Where Do They Stand? Candidates for Macomb Trustee Talk Roads, 41A District Court, Business
Candidates for Macomb Township's board and county commission seats fielded questions from local voters and the Macomb Township Republican Caucus Thursday at a pre-primary forum at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library main branch.
Roads, business growth, the 41A District Court and senior services were just a few of the topics Macomb Township candidates addressed Thursday at the Macomb Township Republican Caucus’ first-ever Meet the Candidates forum.
Held at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library main branch, 14 of the 16 GOP candidates for supervisor, clerk, treasurer, trustee and District 13 commissioner were present to field policy and platform questions posed by local voters.
Given the number of candidates and the wide range of topics covered, Patch has presented the candidate’s answers in three installments: candidates for supervisor, treasurer and clerk, trustees and county commissioners.
What plans would you formulate for widening some of our roads and improving that infrastructure?
Ernie Laing: We need to take a look first of all at the monies that are available to work with. There is a need for the widening of the roads. If any of you have ever been down 21 Mile Road at Hayes, it’s a bottleneck. We have to get out there and look at fixing the roads. Of course we have to look at the budget and make sure we’re not killing each other with taxes. But that the same time we have to get those roads done. We need to find the money available without killing each other in other areas.
Renee Michaels: I live off of 21 Mile Road and its crazy. You can’t get anywhere fast and again, doing trucking for a living, I understand that time is money. When you have truck drivers stuck in traffic on 21 Mile Road, especially our garbage haulers, that’s costing them money, which means our rates are going to go up in the future. Our roads need to be expanded. We have a lot of homes developed, but the roads are not being expanded. I think we have to work with county and possibly look for grant money to have those roads expanded.
Maria Napolitano: Seeing as the county owns the roads and is responsible for the roads, I think we need to be more dedicated liaison to the county. We need to lobby to the county and demand priority attention to our roads. We’ve had aggressive growth over the last 20 years and this should have prompted attention to these scenarios sooner.
Incumbent Trustee Nancy Nevers: The township doesn’t own and doesn’t have purview over the roads–that’s the road commission. The road commission is show me the money. We were prepared to give them the money with this latest paving the committee worked on and the board approved and we’re going to look very closely when we get the revenues back from the road commission that will go to the next step of roads we’ll be looking at. It’s all about money and luckily we have it
Incumbent Trustee Roger Krzeminski: At the time we had the growth spurt in the mid 90s to 2005, the county didn’t want to do any of roads because we were building and why should the county come in and expand any of the roads because roads are good for 30 years and all that’s going to happen is we’re going to have these heavy trucks going back and forth. We’re left with that type of road system now. At the same time our supervisor (John Brennan) would tell developers they had to pave roads to get into developments. The board worked well with developers.
See what the candidates for District 13 commissioner had to say about roads.
41A District Court Relocation
What are your thoughts on moving the 41A District Court?
Michaels: I’m a businessperson, and always believe in less government. However, I don’t think we’re in need of a court in Macomb right now, especially in this economy. You have to look at who supports that courthouse, the taxpayers here. That means more tickets, more code enforcement when they’re short on funds. I’ve watched in other townships where the judge actually goes in front of the board and says, ‘This is how much money I’ve brought in from the residents this month. I’ve met our quota so that we could keep our courthouse going.’ That is not something I want to see on Macomb Township residents. In this economy, I don’t want to create any more burdens on our residents.
Napolitano: I, too, am not in favor of inheriting a project that shows a loss. Until we see some numbers that show sufficient funds to support the liability, I don’t think that it’s a conversation. Down the road there may be some positives to generating business growth to the area which the project would be cited. We’re nowhere near rectifying the loss and our budget needs to be protected.
Nevers: There seems to be an impression out there that we are all for that. Mr. Koehs answered that very succinctly. We looked into it, we formed committees, we found issues with the legacy costs. It’s a hot potato with Shelby. They want to get rid of it. They don’t’ want to pay any of that. We said no way, we’re not taking on that burden.
Krzeminski: The key to the whole move is they had a legacy cost of $8 million. The problem was the court was making money, but they were giving that money to the township to put away for legacy costs and the township was putting it into the general fund and not into the legacy costs. That’s where they got into trouble. If they move the court here, they will have to cover that $8 million.
Laing: I agree with what everyone is saying about legacy costs. That’s supposed to be absorbed by Shelby Township. If we agree to bring the court over and take all those legacy costs, guess what, that’s going to end up being taxes. I believe in order to move the 41A District Court over here, the legacies should be dealt with in Shelby.
Parks & Recreation
What are your plans for improving Parks & Recreation?
Nevers: We have three dedicated parks in our township. We have lots of empty space that belongs to township and could go forward with that, at his time, however, I don’t see any real urgent need for that.
Krzeminski: Parks and Recreation is operating at 115 percent every year. We have some dedicated department managers that are handling the township and it seems they’re doing a pretty good job … We don’t need to change anything.
Laing: We have some great parks, great recreation centers. They do a really good job running that for us. The only thing I would say–I understand that our senior center is closed–I would like to see it reopen and I would like to see some new programs for our seniors and our veterans. I think we ought to have some strong programs for our seniors and our senior center re-opened.
Michaels: I think our Parks and Recreation are great, we just need to make sure everything well balanced. A lot of our activities promote the younger generation. We need to make sure it’s balanced to keep our seniors happy. I don’t want our seniors leaving Macomb Township. Those are dollars that are escaping. I don’t want them going to Chesterfield or Clinton Township for activities. I want to keep them right here in Macomb Township.
Napolitano: Seniors would be my one improvement in Parks and Recreation. I love the preservation of our green space, it keeps us the old school township we started at and we need to maintain that. If there are any needs the public would inquire about, I would want to improve on those items. I see seniors are one of the biggest factors. When we’re out knocking on doors, it’s the No. 1 concern, with sadness even, that we’re not taking care of their needs. It’s not even a Parks and Rec issue, but I’d like to see some senior housing in the township, too. It’s important we fix up or change locations of the Senior Center, give them a place to enjoy with low, reasonable membership fees. We want to attract our own seniors, and have them call their friends and family and bring in other seniors. They should be proud of our facilities as opposed to boasting about facilities in other cities.
How would you stimulate business growth and job creation?
Krzeminski: Macomb Township is a 36-square-mile type of township and we don’t have thoroughfares such as a Van Dyke, or Gratiot, a straight type of road that businesses can come into. A lot of business would rather take to a Gratiot area because of all the traffic there. The only traffic that we actually have is on Hayes, Romeo Plank, possibly at beginning, and then Hall Road. We are basically a bedroom community so to stimulate the growth we are always open arms to having businesses come in and we promote that on a continual basis. We do have tax abatements. We also have renaissance centers and we want the businesses to come in.
Laing: I think its good that we encourage entrepreneurship and new businesses. It wouldn’t hurt to have some sort of business conference where we bring new businesses in to look at what we have to offer as far as developing land and things they can improve from us. I think its always good to have new businesses because that brings jobs and God knows we need jobs, now that folks are losing their homes left and right. I think we should encourage them. We should help where we can.
Michaels: Give them the red carpet treatment. One of two questions need to be asked when a business comes into the township. One is, ‘How can we help to meet your business needs?’ and two, ‘How can we get your site planning review faster?’ At any business, especially in hard times as this, time is money. More time spent in site planning review, the more money it costs whether you’re paying rent on a building or property taxes on something they can’t utilize. by helping these indivials get through quicker, it allows them to have more working capital to grow their business instead of wasting it on useless time in site planning review.
Napolitano: Time is money. We do have slow processes. We may have business growth, but we do see businesses leave, and I’m not a fan of vacancies, and would like to see them filled. We can promote business with perhaps tax incentives. I would be in favor of a business liaison to go out and promote the township. Another business cliché that comes to mind is location, location, location. Macomb Township needs to be the location that businesses want to come to because we’re easy to work with because they like our location, and that does encompass having proper road access and bringing in the proper tax revenue we need to thrive on.
Nevers: Mr. Krzeminski said everything I would say regarding tax abatements and renaissance zones, which we do all the time. But what I would like to mention, mixed usage in industrial areas. For those who don’t understand, what that means is allowing a nonindustrial entity to move in to an industrial area, say a training center or dance studio or photo studio to pay rent and we get the taxes. (The Macomb Township board recently passed a resolution to pursue mixed usage. It is currently under discussion with the township legal counsel.)
Challenges to the Township
What is the biggest challenging facing Macomb Township at this time?
Napolitano: Ethical treatment, and I mean that in regard to the residents and the business owners. I think there are some fears in coming to the board. I think people need to know that we’re approachable and have a true open door policy. I encourage residents to speak to us. I want to see a more content, amicable attitude.
Michaels: People need to interact with each other more, probably attend more township meetings to see what’s going on and ask for help when you need it.
Laing: Accountability. We need to be accountable to our community and the people who elected us. We need to be approachable, with an open forum, where the community can come in and talk to us about their problems. We need to be the proper representatives for all of you who voted us in.
Krzeminski: Continuing to have the amenities that we give to the township residents right now. We’re probably going to have another growth spurt in next three to four years. This board will be looking at what we should we be doing to help the residents to have a better community to live in.
Nevers: I believe our township board has always been responsible, open, transparent, and fiscally sound. The issues we’re constantly faced with would be a decline in revenues. Our board has proven that when it comes to fiscal soundness, we know how to do that. We have $29 million in the general fund surplus. We need supply all services residents have come to expect and enjoy while balancing those declining revenues at the same time.
Incumbent Trustee Dino Bucci and Clifford Freitas are also running for trustee posts in the August primary. They were unable to attend this forum.
For more race coverage, visit our Election 2012 guide.