Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell and state Rep. Steve Marino were the guest panelists at the Harrison Township Economic Development Corp’s annual meeting at Gowanie Golf Club on May 6.

Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell and state Rep. Steve Marino were the guest panelists at the Harrison Township Economic Development Corp’s annual meeting at Gowanie Golf Club on May 6.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Local leaders talk top topics with EDC

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 17, 2019

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Members of the Harrison Township business community enjoyed a more intimate discussion on important issues with some of the region’s political leaders during the Economic Development Corp’s annual meeting on May 6.

The guest panelists at Gowanie Golf Club were Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell and state Rep. Steve Marino.

Issues addressed included the ongoing struggle to get state funding for Macomb County road improvements, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed Michigan gas tax increase, increasing jobs and decreasing unemployment, recreational marijuana, auto insurance rates and a county-controlled airport.

Hackel fielded a question from Harrison Township resident Frank Forner, a pilot of 40 years, who wanted to know if the county has plans to gain control of the state-operated airport in Romeo.

Hackel said there was a time when the idea of the county investing in an airport had floated about, but nothing panned out.

“There is financial opportunity here,” he said, adding that he’s not against the idea. “We’re willing to explore that,” he said.

Forner, 79, said he was happy to see that there’s optimism still brewing on the subject.

“With the traffic it would see and the ease, it’s just a shot up Van Dyke Avenue,” Forner said. “It could be a very viable airport to the county.

“But I thought this was all very informative,” he said of the event. “I’m glad I came.”

In March, Whitmer proposed raising the state gas tax by 45 cents per gallon by October 2020, an action she said would raise close to $2 billion annually to fix the state’s crumbling roads.

Marino reminded the audience that on April 23, the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Transportation, in a 5-2 vote, reported out the roads budget after axing Whitmer’s gas tax increase proposal, which would have made available a little more than $900 million in 2020.

In addition, Hackel said he has spoken candidly to Whitmer about her proposal and said she “is not married to the idea” of a gasoline tax increase. However, the governor could veto the roads bill if it comes before her without the gas tax.

In conclusion, the panel agreed that there still needs to be a tangible plan to obtain the funds and fix the roads. Hackel has said that fixing the roads in Harrison Township, where there are 43 miles of roads, would cost about $50 million. That doesn’t include the bridges in the township that need fixing, he said.

The topic of recreational marijuana was also discussed in terms of how many communities, including Harrison Township, are “opting out” of allowing such retail establishments at this time in an effort to protect their right to regulate operations that grow, process or dispense commercial marijuana. Laws surrounding the issue remain vague in the state.

Eric Foster, general manager of Belle Maer Harbor on Conger Bay Drive, asked what he could do in terms of regulating or even banning marijuana use on marina property.

Shaking his head, Mitchell answered with a swift, “It’s private property,” and is therefore not allowed.

Another hot topic was auto insurance rates in Michigan, which was addressed by Marino.

“The speaker of the House created a special committee to lower no fault insurance rates,” he said. Marino said he believes something to provide relief to drivers “will be done before summer.”

He was referring to Speaker Lee Chatfield, from District 107 in northern Michigan, who created the House Select Committee on Reducing Car Insurance Rates.

The topic, coincidentally, came up a day before it was announced that the full Senate had approved in a 24-14 vote a bill that would prohibit insurance companies from using gender or ZIP codes as factors to determine rates. The plan would ultimately let drivers deny personal injury protection coverage as long as they have other health insurance that covers medical costs.

The bill passed in the House 61-49 May 9, and was scheduled to go in front of the governor at press time.

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