In keeping with his promise to improve communication with the citizens and the Shelby Township Board of Trustees, newly-appointed clerk Stanley Grot hosted the first Citizens Advisory Committee meeting April 23 at the community center.
Several residents and a handful of community officials, including Trustee Lisa Manzella, Treasurer Paul Viar, attorney Robert Huth, and 41-A District Court Judge Doug Shepherd, gathered for the two-hour meeting, which was, at times, rather heated as residents aired their concerns on several issues.
Grot started the meeting by bringing to the table several “provocative” questions, he said. “I think these kind of issues will affect our community, will affect our safety, will affect our way of life,” he said. He reminded residents that topics brought up in the session are not binding, but rather serve as a sounding board for further discussion.
He asked for the crowd’s opinion - by show of hands - whether or not the township should construct a new 41A District Court building and a new recreation facility. He also questioned a township-sponsored Memorial or Labor Day parade, and if the crowd backs a millage increase of about $10 to $20 a year supporting the Detroit Institute of Arts.
He also asked whether or not police and fire officials should live in the township, if the Fire Department should consider part-time employees, if property taxes are too high or too low, and other issues, including problems with sidewalks in the township.
Several residents brought up concerns about the township’s underfunded Police and Fire Pension Fund, especially when Grot mentioned that the township may face bankruptcy within a few years if the problem isn’t corrected.
Residents also raised concerns about the blight conditions that exist along Auburn Road in the township’s 48317 zip code. Two residents read from handwritten speeches, stating their concerns about the road conditions and the numerous shuttered businesses along the corridor. Viar said $300,000 was recently allocated to repave Auburn.
The rezoning of 24 Mile and Schoenherr roads from residential to commercial property proved to be another popular topic, with residents raising concerns about how the Board of Trustees and Supervisor Richard Stathakis handled the issue.
Grot and several residents expressed stated that they believed department heads from the DPW and Parks and Recreation should have attended the meeting. Grot stated that the cost to have the employees in attendance, at about $1,200, was too expensive for the township. Residents thought the employees should attend regardless. A Shelby Township police officer was there to answer questions about the department.
In addition, residents expressed concerns about the Board of Trustees meetings, stating the sessions are too long and that some feel intimidated to speak.
Although these issues and a few others were not fully resolved at the meeting, it’s Grot’s hope that the session and others serve as a starting point for residents. He added that he hopes a group of citizens representing all areas of the township will organize and take over the committee. Another Citizens Advisory Committee meeting is set for May 22 at Township Hall.