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Park problems frustrate board



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December 22, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- The township board has been divided this year on spending money at the community park, but on Monday night, they were united in their opposition to another park expenditure request.

At their Dec. 20 meeting, the board unanimously denied a request by Recreation Director Fred Waybrant to purchase a cover for the sledding hill lift station conveyor belt at a cost of $2,645.

"How can we pay engineers $20,000 and they don't tell us we need a cover?" asked Treasurer Terry Beltramo. "I say, cover it with a tarp."

Trustee Tom Stowell noted he and Beltramo have rarely agreed on park issues, but said he agreed with him in this matter.

Trustee Cheryl Gault said she was not happy with spending more money at the park, and Trustee David King's frustration was also evident.

"I knew this would happen," he said. "You can't put a sophisticated piece of equipment in and not have this happen. I hope we can get a lot of people using it. It's not even a big hill. Oh well."

The lift station was installed at the park located at 1414 Hadley Road on Nov. 13, with the help of numerous volunteers. The conveyor belt was the final step in completing a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant the township received in 2008 for park development. Completion of the grant has been controversial, because township officials had to match the $75,000 in funds they received from the Department of Natural Resources, even as the township struggles with budget concerns.

The township already established a playground at the park using grant money. The "magic carpet ride" lift station is one of the primary reasons that the township was approved for the grant for the park, which is designed to be ADA compliant and universally accessible.

The total cost of the sledding hill lift station was $77,343,02. The conveyor belt is not open for use yet, pending installation of signs and final state inspections. Waybrant, who was absent from Monday's meeting, made a written request for the lift station cover after kids walked on the belt after the Dec. 12 snowstorm, turning snow to ice that took him seven hours to remove.

Waybrant believes the conveyor belt will be heavily used by the community once it is open, sometime in the first week of January. An attendant will be hired to run the conveyor belt during hours of operation, planned for 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

"It's for everyone, not just those with disabilities," Waybrant said. "If you have difficulty walking, no worries anymore, this baby'll get you up there."

He was not supportive of the idea of a tarp, which he believes will be too slippery with snow on it and a danger to kids who would still get on the lift. The conveyor belt after a snowfall is fine, Waybrant said, as long as no one walks on it right away, because once it is run, it has a brush to remove powder snow and a scraper to remove ice, although not a large build-up like what was on there Monday.

Waybrant said the solution for now will be to send someone out to run the belt right after a snow.

"We got that wet snow on Sunday, and never got to the site until Wednesday," he said. "Kids had those two days off and really foot-trafficked it. The cover is a desirable thing to have, every ski resort has one. We might build a canopy roof over it and gate it with the help of volunteers."

The denial of the lift cover was not the only blow to Waybrant Monday. The board voted to take no action on recreation budget amendments he turned in, citing concerns with the number of changes (more than 150 line items were altered), and some expenditures already exceeding revenues.

"If worst comes to worst, we can call a short meeting to approve the budget," said Clerk Jeannie McCreery. "This needs to be looked at again."

On Tuesday afternoon, Waybrant said he had updated numbers for the budget, which is always changing because of program registrations.

"Everything should be in order," he said.

The board did unanimously approve a contract with Chesnutt Outdoor Service, LLC in the amount of $900 for snow removal at the park for the 2011 season.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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