Letters to the Editor for June 30, 2018

“1st Responders
Appreciation Day”
Dear Editor,
What a wonderful day at the O.A.T.S. farm as we honored our local heroes on June 24. Members of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, along with Groveland, Brandon, Waterford, and Commerce Township fire departments, as well as the Madison Heights Police Department and Starr EMS were represented. The purpose of the day was to thank our local heroes and their families for all they do to keep us safe. Representative Jim Tedder (43rd District) proclaimed the day to be “1st Responders Appreciation Day” and will send a copy of the proclamation to each participating department.
O.A.T.S., which stands for Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles, is located in Groveland Township and provides therapeutic horseback riding services to 100 special needs children and adults each week. O.A.T.S. is a non-profit, volunteer organization and we rely on the generosity of the community to continue to provide these services. We were very happy to host this event. I would like to thank everyone who came out to show their support for our first responders. I would especially like to thank Deputy Brooke Aranosian who organized the event.
If you would like more information about O.A.T.S. or would like to volunteer you can contact me at (248) 245-1020.
Beth Pellerito
Executive Director

Group home update
Dear Editor,
On June 12, 2018 a resident of Sleepy Hollow, two trustees and I traveled to Lansing to meet with the Department of Licensing And Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to get our questions answered in regard to parolee sex offenders being placed in an Adult Foster Care (AFC) facility on Sleepy Hollow. The meeting was arranged by Representative Reilly’s office. Both Representative Reilly and Senator Robertson were in session and could not join us during the meeting although Senator Robertson spoke to us afterward.
We learned LARA and MDOC interprets MCL 125.3206 differently than we do. The Township believes it to mean persons released from or assigned to adult correctional institutions are not allowed in AFC facilities. LARA and the MDOC believe it to mean licensed AFC facilities for persons released from or assigned to adult correctional institutions do not fall under the residential use of property for the purposes of zoning. Reilly’s office has sent this question to the Attorney General for an opinion.
Although they will not give written validation, MDOC said they will not be placing anyone else from MDOC in the Sleepy Hollow group home. MDOC uses a third party to secure facilities for placement of parolees. The third party contracts with the AFC operators.
In regard to a temporary AFC license, any offence evidencing lack of good moral character by an employee of an AFC owner will not be considered a direct offence of the owner unless the owner did not follow the guidelines for hiring that AFC employee. LARA will consider complaints filed against AFC facility owners and the AFC facility owner will be given an opportunity to rectify the problem. Only direct offences by AFC owners would be considered for license termination.
AFC facilities are regulated by the state. Enforcement of a local ordinance that attempts to regulate zoning of small AFC facilities of 6 or less could be grounds for a lawsuit.
LARA pointed out that the laws for AFC facilities are old and should be updated. It was suggested that another category for semi-secure facilities be established. Residents can encourage their state representatives to update these laws to clearly state that all parolees (whether they have another diagnoses or not) do not get placed in AFC facilities.
LARA and MDOC were receptive to the concept of presenting at a public meeting but I am having difficulty getting commitments from a representative from each department. I will continue to work toward organizing an educational public meeting on group homes and will alert the Citizen when something is planned.
Kathy Thurman
Brandon Township Supervisor

(In response to, “Make informed decision,” a letter by Harry Branca, Jr., The Citizen, June 23, page 11)
Let’s correct some information
Dear Editor,
The issue of what to do with the Groveland Township Fire Department was not going to be decided now. What we said was there are two viable options and we were looking for citizen input before we proceeded further.
The township typically does this on important issues. I’m sure the board will now agree to discuss to stay with the Groveland Fire Department. That was the purpose of the whole discussion and survey. We must understand our costs going forward before the millage renewal.
Several incorrect facts have been put forward that should be corrected.
· NOCFA is not an unknown fire authority it started in the 80s and we checked many sources before we looked at it, all with positive responses.
· NOCFA’s I.S.O. and ours are exactly identical as of August 2018 no change.
· If we had joined there would be staff for use in Groveland and ideally the same people for the most part, if they wanted to.
· We only considered NOCFA because they also provide ambulance service.
· It is possible to leave the fire authority and retain everything you brought to the arrangement.
· The purpose of the survey was to see if our residents preferred the lower cost or keeping a second station within our 6 miles of township, but I.S.O is the SAME in both.
· The township does not have $7.2 million in reserve. The amount is all funds including fire department and reserve, township budget and reserve, building department and reserve, and infrastructure reserve for projects and all operating funds for the year. All funds are designated for current budgeting purposes at a public meeting every March.
· While the fire loan was paid off 3 or 4 years early, it drew down the reserves because they could not meet the cash requirement totally. The loan was only at 2%
· The township has repeatedly put large amounts from our cash reserves into the fire department over the years (well over $1 million) not from fire budget.
· Nothing proposed in either option would change our I.S.O. from 3.
Before we would pursue a change more research would have to been done, but we wanted input and we will act on it. Just like we always do. If anyone has further questions we will be happy to address them at the office at your convenience. Fifty-five percent of the residents did not respond to the survey. Of the 45 percent responses received, 53 percent wanted to keep Groveland Fire Department and 47 percent wanted to pursue NOCFA.
Bob Depalma, Groveland Township Supervisor

Thank you to Brandon Schools
Dear Editor,
I would like to thank Brandon Board of Education members Kevin McClellan and Debbie Brady for voicing their no vote to outsource the Brandon transportation department.
And I also commend Ms. Brady for bringing up the continuing issues from the outsourcing the janitorial duties a few years back. Seems the rest of the board voted to have history repeat itself with this initiative despite a line of community members voicing concerns at the meeting prior to the vote.
The end result—Brandon Transportation has retained only two current drivers for the coming school year. In short the administration miss-guided the outsource company on who would stay and the outsource company over-spoke on how they specialize in retaining outsourced employees.
Funny (not really) how no one asked the drivers what they would do if this passed. This is where Clarkston, Holly, Davison and Lake Orion all say thank you to our schools for disbanding this department. Our drivers with over 300 years’ combined experience walked into these schools and were hired on the spot.
Andrew Shahin

(In response to “Make informed decision,” a letter by Harry Branca, Jr., The Citizen, June 23, page 11)
Setting the record straight
Dear Editor;
Every month the treasurer reports the cash-on-hand for all funds to the board so they can see that our Groveland Township Revenue Expense Report has funds to pay bills.
What no one reported but what I said in the meeting was the tax money received in March and therefore showing in April were funds budgeted to be spent over the next twelve months for township, fire, building, infrastructure, planning, and zoning. Just because the township has X amount in the bank for future budgeted expenses doesn’t mean the township has an EXCESS fund balance of that amount nor that the amount in the bank can be used for any other funds’ expenses.
General fund bank balances are budgeted to general fund expenses; fire fund bank balances are budgeted to fire fund expenses.
The township board has reached a very envious position of being able to pay cash for our expenditures without borrowing money, having a building department that charges sufficient fees to cover it’s costs without residents having to pay for somebody else’s building permits, having funds in the township to pay for major building improvements to fire station 1, paid to build Fire Station 2, road paving, intersection paving where gravel roads met paved roads on major thoroughfares and gravelling and chloriding roads as well as helping fund the fire departments pension obligations and retiree health fund with an interest free loan. The township board also funded all tornado sirens, fire hydrants and okayed all the overtime hours that our fire dept needed to reach it’s first 4 ISO rating and now a 3 ISO rating. (Contrary to rumors, NOCFA has a 3 ISO rating that would also apply to our residents if they provided our emergency services.) Our insurance rates will not go up!
While our cash on hand is around $7.2 million that is all funds and is the money needed to fund all budgeted expenses for our fiscal year 4-1-18 to 3-31-19, NOT a cash reserve account.
I would invite all residents to attend our township board meetings the second Monday of the month where revenues, expenses are discussed and voted on as we pay our monthly bills. As to the fire department the fund balance has averaged only $26,400 for the past 14 years. Clearly not enough to purchase any ambulances, brush trucks or fire trucks. Hence being responsible board members, we wanted to investigate options for the residents of the township without raising taxes.
As to the allegation by a resident that the fire dept had an equipment replacement plan, it wasn’t until very recently that an equipment replacement plan was submitted and it was so huge it had to be reduced TWICE to be even remotely feasible. The board had been asking for a plan that was doable for years. It has also been the township’s policy in the yearly approved Appropriations Act to maintain a 50 percent fund balance for each fund. This year we actually had to reduce the fund balance amount for the fire department to only 11 percent as the funds were not available for the 50 percent level.
We do have an open-door policy and would encourage you to schedule a meeting or stop in the office to have any questions answered.
David C. Ax, Treasurer, Groveland Township