THREE OAKS — The issue of the village sidewalk policy was discussed during the April 14 Three Oaks Village Council meeting.

The current policy says homeowners are responsible for replacing existing sidewalks, although it was noted that the village has done removal work in the past.

Village Council member Tyler Ream suggested surveying village residents about the idea of using a millage to pay for having the village install new sidewalks.

Council member Steve Graziano said the village could earmark sone money every year toward sidewalks even year “and eventually we’ll have all the sidewalks done.”

Council member Colleen Newquist said she would like to get some ballpark costs on how much sidewalk replacement costs per foot to help budget for projects.

Councilman John Kramer said the cost estimates for the Michigan Street project showed the sidewalk portion at about $25 per running foot.

The idea of having staff from the village Department of Public Works research the sidewalk situation also was mentioned.

Village Manager Dan Faulkner said Abonmarche offered to do an in-depth report on the village’s sidewalks last year (for about $4,500) with cost estimates and suggestions for replacement plans, although the offer was not approved by the council.

Village President Rich Smith said he would like to have a plan for which sidewalks will be tackled and when.

“We really need to get a plan in place and stick to it,” he said, before entertaining a motion to have Abonmarche “provide us with a plan for sidewalks … with a quote.”

That motion was approved by a 6-1 tally with Kramer casting the “no” vote.

Later in the meeting the roots of decorative Bradford pear trees lining both sides of Elm Street downtown were said to be pushing up the sidewalk in some spots.

During public comment near the end of the session Mike Kennedy said the trees are “incredibly invasive.”

“The birds eat the seeds … they spread them to forested areas … they blanket out undergrowth.”

It was noted that the pear trees have a 12- to 15-year life span, and the ones downtown were planted in 2005.

Kim Pruitt suggested thinking about replacing a few of the trees every year “because they smell for one … but there are birds that eat the seeds and they replant them.”

Also mentioned was that some states are doing buy-back programs to help replace the trees,

The council also discussed the marijuana ballot proposal passed by voters in November which included a higher number of retail (two versus one) and grow licenses than are in the village’s current ordinance (which was passed shortly before the general election).

Council member Colleen Newquist said she wants to make sure the village is following the law and honoring the will of the people.

Smith said the ballot language stated “A proposed ordinance permitting a limited number and type of marijuana-related establishments within the Village of Three Oaks pursuant to all applicable state laws to charge a non-refundable application fee for such permits,” adding “there was nothing on there that gave the numbers.”

It was later noted that the petition signed by people to put the proposal on the ballot went into more detail on the number of different types of businesses that would be allowed.

Newquist said she would like to get a firm legal opinion on the matter (“what is considered by law to have been adopted by the voters”), and other members agreed they need clarification. Village Manager Dan Faulkner said he would get such an opinion.

Also on April 14 the Village Council accepted a 2020 audit report as presented by Derek Hall of the Michigan Department of Treasury’s Community Engagement Finance Division/

Figures included in the report included total General Fund assets of $1,542,530 and total liabilities of $56,975; Major Street Fund assets of $268,279 with liabilities of $3,693; and Municipal Street Fund Assets of $443,343.

Hall said the village still has significant amounts in its funds because many projects didn’t happen in 2020.

The audit showed General Fund revenues of $893,000 versus expenses of $821,000 (plus $58,000 from an insurance recovery) leaving an increase of $130,000 in the balance (from $1.3 to 1.46 million); the Major Street Fund with $134,000 coming in and $44,000 going out (with $28,000 given to the Local Street Fund) and the fund balance increasing from $200,000 to 2640,000; the Municipal Street Fund bringing in $144,000 from a millage with $18,000 being spent, upping the fund balance from $332,000 to $457,000. He later said the Local Street Fund has a balance of $95,000.

“You have a very healthy cash balance and you have a a very healthy fun balance,” Hall said.

He said the village should be able to road projects originally planned for 2020 plus she of the 2021 ones.

Hall said other village funds also have positive balances, noting that even those related to the sewer system and ongoing projects involving its lagoons are starting to head back in the right direction.

He noted that the Sewer Fund bought in $600,000 in revenues in 2020 with the bottom line increasing by $212,000 after two years of the fund taking major hits (although more major projects are likely on the horizon).

Hall said the Water Fund had revenues of $541,000 and an overall increase of $100,000 (or 5 percent in a $2 million budget).

He said the DDA had a cash balance of just under $86,000 and brought in nearly $27,000 during the year.

In other April 14 business the Three Oaks Village Council:

Voted to hire Jacob Klynstra as a new village police officer (he is a graduate of the police academy at Grand Valley State University) and supported the promotion of officer Patrick Myers to the rank of sergeant (with a pay increase retroactive to April 9). “Officer Myers has stepped up to the plate and he’s really helped me out,” Police Chief Carl Krause said.

Ream reported that the 2021 Flag Day celebration is set to include events at American Legion Post 204 and throughout the village on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (June 11-13). He said the softball tournament begins on Friday; a 5K run starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at Watkins Park; Art in the Park starts on Saturday and Sunday in Carver Park; live music at the legion on Saturday night; a closure of most of the downtown portion of Elm Street starting at noon on Sunday for the parade (which steps off at 3 p.m.). Smith said he is hopeful that in two months “a normal Flag Day weekend” will be possible. “If the state comes down and says ‘you can’t have it’ then we can’t have it. But I don’t want to cancel it at this point,” he said.

Were told by Faulkner that the first round of sewer system discharges has been completed, and with the low amount of rain the village might be set for the summer without doing another discharge.

Were told by Faulkner that a water leak under U.S. 12 near Tulip Street has been fixed by Burkholder Excavation. He said a final bill should received in about a week.

Confirmed the re-appointments of Colleen Froehlich and Thomas Pauly to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) along with the appointment of new member Marco Chavarry. Angela Reichert was thanked for her years of service on the DDA.

Approved the hiring of Lars Wittenburg as operations maintenance operator for the water and sewer departments.

Voted 5-2 to remove a flagpole from Dewey Cannon Park (Graziano and Kramer voted no). Ream later said no one on the Parks and Recreation Committee is against having a flagpole the park, but they didn’t think it should be in the present location.

OK’d the purchase of a transfer pump (used to move water from one sewer system lagoon to another) for $32,150.

Were updated on the Michigan Street project (from Cedar to Tulip streets), eventually agreeing to seek bids without a Cedar Street intersection portion of the project to see how close to the budgeted amount of $190,000 they come in.

Discussed the idea of adopting a non-discrimination policy similar to one approved in Buchanan. Council member Joe Hinman said he would like to work with Village Manager Dan Faulkner on verbiage and the matter was tabled until the May meeting.

Were told by Ream that pollinator plant guides will be going up in village parks to suggest native plants that attract pollinators.

Pauly (a member of the Three Oaks Library Board) said a parking lot project behind the library is slated to begin soon, and will take about two months to complete.

Supported residential lift station upgrades totaling $7,980.

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