Top 5 Reasons People Say They Don’t Trust Local Government

“A democracy is only as strong as its citizen engagement. For a government of the people, by the people and for the people to work, its citizens must have a clear voice in the issues and decision making. And, governments must be able to clearly and transparently tell their stories in ways that make sense to the public.

In this free eBook, you’ll see how the advent of the digital age is changing the ways governments create and earn trust from their constituents. You’ll discover how online citizen engagement is paving the way to more effective and accountable governing, as well as the pitfalls and best practices of using online citizen engagement methods to achieve that goal.”

Download this free guide

“Citizen engagement is a sacred responsibility in a democracy and the underlying roots that uphold the future of a democratic society.


A democracy is only as strong as its citizen engagement.

For a government of the people, by the people and for the people to work, its citizens must have a clear voice in the issues and decision making. And, governments must be able to clearly and transparently tell their stories in ways that make sense to the public.

This is true from federal to state to county to municipality to special district governments. As an elected or appointed government leader, you hold the public’s sacred trust. However, the public’s trust in government is difficult to maintain and always must be earned by those who represent them.

In this ebook, we explore citizen (civic) engagement and how the advent of the digital age is changing the ways governments create and earn trust from their constituents. We will explore how online citizen engagement is paving the way to more effective and accountable governing, as well as the pitfalls and best practices of using online citizen engagement methods to achieve that goal.”

Download this free guide

Source:Citizen engagement best practices to build community trust.
Smart Brief – Local Government (a service of ICMA- International City/County Management Association.
Download the complete Administrator’s Primer to Citizen Engagement today to see how you can save your staff time, better allocate resources, and create the future of a sustainable democracy and healthy community.




It is regrettable that the following is not available on the Village of Bear Lake web site bearlakemichigan.org or Bear Lake Township at bearlaketwp.com


MANISTEE COUNTY, MICHIGAN — Five local units of government are considering participating in an initial stage of a municipal sewer project aimed at consolidating their municipal wastes around portions of three watersheds and sending them to the Wastewater Treatment Plant owned and operated by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI).

The governing bodies of three of the local units, including Onekama Township, Pleasanton Township and Arcadia Township have passed resolutions to participate. Bear Lake Township and the Village of Bear Lake expect to consider participation soon. The project would provide wastewater treatment for residences and businesses around Portage Lake, Bear Lake and Arcadia Lake.

Under the resolution, participating local governments would collaborate in forming a sewer authority which would then submit one application for financing to the U. S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development. USDA would then provide a response indicating the amount of grant funding, low-interest, long term loan financing and the timeframe for providing funding to support the sewer project. Participating local governments are free to drop out of the project at any time.

The cost of forming the Sewer Authority is estimated to be $10,000 through Attorney Eric Williams, Big Rapids, who specializes in multi-government agreements. The cost of developing the USDA funding application is estimated to be $30,000 through the firm Wade Trim. At most the participating local governments would pay their share of the total costs. However, the local governments plan to prepare a Program Planning Grant Application through Wade Trim and the Alliance for Economic Success for $23,000 which, if granted, would reduce the total cost of the Authority and USDA funding application from $40,000 to $17,000. Williams and Wade Trim have prior experience with the LRBOI staff and wastewater treatment facility and their collaboration with Manistee Township in treating their wastes.

The goals of the project are to: protect and preserve the watersheds; enable planned development; and take advantage of economies of scale created by having a number of local governments collaborating with the project.

The five local governments are represented on a work team by: Arcadia Township, Doug Carter; Bear Lake Township, Jeff Harthun; Onekama Township, David Meister; Pleasanton Township, Judy Girven; and Village of Bear Lake, Jeff Bair. Coordination with the LRBOI is through the auspices of Ogema Larry Romanelli and the Tribe’ Utility Department Supervisor, Gary Lewis. The team is also working directly with Christine Maxwell, Director of Community Programs for Michigan with USDA Rural Development.

“Sewer projects are costly, time consuming and generate a lot of public interest,” said Judy Girven, Treasurer with Pleasanton Township. “It’s of great importance that we have an ongoing process for people to ask questions and receive answers so all input can be considered throughout the course of this project. Everyone on the team agrees that transparency is of utmost importance.” Girven said that the first in a series of information flyers has been prepared that provides information about the project and upcoming public meetings and provides direction on how all interests can receive answers to their questions.

“We want everyone to ask whatever questions they have about the project,” said Bear Lake Township Supervisor Jeff Harthun. “We may not always have the answers immediately but we will get them and plan to periodically print and disseminate the questions and answers so that everyone can gather more information about the project. On March 16 and 18, 2017 we will hold three public meetings on the project where we will update everyone on status, answer questions and ask for any other questions. We’ll be announcing the exact time and location in the near future.”

In addition to asking any of the local government team members, questions about the project may also be submitted by:

Emailing them to the Alliance for Economic Success at: susan@allianceforeconomicsuccess.com 

 Phoning them to the Alliance for Economic Success at 231-723-4325

Sending them to the Alliance for Economic Success by telefax to fax no. 231-723-3717



Arcadia Township ● Bear Lake Township ● Onekama Township ● Pleasanton Township ● Village of Bear Lake


Municipal sewer projects require commitments of local resources and have impacts that need to be understood by communities. A process has been established by local governments participating in the Manistee County Collaborative Sewer Authority for everyone to ask questions and receive feedback about the project.

This is the first information flyer about the project. We will create and issue additional flyers as we have more information about the project.

Individuals, groups and agencies may submit questions they have about the project so that answers can be provided. Questions may be submitted by:

1. Emailing them to the Alliance for Economic Success at: susan@allianceforeconomicsuccess.com 

 2. Phoning them to the Alliance for Economic Success at 231-723-4325

3. Sending them to the Alliance for Economic Success by telefax to fax no. 231-723-3717

Questions may also be forwarded to the following individuals who are contacts for the project on behalf of the local government they represent. In many cases, an answer may not be readily available but, in every case, we will follow up. Periodically, we will complete and disseminate a compilation of questions received and answers provided.

Local Unit Name Email 

 Arcadia Township Doug Carter mbuzi0775@gmail.com 

 Bear Lake Township Jeff Harthun harthunj@manistee.org 

 Onekama Township David Meister musclecars@jackpine.net 

 Pleasanton Township Judy Girven jgirven@ymail.com 

 Village Bear Lake Jeff Bair jeffbair4@gmail.com

“On March 16 and 18, 2017 we will hold three public meetings on the project where we will update everyone on status, answer questions and ask for any other questions. Our goal is to record all questions, obtain the answer and publish an ongoing list of questions and answers that everyone can access. We know that many people are not in the area during this time. We will have speaker phones available and a pre-published phone number for anyone to join the meetings by phone. We will also tape each of these meetings and publish the date and time when they will air on the Manistee Public Access Channel. We will also have a set of public meetings after we receive a response from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Rural Development on the funding application for the project. We believe that those meetings will be held in late summer 2017 when most residents are in the area.”

1. How did this initiative begin

Onekama Township explored options to help protect Portage Lake water quality and develop capacity needed by the new owners of Portage Point Inn through a sewage collection system serving residential and commercial customers along the lakeshore. It was concluded that the Village of Onekama’s wastewater treatment plant did not have sufficient capacity. It was determined that the treatment plant owned and operated by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI) had capacity and would make that capacity available to Onekama Township and other neighboring local governments if interest existed. Because of LRBOI’s partnership, Onekama Township felt that the capacity and a collaborative project might be of interest to neighboring local governments.

2. How did the initiative expand to include other local governments?

The Alliance for Economic Success (AES) was assisting Onekama Township, partly because of the importance of the project to the renovation and restoration plans of Portage Point Inn. When it was known that LRBOI had the potential to handle municipal waste from Onekama Township and neighboring jurisdictions, the AES and Onekama Township contacted the other local governments to assess their interest in the project.

All of the partnering local governments passed resolutions agreeing to join in Phase 1, the initial exploratory phase of the project, that focused on gaining a preliminary understanding of the viability of the project and required no financial commitment by the parties.

As the following explains, the next phase of the initiative for the local governments that choose to participate would involve forming a sewer authority and submitting an application for funding to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development to fund the sewer project.

3. What are the goals of the initiative?

Water Quality. To protect and preserve the Portage Lake, Greater Bear, Arcadia Lake and Lake Michigan watersheds from pollutant threats from on-site waste disposal systems. This includes both surface and ground waters.

Economic/Community Development. To enable development in the form of businesses and jobs in keeping with local objectives.

Realize Collaborative Benefits. Through collaboration, engineering and construction costs for the system designed to accommodate all participating municipal units will be shared. In addition, because of collaboration, there will be a sole focus for preparing the financing application, constructing and operating the system.

4. What is the status of the initiative as of February 2017?

We have determined that we must form a sewer authority to submit one funding application to USDA Rural Development to realize the benefits of collaboration. This is a unique project in that all participating local governments would be part of a regional sewer system that will connect with one wastewater treatment plant.

5. What is the next phase of the project?

Local governments that participate will do two things in Phase 2 of the project. 

Form a Sewer Authority to Seeking Funding and Manage the Project. There will be approximately $10,000 in legal fees to establish a Sewer Authority and to create bylaws, operation policies, and procedures. All local governments that participate will have representation on the Sewer Authority. The formation of an authority is required so they can submit one financing application to USDA Rural Development on behalf of the participating local governments. Participating local governments will want to have their respective legal counsel review the documents involving the creation of the sewer authority. The ad-hoc team from the local governments that have been involved in the project have selected Attorney Eric Williams of Big Rapids to help form the authority. Mr. Williams has significant prior experience with multi-governmental projects, including sewer authorities and has no representation that could pose a real or perceived conflict of interest. Mr. Williams was retained as a counsel in the collaborative sewer project involving the Little River Band and Manistee Township and by Filer Township in the collaborative sewer project.

Complete a USDA Rural Development Financing Application. Wade Trim will prepare the project funding application. Wade Trim has worked with LRBOI on the Filer Township project and in the initial application between Onekama Township and USDA Rural Development. Wade Trim has also developed all of the preliminary information to date at no cost. The typical cost for an application for a governmental unit is $10,000. Because of the number of local governments participating and the fact that some of the data required exists, the total application development costs will be $30,000 spread amongst the five local governments.

Assuming all five local governments remain in the process, each will need to contribute approximately $10,000 in attorney fees + $30,000 for engineering fees = $40,000/5 = $8,000 from each local government.

However, the Authority will be eligible to apply for a planning grant through USDA Rural Development of up to $23,000. If this application is submitted and awarded, that would reduce the total cost of the next phase of the project to $17,000 ($40,000 – $23,000 = $17,000). If this should happen, the equal share that would be contributed by the partnering local governments would be $3,400. Because of limited funds, the planning application should be submitted to USDA by no later than mid-April 2017.

6. Can a participating local unit cease participation in the project?

Yes. A participating local unit of government can stop participation in the project at any time.

7. What is the primary source of funding for the project? 

USDA Rural Development is the primary source of financing for this initiative. USDA is the preferred source of funding for a project such as this that has the capability to provide both grant funds (that do not have to be repaid) and long term loan funds at a favorable rate of interest.

8. Do we know who is and is not to be included in the sewer district?

We will have a preliminary sewer district mapped by the time of the public meetings.

9. What is the Total Estimated Cost of the Project? 

 With all local units involved, we believe the total project cost may be approximately $37 million. We want to emphasize the word “approximately” since the actual cost of the project will only be known once final design and engineering is completed and bids are let and received within the expected cost of the project.

10. What is the grant and loan funding that USDA will provide for this project?

We will not know the answer to this question until a formal grant application is submitted to USDA and we receive a proposal from them. On a preliminary basis, we anticipate that:

– The total amount of the project would be proposed to be funded by USDA with a combination of grants and loans.

– The amount expended by the sewer authority and local units would be reimbursable through funding for the project provided by USDA.

– The interest term would likely be 40 years at a rate of interest that is more favorable than the rate of interest under any commercially available financing.

– A meaningful portion of the project would be funded through a grant.

The above are preliminary expectations based on prior experience and history. USDA, like all federal agencies, is subject to annual appropriations of Congress and support of the President. The Michigan USDA must then be provided an allocation of funding by the Washington USDA office.

One of the common difficulties with projects such as this is that people often form opinions about the cost of projects without accurate information. We urge that all interests not form opinions about financing until a firm proposal from USDA is received in response to a funding application.

11. What is Known about the Costs to End Users?

Much work needs to be completed before end-user costs are known.

A significant factor in determining end-user costs is the total number of users on the system. Typically, user costs can be broken into two categories: bond repayment and user costs after they are connected to the system.

Bond Repayment

As previously noted, we expect financing in the form of grant funds and a low-interest, long-term loan through USDA Rural Development.

Oftentimes, a special assessment is established by the Sewer Authority or local governmental unit to repay the loan through a bond. This loan repayment is usually spread over 40 years and the resulting annual bond repayments are passed on to the residents/businesses/properties that benefit from the project. An individual may choose to pay off his or her share early of the bonded indebtedness that is the subject of a special assessment. The monthly payment is determined based on residential equivalent units (REU’s). One REU is equivalent to one single family home. Commercial businesses could be assessed a number of REU’s. For example, a hotel with 50 rooms might be assessed 30 REU’s. The number of REU’s assessed is usually based on an adopted REU calculation chart. The fee can also be placed on property taxes and paid that way rather than monthly. Once the assessment is established, it would not change until the bond is repaid.

User Costs

Once a business or residence connects to the system, a monthly or quarterly bill will be sent to the user by the Authority to account for transport and treatment of the wastewater. This fee covers the cost of operation and maintenance of the system including treatment of the wastewater. The individuals representing the local governments in this process have agreed that the LRBOI is best suited to manage operations and maintenance.

12. Who has to hook up to a sewer?

The requirement for connecting to the sewer line would be established in the sewer ordinance established through the Authority. Usually, the funding agency, (in this case USDA Rural Development) requires connection by users within a certain distance of the sewer line within a specific timeframe (18 months is typical). The cost to hook up is not yet known but it usually is established to cover the construction cost to hook up and the cost per REU as determined from the assessment.

13. What is the Estimated Schedule for the Project?

Milestone Approximate Date

  • Pass resolution kicking off formation of Authority March 15, 2017
  • Form Sewer Authority April 14, 2017
  • Submit Planning Grant Application April 28, 2017 
  • Submit Financing Application to USDA October 2017
  • Receive Response from USDA on Financing December 2017 Application
  • Design Begins April 2018
  • Finalize design/USDA submittal items December 2018
  • DEQ permits secured February 2019
  • Open Bids March 2019
  • Start Construction April 2019

What water will cost

In the absence of a comprehensive cost analysis of the proposed Village of Bear Lake water system upgrade project, the following was published as part of the Preliminary Engineering Report.

Current water rates for residential customers are based on the REU {Residential Equivalency Unit}. Businesses and Bear Lake Schools pay significantly more than a home owner. Rates for residential customers are set to rise to $105 per quarter in October and again to $135 next year.

Whether that will be sufficient to cover these projected costs remains to be demonstrated.

1 2


6 7 9 4 5 8 10

Village of Bear Lake Special Meeting September 1, 2016

An audio recording received through a FOIA request commenced after the meeting had started. The following was supplied by an audience member.

Village of Bear Lake Council


September 1, 2016

Bear Lake Village Hall

Unapproved Minutes

The Special Meeting of the Bear Lake Village Council was called to order by President Jeff Bair at 5:00 p.m. at the Bear Lake Village Hall.

Pledge of Allegiance – said by all.

Present: President: Jeff Bair Council: Peggy Bass, Ron Ronning, Jackie Johnson, Treasurer: Sally King, Clerk: Cindi McPherson Staff: Jared Bair.

Absent: Don Hyrns, Janene Gee, Carver Edwards and Larry Gibson

Guests: Don & Liz Raiff, Chuck Eminker, Rich Russel, Barb and Rick Farfsing, Syd & Joanne Schroeder. Jeanne Walsh was present on a call-in on speaker phone.

Public Comment: None


  • The petition – President Jeff Bair announced the water petition was rejected for the following reasons:
    • The petition does not disclose the person or organization primarily interested in and responsible for the circulation of the petition; the petition is not 8-1/2 inches by 14 inches in size; the petition does not contain the statutorily required warning to voters; and the petition does not contain the statutorily required certificate of the circulator.
  • The purchase of land from the school –

Motion to move forward with the purchasing of land from the Bear Lake Public Schools for the water project. Ronning moved, Johnson seconded. Motion carried.

Aye: Johnson, Ronning, Bass, Bair

Nay: None

Absent: Hyrns, Gee, Edwards

Overview: The schools will sell 13+ acres of land to the village for $35k, this is $25k less than what was budgeted in the grant proposal.  $3,500 the village will put down will be reimbursed when grant is complete.

  • The storm water grant – Jeff Bair announced the Bear Lake Water Shed received a SAW Grant (Storm water, Asset management, Waste water) from the State of Michigan and has chosen the village of Bear Lake as the recipient of the SAW Grant.  The $347K grant will be use for mapping of storm drains and evaluation of them.  Rich Russell president of the Bear Lake Watershed explained the SAW Grant was written in 2013 and awarded to them a few weeks ago.  Russell stated there will be no cost to the village, the water shed will be responsible for the 10% match, letter on file in August 2016 Special Meeting folder.  AES (Alliance for Economic Success will be handling the funds and tracking of expenditures.  NOTE: Council will select engineering group.  NO construction will be done, just evaluations of all storm drains, preliminary work to see what needs to be done.  GPS tracked.  Additional storm drains in Pleasanton Township and the Township of Bear Lake will be evaluated, townships have approved their support with this project.  Project could take up to 3 years to complete and it will cover every drain.  The DEQ stated, the village of Bear Lake storm drains were high on their list to get fixed.  Dick Graham did all evaluations of this drain project, roughly 74 drains.

Motion to accept the SAW Grant for the storm drains in the village and move forward to use Spicer Group for engineering. Bass moved, Ronning seconded. Motion carried.

Aye: Johnson, Ronning, Bass, Bair

    • Nay: None

Absent: Hyrns, Gee, Edwards

Public Comment: Don Raiff – Mentioned that Carver Edwards knowledge of the location of all drains, creeks, etc… in 2007, at the beginning of this project, helped tremendously. Raiff offered report of Surface Water Subcommitee, report on file in August 2016 Special Meeting folder.

Rick Farfsing – said he was very thankful this.

Chuck Eminker – Questioned what will happen with the water petition since it was rejected?  Jeff Bair responded, there will be more education done on the water project for village residents to ask question and understand the need for the water well project.

Meeting adjourned at 5:24pm

Respectfully Submitted, 

Cindi McPherson, Village Clerk

Groundwater and aquifer depletion

Resources to help Village residents understand where our drinking water comes from and the need for conservation and sustainability of the aquifer.

Both Village of Bear Lake wells are drilled into the same ‘unconfined’ aquifer – which is why past Village Council’s devoted several years to comply with a Wellhead Protection Program which received funding from MDEQ.

Understanding the relationship between the water table, surface recharge from rain and snow, the impact of drought on well performance, the impact of excessive withdrawal and the critical need for water conservation is demonstrated here.

and for a bit more detail:-

July Village of Bear Lake Meeting audio

Also Museum of Bear Lake Lease Agreement

Under the General Law Village Act – Villages may borrow up to 10% of their taxable value. Any issuance of bonds in excess of that must obtain a Qualifying Statement.


And http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-69-23

69.25 Loans; issuance and execution of bonds; validation of prior bonds or indebtedness.

Sec. 25.

A loan may not be made by the council or by its authority in any year, exceeding the amounts prescribed in this act. For a loan lawfully made, the bonds of the village may be issued subject to the revised municipal finance act, 2001 PA 34, MCL 141.2101 to 141.2821. The bonds shall be executed in the manner directed by the council.

A municipality shall not borrow money and issue municipal securities except in accordance with this act. However, there are some borrowings that are not subject to the Revised Municipal Finance Act. See MCL 141.2105 below for specific examples, including contracts for the purchase of real or personal property. A municipality must have specific legal authority to enter into any debt obligation, either statutory authority or authority from a municipality’s charter. In general, the statute that allows a municipality to borrow is called the “authorizing statute.” Generally, a municipality may qualify to issue municipal securities without further Treasury approval, by submitting a Municipal Finance Qualifying Statement to the Michigan Department of Treasury. Municipalities that do not qualify under the provisions of the act must obtain prior approval from Treasury before issuing any municipal securities.


USDA FOIA Request filed

Comments have been made, falsely, that those who have requested a referendum vote on the proposed issuance of a $1.8m Bond debt for the Village of Bear Lake water system do not have the best interests of the community at heart.

Also false fears have been raised about the ‘well going dry’ – when the Water Reliability Report clearly states: ”

The existing wells are not in imminent danger of failure, however, it is recommended that the Village begin planning to eventually replace the existing wells…

The capacity of the wells is lower than the previous water system evaluation because the Village completed a substantial water project in 2010 and 2011 which included a new water tank that was installed at a higher elevation than the old water tank to boost system pressures. The additional system head created by the new water tank slightly reduced the pumping rate of the wells.

Improvements were made to both wells during the 2010-2011 water system improvements project. The control systems for both wells were upgraded and both wells were inspected and cleaned as part of the project. The well cleaning improved the efficiency of both wells, however, during post cleaning performance testing it was noted that Well #2 was pumping air at flow rates over 217gpm. The post cleaning performance testing for Well #3 found that the water level drawdown was at least down to the top of the pump bowls. Well #3 did not pump air during the testing, but the operation of the pump with the water level approaching the pump bowls is not ideal.

The firm capacity is calculated by removing the capacity of the largest pump from the system. The pumping capacity that remains is the firm capacity. The Village of Bear Lake has a rated firm capacity of 195 gpm. The MDEQ recommends that the firm capacity meet or exceed the maximum day demand. The Village’s historic maximum day demand (over the past 5 years) was 134 gpm, which is 69% of the firm capacity.”

See: tl41R01 NOTICE of 30 days to file a Corrective Action Plan from the State of Michigan Department of Treasury.statedeptoftreasury


Michelle Collins  Acting Area Director – USDA, Rural Development

Sonya Trudgeon  FOIA Coordinator –sonya.trudgeon@mi.usda.gov

3001 Coolidge Rd., Suite 200

East Lansing, MI 48823

cc: Rural Development • Traverse City Area Office

Blake Smith- Area Specialist – blake.smith@mi.usda.gov

1501 S Cass St, Suite A • Traverse City, MI 49684

cc: U.S. Department of Agriculture  email: program.intake@usda.gov

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20250-9410

cc: Village of Bear Lake President  Jeffrey Bair. Village of Bear Lake Clerk Cindi McPherson – bearlakeclerk@gmail.com

P. O. Box 175, 12376 Virginia Street, Bear Lake, MI  49614


Under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA) and USDA regulations (7 Coded of Federal Regulations, Part 1, Subpart A) and Michigan Freedom of Information Act Public Act 563 of 2014

Request for electronic copies of documents relating to Village of Bear Lake proposed water system improvement project.

On behalf of the citizens of the Village of Bear Lake, Manistee County, Michigan I am requesting, under Michigan Freedom of Information Act Public Act 563 of 2014, and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA) and USDA regulations (7 Coded of Federal Regulations, Part 1, Subpart A),
electronic copies of the following documents:

  1. Dates, times and those in attendance at any and all meetings between USDA, Rural Development, Village of Bear Lake Council Members (or their representatives and agents) for the period 2013- current date.
  2. Any and all correspondence, documents, contracts, notifications between USDA, Rural Development, Village of Bear Lake Council Members (or their representatives and agents) within the same time frame.
  3. Notification of final satisfaction of award conditions and actual agreement of award of funds for Village of Bear Lake proposed water system improvement project.


On July 6, 2016, the Village of Bear Lake placed a single display advertisement in the Manistee News Advocate (see attached notice 7-6-16)


The text clearly stated the following:

“Right of Referendum: The Bonds will be issued without a vote of the electors approving such Bonds, unless, within 45 days from the date of publication of this Notice Of Intent, a petition, signed by not less than 10% of the registered electors residing within the limits of the Village shall have been filed with the Clerk of the Village or other recording officer of the Village requesting a referendum upon the question of the issuance of the Bonds.”

40 verified signatories filed said petition, within the 45 day period, with both Cindi McPherson Village of Bear Lake Clerk and Deanna Pattison, Bear Lake Township Clerk who will be the election administrator. There are 223 currently registered voters in the Village of Bear Lake.

The petition was formatted to include both printed names, signatures, full address and date of signature. Cindi McPherson Village of Bear Lake Clerk signed to acknowledge receipt on August  5, 2016.

The stated purpose was:

We, the undersigned registered voters of the Village of Bear Lake, oppose the issuance, (as noted in the July 6 published “Notice to issue water supply system Revenue Bonds”) of any and all Revenue Bonds as permitted under Section 33 of Act 94 (1933 as amended). We oppose the $1,800,000 figure as stated, including the guarantee of the Village of Bear Lake General Fund for 40 years, and call for a Referendum Vote of the electorate of the Village of Bear Lake to review, approve, deny or amend the Water System Project as proposed. This petition will be presented to the Village Council within the 45 day window as noted in the July 6 publication of the “Notice to issue water supply system Revenue Bonds” in the Manistee News Advocate.

In light of the erroneous comments made concerning this petition, I am listing here the reasons for both that and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA) and USDA regulations (7 Coded of Federal Regulations, Part 1, Subpart A)  and Michigan Freedom of Information Act Public Act 563 of 2014 – Request for documents.

  1. The petitioners simply wish to exercise their legal right to decide on the commitment of funds.
  2. Without submission of said petition, the electors would have lost all recourse to contest the issuance of bonds.
  3. The electors have concerns about the fiscal responsibility and ability to issue this Notice of Intent when the State of Michigan has listed the Village as non-compliant in filing a timely audit and being in a state of fiscal noncompliance for the past 3 years. (see attached letters from the state of Michigan [see above])
  4. The electors are unwilling to give approval for debt for the following reasons:
  1. when no information about the final cost of this project has been conveyed – other than through documents received by individuals via FOIA
  2. no definitive interest rate has been determined as no final documentation of approval has been supplied
  3. the length of debt repayment, 40 years, is twice the expected life span of the proposed infrastructure
  4. the debt repayment figure – estimated by USDA RD at @$65,000 per year – has not been calculated per capita but seems to indicate $38 per month
  5. The current cost of operations of the Village of Bear Lake Water System is @$47,000 and translates to an intended fee of $45 per month.
  6. At no time have Village residents been given an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the project as proposed or given an accurate per monthly rate, including a proposed meter fee and base gallons allowance.

In reaction to the petition, statements have been made that the signatories are opposed to the water improvement project.  This is not true.

The residents and tax payers of the Village of Bear Lake are opposed to THIS water project as proposed, and the manner in which it has been brought to this point in time, largely in secret.

An independent engineering review of the project has raised many concerns:

  1. No consultation with the previous Wellhead Protection Committee – as this water system is served by an unconfined aquifer, with known contamination issues noted in the 10-15 year delineation. This is puzzling.
  2. Lack of any evidence of consultation with the Water Superintendent.
  3. Lack of consultation with the Fire Department.
  4. Concern that the project has been promoted as a means to obtain a commercial ISO rating when the Reports note this may not be possible due to the undersized water tower (only constructed in 2010)
  5. Lack of consideration that improved commercial coverage may not be possible until the removal of dangerous buildings within the commercial district.
  6. Service for a, as yet unknown, commercial redevelopment should be incurred by future
    developers.  Rather than being incurred by the current 286 Village residents with a noted mean average income that meets USDA RD for poverty.
  7. Lack of public transparency. Particularly during 2014. Residents should not have to file a FOIA request for basic information about a project that is slated to commit $1.8m +, + an additional $7-900,000 in interest – committing all income from water fees (currently @$56,000) plus guaranteeing the General Fund (current income – @$124,000) for the next 40 years.
  8. Why were no RFPs issued for preliminary reports or engineering services?
  9. Lack of evaluation of alternative funding sources and mechanisms
  10. Dismissal of prior 20 year asset management and upgrade strategy.
  11. Significant questions of the advisability of debt funding for 40 years of infrastructure with an expected lifespan of only 20 years.
    USDA themselves stated in your letter of March  11, 2016:
    It is expected that O&M will change over each successive year and user rates will need to be adjusted on a regular basis”
    It is inevitable that future repairs and replacements will also require additional funding in excess of the required set aside fund.
  12. Grave concerns related to the lack of calibration of existing wellhead pumps and meters, which calls into question the accuracy of any data reported. The lapse in calibration service is noted in the engineering reports.
  13. Factual errors in both the Environmental Assessment and Preliminary Engineering Report such as failure to take into account the volume of water supplied on a daily basis to a 400+ person K-12 School and an inflated gpdc figure.
  14. Grave concerns at the lack of determination of an alternative aquifer source.
  15. Grave concern that two new, increased capacity, wells are proposed to increase supply from an existing unconfined aquifer adjudged by the Preliminary Engineering Report to be ‘sucking air’ during summer months.
  16. If in fact there are instances when the wells are drawing down to an untenable level, why did the Village refuse to distribute water conservation literature as supplied to them from USEPA WaterSense? Why does the Village not enforce its own summer watering hours?
  17. Not including the cost of locating, drilling and bringing to operation a new well at an estimated depth 3-4 times deeper than the current aquifer.
  18. Lack of concern for neighboring private well owners who are also served by the same aquifer.
  19. Lack of acknowledgment that an increased draw will trigger a Water Withdrawal request to the State of Michigan.
  20. Lack of consideration of the seasonal fluctuation in population and its effect on the system flow.
  21. Not including, as part of the per capita figures of 286 population, a daily influx of 400+/- individuals at Bear Lake K-12 School
  22. Not including, as part of the per capita figures of 286 population, the operation of a municipal public RV and recreation Park during the months of June-September. (Including multiple stand pipes, drinking fountains, public showers and toilets)
    It should be noted that the increase in water usage during June-August, as noted in both the Environmental Assessment and Preliminary Engineering Reports, coincides with the operational months for the Village of Bear Lake Hopkins Park. A recent spot check documented a leaking standpipe losing 140 gallons per day.
  23. Not considering the decline in numbers and the increase in age of Village population. This is a static demographic mostly living on fixed retirement income.
  24. Not designing a program of repairs and replacements to meet the needs of current population.

Respectfully, this is why the electorate requested a referendum vote –

  1. To acquire basic information of the scope and financial viability of the proposed project.
  2. To propose valid, affordable alternatives.
  3. To do so by issuing Request For Proposals to determine the most cost effective way to manage and upgrade the Village of Bear Lake water system.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. 


Property owner Bear Lake, MI 49614