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Village eyes skate park, plans bridge repair



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December 08, 2010 - Ortonville- The skate park, replacement of a bridge, and the financial outlook for the village were among the topics of discussion at a village council study session Dec. 6.

New Council President Wayne Wills called the study session to inform the council, which includes several newly elected members, on village issues.

The Village Skate Park has a long history of complaints from neighbors since it opened more than five years ago, chief among them vandalism, profanity, drug use, noise and littering. The park is located at Ball and Cedar streets, in close proximity to several homes.

Village Manager Larry Brown noted that this past season, very few complaints were received regarding the park, but the council plans to continue to examine other locations for the park.

"Even though it's been a good year, we can still be proactive," said Council Member Coleen Skornicka. "It's not a dead issues, we still need to get it resolved."

Wills said he has spoken to Kevin Shorkey, pastor of Hillside Bible Church, about property owned by the church at County Line Road and M-15. Church officials have offered to house the skate park year-round at a pole barn at that location and monitor use. Wills noted the control of sound by using an indoor venue as an advantage to moving the park.

A disadvantage would be the ability of kids to get to the park however. Councilmember Dan Eschmann suggested a location near the library, but Aileen Champion noted the library has had its own problems with kids overtaking the building after school.

While the discussion on the skate park will continue, the council received some good news— the village has been approved for a grant to replace the deteriorating Ball Street bridge over Kearsley Creek.

Under the Critical Bridge Funding Program, the state will fund 95 percent of the construction costs. The village will be responsible for the remaining 5 percent of construction costs, as well as all engineering costs. Brown estimates the total cost of the project will be in excess of $700,000. The cost to the village will be between $100,000- $130,000, said Brown. The work will be done in 2013.

Fortunately, the village is in better financial condition than many other municipalities. Currently, the village has a roughly $500,000 fund balance. Still, like most other communities, the village will be affected by declining property tax values. Brown said property tax values in the village are expected to be 10-12 percent lower next year, resulting in a loss of $50,000 in revenue.

"Given the economic climate we are in, with continuing property values declining for the next two years and perhaps longer, and uncertainty regarding state funding, I would say we're going forward with guarded optimism," Brown said. "In my opinion, our situation is manageable. The council will have to decide at budget time how they want to balance the budget—if they want to make cuts, or use equity to maintain the current level of services."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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