Township officials look into ongoing blight issues
Funding cleanups difficult for local entities
PLEASANT PLAINS TOWNSHIP — Pleasant Plains Township officials continue to grapple with blight in the township.
At the board of trustees meeting this week, Township Supervisor Kevin Braddy told the board they will need to continue to work on finding ways to fund the blight clean up, including possibly adjusting the current refuse special assessment.
Braddy said he has been getting a lot of complaints from residents about a couple of properties in particular, and he has been working with the zoning department to post notices of uninhabitable conditions and zoning violations.
“As we move forward with enforcement, we will be able to put any type of cleanup we are going to end up incurring costs for the township back on the tax rolls for that property,” Braddy said. “We will still need to find ways to fund some of these cleanups that we are going to have legal battles with.”
As a township, he said, they need to continue to look at cleaning up blight properties within the current budget constraints.
“In the past, we have funded our blight cleanup with funds from the special assessment for refuse,” Braddy said. “The problem is now our yearly refuse fee is costing us more than what we are bringing in with the refuse assessment and we do not have extra funding in the account to put toward blight cleanup. Moving forward, we will need to put together a workshop on the special assessment for refuse.”
Township officials have been dealing with budget shortfalls for the past several years, and a proposal for a township operating millage on the November ballot, was voted down.
At a meeting in May, former Township Supervisor Tammy Ghent told the board the state's Treasury Department was meeting with township leaders because they were coming out in the negative on their budget every year and having to use the reserve fund balance to balance the budget.
Ghent said at the time despite cutting expenditures every year, they still had to use the reserve fund balance to balance the budget.
“One of the things we learned dealing with the state treasury is that we can not continue to use the fund balance to keep up with expenditures, which is what we have been doing,” Braddy said. “The fund balances are now down to a point where we need to start building them back up.”
“If we get into a position where we cannot get the blight properties on the tax rolls, but they still have to be cleaned up, we will need funding to do that,” he added. “We will be doing some workshops and continue to work on this to be able to start funding these cleanups.”
Trustee Debbie Russell saidt in the next few weeks, they will need to begin working on the next year’s budget and all of that will come into play.
The board will be setting workshop dates, and information on that can be found on the township website at pleasantplainstwp.com.
In other business, the board approved the purchase of a set of new rescue tools for the fire department.
Fire Cheif Chad Schapp told the board they had the opportunity to purchase a demo set from the supplier at a reduce cost of $20,600.
“We already have one of the tools that we purchased with grant funds and we are looking to complete the set,” Schapp said. “We would like to replace the old, outdated hydraulic jaws that are pretty much nonfunctional.”
The set will consist of a cutter, a spreader and a battering ram, he said.
"The retail cost of each piece individually would be around $11,000, so at this price it will be like getting a third piece for free," he said. “We are looking at financing the tools on a seven-year loan and will take the money out of our loose equipment fund each year at a cost of around $3,300 a year."
The motion was approved unanimously.
Sheriff Rich Martin reported to the board that the department had collected around 92,000 cans during its six-day can drive and was able to donate $2,000 each to the Bread of Life Food Pantry, the Luther Lions Club, the VFW and the AmVets.
“We are going to try to continue the can drive on a smaller scale,” Martin said. “Once a month we will collect cans and spend one day returning them. Each trailer load will ring in around $600 to $800, so when we reach $1,000, we will donate it to a local charity.”
Anyone interested in donating cans can bring them to the sheriff’s department or contact them at 231-745-2712.