Mike’s Musings – 2.6 million seems like Hayes Township overkill

January 30, 2014

To paraphrase Kevin Costner, in 1989’s classic movie, Field of Dreams “If you build it they will come.”

I harken this unforgettable statement to the announcement by Hayes Township that officials are moving forward on a $2.6 million construction project that will replace the existing township hall and refurbish the existing civic center.

Officials must think by spending all that money to build nice, new facilities, they will bring thousands of people to the corner of Townline and N. Clare Ave. to partake in activities and meetings.  Personally unlike the fairy tale movie, I am not sold that bigger and new will equate to far greater useage.

Everyone agrees, including me, that something needs to be done. The 4000 residents of Hayes Township deserve better than an empty and unuseable civic center (closed because carbon monoxide leaks were detected from four of the six furnaces).

And you have to give township officials credit for supposedly coming up with the money without have to issue bonds or raise taxes. However, one has to wonder whether the township can save enough money from health insurance and retirement cuts to operate the facility yearly without going to the taxpayers’ wallets.

$2.6 million is a whole lot of money. When I first saw the figure I had to do a double take. Who spends that kind of money in this economic environment? Maybe if Hayes Township was equal to  Bloomfield Hills in per capita income, but c’mon folks, we are talking Clare County. Studies rate us the second poorest county in the state.

Just thinking what would happen if the County Board of Commissioners proposed spending $2.6 million on a new courthouse? We all know they probably need it. Hundreds of people pour through that courthouse each and every day. Hayes Township has how many people visiting their complex? Yikes, probably nowhere close to that number.

This might be a dumb question, but why not spend the estimated $40,000 necessary to fix the furnaces, so that the civic center can be opened back up immediately and utilized for many of the type of events you are proposing once the new building is constructed. It’s not like the building is caving in- it can be used with a little tlc.

Again I look at $2.6 million and shake my head. Why that number? Harrison Schools have got to be envious as they struggle maintaining older buildings. I’m sure Superintendent Tom House is wondering how Hayes Township can get that kind of money and the school system can’t.

Why not $1.6 million, or $260,000 or somewhere in between?

Hayes Township Supervisor Terry Acton, chastised REVIEW columnist Ray Augenstein, who happens to be Acton’s predecessor, (see Letters to the Editor) for suggesting that the building project be put to a vote. Augenstein, like this columnist, thinks people should have a say when this type of money is being spent.

Acton claims it is prohibited by Lansing, to put a project that is being paid out of general funds to a vote. He also says that the sixty or so people that attended a meeting about the project voted overwhelmingly to proceed and that community support “is off the charts.”

If that is so, I’m hearing from the wrong people. Trust me, Mr. Acton, there are many many Hayes Township residents questioning the viability of this project.  Sixty people giving you thumbs up at a meeting is certainly wonderful, but what about the other 4000 or so residents?

And Frankly, I’m not aware of any issue that can’t be voted on by the people. It all depends on how you word the ballot. If you’re concerned of the legality, make it an advisory vote. It  can be done.

That’s why Augenstein is right. Put it on a ballot and let the people decide. If they say yes it takes the Board off the hook. You have your mandate and you go forward.

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