You can watch the 4-26-2016 Northfield Township Board of Trustees meeting here.  We'll be back later with a LiveAgenda and a full report.

This was our preview of the 4-26-2016 Township Board of Trustees meeting: 

It appears as if Township Manager Fink and the Board of Trustees are GOING ALL IN and preparing to borrow even more money in an effort to make their subdivision dreams (our nightmares) come true.   

Someone needs to ask them "what the heck?"  Spending on things we DO NOT NEED!  Please let them hear from you tonight, or write them an email, or call.
At tonight's meeting (4/26/16), the Board will consider borrowing at least $3 MILLION for a totally unneeded "equalization basin" (a very large tank) for the sewage treatment plant. The treatment plant has operated successfully without this tank forever.  
There is ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE that this is needed.  The township engineer admitted the plant has operated without incident.  When there's a heavy rain event, he said the plant personnel are "challenged" to handle the flow, but it's never caused an environmental problem.
The REAL REASON behind this basin seems to be that it would allow for up to 1,500 more rooftops, which coincidentally is about the exact same number requested by Biltmore, who we are told is not longer interested.  Hahaha.  Then why did Biltmore extend its land options for another year?
At the March 29th meeting, Manager Fink said that this will not increase sewer rates because a "back of the envelope calculation" told him that adding $3,000,000+ in debt would be balanced when we finally repay the last of an existing WWTP bond debt.  What he was saying sounded like "Washington math" but with the help of a spreadsheet provided in the 4-26-2016 meeting packet by Township Controller Rick Yaeger, we can tease out the magnitude of the existing WWTP bond payments.  The debt and bonds aren't broken out, so we'll have to approximate.  Of the debt referred to by Fink, approximately $358,000 will be repaid in 2015-2016; the final payment of approximately $250,000 is due in 2016-2017.   After that, the WWTP pays only an unidentified annual payment of $45,000 plus interest until 2022. 
This precipitous drop in the sewer fees outflow rate might be seen as a good thing by the WWTP's existing customers.  Sadly, Fink and his Board don't share that opinion.   Fink sees it as a governmental anathema.  Spending must be replaced by spending.  Debt must be replaced by debt.  $350,000+ in debt service must be replaced by $350,000 in debt service.
Instead of getting out from under our debt load, this $3 million will take us deeper in debt.  Is THIS our Board's idea of smart?
At their meeting two weeks ago, the Board voted to spend $329,000 to buy some property along Whitmore Lake for a park.  You probably didn't hear about it because the meetings were "special" and got the absolute minimum notice.
The park may be a good idea, something everyone but the people living on the Lakeshore will love.  But at tonight's meeting the Board will try to figure out what they're going to do if they get the land, and what that might cost.  BUY FIRST, FIGURE IT OUT LATER?   Will they ask where "we" will get the $hundreds of thousands for the engineering?  Will they ask where "we" will get the $millions needed to actually build on the land?  Nobody has a plan.  Nobody knows what it will cost.  Nobody even knows what "it" is.

Two years ago (June 10, 2014) the Board paid $100,000 for the Darlene Curtis house/office next to the Senior/Community Center.  They planned to knock it down and expand the Senior Center parking lot.  What have they done with it?  Nothing.  Knocking down a house and building a parking lot is expensive.  Instead the Board continued their tradition of doing things backwards.  Fink asked for and was allocated $25,000 to demolish the next house down the road, another Darlene Curtis house, a house Curtis offered to donate to the Township earlier this month.  Unfortunately or fortunately, by the time the Board agreed on the details of accepting this donation of property, Curtis had already inked a deal to sell the house. 

At tonight's meeting Chief Wagner said the Curtis house/office could be burned in a final Fire Department exercise next March at the earliest.  At that time of year the ground is generally wet, so flying embers are less of a threat, and people's windows are closed so the smoke isn't an issue.  As an alternative, Wagner said he had obtained one bid for demolition - for $15,100.  Meanwhile, the Fire Department could continue using the house for training.

Speaking of burning, (through money) let's not forget the $60,000 the Board is spending on their new "professional" meeting room.   How much will it then cost to make the "professional" meeting room habitable - to fix the $80,000 worth of heating and cooling issues bid into Fink's original $175,000+ plan?  No one knows.  Trustees publicly admitted that they didn't believe the $60,000 pricetag would be the final cost.  In open acceptance of open pretense, they voted for it anyway.

It's not like blowing through budgets is news here.  We still haven't finished paying off the $4,000,000 in cost overruns on the Public Safety Palace - Township Hall.  Did you know the Architects' fees alone were over $700,000?
So, where did all this cash come from?  Look back to the May - August 2013 meetings. Our brand new Township Manager, Howard Fink stampeded the Board into a fire sale of about in extremely secure, high interest bonds.  That panic cost the taxpayers over $280,000 immediately and $65,000/ year in interest, a total LOSS to date of about $500,000.   At the time Fink said they needed cash for "capital improvements". 
Soon afterward, Fink finessed the Board into changing its fund balance policies so that it appeared that the Township was sitting on half a million in free cash.  He invited the Board to a "visioning" session to dream up ways of spending the bonanza.  Turns out it wasn't such a bonanza.  Issues that the taxpaying voters care about, like the wretched roads, were dismissed as too expensive to do anything about.  Instead of road repair, we got the Board's $4000/year commitment to pay MDOT annually for decorative accent lighting on MDOT's new 8 Mile Road bridge.

The real cost of extracting that all that cash from invested funds was never talked about again.

Who knows how much debt they'll pile up before the November elections?
Speak up now.  After they spend your money, it will be too late.
Your Neighborhood Watchdogs,
David Gordon and Jim Nelson


Meeting documents:

Meeting Packet Highlights:

Corrections: The house Darlene Curtis offered to donate had already been sold when the April 12 Board discussion transpired.  Ergo, no $25,000 demolition contract.