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Communication, finances big township goals for 2014

January 08, 2014 - The year 2014 is off to a cold start, but residents can expect a warm welcome at Independence Township Hall, said Supervisor Pat Kittle.

Kittle said he wants residents to know his door is always open and he would also like to hold more meetings with homeowners association presidents. "I want to do this to improve communications with residents," he said.

About 10 times a year, including next week's edition, The Clarkston News will includes a special section called the Township Times. Each special section will be written by township employees and will inform residents about important events.

"I'm looking forward to working with The Clarkston News to keep residents informed," said Kittle.

Another major goal for 2014 is to update and improve the township website.

Financial goals are also a big part of the 2014 plans.

Sewer and water rates must rise at least 10 percent to make up for a deficit in the funds. A raise increase is expected to be decided by the township board of trustees by mid-January.

Paying down a $3 million loan the township borrowed when the Walton Road Township Hall was built will be important in 2014, said Kittle.

Some clerical and human relation issued also need to be addressed.

Tasks like ensuring job descriptions are clear are in the process of being completed.

Making jobs easier for township employees is also among the goals for 2014.

"We have a new software that allows our departments to complete end of the month summaries," he said adding that no job descriptions were previously in place.

"There was also no employee handbook or policies in place, and we need a good ethics policy," he said.

Kittle said the township officials are always on the lookout for ways to improve.

"We also look to other communities for ideas when we see something that works well. We will benchmark other communities where we find things we feel are effective," he said.

Working with other communities to share resources may also be among the 2014 changes.

One asset that can be shared is fire resources.

Kittle said at the end of the 2013, the contract with the fire department expired, and 3-years of budgets have been laid out.

With the new software budgets details are easier to monitor because it allows officials to click on various expenditures or revenue.

"It's a nice tool because it allows allows us to also add notes and explain important things under each line of the budget," he said.

Kittle said 2014 will be a year for the township to focus on economic growth to ensure future prosperity.

Several new developments including a hotel are planned for the area, and Kittle said growth will continue despite a recent setback with proposed hospital.

Kittle said he is disappointed by Dec. 20 decision by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Colleen O'Brien to reject a McLaren Health Care Corp. plea certificate-of-need which was denied to the hospital by the Michigan Department of Community Health.

"We are still pushing for the hospital.' He said adding that resident should be angered by the decision and encouraged citizens to write lawmakers," he said.

McLaren, a non-profit hospital made a request to move 200 hospital beds from Pontiac and build a newly $303 hospital near the present McLaren Health Campus located at Sashabaw and Bow Pointe Drive.

Kittle as well as Oakland County will continue to support McLaren's fight to build the hospital.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Oakland County will also continue to provide support to McLaren.

Kittle said the 35,000 residents in Independence Township need access to a closer hospital.

"Our needs are changing and we have an aging population," he said.

Although a fight to build a hospital may be lost, Kittle said during talks with McLaren representatives he secured funding while in a meeting with McLaren discussing the new hospital project.

"I told them I was hoping McLaren would help cover some of the expenses of a 1-75 Walton Road improvement project and the McLaren official discussed the idea with his Board of Directors and they agreed to provide the funding."

"Initially we discussed a $1 million commitment to improvements at the Sashabaw corridor , but that increased to $1.5 million for improvements on Sashabaw Road at 1-75 and Walton Road areas.

Kittle and township officials secured the McLaren funding regardless of the new hospital is built or not.

Another very different project in terms of funding and planning is upcoming discussions of a new exit ramp on 1-75 and Clintonville.

Only an exit ramp, the project would have to have a cost feasibility study and a lot of other planning, Kittle said.

Property to build the ramp would have to be purchased by the Land Conservancy if they are willing to sell it.

Kittle said some residents have expressed concern over the possibility of adding a ramp because DTE event attendees may use the ramp to go to the venue and cut through neighborhoods.

"A ramp off Clintonville would act as a pressure relief valve on 1-75," he said. "These will be discussed in 2014."

Another road improvement, which is already scheduled, is a resurfacing project on M-15 begin in spring.

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has scheduled M-15 also knows as Ortonville Road for a resurfacing project from Wolf Road in Ortonville through Clarkston.

It's still uncertain if the project will begin in Ortonville or Clarkston.

In addition to road projects, discussions regarding the 190 acres of undeveloped land on the Sashabaw Road Corridor continue.

Under the Township's Master Plan Dixie Highway and Sashabaw, the two main corridors' in the township, are both slated for improvements.

Dixie Highway and Sashabaw Roads are very different, so the plans are varied. Sashabaw Road has a lot of underdeveloped property while Dixie has already been developed and needs improvements.

Work to improve both corridors will continue while new development is also sought.

In addition to bringing in new development, Kittle said he is pushing for 125 new homes to be built in the township this year.

Some of the property in the township slated to be developed include subdivisions like Eagle Ridge, and developments on the Lake Orion border and other commercial and residential property throughout the township.

Continued work on safety paths throughout the community will also continue, he said.

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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