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Dexter Township Board Entertains Alternate Locations for Permanent Fire Station

Three separate parcels of land are being considered for a permanent fire station in Dexter Township.

With mounting pressure from local taxpayers, the Dexter Township Board of Trustees voted to begin negotiations with three property owners to purchase land for a permanent fire station at its meeting on Tuesday.

Township Trustee Jason Maciejewski asked the board to vote on a motion allowing Supervisor Pat Kelly to enter into a purchase agreement for 11485 North Territorial Road. The 5-acre parcel was the planned location for the fire station, however before the board authorized a purchase agreement. The owners of the property have since publically stated that they would be willing to sell the land to Dexter Township for its purchase and clean-up cost.

"I've said many times that I'm not looking at just what's here today. I'm looking at what my kids will experience 10, 20, or 30 years down the road when this township might have 10,000 people living here," he said. "While there might be other viable alternatives, geographically 11485 North Territorial is the best location that we have."

According to information provided by the township's Public Safety Advisory Committee, the location would put all of the township's residents within 5 miles of a fire station.

"In my mind, that location requires the least amount of work in terms of engineering, etc.," Maciejewski said. "When I repeatedly talked to people in this township during the election, that's the property that they all talked about."

Trustee Carl Lesser said he would not vote on a purchase agreement for one property.

"I'm not ready to make a decision tonight," he said. "We're looking at other properties for a heck of a lot less than 11485 North Territorial. If people don't care what their taxes are, we'll give them what they want, and maybe they won't like it."

Trustee William Gajewski and Clerk Harley Rider said the search committee should also negotiate a selling price with the Doletzky family for 5 acres on the southwest corner of North Territorial, and the Kopinski family for property on the northwest corner of North Territorial.

"We have the perception of putting all of our eggs in one basket again, and the time difference between shovel ready for 11485 North Territorial and the other two properties shouldn't be significant," Rider said before offering an amendment to the motion. "The response time is also an issue because no matter where that station is moved its going to improve response time for some people and decrease response time for other people."

In response to comments from Township Supervisor Pat Kelly that the 11485 North Territorial property would not be available if the board chose not to vote on a purchase agreement Tuesday, Rider said, "that's like putting a gun to the board's head."

Rider's amendment passed 5-2 to allow a committee comprised of Kelly and Trustees Michael Howard and Carl Lesser to meet with Dexter Plaza One, LLC., as well as the Doletzky and Kopinski family.

Township residents: 'This feels like bait and switch.'

Following the vote, township resident Mary Herda-Sprawka expressed disgust with the board's decision.

"The township just spent $370,000 on an early warning alarm system. We don't know how many people would've voted for that because none of us had a chance to vote on it," Herda-Sprawka said. "That's a lot of money, and whether the sirens will help people, we don't know. We don't have a lot of tornadoes around here. The last one was in 1995. But everyday someone's heart stops. Everyday there is potential for a fire."

Herda-Sprawka said the decision to look at other properties for a fire station "feels like bait and switch."

"The fire station millage was passed with the assumption that 11485 North Territorial was going to be the location," she said. "Once the money is in hand, it now looks like a sweet deal for those cornfield owners, one of whom happens to be the parents of (former township treasurer) Julie Knight.

"The other two properties were already looked at and already found to not be the best sites."

David Wayman, a member of the PSAC committee said he cautioned the board about moving slowly on potential locations for a fire station.

"You are going to evaluate three locations and entertain negotiations on three different properties. During that time you could find that the two new sites you are considering are not viable, and the ship might have already sailed on 11485. That's an opportunity cost," he said.

Wayman said he was also concerned that the board did not set a time frame to hear back from the search committee.

Speaking with Patch.com after Tuesday's meeting, Maciejewski expressed frustration with the board's vote.

"There was no clear direction on how to proceed," he said. "Clerk Rider's amendment to my motion just muddied the waters in terms of what we do as a board."

Maciejewski said he plans to ask the search committee for an update at the board's next meeting on March 19.

Kristen Novak February 21, 2013 at 01:15 PM
I am a village resident in an old 1800s home. I am hoping the fire department can relocate as near to the village hub as possible, where the concentration of homes and people is the greatest.
Mary Herda-Sprawka February 21, 2013 at 02:13 PM
I certainly understand your concerns. All township residents will bear the cost of a new fire station. It only makes sense to place it where the most taxpayers will benefit. The 11485 site was recommended because 98% of residents will fall within a 5-mile radius of help. Other sites do not meet this criteria. That is one of the reasons I support this location. Who do we leave out of this safety zone should the board choose an alternative location? Is it fair to favor one part of the township over another? If we are all sharing the cost, the location should reflect that.
ZBA Resident February 21, 2013 at 07:48 PM
I feel that the majority of township residents voted for a fire station, not just for the property. I would have been very angry if the board had voted to purchase the 11485 site. We are hearing from a handfull of people who are upset. They have a right to their opinion, I'm not faulting them.But there are a lot of people who do not have the same opinion. Kelly did not give the board all the information needed to make a knowledgable decision before the property was sold.Did she just expect the board to jump into a huge financial cost without all the information. If all the information had been presented to them in the first place, there would have been NO DELAY.Kelly was the person in charge of negotiating the purchase of that property, yet she doesn't know what negotiation means? She was the person the board entrusted to make this purchase happen. Kelly was the one responsible for calling a special meeting, but she didn't.Sounds to me like Kelly is the one who fumbled. Now Kelly and Jason wants the township to pay a lot more for the same piece of property and NOW. Slow down, this is not something the township should just jump into.
Mary Herda-Sprawka February 21, 2013 at 09:28 PM
I am not interested in laying blame. I am most interested in moving forward with the recommendations PSAC has made. These are the experts the Board asked to research the fire station. Their report is located on the Dexter Township website. PSAC did recommend the 11485 site and that the board move as quickly as possible. I think the Board should trust their experts and move forward.
ZBA Resident February 22, 2013 at 12:19 AM
Mary, I agree. But people see things differently and a few people at the board meeting did lay blame that I felt was misplaced. Also, A member of PSAC made a comment at the board meeting. My impression from his comment was that not all PSAC members still feel that way at this point in time.I have also been told that the11485 site was the only site that was ever looked at. I'm a fan of Carl Lesser and respect his opinion. He is one of the 3 board members that will be looking into other possibilities. I know we are in good hands. I know this is an emotional subject, so I'm not going to go back and forth on this matter, If you would like to comment again feel free.
Lynn Dils February 22, 2013 at 01:30 AM
I think it is shameful that if this N. Territorial property is again available that the board doesn't jump on the chance to seal the deal; really... do you want to keep this issue up in the air after the voters gave their approval with the thought that this was going to be the property site? Sounds like some don't mind a game of switch and bait... I say grant Pat Kelly the authority to seal this deal and move on with the plans to move forward and stop ditzing around!
Mary Herda-Sprawka February 22, 2013 at 02:46 AM
All PSAC members came to the same consensus when the report was written. That the Board chooses to ignore their report now is just not understandable. Mr. Lesser and Mr. Howard reported that the only level, flat, buildable area on the property they visited was where the current home is located. The township would not only have to purchase the needed land but the existing house as well. Which, I am guessing, will have to be removed. Mr. Howard also asked Road Commission how to go about getting a variance for the entrance. I am not convinced that this property will cost " a hell of a lot less" as Mr. Lesser put it. Also a resident spoke up to voice her concern that moving the station out of the 5-mile radius would make her ineligible for home insurance discounts. The money saved from insurance premiums could mitigate the tax we would all pay for the new station. This is a big deal for some folks who are having difficult financial times. The issue of the station has been in the works for years. So why now? Why when the millage had passed and the land could be purchased, why did the Board decide that now was the time to look into other properties? It really does not make sense unless there is some other issue or agenda the public is unaware of. I have not other agenda but to support the building of a fire station that best serves the needs of all of the people of the Township.
Mary Herda-Sprawka February 22, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Just some info for ZBA. On this site, you don't have to invite people to respond to or give them permission to comment. It is sort-of a given.
Marilyn Wilkie February 22, 2013 at 08:40 PM
The Multi-Lakes property in .6 miles west and has no hill to the east which could cause an accident for trucks leaving the station. Just over 1/2 mile!! Everyone here is acting like spoiled brats. To spend more money for the original site is ludicrous. That intersection has always been an accident waiting to happen...and many do. I'll say it till the cows cows home, or someone tells me why the Multi Lakes site can't be used.
Ben February 23, 2013 at 03:11 PM
I do not know where you are coming from here. Pat Kelly had this purchase negotiated at a reasonable price and urged the board to act. The delay was from five members of the board. What do you mean by "Kelly did not give the board all the information that was needed?" Than makes no sense, but if you have something, post it. What Kelly and Maciejewski urged would have resulted in a purchase of land at a much lower rate. Kelly did not fumble, the board punted the ball on a first and ten. It has been clear all along that the other five board members are responsible for this huge mess.
Ben February 23, 2013 at 03:26 PM
A woman I know attended this meeting and shared information with me. Carl Lesser ranted on his personal property tax bill saying he wants no increase in taxes. He is out to protect himself not assist the township. He moved to delay this action, a motion that was not seconded by the board, the only smart thing they did, but Rider moved to extend negotiations to three total properties with his "eggs in one basket" cliche. So Lesser's delay was put in place at least until the next meeting one month later. If you look at the other two properties, it is obvious there is no basket there. Neither site is even close to appropriate for a fire station. Rider should know this. Had Kelly and Maciejewski's opinion been followed, the land would now belong to the township and the construction process could have begun instead the project has been set back so far, costs could increase dramatically per Mr. Wayman's remarks. Another positive of the original plan is that the dilapidated building on the site at NT and DTH Rds, would finally been removed. Who knows when it will be demolished now. I also understand that the "research" done by Lesser and Howard on the two adjacent properties was mentioned, however neither gave a purchase price from the owners even though people in the crowd were shouting out for it. This is incompetence and bad govt at its worst by five people trying to cover up their inability to do their job even after the public has voted on it.

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