Thursday, November 20, 2014

Special Meeting of the Bridgeport Township Board November 17th, 2014

This meeting was held to discuss and approve the special assessments for the police and fire departments.
Discussion starts with the township supervisor reading a letter that went out by constant contact email on Friday Nov 14th to explain some of the concerns that residents have been voicing.  This starts at 6:54 in the video.
Under Special Orders:
- Public Hearing for Special Assessment for Police Department starts at 11:57
- Public Hearing for Special Assessment for Fire Department starts at 1:01:10
Public Comment period starts at 1:21:21
Under New Business:
- Resolution R14-24 Amendment to 911 Saginaw County Interlocal Agreement starts at 1:32:10
- Special Assessment Police Department R14-18 & R14-19 starts at 1:35:20
- Special Assessment Fire Department R14-16 & R14-17 starts at 1:47:09
- Board Comments start at 1:50:35

My thoughts - Where to start……. 
Thank You Pastor Sinclair for a very nice story and invocation.
Good Turnout, but sadly those kind of turnouts don’t happen at every monthly meeting.

It was brought up several times that the board isn’t listening to the residents.  Actually they are listening and 60% of the voters that came out to vote on November 4th said that they do want these special assessments.  For the Fire Department the votes were 2,190 yes votes and 1,457 no votes.  For the Police Department the votes were 2,142 yes votes and 1,517 no votes.  

The loudest voices are not the only voices in our township.

I hate to go here but let’s discuss the troubled past.  A previous township board did try to put a special assessment through with no input or vote from the residents in 2009/2010.  They had the legal right to do so, but it did not go over well with the residents and they let the board know so.  That whole debacle rivals events that come out of Oakley!  Hopefully those days are past us now.
Fast Forward through all those troubles to the attempts by the township to get millages through for the police and fire departments.  One was done in 2010 but it failed.  What I remember hearing in the community was concerns because it was not specific enough about how much would be going to which departments and I believe there was still much distrust of the township government at that time and there was the issue of the DDA being able to collect a portion of the taxes.   Another millage was attempted in 2012 but it also failed.  If I remember correctly this one was more specific about the amounts and where the money would be going.  The only concern I remember hearing about was the dollar amount that some residents would be getting taxed, especially those with large acreages of land and high value properties.  
The township government listened to the concerns voiced by residents as to why they voted the previous millages down.  When they worked on this current assessment they tried to take those previous concerns into account.  Some people feel this new assessment is fairer to all the residents than the previous millages that were proposed.  Now someone sitting on say, for example 50+ acres of farmland, with a taxable value of over $50,000 will pay the same amount as everyone else.  Large land owners would not use the police and fire services any more than I would so why should they pay more?   This seems fair to me and to others I have talked to.

I understand the concerns voiced by residents at this meeting about the hardship of more taxes. 
There were other valid concerns voiced also like the one by Mr. Lysogorski concerning the 10 percent increase that the board can add to the assessment.  Even though this current board has no plans to do that, a future board may do it. That is where the public participation of the residents becomes important.  Every year the board will review the assessments and it is up to the residents to stay informed on the issue and show up at the meetings.
The ability to add the 10 percent increase is the way the law was written, it is not something that the Bridgeport Township Government snuck into the assessment wording. 
I don’t believe that if the township does add the 10 percent to the assessment amount in any given year that it will accumulate each year.  EX: The police assessment is $37.80 per year.  If they add the 10 percent on one year, that will make it around $41.58 for that year.  I believe that the next year the assessment will be back to the $37.80 that the rate was set at.  I will check with the township offices on that since I prefer to share accurate information.

Sadly there are residents that feel they were either misled or not fully informed about the assessments.  I don’t know what to say.  I have attended the meetings and understood it for months.  I believe there were articles posted in the Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald weekly newspaper but since I have recently put them all out in the recycling I can’t swear they were there or what date they may have been there. 
It was first mentioned at the June 3rd, 2014 Bridgeport Township Board meeting, unfortunately I was not present at that meeting.  It was discussed again at the July 1st township board meeting.  It was also discussed again at the August 6th township board meeting.
The agenda’s for the meetings are posted online before the meetings take place and the minutes are posted online after the meetings.  The agendas of upcoming meetings are posted on the bulletin board outside the main doors of the township government offices.  On the township website  they have the option to sign up for their “constant contact” email.  They send out important and informative notices for everything that goes on in our township.

In my videos I have a presentation by Fire Chief Nelson at the April 14th Building and Grounds Meeting concerning the problems and needs of the fire department.  View it here - April 14th Meeting
There was excellent presentation and discussion at the July 29th Building and Grounds Meeting - July 29th Meeting
And another informative presentation by Fire Chief Nelson and Police Chief Duffett held at the Bridgeport Gun Club in October - October Presentation

I don’t personally believe that the township ever tried to intentionally mislead the residents about the assessment.  Could they have tried other ways to reach out to the residents and let them know the details of the assessment?  Maybe they could have done a mass mailing earlier.  I don’t know what the costs of that would be, and if residents would complain about that cost.  For the residents that do not have access to a computer, maybe something like a monthly newsletter would be helpful.  There again you could be running into a cost issue.  The Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald does seem to carry more Bridgeport news than they did in the past.  The weekly paper is sold in all the local stores and only costs 75 cents per issue.
I personally feel that it is up to the residents to be aware of what is going on, from the local to the federal level; to seek out the information that will affect your quality of life, your taxes, and your future. 

There were some other things brought up about the legality of this assessment.  From the small amount of research I had done earlier about assessments, I had the impression that the township has all the legal aspects done properly.  I don’t have the time, energy, or patience in this blog post to go over this issue.  Perhaps I will in a future post.

It was obvious by some of the comments made during this meeting that residents have not forgotten the troubles of the past boards, of the bridge affair.  While talking with residents of our township it becomes clear that the township board is still disliked, hated might be a more accurate word.  If people cannot let go of the past and work together to move this township forward, there is no hope for the future of our township.

Things that were said and done before, during, and after the meeting reminded me of two events I have experienced in the past.  The first one was an exercise that we did in our 5th grade classroom.  The teacher put all the students in a circle and told the first student a brief story.  That student was to tell the next student the same story, then the second student was to tell the third student and so on.  By the time the last student in the circle repeated the story back to the teacher, it barely resembled the original story.  I guess the moral of the story is don’t believe everything you hear, get the facts straight from the original source.
Another incident happened in college.  There was a class that had part 1 in the fall semester and part 2 in the winter semester.  Teacher A always taught part 1 in the fall and then took the winter semester off.  Part 2 was taught by another teacher, teacher B.  Teacher A had a grudge against teacher B and had for many years.  Teacher A told his young naive impressionable students in the fall class that he wouldn’t be there for the winter class, that instead it would be teacher B.  He neglected to tell them that this is the way it was done every year, instead he led them to believe that this was being forced upon him by the college.  Once the winter semester started with teacher B at the helm, the well-intentioned but gullible students started so much trouble over this that it almost lead to the dismissal of teacher B.  Luckily there was one student who knew the whole story including the long vendetta by teacher A.  That student stood up to the administration with the truth of what was going on.  Teacher B was not dismissed but sadly was disillusioned by the whole sordid affair and did end up taking early retirement afterwards.  This story shows the power that one person with a vendetta, with an agenda, can do with a little twisting of the truth and people that are willing to blindly follow without knowing the whole truth.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

BridgeportTownship DDA Board Meeting November 12th, 2014

At today's meeting they discussed under New Business:
1. Marketing & Business Development which starts at 1:55
2. State of Michigan check starts at 9:24

Under Old Business:
1. Canoe Launch starts at 10:50
2. Great Lakes Discovery Center starts at 11:20
3. 6001 Dixie Hwy - Update starts at 12:35
4. Beautification - Update starts at 19:04
5. Christmas Decorations starts at 24:11
6. 2014 Flower Watering Expense starts at 27:16
7. Review of 4422 Williamson (former B & S Heating property) starts at 28:57
8. I-75 Billboard - Update starts at 47:20
DDA Coordinator's Report starts at 58:14
DDA Board Member Comments start at 1:11:23
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at Noon.

Some thoughts about some of the items discussed at today’s meeting.  I think the proposed plans for the former B & S Heating property are awesome!  It will be beautiful and will tie in with the bridge and the history of Bridgeport perfectly.  Tanya Moore and Steve Dobis are doing a great job on this project!
The Great Lakes Discovery Center is another project I hope finally comes to fruition.
I can sympathize with Augie Tausend and his view of Christmas decorations etc. being put out too early.  It irritates me when I go into the stores and they are putting Christmas decorations up the day after Halloween.  I saw a home and yard last week with their Christmas decorations already up and just shook my head.  BUT, I am looking forward to the Christmas decorations here in Bridgeport.  I absolutely loved the blue and green lights they had by the bridge last year and look forward to them this year.  And will be glad to see some new and better decorations displayed in town this year.  This is one time I won’t get irritated to see them go up a little early.  Maybe if they don’t light them up until Thanksgiving evening, that is a compromise that will make everyone happy.  It would be nice to see them lit up for Thanksgiving.  They’re not just Christmas lights, they are Holiday lights. 
McLeod’s does deserve a Thank You for the beautiful wreath and garland they provided last year to the bridge area and am looking forward to those again this year.
During the DDA Coordinators report it was mentioned that there will be 4 DDA board members whose terms are expiring this year.  I am not sure if any of them are planning on running for reappointment of their seats.  Anyone in Bridgeport can fill out an application at the township governmental center if they would like to try and get on the board.
During the coordinators report they also discussed the issue of snowmobiles going across the historic bridge.  The snowmobilers did go across the bridge last year.  I saw the tracks in the late winter towards spring.  I didn’t have my camera with me at the time so I didn’t get a photo of the tracks then. It looked to me as if they had been across the bridge several times, it looked like newer tracks on top of older tracks. They left the tracks in the snow and then in the areas where the snow was very thin and where it had already melted away, the treads from the machines left gouges in the wood planks on the bridge. 
I can see the problem with adding new posts to keep them out and the cost would be high.  Hopefully they won’t do it again.  The damage is minor now but after enough times, the damage could be a problem.  
Here is a photo I took earlier this year of the tracks that they left on the bridge.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Deer Hunting Woes In Michigan

You Might Be A Special Kind Of Stupid If You Do Any Of These:

1 – Tampons are not to be used as scent wicks for Whitetail Deer Hunting!  Tampons contain chemicals to control bacteria and odor and they often contain a strong unnatural scent.  So you just used one with a strong “fresh scent” added smell to put some “doe in heat” scent on?  Good Luck with that.
2 – Proper placement and use of deer attractant.  Hanging that fresh scent tampon about 6 inches above the ground on a random fallen tree branch, won’t be of much use for anything.  That fancy expensive scent dripper bottle that you just filled with one of the most expensive bottles of deer scent and then hung to the side of a tree about 2 feet above the ground, won’t be of much use for anything.  Until you understand the concept of scent trails, mock scrapes, natural scrapes, licking branches, the way the scent will travel on the breeze and be picked up by the deer, not much point in wasting your time and money hunting.
3 – There are two clearly marked active hunting blinds setting about 150 yards apart on a ridge top.  You take your fresh scent tampon and hang it on the ridge bottom in between these two blinds and within visual and gun range of both of them.   Need glasses?
4 – You arrive in the woods before dawn on the opening day of firearm season and proceed to take off all your blaze orange clothing and wait for dawn sitting in the brush wearing your full camo clothing.   Or you come and sit down about 75 yards from a hunter in their blind and proceed to take off your orange blaze and are now in your brown wool hat and coat.  The blaze orange requirement is in place for your safety.  Dangerous lack of common sense on your part.
5 – Shooting at anything that moves in the woods just leaves me speechless and scared to be in the same vicinity.
6 – Crashing your way through an impassable thick swamp 1 hour before dusk, at the prime time for deer movement, with no clue where you are going and making so much noise that you just scared every deer out of the area.  Then to top that spectacle off you spend the last half hour with your phone beeping and buzzing to make sure you scare every deer out of the area that may not have heard you as you came crashing through.  And the whole time you have no clue that you are sitting less than 75 yards away from another hunter.  Now it is dark and you have no clue how to find your way back out of the thick swamp.  Was it embarrassing needing that girl hunter to lead you back out?
7 – Mixing alcohol and firearms with the adrenaline rush of hunting.  There doesn’t even exist the correct words in any language to describe your kind of stupid.
8 - Sitting twenty yards from another hunter’s blind, ½ hour before daylight, wailing away on a fawn bleat call imitating a fawn in their death throes.  Clueless!
9 – In a vast area of state forest land, with no other hunter for at least a mile in every direction, you decide to go and set your pop up blind 20 yards away from the only other hunter there.  Really?
10 – You can clearly see a hunter sitting in their blind.  Instead of just going and asking the hunter how the deer movement is, you proceed to walk up and down each one of the deer trails surrounding their blind checking for deer tracks.  When you find the huge natural scrape in a clear shooting line from their blind, you stand in that scrape for a good 5 minutes staring at it as if you have never seen one in your entire life.  Get out into the woods much?
11 – You find another hunters blind and when you see the fresh scrape and buck rub right in front of their blind, you decide that is a good place to relieve your bowels.  Disgusting!
12 – You see another hunter sitting in a blind over a well-used deer crossing point.  You then proceed to set your young hunting companion right in that hunters line of site and within their gun range, on the other side of that deer crossing, in the only open space to get a shot at those deer.  Now neither hunter can shoot at the deer without risking hitting the other hunter.  You then proceed to spend the next several hours walking and crashing through the woods around the two hunters.  You are clearly a dangerous kind of stupid.
13 – You see a deer running though some thickets or woods and you empty your firearm shooting at the deer, with no clear opening or a clean kill shot.  Hoping just to hit the deer, doesn’t matter if you gut shoot it, hit the leg, you don’t seem to care.  Then after you half ass wound the poor deer, you lack the skill or humanity to blood trail that wounded deer and just leave it to slowly die and die for nothing.  You shouldn’t even be allowed to hunt!
14 – You see a female hunter that has just shot a nice buck and you try to claim it was the buck you just shot in the leg a hundred or so yards away.  How did that work out for you?  Best not to try and steal a girl’s buck!
15 – You decide to go out onto state forest land on the opening day of firearm deer season, with guns that are illegal to have in the woods during deer season and wearing no blaze orange.  You and your inbred companion think it will be funny to use a deer hunter as a running living target in the woods.  You are not just stupid, you are insane.  The next hunter you try that on may decide to start firing back and then you will become the prey.

Sadly there is an endless list of the special kind of stupid people you find out in the woods during hunting season.  Sadly some of the hunters I come across now a days lack the proper knowledge or understanding of the wildlife they are hunting.  The saddest part is that some of them lack any kind of hunting ethics; towards the wildlife they are hunting, towards their fellow sportsman, even towards the natural environment they are hunting in.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Looking Towards The Future In Bridgeport

Events seem to be moving in a positive forward motion here in our little township.  In August the millage was passed for the Bridgeport Public Library with 68% of the vote.  And in the November 4th election the special assessments for the Bridgeport police and fire departments also passed, both with around 60% of the vote.  If I am reading the numbers correctly from the Saginaw County Clerks website, we had a 47% voter turnout here in Bridgeport.  I believe that is higher than normal, at least higher than some of the elections I have taken note of in the past.  Of course I would like to see every election with a minimum 75% voter turnout. 

Sadly now that the election is over the nay-saying has to begin.  On November 6th Bridgeport Township mailed out letters to every property owner in the township.  These letters were a notice of the public hearing to be held on November 17th, 2014 for the special assessments for the police and fire departments.  The problem for some people seems to be in the wording in the letter.  Mainly that they can change some of the details of the assessment or that they can raise it more than 10% of the assessed amount.  At least it is my understanding that this is what they are upset about.  The comments are along the line of “That’s not what we voted for”; well actually it is what you voted for, or against I suspect in this case. 
The details of these assessments were explained in multiple township board meetings, several presentations were given by the chiefs of the fire and police departments.  I think there may have been one or two write ups in the Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald about the assessments, perhaps even in the Saginaw News.  I suspect that if anyone had wanted to know the exact details of the assessments, the legal language, then they could have gone to the township offices and gotten all the information they needed.  It has been explained that the assessment will never go over a 10% increase over the set amount.  Every year they will hold a public hearing to set the rate, which is at $45.00 for the fire department and $37.80 for the police department.  If the public agrees to an increase then it will go through, but I believe they are hoping to keep it at the set amount.  They also explain that if the full amount of the assessment is not needed, then they will drop the rate for that year.
Here are just two of the video’s I recorded of presentations that were given concerning the assessments:

And then we are back to thinking there is a “conspiracy” by the township officials.  For those of you that believe that they have set the hearing date of November 17th  BECAUSE they know that it is firearm deer hunting season and they are planning on many people not being able to attend the hearing, get a grip on reality!!  Sorry but no coddling feelings here.  I may still have trust issues with some of the township government officials but even I don’t believe they set that date for that reason!
I believe that they have to provide notice of the public hearing at least 10 days prior to the hearing.  The election was on November 4th, they probably had to wait until the 5th to be sure the vote totals were final, then they could proceed to send out the letters which they did on November 6th.  When using my math skills here I add 10 days to November 6th and that makes it November 16th.  That day falls on a Sunday and the next business day is Monday November 17th so voila we have a date for the public hearing!
Actually the township discussed setting the public hearing date as November 17th at the August 6th board meeting.  So it has been planned for several months now.  Have any of the complainers voiced their concern at a board meeting or contacted the township with their concerns about the date?
Normally there are only a handful of residents that attend the township meetings.  Hopefully more residents will attend this public hearing.  The township could have maybe waited and set the hearing for early December after firearm deer hunting season is over but then I suspect there are some residents who would dream up some kind of conspiracy theory for them waiting till then.
One last issue I will address for the naysayers concerns the incident of a township employee that may have embezzled money from the township funds.  There is not much to say about it really.  An audit has taken place and an investigation is taking place now.  The case will move through the judicial system.  I am assuming that insurance will cover the loss of any township funds but I don't know for sure.  Is there someone to blame for this incident?  I don't feel that there is except the employee themselves. If there are residents that have concerns about this matter then they should speak up at a board meeting or contact the township to discuss it with them.
There is an expression I hear mostly from the younger generation and I finally understand it - “Haters Gonna Hate”.  Bridgeport hopefully will keep moving forward and the haters will just fall to the wayside.

There are some things happening in Bridgeport that I am very excited about.  The future plans for the use and restoration of the former B & S Heating building located next to the historic bridge.  The DDA has the plans in the early stages and I really hope it works out.
The plans for the canoe launch are really moving along.  I have had some reservations about the plans in the past but I am truly getting excited about the dream of canoeing down this river.  I believe it will be in July 2015 that there will be a river cleanup of my beloved Cass River organized by the Cass River Greenway organization.  I am hoping to see some Bridgeport residents at this event!  I still have a concern about the water levels in the river but I guess you just keep moving forward and deal with any problems as they arise.  The key is to keep moving forward!
The Bridgeport Parks and Recreation programs are a great thing for the youths of our township.  The director is working hard to get more and more youths involved.
There are some positive improvements in our parks here in downtown Bridgeport and I am looking forward to the future of the parks and river!
The Bridge Fest continues to grow.  Next year there will be even better fireworks and at least one more event added.  Hats off to the organizers for all the hard work they put into the festival!
I can’t fail to mention the Bridgeport Historical Village and the Historical Society.  They continue to offer some great events there all year long.  The chapel they opened this year is beautiful.
There are some serious issues with our school system here in Bridgeport but I am hopeful.  I see passion and commitment from people that want to get the issues straightened out.  They all need to use that passion and commitment to work together and make it happen.

What will the future of Bridgeport look like?  Everything comes down to choice.  Do you want to be a naysayer or a positive influence?  Do you want to move forward or live in the past?  Do you want to love or hate?  When you see a plant do you see a weed or a flower?  I see a beautiful flower.