April 04, 2012 - Things have been going extraordinarily well in Addison Township, but the best is yet to come.
That was the essence of the 22-minute report Supervisor Bruce Pearson delivered during the township's annual meeting held Saturday morning. Approximately 40 people attended the gathering.
"Good government shines when times are tough," he said beaming with confidence and pride.
Pearson noted how when he and the current township board took over in November 2008, the nation was at the start of the "worst recession . . . since the Depression."
"Most people went running," he said. "In this township, this was our shining hour . . . We took a recession and decided that it wasn't going to affect this township."
"We decided that this township was going to move forward like no other township had. We accomplished so much during these tough times."
The supervisor then proceeded to list all of the township's accomplishments and give credit where credit was due.
A new public library
"That is a testament to this township," said Pearson, referring to the brand new 3,000-square-foot public library that's now housed in the Lakeville Towne Square strip mall on Rochester Rd.
"We provided for our kids . . . and our grandkids. We did exactly what our forefathers did – we made a better life for our community."
Pearson noted how the new library is definitely being appreciated and used by township residents. He was recently there with his son and he "saw so many people coming in."
"In February alone, they had 30 new (library) cards issued," he said. "They said their business has tripled."
Revenue for the parks
Pearson was quite pleased the 190-foot Verizon cell tower (or monopole) is finally up in Addison's Watershed Preserve Park.
The wireless provider is leasing 10,000 square feet of land from the township for $17,000 per year over a five-year period, with the rent set to increase by 2.5 percent annually.
Addison plans to use this revenue to develop and maintain its park system. Pearson noted how the township's already received three checks from Verizon.
"After this board is long gone, there will still be money (coming in) every month," he said. "Generations after us will still be benefiting from that. That's something that we did for the future."
The supervisor announced he plans to look into whether township residents are interested using some of that lease revenue to develop a new recreational park as opposed to all the passive nature parks Addison currently has.
"We don't have a soccer field, a baseball field, a basketball court," he said.
Pearson believes the township needs a park with a picnic area or gazebo area, somewhere folks can hold their family reunions and other social gatherings.
"We don't have anything like that in this town," he said. "I think that will make this town complete. I think that is one thing we are missing in this township."
Despite his personal opinion, Pearson made it clear he wants public input on pursuing the development of such a park.
"I will let the people tell me what they think," he said.
Prior to being elected supervisor, Pearson spent approximately 30 years as an Oakland County Sheriff's deputy driving the township's gravel roads in a patrol car, so he knows how bad they once were.
He was proud to report that now "our roads are much, much better."
"Every one of our roads will have been completely re-graveled (by) the end of this year. That is remarkable," Pearson said.
Addison contains approximately 40 miles worth of gravel roads within its boundaries.
"No other township has attempted that and we've done it . . . while we're in the black (and) in the worst economic times since the Depression," the supervisor said. "I think that's remarkable and I think our board should (be paid) a debt of gratitude for the forethought."
Pearson believes improving the condition of the roads was a very important task because "that's something that affects every single person every single day."
He noted how he received a letter from a Leonard Elementary student who thanked him for the road improvements.
"A second-grader realizes our roads are better," Pearson said. "To me, that means a lot because if they're driving around with their parents, you know they're repeating what their parents say."
Thanks to township Trustee John Boehmer, a safety path is finally going to be constructed along Rochester Rd., between Lakeville and Leonard, when the road is repaved next year. Pearson called Boehmer a "champion" of this project.
Pearson noted how the Addison government's 2008-09 budget was $1,289,032. It's 2012-13 budget, which began April 1, is $1,019,638.
This represents a reduction of $269,394.
Being able to reduce the budget by so much without diminishing services to residents was "no small feat," he said.
The supervisor explained how officials looked through every contract the township has and were able to negotiate significant savings.
The township was able to save between $17,000 and $18,000 in health insurance costs. With this, Pearson said officials were able to offer – for the first time ever – disability insurance and a small death insurance premium to employees of the township and fire department. Even with these new benefits, the township still experienced a $12,000 savings.
Pearson noted how Addison employees were paying 12.5 percent of their health insurance premiums "way before" the governor and state Legislature decided public workers should contribute to such costs.
"We're way ahead of the curve," he said.
Pearson was pleased to report that the township's budget for legal expenses was reduced from $164,500 four years ago to $80,000 for the current fiscal year.
"That's a huge difference," he said.
The supervisor attributed this to Addison's attorney, Bob Davis. who helps the township settle issues before they turn into costly legal battles.
"We haven't had any in four years," he said.
The township's liability insurance provider took notice of this fact and as a result, eliminated Addison's $25,000 deductible, plus lowered its premiums considerably.
Four years ago, the township was paying almost $70,000 annually for liability insurance. This year, it will pay $26,000. Next year, premiums will decrease to $18,000.
Pearson noted how the township's elected officials have kept their wages the same since 2006.
"It's not about money," he said. "It's about doing a civic job. It's about caring."
Over the last four years, the township has decreased its number of full-time employees. The government is using more part-time employees and the elected officials have taken on more responsibilities.
"We understand the economic downtown, we truly do, and we have responded accordingly," Pearson said. "You can see it in our budget. You can see it in (the fact) that we're in the black."
Pearson was full of praise for all the volunteers who've helped make the township a better place by doing everything from developing and improving the parks system to constructing the new library.
"The volunteers come out of the woodwork in this community," he said. "That's what this whole country was built on – volunteers."
Volunteers the supervisor cited by name included Gene Louwaert, Mike Walls, Derek Spurlock, Joe and Pat Schnur, Jim Woon and Charlie Peringian.
Calling him an "unsung hero," Pearson was particularly grateful to Peringian for all he's done – and continues to do – to enhance Watershed Preserve Park and for donating the land necessary to make the cell tower (and its lease revenue) a reality.
"He doesn't ask for credit for that," he said. "He doesn't say anything about that. He's just there. He's silent, behind the scenes."
Pearson noted how Spurlock not only donated and installed all the brick pavers for the relocated historic Arnold schoolhouse, but he's also planning to donate and install pavers around the flagpoles at Lakeville Cemetery, so the ground is more solid and even for the annual Memorial Day ceremony.
The township board
Pearson let it be known that many of these positive developments in Addison were largely thanks to the efforts and support of the township board. "We have the best team as far as the township board," he said. "I can't say enough about them."
He made it clear Addison is not a one-man show starring him.
"If anything ever happened to me, this community would keep going on the path that they're going (on) right now because there's so many talented people on this board that would step up and do the exact same thing (to) move this township forward," Pearson said.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.