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Published: Wednesday, 2/10/2010

Whiteford Township officials hunger for own space

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

OTTAWA LAKE - The proposed Whiteford Township Hall on Sterns and Whiteford roads would give officials something they never had before: office space.

Township residents will decide Feb. 23 whether to finance construction of the new hall with a 1-mill, five-year tax levy.

The 3,500-square-foot government center would be built on township-owned land at the community park.

Supervisor Bernice Heidelberg, Clerk Pat Nidek, Treasurer Tim Hill, and the building inspector now work out of their homes.

Residents can go to the homes of officials to register to vote, pay property taxes, get building permits.

The monthly meetings of the township boards and commissions are held at Whiteford schools.

Township records, including building plans, are kept at the officials' homes.

Mrs. Heidelberg, who was clerk before she was appointed supervisor, said the township and school have partnered well in the building-use arrangement for meetings, but the economic slowdown that has contractors hungry for business makes the new hall proposal attractive.

The township is also at the point that it needs to do something to get officials, documents, and services into a permanent structure that is convenient to residents.

"If we don't build this building, then we will be taking money out of the general fund to pay rent so we can have office space," Mrs. Heidelberg said.

"We have had a wonderful cooperation agreement with Whiteford schools. They have allowed us to use the community board room for our meetings," Mrs. Heidelberg said.

In addition to offices for the supervisor, clerk, treasurer, and building inspector, the hall would have a public meeting room to accommodate 70 people, with restrooms, a lobby, a conference room, and a storage area for public records.

Township officials are estimating $500,000 to $600,000 for construction, $30,000 to $40,000 to install the water system, $50,000 for the sewer system, and $50,000 for improvements to the parking lot.

In recent years, the township has explored other options for government operations, including renovating and expanding fire houses owned by the township and buying and rehabilitating existing buildings.

If approved, the five-year, 1-mill tax levy would generate $215,000 in the first year. A mill equals $1 per $1,000 of a property's assessed value.

The tax, if approved, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home with a taxable valuation of $50,000 about $50 a year.

Mrs. Heidelberg said the township board could forgo the final year of the tax issue if it can collect enough money to pay for the estimated $750,000 construction costs.

"We are asking for a tax for five years. We the board could choose not to collect the tax in the last year if we find out that we have paid it off in a shorter period of time," she said.

If voters approve the tax request, Mrs. Heidelberg said bids will be sought and construction would get underway later in 2010.

The township could not begin collecting taxes until late 2010 or early 2011, but would be able to get financing from a lender to begin the project, Mrs. Heidelberg said.

Township residents who are registered can vote from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 23 at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, West Temperance Rd., Ottawa Lake.



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