Tag Archives: Grant Funding

UPDATE: Oakland Township Board (CORRECTION – SUPERVISOR GONSER) potentially commits $431,875 of Township funds to improve private property outside ANY public meeting

At the May 13, 2014 Board of Oakland Township meeting, ECT, an engineering firm that has been working with our Township Board to get water flowing in the Paint Creek Cider millrace, gave a presentation on the status of their efforts. As previously reported on this website, on January 24, 2014, ECT submitted a request for regional support for a grant submittal that included over $400,000 of Township funds for the project. A portion of those funds would have been for improvements to private property. During questioning,  SUPERVISOR GONSER ADMITTED THAT HE HAD MADE THE REQUEST TO HAVE ECT SUBMIT THE REQUEST.   His request was NEVER REVIEWED OR DISCUSSED IN A PUBLIC MEETING! This is yet another example of our Supervisor making unilateral decision outside the public’s view.

After ECT made their presentation, the author of this post wanted to ask several questions. Supervisor Gonser was initially not willing to let me ask questions.  He ultimately allowed the questions.  Here are the questions and the answers provided:

  1. Who authorized the January submission to the CRWC and PAC?

After some delay in getting a clear answer from the ECR rep, Supervisor Gonser finally responded “The Supervisor specifically!”

  1. Under what authority was it submitted?

The answer was never provided, however, the ECT rep indicated that the letter was not a grant submittal.  He went on to explain that the January letter was submitted to determine if the Clinton River AOC (area of concern) PAC (public advisory council) would endorse an official grant request later. He indicated that the AOC PAC did not support this project, and “that was the end of it”.

The lack of a direct answer to this question indicates that there was no ‘”authority” for making this request.  The Township would have been in a very embarrassing position, if the PAC agreed to support the request only to have it later rejected by the Board based on citizen input during a public meeting.  The Township request wasted the time of the 25 member community representatives that are part of the PAC.

 

  1. Why do you feel it is appropriate to spend public funds on private property?

Once again, the question was not answered. When I mentioned that funds would include improvements on private property, Gonser said “I think that is a leap of faith that is simply untrue.”  The ECT rep said to me  – “You are right!” (that the letter included costs for improvement on private property because it included costs for the stream bank and the millrace.)

As stated by the ECT rep, the actual dollar amounts could change dramatically, however, it is not “a leap of faith” that public funds would be used on private property.  The submitted request explicitly stated so.

 

  1. Why did you feel it was not necessary to obtain citizen input, in a public meeting, on this proposal prior to submission to the Clinton River Watershed Council?

The Supervisor did not answer this question, he told me that my time was up.

Stay Tuned as more information will be posted as it becomes available.

Here is a copy of the January letter submitting the project for review:

ECT request on behalf of Oakland Township

Here is a video of the May 13 meeting proceedings:

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Having our Supervisor make an implicit commitment for spending tax dollars on a project that includes improvement to private property WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OR DISCUSSION is totally inappropriate and exceeds the Supervisor’s authority.  By wasting the time of the 25 member community representatives, reviewing our Township’s proposal, certainly does not help our Township’s credibility on future grant submissions. We may never know what damage has been done in getting the other communities support on future projects.

Oakland Township Board potentially commits $431,875 of Township funds to improve private property outside ANY public meeting

On January 24, 2014, the Oakland Township Board submitted a proposal that would commit $431,875 of Township funds as part of a proposed Grant application for funds to restore the Millrace at the Paint Creek Cider Mill.  This proposal was never discussed or disclosed in any public meeting. A portion of this money would be spent on improving the millrace that exists on private property.  This is yet another action our Township Board has taken that may have violated the Open Meetings Act.  It may have been another unilateral decision made by our Supervisor to proceed on a project outside the ‘public eye’.  A request has been made to the Oakland County Sheriff’s office for further investigation on this matter as a possible Open Meeting Act violation.

Several years ago there was a project supported by the DNR, the Clinton River Watershed Council and Oakland Township to remove the Paint Creek Dam to allow fish passage and improve the natural habitat in Paint Creek.  The dam historically diverted a portion of Paint Creek’s water to the Millrace that powered the water wheel at the Paint Creek Cider Mill.  The removal of the dam, as well as the sediment that had built up over many years, now prevent water from flowing down the millrace to the Cider Mill.  A significant portion of the millrace land is owned by private citizens.  The Township has been attempting to find a solution to get water flowing back through the millrace to get the Cider Mill wheel turning again.

In reviewing the minutes of previous meetings, the Township Board never officially made a motion to establish a subcommittee to work on this project.  However, Supervisor Gonser, Trustee Bailey and Trustee Buxar apparently worked as an ad hoc committee on this project.

Originally, the Township used the Engineering services of Wade Trim on this project.  The Board later changed the Engineering firm to ECT (Environmental Consulting and Technology, Inc.).  On January 24, 2014, John O’Meara P.E., from ECT, submitted a proposal for a grant application to the Clinton River Watershed Council for their consideration on behalf of Oakland Township. The proposal was then forwarded to the Michigan DNR for their consideration.

The total cost for the project is $863,750.  Oakland Township’s portion for this project is $431,875.

There were no public meetings or public discussions regarding the Township committing over $400,000 for this project.  At the April 22, 2014 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser indicated that there was no need for a public announcement.

ECT will be making a presentation at the May 13, 2014 BOT meeting where this project will now be discussed.  We expect our Board to provide answers to:

  • why they did not feel it necessary to obtain citizen input on this proposal prior to submission to the Clinton River Watershed Council,
  • who authorized the request be submitted, and
  • why they feel it is appropriate to spend public funds on private property.

Here is a copy of the grant request and the associated letters:

ECT request on behalf of Oakland Township

Here is a video of comments from Trustee Buxar, Trustee Bailey and Supervisor Gonser regarding the ECT submission.  Please take note of Supervisor Gonser’s comment that a public notice for the meeting discussing this proposal was not necessary:

Correspondence from Board members after the April 22nd meeting occurred.  Treasurer Langlois responded by saying:

“Not revealing this (the grant request) does not help citizens and does not meet my definition of transparency”

Trustee Buxar responded by saying:

“I was not informed of this until after the correspondence with the Clinton River Water Council.  I believe this matter was handled by the Supervisor.  The only matter discussed by the subcommittee were the SAW grant applications that were approved by the Board in November.”

So did the ad hoc subcommittee discuss this proposal and approve it outside the public eye, or did Supervisor Gonser make a unilateral decision to submit the proposal?  In any case, our Township leadership is acting either illegally or inappropriately.  Supervisor Gonser’s comment that the discussion did not need to take place in a publicly noticed meeting is yet another display of his arrogance and dictatorial leadership style. It is consistent with his previous definition of transparency.  (Click on link to read his previous statement)

Supervisor Gonser and the members of the ad hoc committee may claim that they were only trying to determine if the various approval groups (CRWC – Clinton RIver Watershed Council, Public Advisory Council (PAC) and DNR) would support the requested grant request.  This approach is contrary to the procedure for submitting a grant request according to the CRWC. The PAC is a 25 community member advisory council for the Clinton River Watershed area. The DNR is the State agency that controls the rivers and streams in our State.  Asking those groups to “weigh in” on their support prior to obtaining the requesting community’s agreement to pay for the improvements on private property is outside the process. Besides, why would you ask for support for a grant request before you ask the citizens of the Township if it is appropriate to spend tax dollars on private property improvements?  Only in Oakland Township!

Last year at a Board meeting on another subject, Supervisor Gosner commented:

In an email he sent to Board members last year, he said;

“While I am for transparency, there are policy decisions and strategies that must not be shared until after they have come to fruition.” 

So it appears Supervisor Gonser uses “process” as a defense to not do something he does not want to do, but uses his definition of “transparency” to do things he wants to get done outside the public eye.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? Having the Supervisor, or an ad hoc Board committee, develop and submit a proposal that would cost the Township over $400,000 outside any public meeting is inappropriate and possibly illegal.  Supervisor Gosner’s denial of any wrongdoing in previous Open Meeting Act violation investigations indicate that the Board is not willing to change their behavior and listen to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office reprimands.

Since much of the potential cost for this project would be on private property, why would our Supervisor feel that it was not necessary to disclose the cost to the citizens in an Open Meeting?  Is it because some of the benefactors of this proposal were contributors to his campaign?

The citizens of Oakland Township need to understand what is occurring in our Township and demand the ‘transparency’ that Gonser claims to be providing.

Please attend the May 13th Board meeting to hear how the Board justifies their behavior.

Please review the following previous posts regarding similar actions by our Board and Supervisor Gonser.

 Supervisor Gonser’s definition of “transparency”

Another Open Meeting Act violation being investigated by Oakland County

Supervisor Gonser’s request for Attorney General Opinion

Gonser’s actions define his leadership style

Another Open Meeting Act violation or dictatorship in Oakland Township?

Gonser denies any wrongdoing – Prosecutor’s letter tells another story

 

Richard Michalski

Gonser Refused $1.1 million in Grants for Safety Path.

It has only been a few months since Township  Supervisor Gonser and the Board of Trustees, through their inaction, refused Federal and State Grants for $1.1 million that would have allowed our township to build a safety path from Gunn and Adams to the Paint Creek Trail.  It would have provided approximately 10,000 township residents with a safe way to access the Paint Creek Trail.

I am writing about this now because so many people are  reading these pages ( 6,500 views since we went live in July) and many of you may not have been aware of this action.   The safety path plans and grant requests were approved by Federal and State authorities.   Oakland Township was to contribute funds from the Trails and Safety Paths millage approved by the voters in 2006. There are now well over a million dollars in the millage fund.  It is our money.

Gonser was against this from the beginning.  He told me in a face to face conversation on Dec 12 2012 that he was against taking the Federal and State funds.  Gonser repeated this in a Jan. 3rd email where he said:

“I will tell you my position on trails/safety paths.  First, I strongly support private property rights and as such find that the Township suing property owners to confiscate their property through eminent domain most distasteful.  Second, I am opposed to accepting money from a government that is totally and completely out of money.  Nearly 42 cents of every dollar spent by Uncle Sam is borrowed, principally from the Chinese.

Terry Gonser”

He has contradicted himself on these topics with support of grant funding to rehabilitate the Mill Race and when he proudly accepted Federal grant funds for Fire Department equipment.  He has also proposed using the eminent domain process to obtain an easement from Flagstar Bank to build a different trail that he thought up all by himself.

We voted to tax ourselves so our government could build ” a network of safety paths trails and boardwalks to provide healthy recreational opportunities and safe routes to schools, parks and neighborhoods” ( from the 2006 ballot language).  How is our money being used? Gonser is now spending this money on a parking lot for the Paint Creek Trail.  His representative to the Township Trails Committee has proposed spending the money to maintain privately owned safety paths in large subdivisions.  This may have been a campaign promise used to gain votes in the election.

Happy Trails to You

Jim Foulkrod