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Wildwood operations finalized

July 13, 2011 - The amphitheater commonly known as Wildwood now has a name and guess what: it's still Wildwood.

In addition to officially naming the venue as The Wildwood of Orion, a number of other important issues regarding the structure were mulled over and concluded on July 5 at the Orion Township Board of Trustees meeting. Other decisions included whether or not to allow restricted entrance (and if so where to get and where to install fencing), how to implement parking, how to extend utilities to the facility (including sanitary sewer, water and electrical) and how to organize concerts.

While the board resolved some matters with relative speed, others remained somewhat controversial.

The name itself only barely squeaked by on a four to three vote, with Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel, Clerk Penny Shults, and Trustee Mark Crane voting against the simplified moniker.

Moving on to the fencing, Trustee John Steimel opened the discussing saying he believed fencing, at such an early time in the venue's life, would not be advised.

"I'm going to say no not now," said Steimel "All this fencing is not cheap and we may not have the money right now. We keep putting more money and more money into these venues that we really don't have.

"I'd like to start using the place as intended for the North Oakland Concert Band and the concerts in the park, just to get it going."

Steimel added in the event of the fence going up against his thoughts, he felt an ornamental metal design would be preferred. Shults agreed with Steimel, and advised against putting the fences up so soon, but for different reasons.

"I don't want to see any more money spent unless it's spend on bathrooms and concession stands," said Shults. "If people come here and cannot go to the bathroom in pack that's better than an outhouse, they're not going to come back. The impression I think we want to give of this place, right off the bat, is that this is a place to have a good time and to bring your family, so to me, we need to make sure we have restrooms and concessions installed first."

Trustee Mike Flood however noted there needed to be some way of keeping people from entering a paid venue.

"I think it would be nice if we had the ornamental fencing installed later when we have money coming in to help pay for it," said Flood. "In the meantime we need to have something to secure that perimeter to help with tickets, and the cheapest way I see to do that here is to install the three rail split (one of the options for fencing.)"

Van Tassel countered Flood's notion, however, saying she

The final decision was to withdraw $1,500 from the Parks & Recreation fund to install temporary fencing, using income from events to pay back the expenditure. A type of green plastic fence will be temporarily installed.

The motion carried six to one, with only Shults voting nay.

The third item, parking, focused on the the construction of three gravel parking areas, which would not exceed the cost of $12,000, with funds coming from the prepaid DPW fund. The motion was again approved, this time five to two with Steimel and Shults voting nay.

The fourth item, concerning utilities for the facility, including sewer, water and electrical, passed swiftly in comparison to the other items, with moneys coming from the capital improvement fund. Trustee Neal Porter questioned whether the addition of sewers would mean the installation of a dedicated bathroom, but Van Tassel clarified the need to approve the utilities alongside the parking lot.

"The installation of bathrooms would come separately, but the utilities need to put in now, with the parking lot, so all the underground work is done," said Van Tassel "Then you're all set to put in your bathrooms after.

"The intent is to do some fund raising and have some paid for concerts so we can set aside funds to support these facilities."

The motion, specifically to approve the installation electrical and water utilities at Wildwood not to exceed $15,000, passed four to three, with Shults, Steimel and Flood voting nay.

The final item, dealt with entering into a contract with Michael 'Chizzy' Chisholm to work in tandem to bring concerts to the venue. The memorandum notes Chizzy proposed to run three to five concerts on the weekends during the August and September months using contacts with local bands and sound and lighting companies. In exchange for using Wildwood, Chizzy would give the Township a percentage of the income from ticket sales and concessions.

The main concern from the board, which was addressed, was whether they would have the right to approve concerts proposed by Chizzy.

The contract was approved six to one, with only Shults voting nay.

All together, the improvements to the facility will cost nearly $60,000 in addition to the money already spent constructing the area, and will draw on a number of different funds.

The next concert scheduled for the Wildwood is on July 19, featuring the local band Paint Creek Boys. Following that is the Dixie Land Band on July 26.

For more information about The Wildwood and shows taking place there, visit the Orion Township Parks & Recreation department or go to oriontownship.org and look for "Concerts in the Park" on the front page.

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