City, township or stay the same in Onekama?

Consolidation could mean changes in services

Director of local affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan Eric Lupher, right, discusses the possibility of consolidation before a packed house at the Farr Center Wednesday night.

ONEKAMA — Will future motorists driving into Onekama see a sign that reads “City of Onekama, Est. 2011?”
Or will the Village of Onekama, incorporated in 1891, cease to exist as a municipality and be swallowed up by Onekama Township?
These are the questions a crowd of more than 80 concerned village and township residents pondered at an informational town hall meeting at the Farr Center Wednesday night.
Eric Lupher, director of local affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, was on hand to present the possibilities of consolidating the village and the township. Similar attempts have been made in Michigan in the past, according to Lupher, only to get shot down when the issue came to the public for a vote, which it would also have to do in Onekama.
The issue even garnered attention from the national media. A story about the proposed Onekama consolidation appeared in the Wall Street Journal the same day as the meeting.
Regardless of whether voters choose for Onekama to become a township or a city, the consolidation would save money by eliminating a governmental body. In the case of becoming a city, both the township board and the village council would be eliminated and a city commission would take its place. If the village was absorbed by the township, the village council would disappear.
Currently, village residents pay 4 mills for services. In the proposed consolidation, a Special Assessment District (SAD) could be created in the village and lower that millage rate.
According to Lupher, consolidation also makes government neater. 
“The advantages of having one unit of government is that there is a clear line of accountability over who provides what government services,” he said during his two-plus hours presentation.
Consolidation, a highly touted concept among Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration, could affect such services as roads and law enforcement.
There have been two similar meetings in the past, but no more are planned. The next step would be for village residents to start a petition to “disincorporate.” The petition would only need 57 signatures. Ultimately, the decision would go to a public vote. 
“If they go city, what’s it going to do to the farming area?” township resident Robert Hilliard wanted to know.
Hilliard and his wife, Janice, are against the consolidation. 
“This … township is agricultural,” Janice Hilliard said. “They’re trying to make this a downstate city. We don’t need that.”
Many others were for the consolidation, though.
“It’s a matter of size,” said township resident George Punches. “The village is so small they have difficulty getting anything done. There’s a lot of enthusiastic people (in the township) who want to get involved.”
“I believe it’s much more efficient,” said township resident Herb Lenon. “It will help develop the community.”
Village residents Chuck and Mary Reed were also in favor of the consolidation.
“When we moved here, we bought our home in the village in 1990. Even at that time, I questioned why we had to have two representative governments for a community this small,” Chuck Reed said.
His wife said she was excited to see the two entities looking into it.
“I’d like to see us united in our goals,” Mary Reed said.

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