Macomb county Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, state Rep. Steve Marino, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest take questions from members of the Harrison Township Economic Development Council during the business group’s annual meeting on May 7.

Macomb county Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, state Rep. Steve Marino, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest take questions from members of the Harrison Township Economic Development Council during the business group’s annual meeting on May 7.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Economic group discusses issues with local leaders

Roads, infrastructure, medical marijuana among the topics

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published May 10, 2018

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — The local business community got a chance to ask some of the more nagging questions on their minds when the Harrison Township Economic Development Corp. hosted its annual meeting May 7 at Gowanie Golf Club.

The guest panelists during the event were Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, state Rep. Steve Marino and Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest.

Issues addressed included potholes and the ongoing struggle to get more funding for road repairs.

“Not including subdivisions, here in Harrison Township alone you have 43 miles of road that need to be fixed to the tune of about $50 million,” Hackel said. “You got three bridges that need to be fixed at $3.7 million. And what I got ... from the state was $2.3 million this year.”

He said the new solution will equal to $2.8 million come 2020-21.

“That’s $2.8 million that year,” Hackel said. “That equates to approximately, in Harrison Township, 16 years to fix your current problem with 2020-2021 funding that was provided by the state of Michigan.”

The panel agreed that in order for things to get better here, there needs to be leadership, specifically a governor or lieutenant governor from Macomb County.

Little talk ensued about whether Hackel or Miller would pursue the seat in the future.

“The No. 1 issue here in Macomb County is fixing the damn roads,” Hackel said. “And for some reason you got elected public officials that are afraid to just say, ‘We need to come up with new revenue and we’re going to show you it’s going directly into those roads, and we’re going to fix them because it’s what you’re asking us to do.’”

Other topics included ongoing work in the Public Works Office to end sewer overflows since the pipeline repair work on the Macomb Interceptor Drain finished last September.

“I only had this job for a year and a half, but as some of you might know, I walked into an interesting situation,” she said. “A big hole on 15 Mile Road filled with you know what.”

Another one of Miller’s focuses is to continue assessing the 17 miles underground in the Macomb Interceptor Drainage District, of which Harrison Township is a member.

“No surprise there’s other problems,” she said, adding that none of those problems appear to be on the scale of the 15 Mile Road sinkhole. “We’re putting together a plan.”

The topic of medical marijuana was also a focus of debate.

“The subject of medical marijuana is not a moral subject,” Verkest said. “We’re not making a decision saying we’re for it or against it. The voters of the state of Michigan did that in 2008.”

Currently, there are 18 medical marijuana dispensaries in the township, with several located in the industrial corridor along Irwin Drive, Production Drive and Executive Drive.

Statewide, medical marijuana was approved 62-38 percent.

“That’s a pretty wide margin,” Verkest said. “In Harrison Township, it was 65-35 percent. I don’t believe that a majority of those folks (who) voted in favor of it voted because they were users. They voted because they didn’t believe they had the right to tell any one of you you can’t use.”

After 2008, legislation said residents can grow 12 plants for medical purposes.

“What we saw was you could actually be a caregiver and grow 12 plants for five other people as long as they are registered to be your patients,” Verkest said. “That means you can grow 72 plants. What does that really mean? Well, I can grow 72 plants over here; I don’t really have to have it licensed. But if I grow 72 plants and somebody comes and busts me, I say, ‘Well, here’s my caregiver license,’ but really at the same time I’m growing 72 plants somewhere else.

“We saw neighborhoods being overrun with medical marijuana and really destroying certain little segments of our community … not just in Harrison Township.”

Three years ago, the Board of Trustees decided that dispensaries should go in industrial areas, rather than in neighborhoods.

“Maybe if you’re in an industrial corridor, you don’t agree with that, but we as a board were forced with saying, ‘Do we want it next to my business or next to my home?’ And I think we should all be able to agree that it’s a little more tolerable next to your business in an industrial zone than next to your home where you’re raising your family.”

Hackel said he is against it, as it is not federally approved, as are Miller and Marino.

Economic Development Corp. member Bernie Aude, owner of Wolverine Broach, said this year’s gathering was the first time they invited local politicians to listen to the business community’s concerns.

“I see it being our format going forward,” Aude said.

Marino viewed the panel discussion as a positive one for the area.

“This was a great opportunity for open discussion between local business owners and officials,” he said. “We must work together to encourage job growth and development for Macomb County.”