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Parks dept. to get more land

Oxford Twp. Parks and Rec. Director Ron Davis poses in front of the barn located on the seven acres of S. Coats Rd. property that his department’s going to purchase for $212,000 thanks to a loan from the township sewer fund. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
August 18, 2010 - After many years of renting and moving around like gypsies, the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department is ready to settle down.

"We would finally have a home to call our own," said Parks Director Ron Davis.

Township officials last week voted 4-3 to authorize the department to purchase 7 acres located at 510 S. Coats Rd for its appraised price of $212,000. The land includes a farmhouse, three-car garage, barn, shed and small pond.

"It's a great investment for the department and the community," Davis told the board.

The plan is to move the parks department's maintenance operations to the new property, which is adjacent to the 14 acres it purchased in 2006 for $225,000 and added on to Seymour Lake Township Park.

Maintenance operations are currently housed in a building located near the park's entrance off Seymour Lake Rd.

Davis plans to convert that maintenance building into the department's new headquarters and move out of the office space it rents in the village municipal complex (22 W. Burdick St.) for about $1,000 per month.

"We're happy where we're at right now, but it's always nice to have your own place," he said.

Besides maintenance, Davis indicated about 1.5 to 2 acres of the new property would be used for additional open space and practice fields. He said the house could either be rented out or occupied by a caretaker or parks department staff member.

In order to pay for the house and acreage on S. Coats Rd., township officials agreed to loan the parks department the money at a 3 percent fixed interest rate for seven years.

"We have the money in our fund equity to do this, I just don't want to drain that," Davis noted.

Right now, the department has a fund balance of $259,000 as of Dec. 31, 2009.

"Our goal is to use a portion of that to do our office, whether it's next year or the following year," Davis explained.

The loan will come from the township's $6.41 million sewer fund, which is money derived from the bills sewer users pay twice a year and the interest earned off investments made with it as part of a pool through Oakland County.

"I think that's a great idea. We can keep our money here," Davis said. "Whether it's in our budget or your budget, it's staying with the taxpayers."

Based on the 3 percent interest rate, the parks department will be making an annual payment of $33,612 to the township's sewer fund. Once the seven-year loan is up, the department will have paid a total of $23,284 in interest.

Trustee Joe Bunting suggested the parks department be charged zero interest, but that didn't go over too well.

"You're giving away (sewer users') money," said Supervisor Bill Dunn.

Bunting said the money parks and rec. saves by not paying interest could be reinvested in its programs.

"That might be your thought, but we have 3,000 sewer users out there who might not agree with you," Dunn retorted.

Right now, a majority of the township's sewer fund is earning about 1.64 percent in interest through the county's investments.

That rate fluctuates. It was 1.2 percent on Aug. 3.

Although Davis indicated he appreciated Bunting's thought, he said, "I've got to pay something back."

The loan is contingent on the township receiving a legal opinion that it's all right to use sewer fund monies for this purpose. Earlier in the meeting, township officials asked their auditor if this was legal.

"The short answer is yes, you're allowed to do it," said Rana Emmons, a partner at the Plymouth-based Post, Smythe, Lutz and Ziel, Certified Public Accountants.

That's because unlike the township's water fund, the sewer fund does not have any outstanding bonds being repaid by its user fees.

Despite what Emmons said, Trustee Mike Spisz pushed to get a legal opinion.

"She didn't seem 100 percent confident to me when she answered that," he said. "I'd like to see something in writing."

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.
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