Where Do They Stand? Macomb Candidates Address Taxes, Business, Roads, Liquor Licensing
Macomb Township's seven candidates for supervisor, clerk and treasurer 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.
Taxes, senior services, roads, business growth and liquor licensing 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 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 will present the candidate’s answers in three installments: candidates for supervisor, treasurer and clerk, trustees and District 13 county commissioners.
To the candidates for supervisor: Do you foresee a need to raise taxes within the next four years?
Incumbent Supervisor Mark Grabow: Absolutely not.
Trustee Janet Dunn: The current Macomb Township board has been very fiscally responsible for the 17 years that I have been a member. The board watches very carefully the expenditures. We have a purchasing policy in place that we adhere to at all times so that we can get the biggest bang for our buck. We also very carefully watch our expenditures so we can remain within the budget that is set every year in June. I do not anticipate any raise in taxes and I don’t pursue that in the future at all.
Charles Missig: Absolutely not, just like Mark said. There was a rumor that I would raise taxes and increase the sheriff’s department and that’s absolutely not true. We certainly have to be proactive with law enforcement and with our fire protection. I think more than anything we do need to be more pro-business. We need to market the township, if we’re very successful with that, then we will increase our tax base and then when we do that, we’ll have more money to provide the services that are going to help keep us safe.
To the candidates for supervisor: Many businesses still trying to get on their feet. Is there really a need to accelerate the number of business in the township?
Dunn: Last year, Macomb Township had 52 new businesses open up. This year we are ahead of that pace and will probably exceed that number. I think that is extremely remarkable for the economic climate we are in. In addition to that we have increased our square footage, so it’s actually an inflated number when you see how much occupancy we have out there. I believe right now that we have enough commercial space to satisfy the residents of the township.
Missig: The township is still very large. We have plenty of spots for private businesses. I just don’t see where we could have too many businesses in Macomb Township.
Grabow: We do have a number of new businesses opening every year, one of the realities is we also have businesses closing or leaving. We have to have a streamlined process in order to make that an effective program so these businesses can actually stay rooted and stay within the township. Working with them and being proactive creates long-term businesses.
To the candidates for clerk: How would you stimulate business growth and job creation?
Incumbent Clerk Michael Koehs: The current board works to streamline our policy and procedures. We just brought a township engineer on staff so we can save money from the consulting fees and at the same time provide quicker responses to the reviews that are necessary when people do apply to construct a building or occupy. We also provide industrial facility tax abatements and we have of course several businesses that are renaissance zones that added probably 45-50 jobs in last two years. We’ll continue down that course and try to stimulate growth and be much more accessible.
Cathy Imbronone: In light of the fact that I have not opened a business in Macomb Township in the last 31 years, I don’t’ know how streamlined that process has become. If in fact it has and it is a good thing, I think it would be important to have an ambassador so to speak, to put a package together and go out and sell Macomb Township. It has a lot of great things to offer. There are great buildings. There are empty buildings to fill. With concerted effort by the board and business leaders, e can go out and look for businesses to come into the township.
To the candidates for supervisor: With all the talk about increasing services for the seniors, how will you fund that?
Missig: More businesses of course. The same answer. The next 15 years our seniors in the township are basically going to be swelling and it sounds like a broken record, but you bring in more businesses, you enhance the tax base, we’ll have more money to provide. The Marvin Blank Center is quite frankly, embarrassing. We definitely need to reach out to our seniors.
Grabow: Macomb Township actually has a millage for its Parks and Recs. That millage is designed for all residents of Macomb Township. We need to re-appropriate and look at some of that fund in order to take a look at some of the issues that we have. We have seniors throughout the township that are very active and lots of them attend Macomb Township Parks and Recreation. There are a lot of inactive seniors that are not physically capable. Many of them also look for social activities. There is an opportunity to take a look and re-appropriate those funds.
Dunn: There’s over 5,000 seniors 55 and over that belong to the Rec Center that use it each and every day if not every week. Several years ago I was part of a committee that tried to get the senior program rejuvenated. We started off with an open house in which we attracted over 150 people, opened up senior center for six-month period of time and lost money because no one came. It started out pretty strong, we even had the senior lunch program there and it just dwindled and dwindled and dwindled until it was no longer cost effective and the township board decided to curtail that entity.
To the candidates for clerk: Macomb Township has possibly 40 liquor licenses available, what are your plans for those liquor licenses?
Macomb Township receives its liquor license based solely on its population. For every 1,500 residents, the State of Michigan issues one Class C on-premise consumption liquor license. We have ours, and we’ve had them for some time, because the majority of people that have applied for them and been turned down– and that’s only been one that I know of–did not want to make a commitment to the township. Those folks that have applied for our liquor licenses by showing us their lease or their purchase of property, that they are going to commit to a structure, to employment, to making a contribution to the township, those are the people we grant licenses to. In the 15 years I’ve been there, we’ve only granted three. Everybody else has transferred one in. They are available.
Imbronone: As a resident and a business owner I don’t want to see a bar or tavern or restaurant on every corner of the township. As a licensee of the State of Michigan, the process is quite lengthy and quite involved, very invasive. They ask lots of questions. They check your financial background and do a check on criminal records even after they fingerprint you and that process can’t be changed, I don’t think the state is going to change it. But being out in the community, talking and knowing a lot of owners that look for Class C licenses, they’re kind of put off by the amount of requirements of the township and sometimes to expedite things, its easier to buy existing licenses.
41A District Court Relocation
To the candidates for clerk: What is your position on the relocation of the 41A District Court from Shelby to Macomb Township?
Imbronone: I look at it from two perspectives, one as a business owner and one as a resident. As business owner my first thought is, well this would be great. It will generate traffic into the township–help our businesses. They might stop at gas station to fill up their tank, run into CVS to buy a bottle of water, run into McDonald’s and buy a burger. As a resident I am very skeptical. First thing that pops into my mind, why does Shelby want to get rid of it? With that said, most often with government projects, they never come in on budget. I’m concerned about cost down the road.
Koehs: It was the court itself that asked to relocate to Macomb Township. Macomb Township did not seek that. They’re asking that because they are the equivalent of 10 pounds stuffed into a two-pound bag in Shelby. Shelby doesn’t want to get rid of it. They want to get rid of the liability that comes with it–their $8 million unfunded health care retiree cost. Macomb Township told the court we would look into it. We looked into it, found the problem with the legacy costs they had not funded and we closed down our committee and we are not looking at it at this time.
To the candidates for clerk: What are your plans for improving our roads?
Koehs: Macomb Township at the beginning of this year had just under 13 linear miles of unpaved or gravel roads. In the past six months, the board has formed a committee, met, identified just under four miles that need to be paved, allocated money, and that will only cost us about $500,000 out of our general fund reserve. The roads will be paved by the end of next year. For the remaining nine miles, we’ll reactivate our committee and establish a priority.
Imbronone: It’s a little too late to do anything about it now, but the planning was bad. The roads that I saw 31 years ago are still in place. Few have been widened by not enough. The bottleneck on North Avenue is just unbelievable. I’m sure with some concentrated effort we can find money somewhere to widen those roads and improve the residents commute through the township.
To the candidates for treasurer: What steps should be taken to maintain the township’s healthy, financial status
Thomas Christ: A higher level of strategic planning. One of our larger expenses as a community over the past few months was spending almost $4 million on road paving. Macomb County budgets road paving in a two-year cycle. They are currently budgeting in 2012 what they are going to pave in 2014. Our township board instituted a committee and spent $3.8 million in a 14-week period. I went back through 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 agenda minutes. The word paving does not appear. Our strategic planning was a 12-week period. In corporate America, strategic planning, long-term planning is a must.
Incumbent Treasurer Karen Goodhue: I believe the township has been proactive in making sure the bid process is followed, developing conservative budgets by each department and department heads are very diligent in watching their budges. I think what we have done to put that $29 million surplus in the bank should continue to happen. If its not broken don’t’ fix it. I do believe we can always improve … but I think status quo is good.
The candidates for township treasurer were also asked questions in regard to their personal qualifications, the assessing process and the township's collections process for delinquent taxes.
Goodhue referred to her certification as a Michigan Certified Professional Treasurer, while Christ noted his business background. He went on to say that he doesn't believe the certifications held by Goodhue are "critical" to the position of treasurer "because the professional assistance available to all aspects of township management will remain in place."
As for assessments and the collection of delinquent taxes, these are processes that start at the county level, giving the township treasurer little to no oversight.
For more race coverage, visit our Election 2012 guide.