================================================== SEPT 07, 2019 We started the new season with a celebration - a birthday party. We know that it is precedent setting but from now on anyone who turns 99 gets a cake and a party and a chance to share life's secrets with the group. Al Ruhlig has hardly missed a Forum since the beginning and we appreciate his quiet wisdom. It turns out that the secret to a long life is based on faith, family and farm work.
We have a new newspaper in town and it is actually made out of paper not pixels. It is called the Dexter Guardian and is available free at your local gas station.
We bemoaned the loss of our (only) local pharmacy. It wasn't so much that we failed to patronize our local business but more related to pressure from insurance companies to force us to shop by mail.
The Avalon supported living project has jumped another hoop as they received approval of their preliminary site plan from the planning commission.
Doug Marrin shared the latest step in his journey from coffee shop owner to We Love Dexter.com to OnMain.Today to cub reporter for the Sun Times News. Be careful when you retire - life has a way of chasing you down and putting you back in the action.
We were knee deep in advocates for the Lion's Club fall sports program (buy one), Apple Days (go there), the Webster Fall Festival (RFD Boys will be there), Coffee and Conversation with the Episcopals (prison reform) and a divorce workshop. (These folks all bring flyers that are on the table just outside our meeting room.)
It looks like the City fire hall project could be on the ballot as soon as May of 2020 but don't hold your breath. Our Webster Twp. friends are still working out the details of their fire hall project as well.
And then there was the issue with some internal friction on our school board. We were running out of time so its best to re-visit the last couple of issues of the Sun Times News to get up to date on this one.
The next meeting of the Dexter Forum will be on Saturday, September 21 at 8:30 AM at the Dexter Wellness Center and will feature a return visit of the Bridge Magazine Roadshow. The topic this year will be "Great Lakes - Great Economy."
Aug 17, 2019
Do you remember how hard it was to understand the mental health/public safety millage that was on the ballot a year ago? Well, we tried to figure out what happened to the money and it is no easier to understand today. Our current commissioners (who were elected after the millage passed) did their best to explain how we got more money but still ended up in the hole since the state requires us to provide certain services with the understanding that they will reimburse us but then it really doesn't turn out that way. Sometimes I say you had to be there to understand but in this case you probably don't know much more even if you were present.
We noted that with a turnout of a little less than 10% the bond proposal offered by the Intermediate School District passed meaning that a little over 5% of the eligable voters were able to effect a tax increase for 100% of the population.
We learned that when Dexter meets Chelsea on the football field there will be another battle in the stands as the Education Foundations of both communities engage in a fundraising contest.
The county commission now has four months left to propose changes in the structure of our road commission. They are in the listening phase so we gave our commisssioners an earfull.
We also had an update on proposed changes in funding for the meals-on-wheels program. This is another one of those you do it and we will pay you back later situations.
August is a 5 Saturday month so it will be three weeks before our next Forum which will be held on Saturday, September 7 at 8:30 AM at the Dexter Wellness Center.
For those planning ahead, we will have a return visit from the Bridge Magazine roadshow on September 21. Their topic this time is Great Lakes - Great Economy. They will use the little clickers again to instantly measure our responses and then will combine them with thousands of others to help provide guidance to our legislature. And yes, we are assured that the technology will all work this time.
=========================================== Notes - August 03, 2019
Often times people leaving the Forum are excited to have learned something brand new or have enjoyed listening to a stiring cry to action by a candidate for office. This was not one of those days. It is the middle of summer and the livin' is easy except for a few detours.
The City of Dexter had another community meeting about fire, police and administrative facilities. Yes, they did.
There is an election in three days regarding facilities at High Point - our regional school for kids with serious disabilities. Most of us have already voted by absentee ballot.
Tom Drinkwater, from the Sun Times News, noted that over 2,000 community newspapers have closed in the last decade or so creating an information void in our little towns. The Sun Times News is filling that void for us and he thanked us for our support.
City projects this summer include sidewalks on Forest Street as part of the safe route to schools program and a total rebuild of Central Street between the Dexter Mill and downtown.
Commissioner Maciejewski let us know about a proposed change in the funding for our Meals on Wheels program that he is trying to prevent. Our senior center is like the little engine that could. Board member Joanne Westman pointed out that they accomplish daily miracles on a tiny budget.
If you are reading these notes on the OnMain.Today site or from Facebook and you used to get them directly or you just want to be added to the Dexter Forum mailing list just send me a note at - RepHansen@aol.com I know a few folks got lost in the transition to SimpleLists. Unsubscribing is easier now, too. Just hit unsubscribe when you open the item and it is automatic from there.
The next meeting of the Dexter Forum will be on Saturday, August 17 at 8:30 AM at the Dexter Wellness Center.
The Dexter Forum is supported by the Dexter Wellness Coalition as part of the 5 Healthy Towns initiative to "help connect with others in healthy ways". The purpose of the Forum is to create an opportunity for interested women and men to gather to discuss important issues facing our community. All are welcome on a drop-in basis. The group meets on the first and third Saturdays of the month.
=========================================== Notes - July 20, 2019
We began with a lesson in collective adjectives - you know, like a flock of pigeons or a herd of deer - since three of Karl's brothers joined us thereby constituting an argument of Finks.
We confirmed that the spraying of herbicides along our country roads will not happen - now or in the future. As a side issue we also learned that the road right-of-way is typically 66 feet wide because that is the length of a surveyor's chain that is made up of four 16.5 foot rods which all goes back to something like the length of the kings foot.
Twenty-four units of affordable (subsidized, supportive, low income, workforce) housing are coming to Dexter on Dan Hoey Road. A recent open house to explain the project showed broad community approval with some concerns about whether the project was intended to serve existing residents or attract new folks. Sara Schugart and Doug Smith (2/3ds of the staff at Faith in Action) were present to help us understand the situation. They see and serve the needy folks of Dexter and Chelsea and assure us they are amongst us. The lack of beggers on the street masks the number of folks doubled up in friend's homes and couch surfing. Half of the residents are likely to be children who will certainly benefit from being so close to the schools.
And yet another topic about roads. In one of those, Oh, by the way moments, the County Commission learned that there is a window of opportunity to reorganize the structure of the road commission if they do it by the end of the year. Our three road commissioners are appointed by the county commission but the agency operates mostly independent of county oversight. This can be changed by adding commissioners or by the county just taking over and running the show themselves. Given how many players we have at a typical Dexter Forum I am sure we will have a front row seat as this issue unfolds.
We ended with a brief discussion about pay-to-play athletics in the Dexter Schools. Something about core mission and budget conflicts. This will be a topic worth a little follow up at a future session.
ALERT When you receive your next meeting reminder it will (hopefully) be through some new form of list management service. There are about 400 of you now and AOL is not letting me maintain one simple list (for free) so I am about to make a leap to something else. I am not an expert in these things so there is a chance I might get caught in your spam filter. =====================================
===================================== July 06, 2019
We were happy to have a couple of new women join our group and one of them, Sue Waters, led off our session with concerns about the herbicide spraying program being conducted by the Washtenaw Road Commission. The short version of the story is that the Road Commission has allowed all of Lodi Township to opt out, Webster Township has requested to be opted out and the County Commission is considering stopping the whole program. Lets keep in mind that this program was about safety for drivers not just intended to irritate the residents.
Folks used data from the MSDS sheets to justify their concern about the chemicals so we had to learn what MSDS sheets are all about. There is always someone at the Forum who knows what we need to know so we turned to John Scharf, our resident chemical engineer for an explanation. All chemicals come with a Materials Safety Data Sheet that explains their proper usage and the risks involved. This is helpful information if there is a spill or fire or accidental consumption.
Caryl (get your Gordon Hall raffle tickets) Burke called our attention to the fuss surrounding Scio Townships switch to a mandatory single hauler for solid waste disposal. It is happening. Not everybody likes it. But, it is happening.
Newly elected Lion's Club President Rex Reeve wanted to know who was responsible for maintenance of the border-to-border trail. It turns out that the trail is composed of segments that are the responsibility of the unit that built them be it the Metro Park Authority, a city or a township.
Enthusiastic Infomercials were presented about an event for veterans at the Methodist church and a fund raiser for Habitat for Humanity.
We heard about a new twist in robo calls that show a caller ID for a local business name and a local number. It is called spoofing. We don't like it.
We heard concerns about parking in downtown Dexter. Councilperson Zach Michels referred us back to a recent study done by the city on this subject. While things can get plenty crowded downtown the 'availability' of parking is closely tied to a persons perception of how far they are willing to walk after parking to get to their destination.
We ended with a brief discussion about the 'affordable' housing project on Dan Hoey Road that is the result of the collaboration of Avalon Housing, Faith in Action and the City of Dexter. There will be an open house at the Senior Center on Tuesday, July 16 at 5:00 PM to review the plan.
==================================== June 15, 2019 Dexter District Library director Paul McCann was chosen by Karl to help keep order while Karl was attending a legal seminar (on Mackinaw Island). Keen observers noticed that it has been two Pauls in a row and there is a third Paul lurking out there but Karl will be back next time, for sure.
Our first topic concerned the need for senior housing and services in Dexter. The question basically was what is the vision and who are the visionaries? We heard concerns from a lot of perspectives. The city has a new housing commission that has senior housing on its study agenda. The Community Foundation identified senior issues as being a top priority. The Faith in Action/Avalon project understands senior needs. Our current senior center is nervous about the sale of the building they occupy for $1.00 a year (plus utilities). There is nothing planned by private developers along the lines of the Chelsea Retirement Community. So, lots of interest but no particular vision and the position of visionary is open at this time.
And then there is the dirt. The dirt in question was not supplied by the Russians but is a by-product of the school construction projects. We were assured by knowledgeable sources that the pile on Dan Hoey Road has a future home and the area will be properly restored.
Sue Shink, our county commissioner for Webster Township and points east, alerted us to the road commissions plans to spray herbicides along our country roads. There is an opt-out procedure that is described in the web site maintained by the commission. This was a kind of a surprise issue and I am sure we will get more information as time goes on.
The State of Michigan has narrowed down the opportunity to have an election to three days a year. One each in May, August and November. (In the past any taxing authority could call a 'special' election any time.) Since there are no elected positions open at this time it is just funding issues likely to come up and we have one coming this August. It is from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and involves a bond to fund construction of improved facilities for the severly handicapped kids from all over the county that are served there. Our friends Google and Siri helped us with the details but hopefully someone closer to the issue will find their way to a future Forum. ===================================== JUNE 01, 2019 Karl Fink was away on assignment and he chose Paul Cousins to sub for him on the co-moderators stool. So, we had our own version of Fox News 'fair and balanced' approach.
Our first topic dealt with door to door solicitors in the city of Dexter. Commercial solicitors need a permit but religious and political ones don't. Folks were generally annoyed by solicitors and learned from others that a No Soliciting sign near your door would be at least partially effective.
Supervisor Rider reminded us of the siren tests done on the first Saturday of the month and then went on to praise the accomplishments of the Dexter High School Trap Club. The (co-ed) club has done well in state and national competitons and is involved in a rather unique partnership with local law enforcement called Shoot with a Cop. Doug Marrin visibly vibrated with interest so I suspect you will be able to read more about this at OnMain.Today soon.
Speaking of enthusiasm - Jason Maciejewski attended the Detroit Chamber's Mackinaw policy conference wearing his Area Agency on Ageing hat and found himself like a kid in a candy store when he was in a small room with virtually the entire Michigan Congressional delegation - all of whom were willing to listen to his concerns about programs for the elderly. He got in a whole year's worth of lobbying in 60 minutes and he was happy, happy, happy about it.
When he regained his composure Jason also let us know about an upcoming meeting regarding the Gelman dioxane plume creeping under Ann Arbor. We had to do a little review for some of our newer residents about this long standing environmental challenge.
Ed Francis, who has been with us since day one of the Forum, asked for a moment to give a little speech, not a stump speech, but just a chance to "get some things off his chest". For readers not present at the meeting it should be noted that Ed is African American (one of a very tiny minority in the Dexter area). Ed wanted us to note that despite an outward appearance of calm and tolerance that a person like him experiences frequent acts of intimidation. Big things like staring him down and revealing a concealed weapon. Sadly, in the discussion that followed several others were able to recount incidents involving their friends of color who had similar experiences.
It is a good thing that Ed felt that the Forum was a safe place for him to raise the issue and it prompted a good discussion.
Doug Fuller encouraged us to go to wcroads.org where we can see nice maps of all the road projects that the road commission will be working on this summer. ======================================= May 18, 2019
Ken Magee joined us today wearing a t-shirt promoting Magee for Sheriff causing us all to contemplate that election day is only 19 months away.
Today as we 'listened and learned' we learned that there are still some unresolved issues relating to the role of the school district in educating families and children about the presence of and treatment of transgender students. The board of education has a sub-committee that is discussing the issue and their meetings are open to the public. Our goal at the Forum is to understand issues not resolve them.
Our second topic was chipmunks but it seemed like too much of a stretch to move from such a sensitive topic to pesky rodents so chipmunks will get their moment in the sun on another occasion.
Back on more familiar territory we re-visited the proposed Sloan/Kingsley development south of town. It was incorrectly reported last time that the City denied the request for annexation. In fact, the developer withdrew his request and chose to present the project to Scio Township. It still is about the cost of hooking up to the City sewer system versus building one of their own. There is a reason - maybe more than one - that this development has been on the table for more than a decade.
Councilman Zach Michels is freshly returned from a workshop on fire station design. Webster trustee Scharf attended the same conference last year. Zach was able to have the current plans for both of our options (remodel or build new) reviewed by a team of architects who specialize in fire station design. Zach shared some of his insights with a group that stayed after the meeting.
Our school board is considering a move of their administrative functions from the Copeland building to the Bates building now that the kids have moved over to the new school. Talks are underway to sell the Copeland building to the Encore Theater. The Copeland building also houses the Senior Center and a black box auditorium used by the community players so there are, as usual, a number of issues to be resolved.
===================================== Dexter Forum Sat, May 4,
We love to talk aout proposed developments in our area so we did - The Sloan/Kingsley property south of the city on Baker Road being the subject for today. In the end these things all end up being some kind of math problem. Apparently the city determined that the cost of servicing the development was greater than the anticipated tax revenue so annexation was off the table. The project is now winding its way through the Scio Township planning process.
There was general unhappiness with the results of the velociraptor or whatever the road commission calls the dystopian machine that is used to vertically 'mow' along the sides of the roads. We blamed it all on Doug Fuller, our road commissioner, who gets blamed for lots of things but still keeps coming to the Forum anyway. There is probably a little math problem here as well. A crew of arborists with pruning shears probably costs more than one mean machine.
Our next topic was a review of 'the big meeting'. The vast majority of those present asked, "What big meeting?" Well, last Saturday the City held a town hall meeting to discuss options for improving facilities for police, fire and administrative services. Doug Marrin, in his new news outlet OnMain.Today did a pretty good review and you are directed there for the full story.
Our State Representative, Donna Lasinski, was in attendance so we asked her for a Lansing update. She let us know that it is budget time and the wrestling match between the new Governor's priorities and existing funds is well underway. More math problems.
Donna is the lead voice for House Democrats in the effort to deal with our - highest in the nation - auto insurance rates. She seems confident that there are enough areas of agreement to get something - not everything - changed.
The third issue that she addressed is the court ordered redistricting of some house, senate and congressional districts to correct the impact of partisan gerrymandering. All of our districts are in play. Donna is not confidant that all of the timelines, regulations and appeals can be met to actually change things by the filing deadline next April.
We gave school board president Michael Wendorf just a few moments to assure us that the school district and the city are well on the way to resolving issues related to the trail extension south along Mill Creek.
And John Scharf let us know that the Webster Township board has already voted to endorse a bill that would allow townships to decide to hold non-partisan elections. The law currently requires them to be partisan. ===================================== Notes for Meeting of April 20, 2019
Spring is near so Dan Egeler, our marine safety officer, gave us of some common sense boating tips like wearing our flotation vests and licensing our boats. Then we had one of those you had to be there moments involving advice to individuals who forgot to use the porta-potty before getting into the middle of the lake. In the rumor department we were able to more or less confirm that Busch's, our only local supermarket, will be adding a Starbucks franchise to the store soon. This led to a discussion about the impact of chains on our locally owned small businesses. Those hoping for a Dollar store in the old Country Market spot were cautioned about the impact such a store has on other local stores.
Doug Marrin has moved on from We Love Dexter.com and started his own on-line news service called OnMain.Today. Doug explained that he hopes to provide both broader and deeper coverage.
The City of Dexter has scheduled a town hall meeting for Saturday, April 27 at 9:30 AM at the Dexter Senior Center to discuss proposals for space for fire, police and administrative services. This would normally just be an infomercial but in this case it is a pretty big deal since these discussions have been going on for many years without resolution. Seems like a good time to practice a little Civics 101.
There were a bunch of other infomercials and folks have gotten real good about bringing their flyers and putting them on the round table just outside our meeting room where interested parties can take something home if they please.
Gene Utke urged us all to actually read The Mueller Report as an act of civic responsibility. The report is available on line or if you want your own hard copy it can be purchased from Amazon. Gene's point is that the report is too significant to allow yourself to be influenced only by the media or the spin merchants on either side.
It was noted that the construction of recreational trails around us is proceeding at a rapid pace. The school district and the City are working through some differences on the extension south of the city and we are all realizing that many of the trail users need a place to park their car before getting on the trail.
We had such a good time we didn't get to the end of the agenda so come prepared next time to opine on the proposal to let townships elect their trustees on a non-partisan basis. ===================================== Notes for Meeting of April 06, 2019 We took another shot at finding the money to fix the roads. Part of the reason that politics is so interesting is the number of moving parts that are beyond anyone's control. Since Governor Whitmer proposed her grand plan to do it all right and do it all right now by biting the bullet and raising the gas tax by 45 cents per gallon - which plan was soundly rejected as being unrealistic - the cost of gas has actually gone up by 45 cents per gallon due to 'market forces'.
So we decided to pick on the big trucks which is harder to do now that we have Bob Steptoe, a big truck driver, attending our meetings. We are not sure that they pay the right amount but we found out that they do pay a lot more than we thought they did.
Since we operate without the safety net of an agenda we sometimes slide from one topic to another as we did when Bob, the above mentioned truck driver also mentioned that his company, Adair Printing, was closing. It was also noted that nearby Thomson-Shore Printing was entering bankruptcy and down the road printers Edwards Brothers/Malloy was going under after their recent merger. Western Washtenaw County was once known as a national center of low volume, high quality printers. Now everyone has a printer on their desk.
We can't have a Forum without talking about development and congestion so we did and we found, with the help of Paul Cousins, a proper villain. It was Judge Dexter who nestled the town at the intersection of a creek and a river and then brought the railroad in the middle of it all. So we have congestion and...more is coming. The development on Baker Road just past the roundabouts is back on the agenda in Scio Township as a planned unit development (PUD). This means that annexation to the city is not on the table and the decisions will all be made at the township level. A big question with high density projects is always who gets the poop. The proposal on the table calls for the installation of a sewage treatment plant on site with discharge into Mill Creek. I believe it is similar to the system used in Thornton Farms on the corner of Jackson and Parker Roads.
Jason Maciejewski, our new county commissioner was influential in bringing a working session of the commission to the western part of the county last week. It was well attended with topics selected to appeal to us westerners - broadband access and teen mental health. The commission administers a 200 million dollar budget. Four of the nine commissioners are new, a majority (5) are women, youthful Jason is the third oldest and all nine are Democrats. So now you know.
We had the usual flurry of infomercials and added a new help wanted feature as well. Basically, if you are not attending some sort of fundraiser in the next couple of weeks you are not achieving your full potential as a community builder.
Karl and I are making our second appearance on the Lucy Ann Lance show (WLBY1290 AM) on Thursday, April 18 at 8:00 AM. Tune in and hear what we have to say about you.
---(John Hansen writes the notes but he knows that Karl is watching and might withdraw the privilege if he gets too far over the center line.)---