Recreation discussion heats up at Clinton Township meeting

By: Dean Vaglia | C&G Newspapers | Published February 8, 2023


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — What began as a hearing and vote on a new recreation plan turned into a debate between officials at the Jan. 30 Clinton Township Board of Trustees meeting.

Pitched during the public hearing over the township’s 2023-2027 parks and recreation master plan, the exchange began when representatives from TCB Youth Mentoring and Advancing Macomb stepped up to speak.

Thomas Barnes and Diane Banks, respectively the founder of TCB Youth Mentoring and executive director of Advancing Macomb, were invited by Trustee Julie Matuzak to discuss the Breaking Barriers to Play intuitive both organizations have been working on. This partnership was intended to be an example of various existing recreation programs active in Clinton Township that the township could partner with as a way of expanding its recreation programing while maintaining a frugal recreation budget, an objective brought up earlier in January when the plan was first presented.

The discussion stopped when Township Clerk Kim Meltzer asked whether Banks and Barnes delivering a presentation during the public hearing was appropriate to the discussion, with Supervisor Robert Cannon agreeing a discussion of a new plan was not appropriate at that time. Matuzak and Treasurer Paul Gieleghem took issue with this dismissal. Matuzak saw the discussion as a chance to enhance the plan, while Cannon saw it as promoting a new partnership. Gieleghem argued in favor of letting Banks and Barnes speak, while Cannon saw the presentation as something for the relevant committee to hear rather than the full board.

Township Attorney John Dolan argued in favor of letting them speak, albeit monitored to ensure the presentation didn’t run too long, and Banks and Barnes delivered an expedited presentation to the board. After they spoke, Cannon took time to defend the township’s Parks and Recreation Department when compared to other communities in which the speakers operate, and he questioned why they were there when neither are township residents. This led to outcry from members of the board over Cannon’s conduct, while Banks and Barnes stepped away from the podium. Recreation Department Director Brian Kay expressed interest in hearing more about Breaking Barriers to Play before the public hearing was closed.

In the end, the board unanimously approved the plan with members expressing a desire to revisit it in the coming years. The plan’s approval allows the township to pursue Michigan Department of Natural Resources grants for recreation-related uses.

Gieleghem expressed his displeasure with the conduct toward Banks and Barnes during a later agenda item.

“I am embarrassed at the way those folks were treated,” Gieleghem said. “They came here tonight in good faith to say, ‘Hey, we want to work with you,’ and they were turned away … they were treated with complete disregard and disrespect, and that makes me tense when a board I serve on does that.”


DPW updates
The board awarded Romulus-based Best Asphalt Inc. a $395,166 contract to complete four projects within the township. These projects include replacing pavement at two water pumping stations, installing concrete pads at 21026 Cass Avenue for a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments Transportation Alternatives Program pathway project and building a 10-foot-wide pathway at Prince Drewry Park.

“It (the Prince Drewry Park pathway) is … an aggregate pathway that you can walk on, you can ride your bike on,” Department of Public Services Director Mary Bednar said. “It is going to be along the side where (Robbie Hall Parker Elementary School) is and the north property line so that way you can have a complete circle basically between sidewalks and this pathway.”

The board approved the adjusted cost of installing a standby generator for the Department of Public Works building at 23200 Zuckero Drive. Originally contracted for $131,000, work mandated by DTE Energy increased the cost to just over $150,270.