2015 was a busy year in the City of Saline’s parks. And many more activities are planned for this year.
Neil Moorman, Chair of the Saline Parks Commission, presented the commission’s annual report to Saline City Council Monday. He listed the accomplishments of 2015 and highlighted events coming in 2016.
For 2015, he emphasized the partnerships that had developed between the Parks Commission and those planning community events, such as Saline Main Street and the Celtic Festival Committee. This allowed the Parks Commission to include some of their activities in events like Summer Fest and Oktoberfest.
As usual, the Commission presented the Green Thumb Award to a few exemplary gardeners, they had an annual park cleanup at Curtiss Park and they planted a tree for Arbor Day. In addition, they oversaw the beginning of archeological excavations at Salt Spring Park and drew up a new Parks and Recreation Mater Plan.
The Commission is working with a Saline fourth grader, Donovan Gillow, to raise funds for upgrading the play structure at Brecon Park.
Coming events for 2016 include another Arbor Day tree planting at Tefft Park. The spring cleanup will be May 7 at Marlpool and Canterbury Parks.
On June 10 a new event will be introduced called the “Muttstodon.” This will be somewhat similar to the Mastodon Celtic Challenge except it is for dogs.
The Mastodon will be held on July 9, in conjunction with the Celtic Festival. This race is a tough mudder where contestants confront numerous obstacles throughout the course.
There will be three movies in Mill Pond Park again this year and the second one will include a family campout. “Finding Nemo” will be shown June10, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on July 22 and “Zootopia” on August 29.
Relay for Life May 14
Karen Ragland and Elaine Lauerman of Saline came forward with Lauren Wagner of the American Cancer Society to speak about the Relay for Life. Ragland announced that Saline has won an award and she would like to present it to City Council. Wagner made the presentation.
“This award represents Saline’s commitment to the fight against cancer and the city’s outstanding effort in the easing the burden of cancer for everyone around the world,” Wagner said. “This is the nationwide Top 10 Per Capita Award, meaning that you have excellence in fund raising in your sixth year.”
Earth Day and BIke Month
Council passed the consent agenda without discussion. The agenda included a proclamation of April 22 as Earth Day in the city and the month of May as National Bike Month. There were also a number of budgetary matters.
City to Buy Less Salt
The next issue on the agenda concerned buying road salt for the next winter. The cost of salt fluctuates from year to year, but the city is able to get the best deal through the MiDEAL Road Salt Program.
Through this program the projected salt needs of many communities are pooled, giving the group greater bargaining power with salt suppliers. DPW Director Jeff Fordice said that this year the city will be buying 400 tons, only half what they purchased last year. They have a lot left over due to a light winter.
The salt purchase was approved unanimously
Saline Social Service Requests Variance Waiver
The next agenda item concerned Saline Area Social Service (SASS). The agency applied for and received a variance to add a second sign to their property at 224 West Michigan. They were billed $550 dollars for the process, but are asking for a waiver of some or all the fees.
This request brought up a recurrent problem for the council. They often would like to support local charitable causes, but are unsure of the legality of it. Consequently, most such requests are declined.
Patrick Little and SASS Director Jamail Aikens came forward to speak for the agency. Aikens invited council members to attend the grand opening of their new facility on May 21.
“As you know, the Saline Area Social Services uses every dime that’s donated for services to us, our community,” Little said.
Most council members seemed inclined to grant the waiver, but Dean Girbach raised the legal concern. Todd Campbell explained that legally it is not considered proper to offer city money unless there is a quid pro quo, i.e., the city must be gaining some benefit in exchange.
In citizen’s comments, Mary Hess made the argument for denying a waiver. She said that whether a group like SASS actually contributes to the community or not is simply opinion and that it is not appropriate to select certain groups to benefit from taxpayers’ money based on an opinion.
Councilman Jack Ceo countered, “but I see benefit to the community.” Furthermore, he spoke of SASS as a bedrock of the community and said, “I cannot imagine Saline without SASS.”
After lengthy deliberation the council moved to support the waiver, but then they took a different path. Councilwoman Linda TerHarr moved that the issue be tabled until a careful interpretation of the law could be obtained from city attorney Scott Smith. This motion was approved unanimously.
During the discussion portion of the meeting, various councilpersons announced upcoming events of special interest to them. Janet Dillon announced the talk that would be given by John Bacon and Will Hagerup on April 20 at the High School. David Rhoads announced the April 30 E-waste event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at City Hall.
Girbach announced the Historical Society’s spring cleanup events on April 23 and April 30 at Rentschler Farm. Rhoads reminded everyone of the Saline Salutes awards on May 22. City Clerk Terri Royal spoke of the Volunteer Fair to be held at the Rec Center on April 23 from 9 – 11 a.m.
The City Council will have an extra work meeting on April 25 at 6 p.m. to finish discussion of the budget. On May 2 they will hold the next regular meeting at 7:30, preceded by another work meeting at 6.