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Optimistic outlook on Deer Lake



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Independence Township Parks and Recreation Director Ken Elwert overlooks Deer Lake Beach. Photo by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)
March 02, 2011 - Not only is the community stepping forward to help save July 4 fireworks and events, but also to keep lifeguards and swim lessons at Deer Lake Beach.

Clarkston Area Optimist Club offered up to $20,000 if the township can match it.

"When we heard about the possibility of closing the beach for the summer, not having lifeguards at the beach, we had a board meeting that talked about some of the abilities of what we could do to help in that situation," said Tom Middleton, Oakland County commissioner and Optimist treasurer.

Middleton said board of directors approved the matched-donation proposal unanimously, and presented it to membership with no opposition. Members must still vote on it, though.

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Treasurer Curt Carson, also an Optimist member, said "it's great" when an organization donates for a particular cause, such as Optimists' Friendly Forest last year, but not necessarily for operations.

"Down the road I think that's sort of a slippery slope," he said. "Here we're trying to run these operations, we can't afford them. So we're going to charitable organizations to run our operations monetarily."

Trustee Mark Petterson was also grateful for the money, but feels the club "is doing the job government should be doing."

"We should be funding this ourselves, but they're stepping up to the challenge because they realize our fund balance, we couldn't manage to find the money for it," Petterson said. "We had all kinds of other things we needed to buy and that's a shame."

Parks and Recreation Director Ken Elwert made it clear the department wasn't seeking out help from the club, but instead the community group felt strongly enough about the "lack of this program" to fund it.

He also agreed it would not solve structural problems in the budget for future years.

"However, it does give me a year to actually look at the operation over the year and be able to make recommendations based on some time just looking into numbers and talking to staff," Elwert said. "I was floored when Mr. Middleton walked into my office a few weeks ago and said 'this is what's on the table.' It's just phenomenal."

The board voted unanimously to approve the township's match of $20,000. The funds come from the supervisor's budget, specifically the salary of an administrative assistant not yet hired.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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