October 25, 2014

Belchak and Pedota resign from Standish Township board

By James Kuch
News Editor | news@arenacindependent.com
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STANDISH TWP — Standish Township board trustees Sharon Belchak and JoEllyn Pedota have resigned from the township board, effective April 1.

Both women cite recent board decisions as influencing their decision to step down.

Pedota, a 14-year board member, said she believes that a number of issues were not getting resolved in a timely manner.

“To watch our township ordinance, attorney’s recommendations and planning commission recommendations ignored when making decisions, it puts your own township at risk. This is not acceptable for me,” she said during the township’s most recent meeting March 26. “A township should not base its decisions on their opinions, but rather on the township policy, the township master plan and most importantly on the township ordinance.”

Belchak, a 30-year member of the board, made similar comments.

“When the board changes direction and no longer works for the best interest of its people, a single board member can no longer be effective or make a difference,” Belchak said during the meeting.

Both trustees cited two recent examples of decision making that led to their resignation. The first incident occurred during the Standish Township Planning Commission meeting held March 7.

According to meeting minutes, Belchak nominated Christine Bowerson as planning commission secretary. Bowerson declined the nomination and then informed the commission that she would be resigning.

Bowerson said that she felt the planning commission had become obsolete due to the fact that the Standish Township board could do what it wanted despite the planning commission’s best suggestions. She added that she had also taken a full-time position in Midland.

According to the minutes, planning commission member Arrainna Rau nominated David Miller as chairman. Miller accepted the position with the condition that he would resign in May.

Belchak and Pedota cited a second issue that came about during a Standish Township meeting March 14.

During the meeting, Arenac County Drain Commissioner Larry Davis presented the board with a written resolution for construction on the Worth Drain.

Belchak said that a petition was given to the board to sign to approve updating the drain.

The petition states that, if authorized, the petition would allow for cleaning out, widening, deepening, straightening, relocating, tile, extend and relocate along a highway.

Belchak claims the petition is worded differently from the verbal explanation given by Davis.

“What he verbally said was that he wanted to add the correct people to the billing, so that when the bill is due it will go to the people that are doing the draining,” she said. “I looked (at the petition), and if I sign it, I am saying this is what he was allowed to do.”

Belchak said she did not think signing the petition was the right move for the board to make. She added that board members Supervisor Curt Hillman, Dale Raymond and Sue Stein were ready to sign the petition.

“I said that I would like to look into it further,” she said. “The drain had not been changed for 100 years.”

By signing the petition, Pedota said that the responsibility would be taken from the drain commissioner and given to the township board, a move that both trustees said they were not willing to do.

Davis said he brought the issue up to residents of Standish Township last year before the board voted it down.

“Not one resident was against this,” he said. “It’s my job to bring issues like this to the board.”

Davis added that when US-23 was widened 20 years ago, part of the drain was covered and the Michigan Department of Transportation would be paying for the project. He added that he cannot make final decisions without the township board’s approval.

“I can lead a horse to water, but I can’t make them drink,” he said.

Belchak and Pedota said that had the petition been passed, it could have cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. Pedota said she wanted to see more information.

“There was no map shown to us as to where this would be,” she said. “There was no generated financial information as to how much money this would cost.”

“They (Hillman, Stein and Raymond) were very much willing to sign,” Pedota said.

Both women added that they will continue to attend meetings as citizens.

“It’s not like we are going to quit going to the meetings,” Belchak said. “We will go and just be on the other side and be able to voice our options as citizens.”

According to Belchak and Pedota, the resolution has been restructured and has not yet passed.

Arenac County Clerk Ricky Rockwell said that since the board still has a quorum with its three remaining members, they can choose to appoint new people to the vacant positions.

“They can handle it however they want to,” he said. “If for some reason, they fell below that quorum, the county could intervene and appoint new members.”

Hillman declined to comment for this story.

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