BOC opens county roads to ORV’s

By Erich T. Doerr | Review Correspondent

When Clare County passed its off-road vehicle ordinance a few years ago legalizing the limited use of ORVs such as dirt bike motorcycles or ATVs on the side of many county roads there was an exception in place for two roads.

Emphasis on the ‘was’ part.

After previously discussing the issue of removing those restrictions in a Committee of the Whole meeting Clare County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing on the issue Wednesday as part of its meeting. The board voted to approve the change and legalized the use of ORV’s on Surrey Road between US-10 and Cornwell Road and on Maple Grove Road between Bringold Avenue East and M-115.

“All county roads will be open,” board member Jim Gelios said. “Once you get into the communities that’s up to them.”

According to the board the change was made after it was requested by the townships with no other alterations made to the policy except the legalizing of the two roads. The policy still does not include state roads and highways such as Michigan Route 115, US Route 10 and US Route 127 where ORV use remains illegal.

While it came time for the vote the motion was made by board member Leonard Strouse and seconded by Lynn Grim. Because the issue was a public hearing a roll call vote was necessary with all members voting to pass the issue.

The proposal drew a packed house. The audience included Clare’s Richard Zinser, a trustee from Grant Township. Zinser said his board had first started discussing it a month ago and okayed it almost immediately.

“It’s a pretty good deal,” Zinser said.

In addition to the ORV ordinance the board also dealt with several financial issues including a transfer of $5,000 for new animal control equipment and $8,300 to cover for a shortage in health insurance. More serious was a shortfall of $2 million plus about $20,000 in interest that the county needed to pay off its tax anticipation note.

According to Clare treasurer Jenny Beemer-Fritzinger the problem with the tax anticipation note isn’t the amount of money but that it must be paid off by September 30 and they need the money immediately. She added while taxes are coming in they are still waiting for other revenue such as a jail payment and she’ll have to do something to take care of the issue.

“That’s the hard part of my job,” Beemer-Fritzinger said. “I’m scrambling to find that… The jail is only a small part of what is not coming in.”

Board chairperson Donald David noted trying to work with less is likely going to be par for the course in Clare County for the immediate future.

“There is no new revenue coming in,” David said. “There’s not a silver lining coming down the pike.”

Board member Jim Gelios suggested cutting $55,000 from the budget to save money and fund the Bayonet anti-drug program. His proposed cuts included $21,000 originally scheduled for the parks and recreation department, $10,995 for an Edge FX system, $18,994 for a crash data retrieval tool at the sheriff’s office and $3,000 for soil conservation.

“No cuts will be popular,” Gelios said adding he gladly would have left the parks and recreation funding alone if someone was willing to cut something else instead. “You can’t please everyone… Someone has to stand up and say we need to make cuts.”

Grim suggested cutting some funding for law books and other new equipment while board member Jerome Burger suggested halving the parks and recreation cut as a comprise. Although the board discussed the cuts at length it did not pass Gelios’ Bayonet proposal. This is not the end of the issue as the board continues to look at possible cuts.

“We’ve got to come up with an answer,” David said.

The board’s other approval of the day regarded the SCSEP Worksite Agreement. The board’s decision approved the Region VII Area Agency on Aging Senior Community Service Employment Program Worksite Agreement and authorized the board chair to sign it.

Following the Board of Commissioners meeting the members then entered into discussion for the Committee of the Whole on issues to be dealt with at future meetings. Items approved for future discussion included the Gypsy Mother Suppression Program Service Agreement, the County Child Care Budget Summary, the MERS 457 Plan for differed compensation and the appointing of Harrison retiree and Vietnam War veteran Robert Mulrenin to a four-year term on the Veterans Affairs committee expiring on April 1, 2016. The committee also discussed a $76 debt owed to the county by the road commission, including $16 to the state itself, mostly for statutory fees.