Ordinance updates on tap for Keeler Township Board
By Annette Christie
At the November 7 meeting, the Keeler Township Board discussed several ordinance updates needed to keep their township in compliance and to allow them to enforce them in the most inexpensive way.
First was the Anti-Blight Ordinance. Currently the ordinance is not set up so that a violation of the Anti-Blight Ordinance is a municipal civil infraction. The township’s attorney has asked that the township do so to be in line with all of the other similar ordinance violators. This makes the process of serving someone a ticket much easier and less expensive through the legal process. The township discussed one property that would be treated so under the Anti-Blight Ordinance once it goes into effect (30 days from publication of the adoption).
The board also discussed the Sign Ordinance. With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding sign restrictions related to content, the township will need to have their ordinance updated to assure that it is in compliance. Supervisor Bill Kays said they also have had inquiries with regard to establishing a solar farm in the township; however, the township does not have an ordinance in place that deals with that area. The township was referred to the company Williams and Works who is familiar with these types of ordinances and the appropriate language. The board approved spending up to $2,150 for both subjects to be addressed.
Clerk Carl Davis assured the board that there was some funding in the budget for ordinance updates but would ask for an amendment if necessary as the billing progresses. Kays commented that every municipality is facing the same thing with these ordinances. Once Williams and Works is done updating the ordinances they will go to the Planning Commission.
Van Buren County Road Commission report
Rick Boze with the Van Buren County Road Commission was on hand to give an update. He said that they are currently busy cutting down trees and grading roads. A member of the public asked what can be done about the area on Territorial Road, which is between two farmlands, and has had some recent flooding issues. Boze explained that they have installed some tubing in the area but that the farmer who owns the property never installed the retention ponds that were supposed to accompany the drainage tube. Boze said that the Road Commission is unable to force the farmer to do so because that area is private property even though the farmland landscape is causing a flooding issue on a public road.
The board and Boze did discuss the need for residents to get a permit from the Road Commission if they are going to be doing any changes to or installing new construction for driveways. Recently, there have been some residents that are getting communication from the Road Commission finding them in violation of not getting a permit and in some cases having to change the work that they had done with the area of the driveway that meets the public road. This is required for anyone who is obtaining a building permit and should be obtained prior to the building permit being issued. Kays said that they will pay closer attention when issuing a building permit, when a driveway change or new construction is involved.
Fire activity in the township
A discussion was held with Fire Chief Don Bogart regarding two structure fires in the township caused by arson. Kays brought up the Cost Recovery Ordinance and said this is an example of where they should be billing under this ordinance. He asked Bogart to provide the cost of equipment and manpower associated with those two fires, one on CR681 and one on 77th St.
The Keeler Township Fire Department responded to 16 calls in October nine being EMS calls and all of the rest were structure fire or fire related. Bogart noted that there seems to be an outbreak of fires, not just in Keeler Township but for the neighboring communities as well.
Kays told the board that he is working with the Van Buren County Sheriff to try and get police coverage for the township. The township has an agreement with the county for police coverage; however, the officer assigned is out on medical leave until February. Kays relayed that the County is a little light on man power right now and so he is not able to put one person in the township to cover this specific area. They will continue to work out the details of obtaining police coverage in the absence of our deputy.
Twp. approves collecting unpaid sewer bills on tax bills
The board authorized tacking on unpaid sewer charges to tax bills following the unpaid charges in the amount of $19,508.30 to the Sister Lakes Sewer Authority. Kays said every year they accumulate uncollected maintenance fees, both Keeler Township and Silver Creek Township who share the system. The verbiage in the system’s governance allows for the townships to put it directly on the tax bills if it goes unpaid. The board took action to put its portion on the tax bills of the property owners who did not pay it.
In other business, the board authorized some tree work at the township cemetery and at township hall. Kays said there are two pine trees half dead and a tree with a very large split limb at the cemetery. There is also a dead tree at township hall. The board approved $1,950 to remove the trees and grind the stumps.