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Park development stalled again

July 14, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- The park is in park.

Development of the township community park, even with grant money, isn't going anywhere. The township board voted 5-1 at the July 12 budget workshop meeting to seek a deadline extension from the Department of Natural Resources to complete a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant.

Supervisor Kathy Thurman voted no. Clerk Jeannie McCreery was absent.

"I voted no because my fear is that if it's postponed for a year, it will probably never get done," said Thurman.

The current Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, in the amount of $75,000 and awarded by the DNR in 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 a 6,080-square-foot trail ($12,200 including a path/labor/playground base/sidewalk).

In November, the board reaffirmed its commitment to the grant, voting to appropriate all funds necessary to complete the projects. The playground is now open at the park, but the board has struggled with budget cuts all year, and at Monday's meeting, discussion returned again to where the township's part of the grant money will come from to install a lift station for the sledding hill. Lighting for the hill was already nixed as an expense the township couldn't afford.

"We need to cut our losses," said Treasurer Terry Beltramo. "We're putting ourselves at risk. I don't think it will affect us with future grants, because they (the DNR) understand the times."

Trustee Tom Stowell said it would affect the ability of the township to be awarded grants in the future, but added that it was unlikely the township would be given another grant in the current economy anyway.

Parks and Recreation Director Fred Waybrant said he is OK with asking the DNR for an extension. His main concern is that it actually be completed.

"Time isn't an issue, but giving it up is," he said. "It's the wrong thing to do... The lift station is one of the main reasons we got this grant. The lift is essential in that the park was designed to be universally accessible."

Waybrant said the lift station for the sledding hill is also one of the main reasons the township was given the grant. He was unsure if the DNR would request reimbursement for money already spent if the grant is not completed.

Thurman said that although the township is requesting an extension from the DNR, it doesn't necessarily mean the project won't still be completed this year.

"I believe we have the money to complete the project, but we still don't have a concise estimate in every aspect of the project," she said.

Trustee David King said he believes the taxpayers are not in favor of spending the money to complete the grant. He added that he didn't think they were in favor of the park to begin with.

"I think they're wondering what happened to all our money," he said. "We're laying off police officers and we have this park... I love the park, but I don't see much activity out there."

The park opened at the corner of Oakwood and Hadley roads in 2008, with soccer and flag football currently played there on multi-purpose fields. Besides the newly established boundless community playground and sledding hill, a passive area of the park features a tree library. Future plans for the park include baseball fields.

"If we give up the grant, it will take a lot longer to develop the park, because we won't be able to get grants from the DNR," said Waybrant.

In previous years, the township used cell tower revenue for park development, but has put a halt to funds being used for park development as they grapple with budget cuts. Development of the park is now largely dependent on the donations of businesses and residents, both monetary and in-kind service donations.

For information on how you can help, call 248-627-4640.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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