady leadership and declared Tuesday, December 15, 2009 as Roger Morgan Day in Kent County. “He has an easy manner about him, but he also believes strongly about issues that are important and has the courage to take on issues others might not have,” said Delabbio.
The City of Rockford will buy the former 63rd District Court building at City Hall for 10 dollars and allow Kent County to lease a portion of it for up to 75 years. The Kent County Board of Commissioners approved the deal on Tuesday, Dec. 15, after Rockford City Council did late last month. “One of the stipulations is, if we win our lawsuit, that building immediately reverts back to county property, so they can bring the court back,” said Rockford City Manager Michael Young. “Our main focus is on bringing the court back to Rockford.” The City has had a long understanding to have the right of first refusal if the building were to come up for sale, and Young said he believes the city should control the building at 105 Maple Street. Both the court building and City Hall were built after removing residential homes from the block. The City believes a court presence is required by law in the city and hopes to have recently moved Judge Servaas back in residence in the Rockford court building. Servaas and the former staff of the court are now working in a new court building in Grand Rapids Township. Kent County contends the presence of a part-time magistrate fulfills the legal requirements for a court presence in the City of Rockford. A judge ruled that a court presence was required, but failed to define what the phrase actually means. A suit is currently in appeal, asking for a full court to be reinstated. Young said he is surprised a ruling hasn’t yet been produced, but said he is hopeful because it has taken so long to rule. “If it was cut and dried, we probably would have heard by now,” he said. Young also said gaining control of the building will also make it easier to reinstate a court presence. “If the county put something else in there, like the health department, it would be harder to bring the court back,” he said. Nonprofit organizations such as the Rockford Chamber of Commerce or the Rockford Area Arts Commission may eventually be housed in the portion of the building the county will not use.
Millions of dollars would come to the area if a proposed sports complex is built on Ten Mile Road. According to Mike Guswiler, Executive Director of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC), this area was identified in a study as being ideal for a sports complex. “We really took a look at this and had a consultant come in and tell us what the best sports fields were… They said travel amateur and youth baseball and softball leagues would use the fields Thursday through Sunday,” he stated. The WMSC is a three-year-old organization designed to promote economic opportunities for the area. They identified the site, in part, because it is county-owned. On Thursday, June 11, the WMSC approached the Kent County Board of Commissioners asking if a long-term lease of the property could be arranged for one dollar a year. Roger Morgan, Chairman of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, said their finance committee formed a sub-committee to look into the legalities of such a transaction. “Because that land was purchased by ratepayer dollars, there may be some stipulations as to its use,” he said. He added that he is entirely in support of the project. City Manager Michael Young, who is on the Ten Mile Corridor Committee dedicated to controlling retail growth in the corridor, said this use would be accepted. “We wouldn’t want any of the fast food or retail that can come with this kind of development, but we don’t oppose this use at all,” he said. Guswiler said the study the WMSC is following shows that 12 fields and a championship field would be ideal. It would cost 5.6 million to build, not including any land cost. A donor was identified who would offer a fund-matching gift of part of the amount. That offer is tentatively on hold, however, given the state of the state economy. “We are not a development organization, we are in a position to lead the discussion on this project,” said Guswiler. He said economic growth through increased hotel/motel revenue is a part of the goal in creating a project like this, but not the whole purpose. “Our studies show that people will travel within 40 miles of this complex for shopping, dining and other reasons,” said […]