July 10, 2013 - The Polly Ann Trail is in need of a new manager.
That's because the current manager, Juliane Bagley, submitted her letter of resignation July 3.
"Because of the burden associated with my daughter's ongoing health crisis, I am no longer able to fulfill my duties as trail manager," she wrote.
Bagley, who was hired in April 2011, turned over her keys, cell phone and a flash drive containing trail documents to Oxford Village Manager Joe Young.
In her letter, Bagley, who lives in Attica, noted that per her contract with the Polly Ann Trailway Management Council (PATMC), she "will be available for consultation for the next 30 days," but it will be "on a very limited basis" due to her daughter's medical situation.
"I enjoyed my time on the trail and working with others in the community who value the trail as much as I do," she wrote.
PATMC Chairman Ed Brakefield was shocked by the news.
"That was a surprise to me," he said. "That really caught me off guard."
Brakefield was sympathetic to Bagley's plight as a mother.
"It's pretty sad about her daughter," he said. "Pray for Juliane and her daughter. There's a lot on her plate right now. She's got her mind on her daughter and I don't blame her. Her daughter's health is first in her life right now."
In a written statement to the Leader sent July 6, Bagley said she hopes the trail council "will continue the beneficial programs and policies I worked to implement."
She cited examples such as the Adopt-a-Trail program, the handicap accessibility policy, the community outreach initiative, improved relations with the state Department of Natural Resources and the Friends of the Lapeer County Polly Ann Trail, and the trail's "popular" Facebook page.
"I also hope that they will continue to maintain the trail at the high standard (to) which trail users have grown accustomed in the last few years," Bagley wrote.
Records indicate that on the same day Bagley resigned, Steve Stoll, owner of the Oxford-based Hi-Hill Lawn Service, filed a lawsuit against her in Oakland County Circuit Court for the allegedly defamatory statements she made verbally and in writing at the May 15 trail council meeting.
Bagley told this reporter her resignation had nothing to do with Stoll's suit and that she wasn't aware it had been filed.
"I don't know anything about that," she said. "My priority is with my daughter."
Bagley's allegedly defamatory statements accused Stoll and Hi-Hill of not doing the trail maintenance work they were contracted to do, ignoring instructions, overcharging, refusing to communicate, having a potential conflict of interest involving the trail council chairman and exhibiting "intimidating and vengeful behavior" toward her.
Stoll, who categorically denies all the allegations, requested that Bagley retract her allegedly defamatory statements.
Bagley did not retract them and in fact, stands by her words. She defended them as a truthful and accurate portrayal of her experiences with Stoll and Hi-Hill.
"I was just doing my job," she said. "I gave a recommendation based on my experience (as I've done) with all past vendors."
"I think that Steve's accusations are frivolous," Bagley added. "He knows the truth. He knows what happened and the council knows the difficult time that we had with him. I don't even understand why there's an issue. Everybody knows what happened. He's just throwing his weight around, I think."
Stoll said he won't withdraw his complaint in light of Bagley's resignation because her leaving doesn't change the fact that her statements about him and his business were false.
"I'm going to go forward with it," he said. "She obviously lied in the newspaper. She instantly quit her job. Of course, I going to go after her now."
The trail council is not named in the lawsuit, only Bagley. "I'm not going after the board at all," Stoll said. "They didn't do anything wrong."
Bagley is disappointed that she hasn't received any backing from the trail council on this issue. "I haven't heard anything from anybody," she said. "I think the council should be more supportive of their trail manager, instead of just allowing this to happen."
At its June 19 meeting, the PATMC decided to not get involved because officials felt this issue is between Bagley and Stoll.
Bagley noted she hopes "the council will get it together" for the sake of the trail and future managers. "A lot of the (past) trail managers have had difficulties as well," she said. "I've stuck it out for the sake of the trail because I think I was doing good work for the trail. But with my daughter's illness, it's just too much for me to handle."
Looking back at her two years as trail manager, Brakefield said Bagley "did exactly what her contract called for, nothing more."
"I believe that her heart really wasn't in the trail," he said. "I think she could have gotten more involved with the trail itself. I don't know how many times she travelled the trail on a monthly basis."
Brakefield noted that a severe storm in June left 30 trees laying across the trail in Oxford and Addison and "no one knew about them."
Bob Godkin, who serves as a citizen representative on the trail council, informed his fellow board members about the situation.
As a result, PATMC Members Bruce Pearson and Buck Cryderman spent hours cutting up the fallen trees and clearing the trail.
The trail council is expected to discuss its need for a new manager at the 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 17 meeting. The meeting will be held at the Addison Township offices located at 1440 Rochester Rd. in Lakeville.
Brakefield noted that Pearson and Young, along with PATMC Member Sue Bellairs, have volunteered to serve on a manager search committee. It must be approved by the trail council before it can begin any work.
"We're going to try to move as fast as we can to replace Juliane and basically, keep the trail running smoothly," Brakefield said.
He noted that Bellairs suggested that maybe the trail needs two managers – one to handle maintenance issues and one to handle administrative duties such as applying for grants and coordinating events.
"If we had that, it might work out better," Brakefield said. "It sounded like a pretty good idea." He explained that if two people were hired, "the pay couldn't be as much."
Each would likely receive half of what was paid for one manager. "Of course, the job would be half the work, too," Brakefield noted.
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.