Mayor makes case for Clay Cliffs

CEMETERY SYSTEMS: Brandon Maneke, township cemetery and grounds manager, shows the Big Rapids Board of Trustees a layout of the Highland View Cemetery and discusses the process he currently uses to find gravesites. (Pioneer photo/Meghan Haas)

CEMETERY SYSTEMS: Brandon Maneke, township cemetery and grounds manager, shows the Big Rapids Board of Trustees a layout of the Highland View Cemetery and discusses the process he currently uses to find gravesites. (Pioneer photo/Meghan Haas)

BIG RAPIDS TWP. — Negotiations continue between the city of Big Rapids and Big Rapids Township over integrating all of Clay Cliffs Nature Area into the city’s boundaries.

Mayor Mark Warba attended the township’s meeting Tuesday to discuss the history of the nature area and the options available to the township for this change. Township officials hoped to use a 425 agreement, which would allow two government entities to share tax revenue generated by the potential future development of the area, to make this integration possible. Warba explained Tuesday why this agreement would not work.

“I believe Clay Cliffs needs to come within the footprint of the city of Big Rapids,” he said. “There are going to be responsibilities for maintenance, responsibilities for public safety and planning for what the future holds for it. It belongs within the footprint and the corporate limit of the city.

“At this point, it becomes a question about how that can be done. A 425 agreement exists, as I understand, to promote economic development between municipalities. Clay Cliffs is not going to be economically developed.”

Warba and City Manager Mark Gifford showed the Big Rapids Township Board of Trustees plans the city has for continuing Clay Cliffs as it is, with a few minor changes. Signage, trailheads, footbridges to pass over Mitchell Creek and the potential for a sledding hill are part of the Clay Cliffs Master Plan.

Though Clay Cliffs Nature Area is largely located in the city, some of the property currently is still under the municipal authority of Big Rapids Township. Warba said the options for this change in municipal authority are for the township to approve of the city incorporating Clay Cliffs into its limits or for the city to go forward without the township’s approval. With the township’s portion of Clay Cliffs being adjacent to the city’s portion, and the city having paid for the nature area property, the second option is available, though Warba would prefer the first option.

“I think the best thing for us would be to discuss this, have a public hearing on it to see what the people think and then make our decision,” said Township Supervisor Bill Stanek.

Trustee Jerry Everett asked Warba if there is a way to allow the portion of Clay Cliffs Nature Area within the borders of the township to be reworked into the city’s boundaries under the provision is remains a nature area.

Warba will take the question to City Attorney Eric Williams.

In other business:

  • Trustees approved the purchase of the TargetSolutions training system for the Big Rapids Township Fire Department. TargetSolutions is an online training system which will incorporate all the firefighters’ required OSHA standards. It will cost $2,395 in the first year.
  • Trustees also approved to pay the Mishigami consulting group to expand the jurisdiction of where the fire department can fly its drone. Currently, the drone cannot be flown near places like airports. Under a new certificate, the fire department will have more flexibility of where its drone can be flown in emergency situations. The cost of this process is $2,750.
  • Trustees approved to spend up to $3,600 on a used golf cart for Highland View Cemetery. Trustees also agreed not to block access to the cemetery on days when roads are difficult to travel.
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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at mhaas@pioneergroup.com.

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