Clinton Township wood disposal service gets reinstated

By: Nick Powers | C&G Newspapers | Published June 18, 2024


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Clinton Township Board of Trustees had a full house for its June 3 meeting. One of the marquee agenda items during the nearly four-hour meeting was the fate of the township’s wood disposal service.

Earlier this year, the service was discontinued with work crews finishing their final rounds starting May 13. Trustee Tammy Patton has kept the issue alive since the board voted to discontinue it at its Jan. 22 meeting. Patton cast the only vote against discontinuing the service.

In recent months, she was joined by Trustee Dan Kress, who was elected Feb. 27 and started sitting on the board March 18. The two pushed to have the service returned to its former status at the board’s April 15 meeting where the rest of the board voted to send the issue back to the township’s Budget Ways & Means Committee.

The matter stalled from there. A May 7 Budget Ways & Means Committee meeting was canceled. It finally came up at the committee’s morning meeting on May 16, which was packed with people in favor of keeping the service. Department of Public Services Supervisor Mary Bednar presented four different options at the meeting. The committee agreed that Bednar should present the options to the full Board of Trustees on June 3.

While the service was discontinued, chipping was still available in emergencies determined by the township’s emergency manager.

Also, with or without the township’s additional chipping service, wood disposal is still available. Green for Life, a waste management company contracted by the township, is able to pick up limbs if they meet certain requirements. The contract will shift to Priority Waste starting July 1, though Director of Public Relations & Government Affairs Matt Allen said the company will continue GFL’s current services. According to the township’s website, limbs must be cut down to 4 feet in length. These can be tied into bundles not exceeding 50 pounds or they can be put in a 32-gallon container marked as “compost.” Branches from private contractor work are not part of that collection. The branches are picked up on regular trash days.

At the June 3 meeting, Bednar tweaked the four options based on feedback from the Budget Ways & Means Committee meeting. The options presented included sticking with the discontinuation, providing the service from May 1 to Sept. 30 for subdivisions (or May 15th through Aug 31st to include main roads), chipping with a fee from April 1 to Dec. 1 and providing two seasonal cleanups. Bednar’s presentation outlined the challenges of keeping the service in its previous form. The service cost $299,200 in 2023. Looming costs totaling $600,000, over a five-year period, were projected to replace aging equipment.

During public comment at the meeting on June 3, eight residents weighed in on keeping the service. All wanted the service to continue, though some were open to keeping it in a truncated form.

Larry Flis, a retired veteran and a Clinton Township resident for 50-plus years, said the May 7 storm showed the need for continued chipping in the township. Despite a final round of chipping, Flis said his property was overlooked and the branches are still in his yard.

“We need the chipper,” Flis said. “I’m a 100% disabled veteran. I have trouble walking across the street to get the mail now. I’ll tell you what, getting to be 78 years old is a pain.”

Patton pushed back on several parts of Bednar’s presentation, advocating for the service to be restored in its previous form.

“When I look at my tax bill, I know people say it’s high, but I look at it and see I’m getting my tree chipping. I’m receiving fire, police, EMS. I know those things are there,” Patton said. “It might not seem like a lot for some people who have the money, who can pay for theirs. I really don’t.”

She went on to say two of her sons live in the township because of the amenities. She said she’d negotiate making up the difference in other places in the budget, but wanted its full restoration.

“Taking it away? I just couldn’t see doing that as a taxpayer,” Patton said.

Kress also pushed back on several parts of the presentation but said he’d consider having the service run for six months.

Supervisor Bob Cannon acknowledged the packed meeting but said the audience members only represented a fraction of the township.

“You’re representative of a part of the township, but there are a lot of people who are not represented here that also have an opinion that weighs upon this board,” Cannon said.

Trustee Julie Matuzak said, while she isn’t against chipping, that every service the township provides should be examined to see if it makes financial sense.

“I do really have a problem with anyone coming in front of us about any service that says to me, ‘We have to keep doing something the same way we’ve always done it because that’s the way we’ve always done it,’” Matuzak said.

Kress made a motion, which was seconded by Patton, to reinstate chipping from May 1 to September 31. Instead of selecting one of Bednar’s options, Kress clarified that his motion was to bring back chipping for six months on all roads. This was a break from all of the options. In the original presentation, the time would need to be shortened to May 15th through Aug 31st to make chipping on all roads budget neutral.

This motion was amended by Treasurer Paul Gieleghem and replaced by the two season pick-up option Bednar presented. Gielegheim’s amended motion was voted down by Matuzak, Patton, Kress and Trustee Mike Keys. Once this happened, Kress’ original six-month motion came back up.

Despite their reservations, the board unanimously approved Kress’ motion to applause from the audience.