Notes on a Referendum.  This will become a coherent plan at some point.


Partially completed Petition Instructions

As it stands, the Petition


Northfield Township Notice for Public Indebtedness Ordinance

  •   This is the law put in place by the 2004-2008 Board of Trustees to prevent a recurrence of the chicanery that led to the doubled construction costs of the Township Hall.


Revenue Bond Act of 1933.   Act 94 of 1933


Northfield Township Notice of Intent to Issue Bonds, republished 5/31/2020



By Michael Cicchella, Northfield Township Supervisor 2004-2008

  • Comments on the Township plans to borrow $4.6 million dollars for a retention/equalization basin for the sewer system.

  • The total cost “estimate” is $6 Million+.

Some Clarification:

1 – Our sewer system is different than other municipalities.

We only have one sewer line. Unlike larger cities that have a sanitary line and storm line, our township has both rain and waste travel through one line, thus the problem.

2 - Revenue Bonds vs. General Obligation Bonds.

Revenue Bonds are normally issued to fund projects for a specific project with the expectation that only those residents who benefit will pay for it.
General Obligation Bonds, on the other hand, are the responsibility of all the residents in the township. The majority of our Board of Trustees seem to feel increased sewer fees will cover the $6M+ cost, but if they do not, township taxes will go up for everyone.

My concern is how the borrowing of the $4,6000,000 is being conducted.

Attached you will find our own township ordinance requiring the board to send out post cards to every resident telling us they plan on borrowing a significant amount of money. Residents have requested several times that the Board meet this obligation, but still no postcards.

The majority of the Board has chosen to keep residents in the dark. They have done the absolute minimum, posting a legal notice in the online Ann Arbor News, knowing full well most people do not read legal notices. One trustee, Jackie Otto said they got a legal opinion that the Board did not need to let us know ahead of time.

You must ask yourself why Trustee Otto would spend money on an attorney unless they were looking for a way not to send out a postcard.

The residents have 45 days after the “official posting” to object by collecting signatures on a petition and forcing a referendum vote. The petition requires 10% of the registered voters in the township to sign. There are only several weeks left.

You need to decide for yourself after reading our ordinance if you think they should have sent out the post card. After all a legal opinion is just that, an opinion not fact.

I was Supervisor when this ordinance was enacted and I know we wanted to make sure you had the opportunity to be heard ahead of time, which is 45 days after sending you a post card and posting in a newspaper, just like the township ordinance says, to give your input. Waiting for the 45-day period to expire eliminate resident feedback and action. You can go the Northfield Neighbors website ( to download a petition to put this on the ballot and let us vote on it. Instructions will be available there.

I think those Board members, who supported this action, must be held accountable this fall at the ballot booth, but that is just me. You need to decide. It’s your money and your decision on how it is spent.

We do need to address the infrequent wastewater problem because of regulatory issues. Everyone wants clean water, but the Board majority has not made the case for their solution and has deliberately ignored its own ordinance to inform residents of borrowing millions of dollars.


I searched the past few years of meeting minutes for [Tetra-Tech, sewer]  Any text is copy/pasted from the minutes.


2020-02-25 Regular Board meeting minutes

Agenda Item 4.  Resolution 20-620: Notice of Intent to Issue Capital Improvement Bonds

Steven Mann of Miller Canfield and Stephen Hayduk of Bendzinski & Company Municipal Finance Counselors answered questions about the effect of various bonds on the Township’s finance ratings, the difference between general obligation and revenue bonds, and how to proceed.
Dockett objected to bids not being sought for legal services related to the bonding.

  • Motion: Chockley moved, Chick seconded, to adopt Resolution 20-620 Authorizing Publication of Notice of Intent to Issue Capital Improvement Bonds and Declaration of Intent to Reimburse from Bond Proceeds.

Zelenock asked about the contingency. There was discussion regarding the type of bond to use. Mann noted the amount in the resolution is the absolute ceiling and will be lower after bids are received.

  • Motion carried 4—2 on a voice vote, Zelenock and Dockett opposed. Resolution adopted.

Otto noted the Board must sent out a postcard to residents per ordinance due to the amount. Mann noted a legal notice must also be placed.

In answer to questions, Willis said it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more to place the equalization basin in a location mentioned by area residents, a tank is needed due to the sewer line coming in under pressure, and while blue is the standard color, other colors can be chosen at an additional cost. Willis said the Township can plant trees to help block the view of the tank.


2020-02-11 Regular Board meeting minutes

Agenda Item 5.  Funding Options for Wastewater Treatment Plant Equalization Basin Construction

  • Motion: Chockley moved, Chick seconded, that the Township Manager and Township legal counsel draft a resolution to be considered at the February 25, 2020, meeting to authorize the publication of the intent to issue General Obligation Bonds in the amount of $6,240,225 for the construction of an equalization basin at the wastewater treatment plant.

In answer to questions, Brian Rubel, Tetra Tech, said:

  • Tetra Tech has completed drawings needed for bids, but there are costs in addition to what is paid to the contractor (engineering, legal, financial) as well a 25% contingency amount, which would allow the project to proceed if bids come in high.
  • He is not sure what the speakers during Call to the Public were referring to about using more modern technology, but there are three ways to address the issue: (a) find and correct infiltration sources, (b) push more water through the pipes (both of which the plant staff do), and (c) to manage the flows, which the proposed tank would assist with.
  • He does not know of another logical location for the tank given limitations on the site, including wetlands, and the need to drain the tank using gravity. He confirmed trees are being removed.

Board members made comments including that this proposal will need to be approved by Green Oak Township (which has issued a letter stating the proposal meets all site plan requirements), a 25% contingency seems excessive and specifics of what is included should be provided, what the cost to sewer customers is should be clear, the Township should consider a time of sale inspection program to help correct infiltration issues, residents not on sewer should not be liable for future expenses, and more information should be provided about the cost of preventing infiltration.

There was discussion about the need for the basin, and Aynes noted the Township has now been given an official notice that the plant is in violation in a number of areas, with a response required by March 13th indicating what the Township intends to do to prevent future violations. Willis said the State is stepping up their enforcement in all community regarding stormwater management.

  • Motion carried 5—2 on a roll call vote, Zelenock and Dockett opposed.



2019-10-22 Regular Board meeting minutes

Agenda Item 9. Request to Create A Retention Basin Survey

  • Motion: Otto moved, Zelenock seconded, to table the request to create a retention basin survey. Motion carried 7—0 on a voice vote.


2019-10-08 Regular Board meeting minutes

Agenda Item 2. Resolution 19:612: Adoption of 2019 Master Plan

   Board member comments included:

  • On pages 35 and 74 there should be mention of the SAW grant and capital improvements.


2019-08-13 Regular Board meeting minutes

Agenda Item 4.  Discuss Equalization Basin Design Engineering Options

  • Motion: Chockley moved, Otto seconded, to proceed with using Tetra Tech for Engineering Services related to the design and construction of the Wastewater Treatment Plant Equalization Basin subject to Board and Township Attorney review and approval of the Tetra Tech contract to be submitted to the Board at the next regularly scheduled meeting on August 27, 2019.

The Board discussed the differing views of whether a basin is needed and why. Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent said the basin is needed with or without additional development. He said nearby communities were hit yesterday with 6” of rain and had to release sewage into a river. He said that has not happened here, but if it did they would probably also have to dump untreated sewage. He said they have come close to doing so in the past and have released partially treated sewage.

Aynes reviewed the history of Board consideration of this project, and explained the costs involved. Dockett objected to not putting the engineering work out to bid. Chockley and Otto listed reasons for staying with Tetra Tech.

Chockley referred to information she had provided about direct purchase of bonds from banks. She noted she has been receiving many phone calls expressing interest in development in the Township.

Otto said she has learned that Dundee was recently forced to install a basin after being sued. Chick said she contacted Evan Pratt, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, about this, who said release of any sewage into the system, even if partially treated, is too much. She recalled that the last WWTP Superintendent also supported construction of a basin.

Willis said the Township’s sewer plant is too small to be high on the MDEQ’s list for enforcement.

Zelenock listed reasons in support of not building a basin including:

  • Tetra Tech has been saying this basin is needed for 30 years, yet the plant has been running without it.
  • Existing customers would have to pay for this, rather than new customers.
  • This has been the wettest spring in years and the plant has been able to handle the flows.
  • The DEQ indicates the capacity of the plant is sufficient as is.
  • Construction could be more expensive in the current booming economy than later.

She suggested surveying the public ask if they are willing to pay for this or for other things such as keeping the North Village property as a park or for more road improvements. Willis questioned running the WWTP by popular vote.

Otto said delaying infrastructure needs, such as roads and sidewalks, leads to them deteriorating further, and that is not the way to manage the Township assets. Dockett said a basin will not give the plant any additional capacity.

  • Motion carried 4—3 on a roll call vote, Dockett, Zelenock, and Beliger opposed.

Second Call to the Public:

  • Jim Nelson, 7777 Sutton, said the SAW grant report about the condition of the sewer system should be reviewed before making decisions about the sewer system.


2019-05-14 Regular Board meeting minutes

Agenda Item 3.  Wastewater Treatment Plant Equalization Basin

  • Motion: Otto moved, Chick supported, that the Township move forward with Step 2, retaining an engineering firm, which would be authorized by the Board to start the preparation of preliminary plans and determine the scope of the project and the engineer’s estimate of the cost of the project.
  • There was discussion about the cost of this step and need to follow through before the plans become obsolete. Zelenock said the DEQ told her the Township does not need to consider a basin until the Township is handling 1 million gallons/day, but the current average flow is 700,000 gallons/day. Willis said different engineers and people at the DEQ will give differing opinions, but he believes the basin is needed now,
  • Motion carried 4—3 on a roll call vote, Zelenock, Dockett, and Beliger opposed.

 Agenda Item 5.  Budget for Police, Fire, and Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)

   In answer to questions about the WWTP budget, Aynes said:

  • 10% of his salary and benefits is scheduled to be paid from the WWTP budget.
  • The $53,000 listed for the SAW grant represents how much the Township expects to receive in reimbursements for the fiscal year.

   Zelenock noted that the salary increases approved by the Board on May 7th need to be updated in the proposed budget.

   In answer to a question, Willis said due to the recent rains they had 4-5 days of flows over 1.3 million gallons/day and they are still seeing flows of 1 million gallons/day.


2019-04-23 Regular Board meeting minutes

  • Motion to amend: Dockett moved, Manley supported, to add a discussion and vote on the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Motion to amend failed, 3—4 on a voice vote, Otto, Chockley, Chick, Zelenock opposed.
  • Original Motion carried 7—0 on a voice vote.Motion: Zelenock moved, Otto supported, that the Wastewater Treatment Plant equalization basin be on the next Board agenda. Motion carried 7—0 on a voice vote.


2019-03-26 Regular Board meeting minutes

PRESENTATIONS AND UPDATES Equalization Basin: Presentation of Key Points and Opportunity for Community Feedback

Chockley gave a brief presentation about the history of the wastewater treatment plant, noting it was built in 1961, and addition of a retention basin was recommended in 1988 and 2005. She reviewed the history of times when partially treated effluent was released from the plant in times of high wet weather flow. She also reviewed the rate history, including system development charges, and noted that typical plant flows are approaching the maximum level allowed by the DEQ before expansion is required. She said the current issue is whether and when to build an equalization basin and described the bonding process for such an improvement.

The Board, staff, and consultants answered questions submitted from the public present and made comments, including:

  • Development of the downtown area is difficult because of the physical limitations of US-23, the lake, and the Livingston County border. There is an existing Downtown Strategic Action Plan. Development of the North Village park could help revitalize the downtown.
  • There are currently 3374 unmetered REUs in the sewer district and about 20 metered users.
  • A sewer asset management plan is being developed using a Michigan Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) grant, which will be completed next year.
  • Sufficient sewer infrastructure is needed to maintain what currently needs to be served, and without an adequate system developers will not consider the Township. There is sufficient capacity to allow for a vibrant downtown (150-200 REUs available). The township attorney says there is no legal obligation to meet future demand now, and the DEQ has said current flows could be increased to 1 million gallons/day without improvements (including the basin), and the plant has not been cited for permit violations. Lack of critical mass of residents is a hindrance to downtown development. The Township must meet the requirements of the DEQ permit, the requirements of all court orders (including a 2002 order to install a retention basin), and the requirements of all agreements with neighboring Townships.
  • Township Engineer Brian Rubel said improvements to the sewer system are paid for by the sewer utility from cash on hand, connection fees, developer agreements, and quarterly fees.
  • Bond Counsel Steve Mann said it would not be legal to charge anyone, including developers, more than their proportional share of use of the sewer system, including a retention basin.
    Members of the public made comments, including:
  • Gregg Gillespie, 436 North Point Drive, objected to existing residents paying for any of the cost of development.
  • Robert Marks, 8748 Main Street, said the Township has chased away potential development, and a retention basin would be less expensive than a retention tank. Chockley said there will be a point at which development cannot be allowed without construction of a basin or tank, and the Township has a choice of doing this on its own schedule or when mandated by the State.
  • Adam Olney, 9315 Lakewood Court, said regardless of public opinion the Township Board has legal obligations to fulfill, including not to allow flows to bypass the wastewater treatment plant, and one instance of flow bypassing treatment is too many.
  • Mary Devlin, 9211 Brookside Drive, said she is in favor of delaying both the replacement of the sewer line and construction of the basin.
  • Dale Brewer, 11548 East Shore Drive, Green Oak Township, said the Township does not have a full capital improvement plan, a sewer rate study, or sufficient sewer reserves which are all required to support construction of a basin. [Steven Mann clarified there are no reserve requirements for capital improvement bonds, unlike revenue bonds].
  • James Trunko, 9255 Trunko, Lakewood Drive, objected to untreated flows bypassing the plant, and said the cost is worth the investment in a basin.
  • Faith Wheeler, 371 Grove, said the high school and Public Safety Building were built before there was sufficient population to pay for them, and she doesn’t want that to happen with construction of a sewer retention basin.
  • Dana Forester, 9255 Lakewood, said the Township should not contribute to the pollution of the Huron River by allowing flows to bypass the plant. [Willis explained that bypassed flows sometimes include higher phosphorus and fecal counts, and this is illegal because it is a violation of the plant permit].
  • John Orin, 9144 Walnut Drive, objected to Green Oak residents being served by the sewer system.
  • In answer to a question from Mike Cicchella, 7789 Sutton, Willis said more sewage will not be treated with a retention basin in place, rather it will be treated more completely. Cicchella cautioned against
  • depending on future development to finance a basin.
  • David Gordon, 5558 Hellner Road, said constructing the basin would be a sewer tax, and there is no financial analysis showing that incurring that debt will revitalize the downtown. He said the sewer plant is not creating pollution, the DEQ has not issued violations, the plant has plenty of capacity, expansion needs to pay for new development, and the money should be spent on creating a waterfront park to attract more residents.
  • Kittie Burkhart, 6187 Nollar, said she is not on the sewer system, but she is concerned about the entire Township being responsible for the debt of a retention basin.
  • Mary Anderson, 600 Six Mile, said there has been no growth in the Township in the 20 years.
  • Ginny St. Charles, 374 Dartmoor, questioned the financing of the project.
  • Kathy Nelson, 7777 Sutton Road, said the proposed revision to the Master Plan has specific information about sewer expansion which is very good, and adopting that document would help quell rumors about what development will be allowed.
  • Craig Warburton, 450 W. Joy Road, said the peak flows seem to be intermittent and not significant, the Township seems more interested in being ready for development than preserving open space, and he is concerned about all Township residents being responsible for the debtJim Nelson, 7777 Sutton Road, said evidence shows residential development does not pay for itself.
  • Kathy Braun, 316 E. Shore Drive, said she thinks a retention basin will be needed some day, but not now, and she is concerned about the cost. She said the Township should spend money on other things, such as bike paths, and find development opportunities for the community.
  • In answer to questions from Harrison Parker, 366 Ivy Lawn, Willis said in his opinion the retention basin is needed now, regardless of new development, and significant new development would require expansion of the plant. Mann said payment of tap fees could probably legally be required from a developer up front.
  • The Board thanked the public for their participation, and made comments, including: Chick questioned how an increase of $24/quarter in sewer fees can be reconciled with polluting the area rivers.
  • At Chockley’s request members of the public indicated their position on an equalization basin (16 in favor—all on the sewer system; 28 opposed--16 of them not on the sewer system, 3 unsure)
    In answer to questions, Engineer Brian Rubel said the least expensive design for a retention basin or tank would be used.
  • Several Board members said sufficient, consolidated information about the options, including financial analysis is needed.

Chockley recessed the meeting for five minutes.

Chockley noted there were many communications from residents about the retention basin, and the survey about budget priorities will close on Thursday.


2019-03-12 Regular Board meeting minutes

Agenda Item 1a.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Report

  • In answer to a question, Aynes explained that he submitted a claim to the Township’s insurance company for the deductible on a homeowner’s policy for sewer clean-up that was the fault of the Township. Aynes said small claims of this type do not affect premiums significantly; Dockett disagreed.
  • Dockett said the average daily flows at the sewer plant indicate there is not a capacity problem. Superintendent Willis said the problem is days of heavy rain which results in stormwater infiltration. Beliger said several stormwater inlets on East Shore are hazards; Manley asked that this be passed on to the County. 


2019-01-08 regular Board meeting minutes final                                         Watch Livestreamed 1-8 Meeting Video

Agenda Item 7. Review and Discuss Documents from the December 11, 2018 Special Board Meeting Concerning Wastewater Treatment Contracts

Township Attorney Burns reviewed the history of the Wastewater Treatment Plant from the 1970s, including:

  • A 1972 lawsuit filed by Lakeland property owners resulted in the plant permit being modified to allow the plant to increase discharge to 250,000 gallons/day, and that was increased in 1979 to 700,000 gallons/day.
  • In 1991 by court order the capacity was increased to 1,300,000. Hamburg Township was allowed additional capacity if it opted to, but it did not.
  • In 2002 the capacity was increased to 2.25 million gallons/day.
  • In 2004 the Township agreed to sell 200,000 gallons/day for a specific geographic area of Green Oak Township, with them being obligated to pay for taps at the rate in effect at the time of purchase.

Willis said the last plant expansion was in 1998 to increase the capacity to 1.3 million gallons.


Chockley noted inquiries are coming in regarding possible small residential projects, but with the improvements to US-23 there may also be interest in larger developments. Burns said the issue of whether to build a retention basin is a policy decision, not a legal one. He said a sufficient revenue stream would be required to cover the capital costs of a basin; it is easier to sell bonds if there are more connection fees.


Willis said in his opinion a basin is needed only for wet weather conditions, and this is the least expensive way to increase capacity for growth. The cost and where the funding would come from was discussed. Willis said every municipal sewer system has to deal with storm water infiltration, and there is no realistic way to stop that infiltration.


The need to get public input and the legal requirement to send a postcard for any borrowing of $250,000 or more was discussed. It was agreed to set a public hearing for the March 26th Township Board meeting. 

2018-12-11 regular Board meeting minutes final                                          Watch livestreamed 12-11 meeting video here    part 2

Aynes referred to his written report and added that the Wastewater Treatment Plant will continue to be a subject of concern and discussion going into 2019. He noted that the recent sewer fee increase was the first since 2014 and covers only operating expenses, not future improvements.

2018-10-09 regular Board meeting minutes final                                         Watch livestreamed 10-9 meeting video here

Agenda Item 6. Adjust Metered Sewer Rates Effective November 1st Filling 

Liason Reports: Dockett said he did not make the statement in a memo from Chockley (that he said untreated sewage by-passed the sewer plant).

2018-09-25 regular Board meeting minutes final                                         Watch livestreamed 9-25 meeting video here

Agenda Item 1.

North Village development: comments: "Are residents aware this development will come with an $8-$9 million sewer bill?"

"The Township would be incurring $8-$9 million in sewer expenses for 50 parking spaces and 6 acres of parkland, which is very sad."

2018-08-28 regular BOT meeting minutes final                                         Watch livestreamed 8-28 meeting video here

Agenda Item 4. Sewer Billing Quarterly Fee Increase Recommended to Support Base Level Operations

2018-08-14 regular BOT meeting minutes final                                         Watch livestreamed 8-14 meeting video here

Agenda Item 9. Sewer billing quarterly fee increase

2018-07-24 regular BOT meeting minutes final                                         Watch livestreamed 7-24 meeting video here

Agenda Item 1. Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Equalization Basin And Associated System Development Charges and Quarterly Fee Increase.   Quarterly sewer service fee increase.

2018-07-10-regular-BOT-meeting-minutes-final                                        Watch livestreamed 7-10 meeting video here

Agenda Item 8. System Development Charge (Connection Fee) and Quarterly Wastewater Treatment Fee Increase


Agenda Item 10: Bills 

2018-03-27-regular-BOT-meeting-minutes-final                                       Watch livestreamed 3-27 TetraTek Presentation video here

PRESENTATION 1. Sewer Service Rate Study Results

Brian Rubel, Vic Cooperwasser: Tetr-Tech

2017-12-12-regular-BOT-meeting-minutes-final                                       Watch livestreamed 12-12 meeting video here

Agenda Item 4. Asset Management Plan Contract , Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) grant

2017-10-10-regular-BOT-meeting-minutes-final                                       Watch livestreamed 10-10 meeting video here

Agenda Item 2. TetraTech “SmartRate Study” Proposal

2017-08-29 regular BOT meeting minutes final                                        Watch livestreamed 8-29 meeting video here

Township Manager Report. Aynes reported that he received notice today that the Township has been awarded a SAW (Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater) grant from the State of Michigan.

2017-08-15-regular-BOT-meeting-minutes-final                                       Watch livestreamed 8-15 meeting video here

Agenda Item 1. Tetra Tech “SmartRate” Study Proposal 

Sewer connection fee increase to $5973

2017-07-25-regular-BOT-meeting-minutes-final                                       Watch livestreamed 7-25 meeting video here

Agenda Item 1 Update of Wastewater Cost of Service “SmartRate” Study from Tetra Tech 

2017-03-28-regular-BOT-meeting-minutes-joint-PC-final                         Watch livestreamed 3-28 meeting video here

Agenda Item 2 Sewer System Interceptor Flow Monitoring Proposal 

$595,000 SAW Grant application status

2017-03-14-regular-BOT-meeting-minutes-final                                       Watch livestreamed 3-14 meeting video here

PRESENTATION 1. Sewer Service Policy 

2017-03-14-special-BOT-meeting-minutes-public-version-final               Watch livestreamed 3-14 special meeting video here

Present at this closed session, for an undisclosed reason:

  • Township Bond Counsel Steve Mann, Miller Canfield
  • Township Engineer Brian Rubel, Tetra Tech 


$8+ Million to Slam Sewer Customers - Rates Will Jump 42%

Trustee Dockett to Clerk Manley: “You Lied to Me.”

By David Gordon

By the narrowest of margins, the Board of Trustees voted 4-to-3 to spend $200,000 on an engineering study for an unneeded $5 million “holding tank” at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

These studies are generally obsolete within 18 months so it is assumed the “Big Spenders” (BS) will vote to borrow $5M for the holding tank and another $3M to expand existing sewer lines...all before the 2020 election.

The $8.2 million total will jack up customer rates about $165/year until 2040 (about 42%). Businesses, stores and restaurants with multiple bathrooms will see a much greater increase.

Leading the “Big Spenders” are Supervisor Marlene Chockley, Clerk Kathy Manley and Trustees Janet Chick and Jacki Otto, who claim, without any evidence, that the WWTP needs the tank to protect the environment and to attract development. (Maybe they’ll hold an Open House....or Open Tank...because folks will be so excited to smell it.)

Their pollution claims are disputed by the facts. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), which regulates the plant, says it can handle 40% more before a holding tank is needed... and says the plant has never been cited for polluting.

On average, the plant processes 700,000/gallons/day and can handle 1.3M/gal/day. The MDEQ says the tank isn’t needed until the plant reaches 1M/gal/day.

Treasurer Lenore Zelenock and Trustees Wayne Dockett and Tawn Beliger voted against the spending, and Township Attorney Paul Burns has told the Board that developers, not current customers, typically pay for plant expansion while current customers pay for maintenance. (Apparently the “BS-ers” have no problem ignoring legal advice.)

“Hold onto your pocketbooks,” warned Zelenock. “This is just the beginning,” she added.

Clerk Manley was the surprise “yea” vote. Prior to last night, she had voiced opposition to the spending. After the meeting, she said, “I’ve spoken to some people, done some research and had a change of heart”.

Trustee Dockett caught Manley in the elevator as they were leaving: “You lied to me,” he said, “you lied”, and walked from the building.

Tax Increase of $160/yr Would Whallop Existing Customers

Board of Trustees Divided – Beliger is Swing Vote

Cliff Notes

from 3/26/19 Board of Trustees Meeting

by David Gordon


  • A clear majority of residents voiced opposition to the sewer plant expansion. A smaller number, including some merchants, said they’d support expansion if it would revitalize downtown.
  • No financial analysis has been done to confirm the $8M would help downtown or attract housing to the Whitmore Lake school district.
  • The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) said the treatment plant is well run; is not polluting and that a $5M holding tank is not needed.
  • It was revealed the plant has at least a 400,000 gal/day surplus capacity which could accommodate between 800 and 1,500 new rooftops.
  • Many residents said developers, not current customers, should pay for financing the sewer expansion.
  • Supervisor Marlene Chockley and Trustees Jacki Otto and Janet Chick have been pushing sewer expansion for two years. Clerk Kathy Manley, Treasurer Lenore Zelenock and Trustee Wayne Dockett are opposed. Trustee Tawn Beliger is the swing vote and is still undecided.
  • It was clear that the Board members pushing for expansion were ill prepared to answer the public’s concerns and questions. No decisions were reached nor was a timetable set to resolve this proposal for the township’s most expensive infrastructure project ever


2019 03 26 audience 2 644w540hOriginalDJGDeskewedMaryDevlin


The Rest of the Story


Nearly 50 residents showed up for the Board of Trustees March 26th meeting to discuss an $8M expansion plan of the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) and two sewer  “trunk lines”.

Most residents questioned the need for the expansion and insisted developers should pay.   A few residents, including some merchants, said they’d foot the bill if it would help revive downtown. 

The expansion calls for a $5M “holding tank” and $3M for two enlarged “trunk lines”.  It would add a “Sewer Tax Increase” of about $160/year for 20 years to the 2,500 \\

customers who now pay $360/year. Multi-unit residences, the nursing home and many businesses would pay much more.

No financial analysis has been done to prove the $8M would revive downtown or attract development even though Supervisor Marlene Chockley and Trustees Jacki Otto and Janet Chick have been lobbying for expansion since 2016.

It was revealed that Chockley had already enlisted bond counsel for borrowing the money and a postcard had been drafted to alert township taxpayers (a requirement created in 2008 by the Board that included four Northfield Neighbors).

Chockley started the meeting with a 13-minute presentation trying to show a “need” for the sewer expansion but was betrayed by her own graphics.

This graphic shows that the plant has a surplus capacity today of 400,000 gal/day, more than enough to handle any realistic growth.

WWTP Point of Decision Chockley 2019 3 25 640w303h


On average, the plant processes 700,000 gal/day. The MDEQ says it can handle 1.1M gal/day.   In other words, the sewer district could grow 60% without a plant expansion.

Chick insisted that the plant is polluting but the MDEQ has never issued a “Violations Notice”. Even on spring days when the WWTP is ”challenged” by heavy rains, Superintendent Dan Willis has said they handle it without polluting.  

“The MDEQ said our plant is running really good,” said Treasurer Lenore Zelenock. “If we were polluting, they’d send a ‘Violation Notice’. They haven’t,” adding that the MDEQ said a holding tank wasn’t needed.

Zelenock, Clerk Kathy Manley and Trustee Wayne Dockett are opposed to the sewer tax. They said the projects are unnecessary at this time and insisted that developers pay the tab.

Trustee Tawn Beliger is the swing vote and gave no indication of her position.

Resident Faith Wheeler said “This is another one of those ‘If We Build It They Will Come’” schemes, pointing to the oversized, overpriced Public Safety Building scandal and the new $12M Whitmore Lake High School that is well short of student capacity. “We have to think about the people we are putting this tax onto.”

Resident Kathy Johnson asked the Board to look at its own Master Plan (Page 35) that’s headed “Municipal Service Expansion Policies”. She said life might be simpler if the Board followed its own guidelines.

Those policies recommend:

  • "any expansion shall be bound by capital improvement needs…” The Capital Improvement Plan is still in discussion and a $595,000.00 Comprehensive Sewer Study won't be completed until late 2020.
  • "pass the costs of expansion on to those reaping the benefits of that expansion through Special Assessment Districts…and other similar mechanisms”. Not by charging existing customers.
  • "the Township should adopt a formal municipal service expansion procedure…” Not yet written or adopted.  

NorthfieldTwp MasterPlan DRAFT 021519 onsite 2019 03 26 p35 800w535h

Other unanswered questions:

  • A 2015 sewer “Capacity Report” said the system could add 800-1,500 more rooftops, but also said the number could be as low as 100.       Which number is meaningful?
  • Although the WWTP exceeds some “limits” during high peak flows, the MDEQ says those “blips” are minor and infrequent - about two days a year. Will the $8M eliminate those “blips” and can the township afford that level of treatment?

“It’s Not Rocket Science”

In other business, the Board spent the next two hours fighting about budget amendments, whether to pay membership dues and the future of the historic former firehouse at 75 Barker Road. Membership dues were postponed.

The Board voted 4/3 to try and sell the historic firehouse without a realtor; erect a “Sale by Owner” sign and possibly save the sales commission.

Beliger set the selling price at $330,000 even though a professional analysis put the value at $275,000. Chockley, Chick and Zelenock voted no. The timeframe is open ended because the Board is simultaneously negotiating a contract with a realtor.

Zelenock again criticized Chockley and Manager Steven Aynes for a lack of professionalism regarding the agenda and packet.   It has been a common refrain from numerous Board members the last two years.

“There was one page of information in the packet for an $8M spending proposal and then, on the day of the meeting, 43 more pages were added via email,” she said. “This is unacceptable. “

Chockley said:              “It’s a challenge. It’s tough. I do the best I can. I’m trying.”

Aynes said:                  “We’re trying. How do you want me to address this?”

Zelenock said:              “Providing proper materials is not rocket science.”

The meeting didn’t adjourn until 11 pm. (a near-record four hours).


How much will you spend to attract one more household 640w366h

How much will you spend to attract one more household?