Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest delivers the State of Harrison Township address at Gowanie Golf Club on Oct. 13.

Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest delivers the State of Harrison Township address at Gowanie Golf Club on Oct. 13.

Photo by Dean Vaglia

Verkest gives State of Harrison Township address

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published October 25, 2023

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — On a cloudy Oct. 13 near the Clinton River’s bends, Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest took the podium at the Gowanie Golf Club and gave the 2023 State of Harrison Township address.

From the supervisor’s perspective, the township is good but not without issues.

“The short version of this address is that the township is doing very well,” Verkest said. “We are fully staffed, budgets are balanced, our most recent audit produced a clean, unqualified opinion. … We are situated on a peninsula, every road in Harrison Township is a dead-end except for one and we are just about fully developed. This creates some funding challenges because while our peers to the north are seeing taxable value growth due to development, we are not. Couple that with the cost of aging infrastructure and it becomes apparent that we need to be creative and frugal with funding.”

Solving this funding challenge is, in part, the responsibility of Township Treasurer Lawrence Tomenello, who has been generating income for the township by putting its bank credits to work. Prior to 2023, township bank accounts accrued bank credits to cover banking fees, but unused bank credits would not add to the township’s funds. Tomenello says adopting “hybrid accounts” has allowed the township to utilize those credits for profit.

“It’s a combination of interest-bearing and bank credits,” Tomenello said. “What happens is that once we get to the point where we’ve earned enough bank credits that’s going to pay for all our fees for the year, we shut that off and move to interest. Now, our interest is paid at a higher level.”

Tomenello has also introduced an “investment cap sweep,” where the balance of the general fund is “swept out” to the bank for investment every night. From April through October 2023, investment cap sweeps have brought $188,000 into the township. Tomenello says the annual estimated interest income with the sweeps is $359,000. With all of the changes in the treasurer’s department, Tomenello says the township has an estimated annual income threshold of $549,000.

Paperless systems have been an ongoing project at township hall. Tomenello’s office has worked on implementing online payments, getting 3,182 customers using the township’s online portal, 1,084 signed up for automatic bill payments and 197 signed up for paperless billing. Online payments have also been expanded for township facility rentals, and Harrison Township Clerk Adam Wit has taken a big step toward reducing the amount of paper used by the clerk’s department.

“We have digitized tens of thousands of documents at the township over the past year,” Wit said. “We’ve been able to destroy that paper and free up floor space for other stuff … The nice thing about digitalization is that it provides security in the event of an emergency at the township, but if all of a sudden you had to work remotely, you would have access to the same documents at home that you do at the office.”

Verkest touched on the idea of the township facing emergencies, recalling an increased amount of 100-year rain events and financial uncertainties amidst a changing world. Though some of those problems cannot be directly controlled by the township, the supervisor said he believes the solution to issues within the township lies within its people.

“Our success in all these departments and all these things I’ve talked about is due to the people who live and work here,” Verkest said. “Good people who love Harrison Township and care for each other.”

Other highlights of the past year include the township’s Fire Department growing to beyond its expected staffing numbers and the state allocating funding to expand Selfridge Air National Guard Base’s runway northward.