Removal of city-owned trees has Clare upset

August 23, 2019

Trees bordering the city-owned site of The Clare Road and Gun Club were cut down recently.

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

A new lease for the Clare Rod and Gun Club property on Eberhart Avenue will be developed to replace the old 99 year lease the club has had with the City.

The matter was an item of discussion at the Clare City Meeting Monday evening. The agenda report by City Manager Ken Hibl said, “The City was recently surprised when we learned the Rod & Gun Club had clear-cut the trees on a significant portion of this property [which is owned by the City] without notice or permission of the City. Consequently we asked our City Attorney to review the lease and concurrently notified the Road and Gun Club that we desired to discuss this matter.”

Hibl said that according to the City Charter they can only have one-year leases on City property. Hibl said, “There has been a good relationship between Clare and the Rod and Gun Club.”

Clare Rod and Gun Club President Dave Smith said, “These trees were removed for the purpose of making room for a second trap field to accommodate a very popular high school shooting program. While it seems we may have neglected to seek the City’s approval, I can, however, assure the manager as well as the entire City Commission that our purpose was only to benefit the high school students who want to take part in this program.”

Mayor Pat Humphrey, Mayor Pro-tem Karla Swanson and board member Bob Bonham all expressed their concern and displeasure with the club over the removal of the trees. “They weren’t yours to sell,” the Mayor said, after Smith reported, responding to a question from Swanson, that they had received about $1,000 for the trees and had donated the funds to the high school program.”

The Commissioners said they knew about and appreciated the many things the club has done or participated in to benefit the community and the police department over their 80 year existence, but noted that it didn’t excuse what they had done.

The board agreed that they didn’t want to end the partnership between the Club and City, and directed the City Manager to “craft” a new lease for the property on a year to year basis. The sale of the trees and funds from that sale will also be negotiated with the club.

Some controversy also came up over the renovation of the tennis courts owned by the school district and earmarked for improvements with $40,000 of the funds bequeathed through the Kuno Hammerberg bequest recently.
At the August 5th meeting, the Commission unanimously approved the proposed list of projects developed by the Dr. Kuno Hammerberg Family Endowment Fund Committee which included the improvements for the four tennis courts at the Broookwood Athletic Complex.

The bequest from Dr. Kuno Hammerberg, $179,939.20 was augmented with funds from his son Eric to increase the gift to $180,000. The Clare Community Foundation will administer the funds, leaving about $5,000 in the Foundation.

Eric wrote that his father, wished to have the money “contribute to the enjoyment of the citizens of Clare. It is my understanding,” he continued, “that he was referring to recreational…activities.”

The City had received word late last year about the bequest.
The check was transferred to the Clare Community Foundation who serves as fiduciary of the bequest and a list of the City needs was developed to use up to $175,000 of the funds.

During Public Comment Pete Spilzley said he is against the City entering into a lease with the school [district]. He said the $40,000 should go to a long term project on property owned and controlled by City.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board did not agree with the City leasing the courts from the school, which is necessary for the City to approve using bequest funds.

Carol Santini also spoke saying, “All past projects have been funded through donations and fundraisers. The Tennis association should help out with this project.”

Commissioner Gus Murphy said, “We do have to make a decision. We should have an agreement, a pay to play to pay for the maintenance.
Commissioner Josh Clark said, “If it helps people of the community, how can I argue with that?”

The Commission approved 4-1 (with Swanson voting no) to Entering into a lease agreement with the school and secondly, in another 4-1 vote, for an Inter-Government Agreement for tennis court use and maintenance cost to be shared equally between the City, School and the Tennis League during the term of the lease [ten years at $1 per year]. The lease agreement makes the City the management authority of the courts.

A third motion, approval to request the disbursement of funds ($74,050) from the Endowment Fund, was also approved 4-1. Swanson voted no on all three motions.

The funds will also be used for: the Clare Rail Trail, Emerald Isle projects, depot benches, music licensing, park grills, the Art Alley and Gateway Park. All except the tennis courts will be matching funds.

Other business at the City meeting included:
*Approval of the low bid of $14,875 from Humphrey Brothers Concrete for the ramp on the east side of the Department of Public Works garage.
*Approval to sell vacant residential property next to Birchwood Avenue for $5,000 to Blaine Tanner.
*Approval of an amendment to the Gourdie-Fraser engineering agreement reducing the engineering costs for the Water System Improvement Project from $263,470 to $138,470.
*Approval of an amendment to the Mead & Hunt engineering agreement for engineering services for construction on the Airport Runway & Taxiway Lighting Project totaling $47,737.74. The City’s share of the cost is $2,387.
*Approval of the amended minutes for July 15th/
*Approval of bills totaling $64,669.54.

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