From David Lewsley
White Lake Township Trustee
The 0.3-mill parks and recreation millage proposal that appears on the Aug. 7 (primary election) ballot seeks to renew a millage originally approved Aug. 8, 2006. It does not request a property tax increase. The annual cost to the owner of a home with a $100,000 (state equalized value) SEV (or $200,000 market value) is $30. These millage collections are to be used for park and pathway construction, as well as park maintenance.
Some residents have expressed disappointment that (parks and recreation) millage funds have not yet been used to build a pathway. Development of a network of pathways (like those found in Commerce and West Bloomfield townships) along major roads is a key township goal but the enormous cost of such an undertaking has necessitated that a gradual approach be taken to achieving the objective.
The projected $280,000 annual collection from the (parks and recreation) millage is a relatively modest sum when compared with the cost of constructing a mile of pathway along a primary or secondary road — between $250,000 and $1 million, depending on rights-of-way that might have to be purchased and challenges posed by the terrain. Since the township lacks the resources to plunge straight into the building of a pathway network, it has adopted a strategy of pursuing grants to finance the majority of construction expense and using its limited millage funds to meet conditional match requirements.
The existing pathway along Highland Road is in deplorable condition and its improvement might seem to warrant top priority. However, it does not make sense for the township to commit a significant sum to upgrading it now because a relocated pathway is supposed to be installed in conjunction with reconstruction of M-59 by (the Michigan Department of Transportation) in 5 to 10 years. The township is instead planning to begin pathway construction along one or two other roads — perhaps Teggerdine, Union Lake or Bogie Lake (roads). Also, a grant may soon be made available to establish a walking trail along the ITC corridor.
Be assured only prudent expenditures have been made from (parks and recreation) millage collections and a sizable portion of millage funds have been frugally preserved for use as seed money on future pathway projects. And, tremendous value has been received for those payments taken from the (parks and recreation) fund.
During the past year, Vetter Park behind the Dublin (Senior) Center underwent a major upgrade to its ball field and other facilities. The township’s three (full-time) elected officials managed and completed the project for $100,000 less than the lowest bid. An incredible ball field was erected in a new park adjacent to Hidden Pines on White Lake Road for a bargain basement price. The township obtained the property through tax forfeiture, used a recycled backstop and fencing and free millings from M-59 to surface the parking lot. And, work is now underway to revitalize a former Bloomer State Park on McKeachie Road into one of the most scenic parks in the county using a state grant that matches $2 for every $1 paid from the (parks and recreation) millage fund.
I encourage White Lake voters to renew the parks and recreation millage proposal on Aug. 7 to enable the township to continue improving its parks and to move forward with plans to have pathways along each of its primary roads.