Tuesday, July 17, 2012

E-Book Check-out from Local Libraries

The meeting of the township board lasted 35 minutes tonight, largely due to the report from the Kent District Library.  The report included two interesting points not mentioned in my post of yesterday.  First, electronic books can be checked out on-line in e-book format.  The loan period is three weeks, after which the books vanish.  That eliminates overdue charges — which causes the library a bit of concern.  Last year they collected nearly a third of a million dollars in fines.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Agenda for the July 17 Grand Rapids Township Trustee Meeting

The trustees have a relatively light agenda for Tuesday evening.  In the absence of Supervisor DeVries, Dave Van Dyke will chair the meeting.

There will be a report from Kent District Library, which receives support from the township.  In my case, $126 of the taxes we pay go there. The report provided in advance has some interesting details.  For example, ebooks and e-audiobook circulation rose by a factor of almost three from 2010 to 2011.  There were a total of 113,000 checkouts for electronic material. 47% of Grand Rapids Township’s residents have a library card, and most use the branches in Plainfield or Cascade Townships, or East Grand Rapids.

If you’ve not looked at what the library is doing recently, visit the KDL website.

Next is a public hearing on rezoning 1.8 acres of land at Forest Hills Avenue and Ada Drive.  The intent is  to allow commercial development of the property.  There is some information on this in the April 24 Planning Commission minutes. Action was deferred until the May 22 meeting, at which point it was apparently approved (although the minutes have not yet been posted almost two months later).  The neighbors who showed up were less then enthused about the project.  There will be a “public hearing” before the vote, although this will be a formality since the trustees, given past practice, are unlikely to respond to any objections at this meeting given the extensive consideration by the Planning Commission.

The trustees will next take up two ordinances discussed at the previous meeting — a signing ordinance and one to allow limited outdoor dining at township restaurants.  See my comments on the previous meeting for the details.

Trustee Bob Roth will summarize the state of township finances.  If precedent is any guide, this will be brief.

The meeting will conclude with a proposal to spend up to $12,000 on three computers and a server.

If you’ve never been to a meeting of the township trustees, consider showing up at 7:00 p.m. at the township hall.  The meeting will likely last the usual fifteen or twenty minutes.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Three Legal Notices in Sunday’s Cadence

The Cadence is required reading for anyone interested in Grand Rapids Township.  It’s often the only ready source of information.

It also carries the legal notices — which people often skip past.  In the July 7 Cadence, there are three of them.

On page 3, there is notice of two pending ordinances, one regarding outdoor signage, the second to allow limited outdoor dining at restaurant in the township.  I've mentioned both these ordinances in previous posts.  They ordinances are posted on the township web site, and will be approved at the July 17 township board meeting.

Page 6 has a notice on two public hearings to be held by the planning commission. Both would amend the zoning ordinance to allow desired work by Aquinas College.  These are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on July 24.

The bulkiest item in on p. 7.  This announces a public hearing by the planning commission, also scheduled at 7:00 p.m. on July 24. This will allow for zoning changes in favor of a Spectrum Health project along the area adjacent to 2600 and 2700 East Beltline NE.  I’ve mentioned this in earlier postings.

The fact that all three public hearings are scheduled for the same time suggests that the planning commission is not expecting a large turnout.  If you live in the affected areas, however, you might want to attend to find out what is going to be happening.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Good News on Meijer Gardens

Jan Holst reports in the Cadence that Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park has received such enthusiastic community support that it is planning to begin work on the new Japanese garden almost immediately.  The original plan was to begin work early in 2013. This is excellent news.  Meijer Gardens is the single most prominent place in the township, with an international reputation.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Agenda Items for the July 3 Grand Rapids Township Trustee Meeting

One of the reasons I am running for township trustee is to improve the amount and quality of information available to township citizens.  As I’ve noted before, agendas often are posted just before meetings, and with very limited details.  Minutes can take quite a while to appear, and they are equally sketchy.  For example, the agenda for the July 3 meeting was just posted today (July 2).

Supervisor Mike DeVries kindly provided me with the packet of information board members receive, so let’s look at the agenda in more detail.

Item 4 on the agenda is “consider cash disbursements.”  This is a regular item.  For June 2012, the township disbursed a total of $171,126.80.  The biggest items include a transfer of nearly $28,400 to the Kent County Treasurer, to which a good share of the property tax revenues the township collects goes to.  An almost identical amount is to the local law firm of Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones.  I assume at least part of that is for legal fees relating to the township’s attempt to prevent electronic billboards, as well as for the legal work on items 8 and 9 below.

Item 5 is pending bills, $38,000 of those. The biggest item is about $14,700 to the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, an umbrella group representing local government units in Allegan, Barry, Ottawa, Kent, Ionia, and Montcalm counties.  This is an organization I suspect few township residents have heard of.  Browsing its website is worth the time.

Item 6 is of particular interest to me: “Consider authorization to proceed with Revize LLC to update the Grand Rapids Township website.”  The proposal looks well worth the $2,700 cost.

Among other things, it provides for a better overall appearance, easier content updating and editing, automatic removal of outdated items, the ability to easily conduct on-line surveys, and better ways to organize and manage content.

These are excellent additions that deal with some — but not all — of the concerns I’ve raised.  The primary issue remaining is whether or not content is updated and maintained. A useful website depends on keeping the site current — something that could have been done even under the current site.

In short, this looks to be in the right direction, but it depends on putting more effort into the website than is currently done — and it should have been done years ago.

Item 7 is the purchase of a utility vehicle for $12,600.  This is a John Deere Gator that will be used to check bike paths, spray for bugs, maintain parks, etc.

Item 8 is the first reading of an “Amendment to sign provisions in Grand Rapids Township Zoning Ordinance.”  The ordinance will be voted on at the July 17 meeting.  This concerns placement of signs on exterior building walls  — not the electronic billboard issue that has recently been in the news.  This applies to building walls facing streets, and also five areas in which building walls face the I-96 expressway.  This is a rather complicated ordinance that gives the Planning Commission the right to approve such signs and lays out the guidelines.

Item 9 allows restaurants limited outdoor dining permission.  This is limited to seating for 12 patrons or fewer.  This looks like a good idea.  One of the pleasures of summer is eating outdoors.

Item 10 is “Consider authorization to proceed to bid the 3 Mile/Dunnigan Utility Extension project.”  This will permit building a water main and sanitary sewer line to serve the Spectrum Health facility.