Village Votes to Pay Its Share of Sunset Lake Special Assessment District

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Don Debruin, president of the Sunset Lake Association, Ron Smith, vice president and member of the Vicksburg Village Council, and Dirk Van Krimpen, who lives lakeside, were at the village council meeting to request funds to clean up the lake of weeds, over the next five years.

By Sue Moore

Sunset Lake, located in the heart of the village of Vicksburg, is naturally eutrophic according to aquatic experts; it is subject to lots of weed growth but also provides good fishing for some species. The village has helped to fund a portion of the cost to treat the lake for aquatic vegetation control together with those who reside on the lake. The village was recently asked to commit to a five year plan by the Lake Association.

The village council agreed to fund its portion of the special assessment district’s cost of $30,000 over the next five years. The total estimated cost of $121,800 will come from the 49 properties that line the lakeside. Although the decision to fund the project many never have been in doubt, council member James Earl had questioned the expense at a previous meeting.

That gave Ron Smith, also a village council member and lake association vice president, a chance to elaborate on the benefits of weed control to the 97-acre treasure.

The lake has been a focal point for settlement of the village, a catalyst for industry, a boat launch, and a public park, Smith explained. The Sunset Lake Association was formed in 1987 and received approval in 1992 as a 501c4 organization. For a few years the group requested donations from lake dwellers which launched the weed treatment program. But very soon there wasn’t enough money to do the job, so the group asked the Schoolcraft Township to administer the request on tax bills. They asked residents for the special assessment district to make it mandatory for each parcel fronting the lakeshore to pay a per-parcel rate. Smith asked his fellow council members to “Do the right thing.” The vote authorizing the five-year commitment was unanimous.

Strategic Planning Agenda and Budgeting

At each village council meeting, President Bill Adams likes to walk the council members through their assigned tasks as reflected in the strategic plan of 2014. The plan has been updated to show goals that have been accomplished and inclusion of new ones—in particular the budget planning process.

Adams and Ken Schippers, Vicksburg’s village manager and department of public works (DPW) chief, have been particularly concerned about how the village would be able to provide capital equipment funds, especially for the many equipment needs of the Department of Public Works. Their machinery has been kept together with baling wire and chewing gum, according to Schippers, because no money has been appropriated to replace aging trucks, snowplows, or tractors. This neglect has finally caught up with the village and yet the budget looks to be as tight as ever, in light of the crises in the last two years, they indicated.

The needs total about $750,000. Schippers is requesting $110,000 of that for the 2015-16 budget year for capital equipment. In the meantime, he said, he needs immediate help to purchase an $8,500 quad plow. The old one died. The DPW needs one to clear the downtown and residential sidewalks right now. “It’s a safety issue,” he said. Council members approved the one-time purchase.

Adams said a dump truck for $50,000 is almost five percent of the village budget. “We can’t raise the millage and we really want to lower taxes, while providing better services,” Adams explained. “Our purpose is to provide for the safety and well-being of the citizens of the village. We have about $1,227,700 to work with in the general fund, $480,000 for the DPW and $4,743,700 when you include the sewer and water fund.

“We think the future looks bright with the amount of growth the village expects,” Adams said. “But what do we do if we get a bad storm? What happens to our budget? We need a rainy day fund, too.”

Schippers cited his most recent tussle with a water main break. It took several days to track down. Heavy equipment was needed to dig through frozen soil.

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