MTA officials guests at township association meeting

Seven different jurisdictions represented 

WEBBER – Township officials throughout Lake County recently met for the quarterly Lake County Township Association meeting, hosted at Webber Township. With seven townships represented, this was the first meeting since January 2020, before the pandemic hit.

Michigan Township Association (MTA) leaders were special guests at the meeting, including Executive Director Neil Sheridan, President Pete Kleiman and MTA District No. 11 Director Connie Cargill.

The MTA is a voluntary membership association representing Michigan’s 1,240 townships, and is an advocate for local authority so townships can better serve and protect the quality of life for township residents.

Sheridan presented the newest reprint of the MTA book, “Authorities and Responsibilities of Michigan Townships Revised 2020,” known as MTA’s “Little Red Book,” which he said was very readable.

Sheridan told how the MTA is a resource and advocate for townships in the state, and also has a political action committee which will address and rally for issues to allow townships to have more say and control in what happens in their locality.

An example Sheridan drew attention to is the MTA’s opposition to Michigan SB429, a bill regarding regulations for mining of sand and gravel operations, which would strip the ability local government has to regulate mining operations, and puts the permitting process solely in control of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (Egle).

“We have a lot of clout when we work together and fight for a common cause,” Sheridan said. “Our political action committee supports candidates who support township government.”

After giving a presentation and Lansing update, Sheridan thanked Webber Township Supervisor Ernie Wogatzke for hosting the meeting and setting up the food.

“It is very important to get information out to (MTA) chapters and for township officials to see each other and know how to mobilize. Good job keeping the townships going during COVID,” Sheridan told the group.

Kleiman introduced himself and told how he became involved with the MTA. He went from school board member and school board president, to township supervisor in Harris Township, Menominee County, when someone asked him to run for local office when his township was having issues.

“Someone suggested I run for supervisor. I got elected,” Kleiman said, mentioning how invaluable the MTA was. “We had to close a landfill, and I was brand new. I was told to call the MTA. By the end of the second week I didn't have to look the number up. They went a long ways to get things done, and going through the MTA was way cheaper than getting a lawyer.”

Also during the meeting, Marsha Bouwkamp, treasurer of Peacock Township, announced her retirement after 20 years as treasurer of the Lake County Township Association.

"We really appreciate the service you provided," said President Mark Venema (Peacock supervisor) to Bouwkamp.

Norm Zelony introduced himself as Veterans Service Officer for the county, and said he is there to provide services for veterans in Lake County and is working on reaching out to all townships, so they know where to direct veterans who are in need of resources.

Gary Truxton, Lake County road commissioner, pitched a local road project that Elk, Pinora, Cherry Valley townships took advantage of. Townships taking part in the project put some money up, and through a formula, the road commission matches and comes up with a plan for improving roads.

For about $27,000 from the Elk Township road fund, which was matched by the LCRC, the township got almost three miles of road paved, said Elk Township Supervisor Lou Fitz.

Truxton said the road commission can also do smaller projects using the same process.

Toward the end of the meeting, Sheridan had township officials guess a number to win a free copy of “Authorities and Responsibilities of Michigan Townships.” Fitz was the lucky winner to receive the book for free.

When Sheridan asked how the MTA could serve the townships better, Gail Raad, clerk from Sauble Township said, "We use you a lot. We are grateful to have you.”

Others expressed similar sentiment, Bouwkamp adding she reads the “MTA Magazine” cover to cover.

“We are happy MTA chapters are going again, and we’re happy to get back out to speak throughout the state,” Sheridan concluded.

The next meeting will be Jan. 27, 2022, possibly in Chase Township. More details to come.