Thank you, Chris James by STEVE GRIMM Cannon Township Supervisor Several weeks ago, Chris James, who became Cannon Township Zoning Administrator in 1996, decided to retire, effective September 7, 2012. Prior to becoming Zoning Administrator, she served the township as planning coordinator, served on the Board of Review, and was an election precinct chairperson. She has also served as the secretary to the North Kent Sewer Authority since 1999, and deputy supervisor. Prior to joining the township, Chris lived in many different states, and brought those experiences to Cannon. From the beginning, Chris’ main job has been to say “no.” This has often rubbed people the wrong way, but such is the lot of a zoning administrator. Her job has been to enforce ordinances with which she often disagreed. On the other hand, she always put forth her best efforts to seek a solution which satisfied all parties. Many times, this was impossible and Chris was blamed for the inability to reach a resolution. She never complained and was willing to place that dissatisfaction on her shoulders. Needless to say, she has developed very broad shoulders. She never turned down even the most mundane tasks, including, believe it or not, laundry. Every week she washes the township office’s dish cloths and towels without complaint. Her coworkers knew when she was upset about something because she would start cleaning with the same zeal she applied to her real jobs. Chris and her husband are returning to their beloved Kentucky to enjoy their retirement and be with family. Her husband Connie is going to play golf, and Chris is looking forward to watching her “boys in blue” University of Kentucky basketball team, rocking babies at the Children’s Hospital, and becoming involved in community theater where her thespian talents will serve her well. Cannon Township has received many resumes and is considering Chris’ replacement, though that may not be possible. Thank you, Chris.
A Sacred Duty by STEVE GRIMM Cannon Township Supervisor When I was sworn in as Cannon Township Supervisor in 2011, I raised my right hand to God and promised to guard the fiduciary duty to Cannon’s taxpayers. That fiduciary duty required me and the board to zealously protect the fiscal stability of our township and to protect the taxpayers’ investment we receive through our millage. As our treasurer states on the township website, “Local government is a dynamic and changing environment which occasionally can provide unexpected challenges—not the least of which may be budget and revenue concerns.” When I became supervisor last year, our board recognized that we were seriously under-funded. We asked staff to sacrifice, we implemented an aggressive approach to spending cuts, we trimmed government, and received an unexpected and relatively small increase in state revenue sharing. Over the past year-and-a-half, this has led to an increase in our general fund balance. We are well down the road to fiscal stability, but according to our assessor and auditor, we are not quite there. On March 26, as we were about to vote on our 2012-2013 budget, our board was surprised by a motion by one board member to cut the township’s operating millage by 50%. The motion was not on the agenda, and the board was provided no supporting data analyzing the fiscal impact to the township of such a measure. While appealing politically, by a five-to-two vote, the board decided to forego the short-term political gain, and instead honor our fiduciary duty to the taxpayers. We asked the dissenters to provide a financial impact study, so we could revisit the issue, but it has not been forthcoming. So I researched it myself. Here’s what I found: There are 35 governmental entities in Kent County. Cannon Township’s operating millage is in the lowest third of all taxing entities in the county. A 50% cut in our already low millage, which has been in place and untouched since at least 1993, would amount to an average savings of $17.35 per person per year, or $1.45 per month. Because, according to our treasurer, challenges can be unexpected, the impact to the township could be devastating. The things that separate Cannon from other townships, like the […]
by STEVE GRIMM Cannon Township Supervisor The Cannon Township Board has always focused on being open and transparent in the conduct of your business. When I became supervisor in January 2011, the Board allowed public comment in the beginning of every board meeting, and every person was allowed three minutes to comment. As of my first meeting as supervisor, we added public comment at the end of each meeting and removed the time limit. I have always felt that there should be no limit in Cannon Township on free speech, and if something was important enough for someone to take the time to come to a meeting, they should not be limited in the amount of time they have. We have said, however, that if a person has five minutes of something to say, they should to do it in five minutes, not six or ten. We recently had over a hundred people at a board meeting when we were considering a revision to the Special Land Use Ordinance for recreational areas in Cannon Township, like, but not limited to, Cannonsburg Ski Area. Everyone at the meeting had an opportunity to address the Board, and everyone, without exception, had something meaningful to say. That was a very important moment for our township, because it proved that the changes I mentioned above work very, very well. Everyone was courteous and respectful, and the Board appreciated every word that was said. As a result of this exercise in representative democracy, the Board was able to glean very important information and pass our concerns on to the Planning Commission for analysis and input. The Planning Commission then appointed a subcommittee to analyze those concerns. Then a subcommittee of the Board met with representatives of the Planning Commission, and came up with a very good ordinance, as well as an amended Outdoor Assembly ordinance. Best of all, we had input and advice from interested citizens in the subcommittee as well. In Cannon Township, we realize that the collective wisdom of her residents far outweighs that of her Board. Taking things one step further, we recently changed the make-up of our sewer committee to include a board member who actually pays a sewer bill, Deb Diepenhorst, as well as residents […]
To bond or not to bond? by STEVE GRIMM Cannon Township Supervisor The communities that make up the North Kent Sewer Authority are currently in the process of upgrading and replacing aging components. Cannon, Courtland and Plainfield Townships have known since 2009 that the lift stations at Rogue River and Lake Bella Vista are in dire need of replacement. Preliminary engineering bids were requested and last year the engineering began. Working through the North Kent Sewer Authority, we were able to obtain state grants that paid for 90% of the engineering, saving the communities thousands of dollars. Again using the authority, we were able to qualify for low cost bonds at an annual rate of 2.5% that would cover the costs of the repairs, while allowing us to keep our fund balances healthy. The question was then debated: To bond or not to bond? On the one hand, it is generally a good idea to pay cash when you can, without incurring any debt. On the other hand, acquiring low cost bonds, which could be paid off early without any penalty, would allow us to keep our sewer fund balances at levels that would also allow us to handle any failure that may arise elsewhere in the system. The Cannon Township Sewer Committee and the Board of Trustees listened intently in public meetings to those who pay sewer bills. We even put some of those residents on our sewer committee. In the end, the discussion became part of a wider strategy to continually upgrade our system over time without having to drastically raise rates. We also realized that inherent issues of fairness apply. One of the residents, Mark Verwys, pointed out in one meeting that by spreading the bond payments out over a number of years, those on sewer will pay their fair share, as opposed to paying for improvements out of money saved up to now. Thus, if someone moves in, they will start paying. If they move out, they will stop and the next family will take their place. Finally, by taking advantage of the bonds, we will be able to do both lift stations now, rather than having to do one, and then save up for the next, sometime in the future—especially […]
Sewer absorbing topic by STEVE GRIMM You would be surprised how fascinating sewer issues can be. I found this out since becoming Cannon Township supervisor in January 2011. As part of the North Kent Sewer Authority, Cannon’s sewer customers’ waste is sent to the treatment facility on Coit Avenue in Plainfield Township. We share the system with Alpine, Plainfield, Courtland and the City of Rockford. What is really fascinating is the infrastructure involved in that utility. Most people don’t think of their sewer, nor should they. If it flushes and doesn’t come back into the house, all is good. An analysis of the mechanical infrastructure exposes a surprising complexity of the collection and treatment system involved. Pipes, connections, lift stations and the treatment facility itself all work together to take waste and convert it to water clean enough to drink. By the time the process is complete, the treated water that is put into the Grand River is cleaner than the river itself. Along with this complexity is the fact that the entire system has a limited life span. Once a pipe is put into the ground, it starts to degrade, eventually leading, over many years, to expensive replacement. Cannon Township is involved right now in developing an intelligent operation and maintenance plan that will first identify and categorize the maintenance needed and the costs involved. One of the techniques employed to accomplish this is to televise all the pipes that carry sewer. You would be surprised at how much fun it is to spend a morning traveling through a sewer pipe. By doing so, Cannon will very soon develop and implement a very aggressive plan of action that will proactively repair and maintain the entire system so that catastrophic failure caused by age of the system and lack of attention will be minimized. By implementing and sticking to this plan, the long-term future of our sewer system will be ensured. Now, what can be more fascinating than that?