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Township moves forward with park plans



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November 18, 2009 - Brandon Twp.- Completion of a playground and plans to install lighting and a lift station for an existing sledding hill at the community park will move forward.

The township board approved, by a 5-1 vote at their Nov. 16 meeting, to appropriate all funds necessary to complete the projects, part of a Land and Water Conservation grant, by next August, when the grant expires. Treasurer Terry Beltramo voted no.

"I am pleased that the board went in this direction, of moving forward with the grant," said Parks and Recreation Director Fred Waybrant. "Once again, I have to make sure recreation is moved forward in a positive way, because any overage comes out of my budget."

As budget discussions have been heating up during the past several weeks and the township faces making cuts to avoid a shortfall, Beltramo has voiced his opposition to spending money for further park development. Earlier this year, the board agreed to not seek any additional matching grants.

The current Land and Water Conservation grant, in the amount of $75,000 and awarded by the Department of Natural Resources in December 2008, requires the township to match the funds. Combined with $20,600 in a park fund, the grant gave the township $170,600 to spend on the playground ($80,000), a magic carpet ride lift station for the sledding hill ($71,400), lighting for the lift station ($7,000), and the 6,080 square foot trail ($12,200 including a path/labor/playground base/sidewalk).

The township spends the grant money, and is later reimbursed by the DNR. Because of budget constraints, the board considered requesting an extension on the grant, which expires Aug. 31; however, Waybrant said extensions are rarely granted, and not finishing the grant could have jeopardized the township's future ability to receive grants.

"If we stopped the grant project and didn't get any grant funding, we would gain $20,000 of revenue," said Supervisor Kathy Thurman. "We would lose a lift station and lighting valued at $78,400 and possibly all future grant funding."

Beltramo emphasizes that he is not against the park, which he calls a great asset, but adds that "when you don't have the money, you don't spend the money."

"It's a mistake to pass a budget for the park when we don't have a budget and don't know what's coming down the pike," he said.

Money to match the current grant comes from cell tower funds and recreation programming fees, not tax dollars. To ensure the grant is funded, the board also approved at Monday night's meeting the allocation of $78,400 in cell tower park development funds to finish the grant project, and $25,000 in cell tower park development funds to park maintenance.

Like the playground project, Waybrant said that after the township purchases lift station equipment, another community build will take place, likely in late spring or early summer.

"I hope that in 2011, they give me the go-ahead to use cell tower money to start writing grants again and keep moving forward with the park," he added. "As the recreation director, it's my job to keep searching for grants."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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