Source: Sherman Publications

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Trustees to decide bike path ballot language

by David Fleet

July 16, 2014

Atlas Twp.-The board of trustees is expected to discuss ballot language for future bike paths in the township at 7 p.m., July 21 at the township hall, 7386 Gale Road, Grand Blanc.

The "Walk, Bike, Run Atlas Township" committee formed about a year ago has gathered 358 signed petitions from residents in support of recreational paths in the township. The committee reports trails are necessary to provide a sense of community, increase property values, offer a safe location for outdoor activities, attract young families to the community, and improve the health of residents.

During the June 16 board meeting several trustees balked at the concept of bike paths without the consent of the voters. As a result, the board suggested placing the bike path question on the November ballot. The township proposal will have to be approved by the board before July 29 and submitted to the county board of commissioners before Aug. 12 to be on the November 2014 ballot.

However, a bump in the road may come regarding the language on the ballot.

Tom Luitje, department analyst for the department of state bureau of elections, said a vote similar to the bike path issue could be spelled out two ways.

"An advisory ballot question symbolically makes heard the general opinion of the voting population in regard to the issue at hand," he said. "In this case they would ask the township residents do you want bike paths—the question on the ballot in this case would make it a good idea or not for bike paths. In comparison, a ballot question could also force a response such as, 'the township will build bike paths yes or no.' Still it's up to the charter of the community to decide if such ballot questions are possible."

Shirley Kautman-Jones, township supervisor, supports the bike paths.

"The issue of ballot language will ultimately be consensus of the board," said Jones. "A vote would give an idea of the majority of voters, but attaching a dollar amount on the ballot would make the board obligated to a specific amount. For example, if $150,000 is earmarked for bike paths and only $30,000 is needed for matching funds, I would not support spending every dime on the paths. Still, we need to stay proactive and be ready when these grants come available, other communities like Davison are getting plenty of funding for those projects."

Patrick Major, township trustee who proposed the bike path vote, said the residents need to be asked.

"I'm really not sure of how many people support the bike paths," he said. "My first thoughts are an advisory question to get a better feel of residents' opinion. If there is a dollar amount attached to the question it should be very small. I just have spoken with many residents who think our township funds should be spent on roads not on bike paths. We need to ask, just what perks do you want to pay for?"