NEW BUFFALO — With very little discussion, the New Buffalo Township Board held a public hearing and approved its 2019-20 budget on Monday, June 17.  

The budget projects $5.5 million in total revenues and $4.8 in expenditures, with a general fund balance of slightly more than $1 million.

One major project budgeted for the coming year is the resurfacing of the playground area at the township park for about $67,000. Another major expense is the revision of the township’s zoning ordinance at $25,000.

Millage rates will remain the same at .3967 mills for general operations, .3847 mills for public safety services, .2337 mills for parks, and 1.3853 mills for public safety No. 2.

Also reflected in the new budget are the salary increases which were approved at Monday’s meeting. All employees will receive a two percent increase except the fire inspector, which is a new position, and the administrative assistant who will receive a $1 per hour step increase. Compensation for board members will be $500 per month, rather than a per meeting compensation. Township Supervisor Michelle Heit said the change will reduce the time spent to calculate per-meeting payments and will total roughly the same amount.

The board voted to pledge $10,000 to partner with other local communities and organizations to fund a study to determine if a rail connection of Amtrak’s Pere Marquette Passenger line into the Wolverine passenger line in the New Buffalo area is practical and beneficial to southwest Michigan.

During the meeting, Ron DeCook of Amtrak detailed the background of the study that will be conducted if the grant is received. DeCook said he expects the approval process would take two to three years.

The board approved an on-site tasting room for a new brewery to be named Seedz Brewery at 16321 Red Arrow Highway. Heit welcomed the new owner Ryan Ziarko back to the township. He is 2013 New Buffalo Hight School graduate who attended St. Xavier College in Chicago and has worked at Burn ‘Em Brewing in Michigan City for the past three years. He is renovating the old Tuscany Restaurant and hopes to be open by the end of the year.

On the recommendation of the Planning Commission, the board added the new category of Towing and Salvage Business the to Zoning Code as a special land use permitted in C-2 zoning. 

The new definition stipulates that any items towed to the site and the equipment used for towing be stored in an outside storage area behind a fence or building. The recommendation came following a lengthy Planning Commission hearing that included input from attorney Howard Kahne representing Roger Lijewski, owner of Roger’s Wrecker Service and Auto Repair in the City of New Buffalo.

A private road at 13089 Wilson Road was approved to provide access to one single family residence. The board also approved a new policy for the granting, auditing and removal of property exemptions.   

Ryan Layman was appointed to the Planning Commission for a term ending Dec. 31, 2021, to replace David Stumm who resigned. Replacing Stumm on the Zoning Board of Appeals for the same term is Traci Lauricella, currently a member of the Planning Commission.

Township Clerk Judy Zabicki reported that the two-year Michigan Shores Water Project had been successfully completed. She said the only remaining work is the completion of landscaping restoration which has been delayed due to weather. She said there are no leaks, the water pressure in strong and the levels of chlorine in the water are in accordance with state-mandated levels.

Also on the water front, Zabicki said the township and city water departments successfully worked together to provide township water to the city while the city’s water tower was being repainted.  She said this project served as a successful test of back-up water supplies for both municipalities and she hoped a similar back-up could be arranged with Chikaming Township.

During their reports, Fire Chief Jamie Flick and Sheriff’s Lieutenant Julie Flick reported they had already received complaints about fireworks, the board decided to observe the same schedule as the State of Michigan for the permitted use of fireworks: from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. the following day on Dec. 31, and from 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. on the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding Memorial Day, June 29 and 30, July 1-4 and the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding Labor Day.

During their reports, the Fire Chief reported that Alex Smyers had joined the fire department and would be enrolling in Fireman 1 and 2 certification classes. Lieutenant Flick said Jonathon Cluster, also a member of the fire department, had joined the Sheriff’s department as a full-time officer.

The Flicks said they both will be accepting donations of school supplies to hand out to students during Public Safety Day on Sunday, Aug. 4, from noon to 3 p.m.  Heit said donations will be accepted during Music in the Park on Wednesdays evenings at Township Hall and especially on July 10 when there will be a “Stuff a Squad Car Night.” There also will be a donation box at Township Hall and the township website has a link for the list of requested supplies.

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