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SAND LAKE, Mich. (WOOD) - Voters in the northern Kent County village of Sand Lake,population 515, will still have the chance to vote in August onwhether to dissolve the village, Michigan Court of Appeals judgesruled Wednesday.
If village residents say yes, Sand Lake will become just anotherpart of Nelson Township.
Residents filed petitions to put that question on the ballot,but the village and its president went to court to challenge theballot language, arguing it misrepresents the question that voterswill answer.
Under the language, voters will be asked whether to"disincorporate" the village and transfer "all of its usages to thetownship of Nelson." The village argued the township won't reallybe able to take over "all" of the services the village nowprovides.
If you live in the village, you get the protection of two parttime police officers, a paid on-call department of 24 firefighters,a full-time public works department, leaf pickup and snow removalfrom sidewalks and alleys.
But those services come at a price
"I asked the township accessor at a meeting who pays highertaxes than Sand Lake and he said you'd almost have to go toDetroit, to find anyone who pays more than 41 mills," saidpetitioner Brenda Ridgeway.
According to the local accessor, village taxes on a $150,000home in Sand Lake cost $3013 a year. In surrounding NelsonTownship, which would absorb Sand Lake Village if voters elect todissolve the government, taxes on the same value house are $1620per year.
"People are struggling," Ridgeway said. "They're losing theirjobs. It's getting very difficult. When I took the petitionaround,several people ripped the petition out of my hands andcouldn't sign it fast enough."
And while a three-judge appeals court panel agreed the petitionlanguage "does contain some phraseology that is potentiallyconfusing," the judges unanimously ruled the language meets thestandards set in Michigan law. The appeals court ruling affirmed adecision made earlier by a Kent County judge.
Michigan law requires 15 percent or more of the registeredvoters in a village sign petitions to put the question ofdissolving that village before voters. The petitions must alsodesignate the "township or townships into which the village isproposed to be disincorporated."
The question of the consequences of the disincorporation --including the potential for fewer services for current villageresidents -- is a political question, the appeals court rulingstated, "much like the accuracy of allegations advanced against anelected official in a recall petition."
"We believe there are other agendas here than just our taxes aretoo high," said Village president Kirk Thielke, who's against thedissolution. He believes residents appreciate the local servicesand that taxes won't drop dramatically, like everyone mightthink.
Village residents, for example would still be responsible forspecial millages to support past projects. And his biggest argumentis that consolidating into a larger goverment becomes a slipperyslope.
If making it all into the county would be good, why not thestate, and if that's good, why not the federal government?" heasked. "We all know big government is not efficient."
Petitioners say they're not worried about that, nor any fearthat some homeowners side steets won't be plowed.
"I think they can take their tax savings, pool their money, hirea guy to plow their alley, and save a lot of money," Ridgewaysaid.
A man is in jail, allegedly connected to 14 burglaries that occurred in Cass County this month.
A sheriff's deputy car and a Michigan State Police SUV were among the damaged vehicles.
Broadmoor Avenue has reopened after it was shut down due to a four-vehicle crash in Caledonia.