The Future of Parks and Recreation
You may have heard that changes are coming to your Parks and Recreation.
As you know, Washington Township provides Park and Rec activities through a venture with Bruce Township funded by a millage that the two towns collect. The activities are governed by a two-member board made up of one representative from Bruce and one from Washington. Romeo residents also benefit because southern Romeo residents are dual citizens of Washington and northern Romeo residents are dual citizens of Bruce. Romeo residents pay their respective townships and are represented through them.
Rather than simply squeezing various recreation activities into the basement and backrooms of Township Hall, Washington is considering a major investment in a community center. Over the last few years, your township board has done a great deal of work to “seed the soil” for the community center:
1. We acquired land.
2. A water main was installed in the area near the proposed site.
3. We commenced construction of a sewer plant that will serve the area.
4. Sewer lines will be installed in the area this summer to serve the area.
5. 30 Mile and Powell Roads were paved to support traffic flow in the area.
6. We created the zoning district to allow for the project.
7. We formed several teams to identify needs and issues.
There are many additional steps that must be taken prior to proceeding with this decision. One difficult step that must be taken is to evaluate whether our town’s plans to expand recreation services for Washington residents fits within the existing framework of the Bruce / Washington joint venture. The concerns are:
1. Washington puts $1.1 million per year into the joint venture while Bruce only puts in $374,000. However, Bruce has 50% of the vote on the governing board, essentially giving them the ability to cancel out any vote by Washington even though we are the primary funding agency. This is not an acceptable sharing of decision making and cancels the value of any economies of scale. It is challenging to invest millions in a recreation facility under a dual venture as it is today knowing that staffing, use of the facility, and maintenance of the facility would be subject to a Bruce vote that cancels out Washington’s vote. This is unfair today and would worsen if we invest in a multi-million dollar facility.
2. Washington is a AA+ rated, financially strong municipality. Bruce and Romeo have financial challenges. It is not wise to be in joint ventures with a town on the State watch list for an emergency financial manager. Neither has the capability of joining forces with Washington in a multi-million-dollar facility. Should Washington do without the facility just because the other towns cannot participate? Should we subsidize them by building the facility solely at our cost? Or should we go on our own to ensure Washington residents interests are protected? These are obviously difficult decisions to make.
3. Washington residents deserve to have an asset-based recreation department that builds our sense of Washington community. Activities that could build Washington’s identity and sense of community have been absent (festivals, etc.).
The mere consideration of separation has brought politicization of the potential decision from northern politicians who claim that the “tradition” of the “tri-community relationship” should be preserved. However, it is a tradition that has benefited their communities at the expense of Washington Township. Clinging to this “tradition” when voting and funding percentages are not aligned does not serve Washington residents well. Your Washington Board pursues what is best for our residents, and does not ever do something because “that is the way we have always done it”.
Washington has a different culture and identity than Bruce and Romeo. Each town offers what is best for their residents based on their individual culture and identity. This has made the relationship less relevant as we move in our own directions. Annexation attempts by Romeo, the decision by Romeo and Bruce to exit the WBRW TV relationship, and use of social media by some Bruce politicians to denigrate our community are further indications that it may be time to move on.
Rest assured that your township board does not make decisions based on politics and does not adjudicate major decisions on social media. Your Washington Township board will evaluate the relevance of the joint venture with Bruce Township in light of these facts over the next year. We will evaluate what the future may look like and what the plan might be for operating separately. We will evaluate the concept of non-resident fees as well as consider the best manner to deal with southern Romeo. We will always make our decisions with the best interests of the residents that we serve as our primary consideration. If we make a decision to have our own, separate, recreation department, it will be done based on data, well thought out plans, and an intent to properly serve those residents.
If you have a Romeo mailing address, you may be confused regarding how potential changes could impact you. Please understand that Washington Township is a 36 square mile town that extends from 26 Mile to 32 Mile. Washington includes the southern half of the Village of Romeo (which is a little over a square mile divided between Bruce and Washington). If you live between 32 and Durham and east of Copperwood Commons but West of the Macomb Trail, you are a Romeo resident with dual citizenship in Washington. All others are Washington residents despite your mailing address. All of the local services and government for those Washington homes are performed by Washington’s leaders, not Romeo’s leadership, despite the label the post office puts on your address. As we evaluate options for serving WASHINGTON residents, we will explore whether and how to serve Southern Romeo (dual) residents as well. There are many options including potentially non-resident fees or including southern Romeo in the millage for the community center.
We are looking forward to positive things for the future as we continue to build a wonderful community to live in.
Note - if you are interested in learning about my role in the corruption scandal in Macomb County and how it influences local shenanigans and politics, copy this link into your browser or just click on the menu tab in the upper left and click on the corruption topic. www.danonow.com/fact-sheet-corruption/