================================================== Dexter Forum 6-20-2020. ** First Day of Summer We get better at Zoom all the time. We now know that you can participate in the Forum by cell phone while riding on your tractor bailing hay. Can the hot tub be far behind?
Ron Darr joined us mostly to say good bye. Ron is resigning from the Dexter Board of Education after 18 years of service. He received lots of thanks and praise for efforts particularly with the administration of the bond issues that have enabled the construction and maintenance of our fine school facilities.
Speaking of the schools, Board President Julie Schumaker let us know that the district is working on plans for re-opening the schools in the fall. There will be school but the details will probably not be worked out until August and are, of course, highly dependent on the control of the virus.
The trail extension from downtown running south to Creekside school should be done by the end of July.
We met Dom Nelson, the new Executive Director of the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce. Dom is a digital marketing guy who also sells real estate. He wants to get to know you better and will buy you a doughnut at the Dexter Bakery if you show up on Doughnuts with Dom day.
Paul Cousins talked about the city's attempt to help out our local businesses (mostly restaurants) by safely using some street space on a temporary basis.
Commissioner Maciejewski explained that the county is in the process of establishing a commission on ageing to deal with our growing senior population.
Zach Michels noted that there will be three seats open on the city council. The council is non partisan so there is no primary in August. The election will be in November. The filing date is July 21 and at this time there are no candidates.
In one of those 'all government is local' moments we learned that Dexter Township has 18 emergency warning sirens and Webster has 0.
Candidates with competitive primaries are encouraged to volunteer to give their stump speech at either of our next two meetings. We allocate five minutes for the speech and another five minutes for questions that are designed to help understand the candidates position. We ask that you not mention your opponents. We want to know why we should vote for you not why we should not vote for them. Contact John or Karl to get on the schedule.
The next meeting of the Dexter Forum will be via Zoom on Saturday, July 4 at 8:30 AM. Yes, it is Independence Day but we meet in the morning before all the celebrating starts.
============================================ Dexter Forum 6-6-2020 We had a lot to talk about today along with introductions from some more candidates gearing up for the August election.
We started with the good news that our public library is in the process of reopening. Director Paul McCann walked us through the complicated steps needed to insure access and safety. He reminded us that unlike the hardware and grocery stores everything that goes out the door of the library comes back. They will quarantine all returned materials while the scientists figure out how long the virus lasts on surfaces.
Ron and MaryEllen Miller took time out from celebrating their 50th anniversary to encourage all area residents to go on the City website and take the survey about the future of parks in Dexter.
County Treasurer (second grade teacher, camp counselor in training) Catherine McClary is still working from home and assured us that county business is being handled reasonably well. Incoming mail is being quarantined so check processing is slower than usual.
Nancy Schewe gave an emotional report of the vigil in the park last night when a group of 100 or more Dexter citizens knelt for 8 minutes and 26 seconds in memory of George Floyd.
County Commissioner Sue Shink noted that the newly expanded County Road Commission is now the only road commission in the state led by a female majority and one of the few with a female managing director. The commission was expanded from three to five to bring greater diversity of opinion to the commission.
Steve Jensen, the owner of Dexter's newest and onliest pharmacy, was welcomed to the community. He has actually lived in Dexter for 15 years and has owned the pharmacy in Saline but stepped up to fill the gap here in Dexter when we became the only town without a pharmacy. His store is on the smaller side and is more of a drug store than a department store. His specialty is what he calls medicine synchronization where he gets all of your prescriptions lined up so they all renew at the same time.
Julie Schumaker commended the organizers of the 300 car procession (it was not a parade) that gave our graduating seniors some sense of pomp and circumstance. She also noted a planned diversity and inclusion program that was in the planning stages but cut short by the closure of the schools by the virus.
We gave first time visitor and candidate for prosecuting attorney Eli Savit a chance to introduce himself. We have had visits from all three candidates for this position which is open because of the retirement of Brian Mackie.
Diane Ratkovich, candidate for Dexter Township supervisor, was also given a chance to introduce herself and explain her reasons for running.
Paul Cousins noted that the trail expansion from the cemetery to the school property across from the wellness center is coming along nicely. He also said that the city is trying to help our restaurants get back on their feet by allowing expanded outdoor dining space when possible. And....ta-da....there will be a sign erected on the site where the new fire station will be constructed. The actual construction is dependent on a bond issue being successfully passed by city residents sometime in the future.
Regulars at the live version of the Forum will be happy to hear that Al Ruhlig has checked in. He is not a Zoom kind of guy but he wants you all to know that he misses our meetings and that he is recovering well from a leg injury incurred while loading soy beans on the farm.
The next meeting of the Dexter Forum will be on Saturday, June 20 at 8:30 AM via Zoom. The code and password will remain the same for each meeting but I will still send out a reminder on the Wednesday before the meeting.
======================================= Dexter Forum Notes 5-16-2020 OK We Zoomed again but I really miss seeing you all in person. We still have information to share but it just isn't the same without the personal contact. We were updated on the ongoing negotiations between the Encore theater and the city on the deal that everyone wants to happen. Councilman Michels, in his first attempt at headline writing, summed it up when he said, "we are all working together but everyone has to learn their lines before the curtain can rise".
The Dexter fire station issue will celebrate another birthday as the ballot proposition is being moved to 2021. The Webster station was waiting for construction bans to be lifted and can now move forward.
The depth of experience of Forum attendees is amazing even if a little rusty. Ann Davis, in a previous life, was the infection control officer at Chelsea hospital back during the AIDS outbreak. She had high praise for Dr. Fauci and his scientific approach to our current crisis. Distance, wash, mask - repeat.
Heidi Patel and Elise Bruderly announced the merger of the Education Foundation of Dexter and Excellence For Dexter Students. There were lots of smiles for this very sensible action.
The shoes havn't dropped yet but the summer concerts in the park and Dexter Daze are clearly in doubt.
The Dexter Guardian is on-line only for now according to reporter Aimee Osinski.
We heard that the school district is seeking parent involvement as they study six alternative approaches to conducting classes in the fall. It's not just the elderly that are vulnerable to the virus. There are kids with immune system problems too. Like so many things now the answer comes down to the term - it depends. Can we slow the rate of infection and gradually resume daily activities - or not. It depends.
May is one of those five Saturday months so our next meeting will be in three weeks on Saturday, June 6 at 8:30 AM. Our Zoom link required a password this morning. It was Dexter with a capital D. Some newer devices automatically capitalize the first letter but I had to go back and do that manually.
=================================== Dexter Forum Notes 5-2-2020
The Dexter Forum met again via Zoom. We are getting used to the platform and remembering to mute our barking dogs and light our faces from the front.
We learned that developing an agenda is hard when there is really only one item on everybody's mind so we just called on our elected officials - who were very well represented this morning - to bring us up to date on responses at their level to the COVID crisis.
Senator Theis and Representative Lasinski both commented on the difficulty of balancing public health concerns with economic concerns. Neither was happy with the presence of protesters in the capitol building carrying semi-automatic rifles. Michigan is an open carry state by legislative choice and there is no ban on carrying weapons in the capitol building.
Commissioner Sue Shink told of the county's efforts to serve those in most need particularly those with mental health challenges.
The three school board members present, Julie Schumaker, Mara Greaterox and Jason Gold were all complimentary of the efforts made by staff to feed and teach our kids. And, as boards should, they were looking at the downstream budget impacts that will surely come from all of the lost revenue during the stay at home period.
Councilman Cousins reported that the Hilltop housing project moved another step forward with council approval on first reading of the final site plan. Public events in the City are all either cancelled, postponed or on a wait and see status. The first concert in the park which features the Dexter Community Orchestra is cancelled. You can social distance the audience but not the 60 musicians on the small stage.
The Dexter Community Theater group wants your returnables and they are going to hide them at Abby's house until they can be safely processed.
Faith in Action appreciates your food and cash donations but wants you to hang on to your clothing contributions. There is no staff to process clothing donations and no where to store the amount of stuff that you are clearing out of your closets.
Doug Marrin, senior reporter for the Sun Times News, reported that the News is currently homeless and therefore working from their own homes. The paper is no longer being mailed but can be picked up at local places like gas stations.
Doug also called attention to a recent article he wrote about Tricia Paff, a Dexter woman who used Facebook to assemble an army of over 200 area folks to manufacture and distribute face masks to area hospitals. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
At the end we took a rigged survey about the future of the Forum by asking those already in attendance if they felt we should continue. Enough (freshly washed) hands went up so the next meeting of the Dexter Forum via Zoom will be on Saturday, May 16 at 8:30 AM. ****Watch for the reminder on May 14th with the new secret code (there is a new code for each meeting)****.
======================================= DEXTER FORUM NOTES 04-18-2020
The second Zoom version of the Dexter Forum attracted 50 folks, some of whom were taking advantage of the dial in version where they could just listen without being electronically exposed. We spend a fair amount of time just teaching each other how this thing works.
Our first topic dealt with shut downs in the meat packing industry. Meat packing has become highly concentrated into just a few mega corporations so when one goes down it creates a significant disruption in the supply chain. This prompted a number of recommendations for local farm markets and subscription produce groups (CSA's). We traded a few rumors about unusual places to get toilet paper like Weber's and Metzgers - one roll with each meal order.
We had first hand reports from officials at the county, township, city and senior center. Everything is running at reduced level, mostly behind closed doors. Staff are working from home where possible and at safe distances if they are out in the public. The schools are closed but the district plan for educating kids at home has been approved and on-line learning is proceeding at age appropriate levels.
Jensen's Pharmacy has opened in the former Hallmark spot in what we all call the Country Market shopping center. We encouraged each other do do what we can to support all of our local businesses but particularly this new one that is opening under very trying circumstances.
Red Cross Abby let us know that the blood supply is stabilizing a bit since most elective surgery has been postponed and since we are all staying home we are not running into each other on the road. Blood is still needed and will always be needed so keep giving.
We gave each of the declared candidates for office an opportunity to remind us who they are. We appreciate them attending and we are aware that they are not getting the opportunity to chat personally with you all before and after the meeting.
As for that longed for light at the end of the tunnel.......the Friday night concerts in the park that we enjoy all summer are still on the schedule.
We will meet this way again on Saturday, May 2 at 8:30 AM. You will get the secret codes in a reminder message on Wednesday, April 29. Thanks again to John Newman, our Zoom host and Richard Weaver our in house techno-wizard.
John Hansen and Karl Fink, co-moderators ===========================================
============================================ Dexter Forum Notes. UPDATE 04-04-20
We did it! We had a Forum meeting on our computers using Zoom. We had 45 screens showing with a few twofers and a couple of four leggeds. Altogether a fine start at adapting to these strange times. As with any forum meeting there are always folks who know more than the rest of us and in this case it was Weaver our own wizard and John Newman from the Ypsilanti side who allowed us access to his Zoom account (Zoom is great but it isn't free).
We learned that the work on the railroad overpass was not to make it harder to hit but to keep stones (technical term = ballast) from falling off the tracks onto the cars below.
Our public officials at the city, township and county levels all explained how they are trying to do necessary business safely while still providing public access to the process in compliance with the open meetings act.
Our May 5th election date has been canceled with the fire hall issue being moved to August. There was lots of discussion about adjusting filing dates and nominating petition requirements but that all takes legislative action. The whole election might have to be done by absentee ballot to avoid contact with one another and because it is hard to get poll workers under these circumstances. We have 90 days to figure it all out.
Maggie Conger is still alive in her quest to be a member of the new election redistricting commission. The process will continue as specified by the new law and should be whittled down from 3,000 applicants to 200 by June.
School board Mara complimented the district's food and nutrition staff for preparing and distributing over 50,000 meals to area students. A big plus is the number of teachers who show up during the distribution time to wave at the kids in the cars.
Karl commented on the difficulty of determining what essential activities means.
We heard from both of our local charities who are serving the most vulnerable at this time. Mary Westoff, board member at the senior center and Sarah Shugart from Faith in Action both spoke. Both facilities are closed to clients but staff are working on the inside to deliver meals on wheels and groceries to those in need. This is not a time for good wishes - it is a time for cash. You can donate to FIA through their web site and the senior center will appreciate checks mailed to them at 7720 Ann Arbor St., Dexter 48130.
We were reminded to complete our 2020 census forms on line so we don't get a stranger knocking at our door. The count is obviously an "essential activity".
Abby Briggs works for the Red Cross and reinforced the need for blood. Many drives have been cancelled but the need for blood has not gone down.
Abby is also the face of the Dexter Community Players so I guess it was appropriate that the curtain fell while she was speaking. Remember we were using someone else's Zoom account and when your time is up your time is up.
We are going to do this again on Saturday, April 18. Same protocol. We will send you a link a few days before. Until then - be safe, follow the rules, wash your hands and get some take-out from our local restaurants - we want them to be there for us on the other side. =========================================== Dexter Forum UPDATE 3-21-20 There was NO meeting of the Dexter Forum today because of precautions taken to avoid spread of the COVID 19 virus. ---- Mayor Keough was kind enough to send along the following notes about items that probably would have come up had we met. -1. City Council held a special meeting on March 18th to postpone the May 5th election about the $9.9 million dollar facility bond. We felt it was better to wait until we are hopefully past the COVID 19 situation. -2. Mill Creek Park - Phase 2 Trail work got started this past week, just in case anyone wondered what all the orange fencing is along Baker. The contractor is just setting up the project limits and soil erosion protection in preparation for some tree removal and clearing. This path will go from the south side of Mill Creek Park and follow Mill Creek upstream behind Forest Lawn cemetery in order to connect to Baker road in the vicinity of the lot where the Lions sell Christmas trees. This should be another nice addition to the city’s pathway system. -3. With the Governor relaxing the Open Meetings Act rules to allow for virtual meetings, the city is looking at ways to do this effectively. Stay tuned in as we figure this out. -4. People may wonder what the white signs are adjacent to the parking areas along Main and Broad in downtown - those signs are identifying temporary dedicated take out spaces for our businesses that are providing this service. The City is trying to support these businesses during this difficult time. Perhaps the Forum audience would like to know that take out parking is convenient during this difficult time. I know our businesses appreciate any visits they get. ================================================= Dexter Forum Notes 3-07-20 We had a full house this morning with another group of new folks. At the head of the list was Jason Gold our newly appointed member of the Dexter school board. We gave Jason a chance to introduce himself and and he brings a truly rich background of experiences to the table. Catherine McClary, our county treasurer, Arianne Slay, a candidate for county prosecutor, and Tracy Van den Bergh, a candidate for circuit court judge, were also among the newcomers. I keep mentioning this but it is still true that one of the great advantages of the Forum is the ability to meet these folks face-to-face before you bump into their name on the ballot.
-We learned from Commissioner Maciejewski that the county commission has taken steps to expand the road commission from 3 to 5 members. This has been under consideration for some time now and they finally made the move. All five commissioners will serve at large and will be appointed by the county commission. It was noted that since all nine county commissioners are Democrats there is a high likelihood that the new commissioners will have some relationship with the Democratic party. -We also learned that the next extension of the border to border trail will indeed connect Richard Weaver's front sidewalk to the southward extension of the trail that will bring him out right across the street from our own Dexter Wellness Center. The work will be done when it is finished which is projected to be this July. -We then had a little mystery to resolve when a photo of a thingy attached to a pole in Dexter Township was circulated for review. Said thingy was later identified as an antenna that is part of the upgrade to 5G cell phone service. There is great concern about the amount of radiation emitted by this device and its impact on our health. This was one of those rare occasions where we did not have an engineer step forward to help us understand the situation. -This led to a further discussion about the availability of adequate internet/broadband service in rural areas around Dexter. We learned that the county has sent out a survey to help clearly define the problem and intends to use the information to seek federal grants to make improvements. -Treasurer McClary told us about a program in her office to help folks who are unable to prove ownership of their properties. It seems that in the distant past some folks passed ownership through families or through land contracts that were not recorded. Some were related to racial red lining that prevented African Americans from owning property even though they bought and paid for it. Since you can't sell property that you can't prove that you own you can imagine the problems involved. You could feel her sense of pride when she reported the number of families who now have deeds to their property. -We never got to the last item on the agenda which was a question about preparedness for the coronavirus. This gives you a reason to attend the next meeting of the Dexter Forum which will be on Saturday, March 21 at 8:30 AM at the Dexter Wellness Center.
================================== Dexter Forum Notes 2-15-20 One of the great things about the Dexter Forum is that there is always someone in the room who knows a little more than the rest of us about a given topic - like the opening of the new pharmacy. Tom Drinkwater, ad salesman for The Sun Times News, has a greater interest than most of us in this issue so he was able to let us know that the opening has been moved up to April. If you have ever built anything you probably understand why.
And yes, roundabout lovers, your dreams are likely to come true if you cross Wagner at Miller or if the big development on the old University Microfilm property at 94 and Zeeb gets approved.
County Commissioner Sue Shink was looking for opinions on the expansion of the road commission from 3 to 5 members. The brief window in which this decision had to be made has been changed so there is now no time limit pushing the issue. People seemed more concerned about the condition of the roads than the composition of the road commission.
Jason, our other commissioner, came prepared to explain the public safety/mental health millage and he helped us go a long way in understanding where this 16 million dollar per year levy is going. He was particularly pleased with the programs impacting the somewhat under served western part of the county.
We had six new people today including Amy Reiser, who is a candidate for Circuit Court Judge. We gave her a chance to introduce herself and it is nice to know that she is a Dexter resident with deep roots in our community.
February is a 5 Saturday month so we will have a bit of a break as we look forward to our next meeting on Saturday, March 7, 2020 at 8:30 AM at the Dexter Wellness Center.
======================================= Dexter Forum Notes 2-1-20 Dexter Forum marks the beginning of our 6th year TODAY! The weather was better and so was our attendance. We started off with what turned out to be a lengthy discussion about finding a home for our senior citizens. Every community has developed some sort of senior program over the years and they have evolved in different ways. The Dexter seniors have enjoyed a favorable deal with the school district for the past 25 years but now that the building is being sold there will be a period of transition to something new and different and.......unknown. The seniors don't have any ability to seek tax funding on their own so some new structure needs to be developed. Several people in the room appear ready to get involved and get the ball rolling.
City residents will finally get a chance on May 5 to approve a new fire/police/municipal building.This is an ambitious solution to a long standing problem. We will learn more about this as we get closer to election day.
Sheri Montoye, executive director of Faith in Action, brought us up to date on the progress of the Hill Top View development. Opponents and proponents have been holding information sessions.
We had a brief discussion about how to handle needed improvements on private roads. While our resident road commissioner and township supervisor were willing to offer some guidance it was pretty clear that private roads are the responsibility of the private owners.
We jumped on the opportunity of having Scio Township Supervisor Jack Knowles present to learn more about the big new development at the end of Baker Road where it runs into Jackson Road. This project includes over 400 residences along with a 100 bed "senior facility" and assorted commercial components. It is well along in the planning process and is pretty likely to actually happen. There are no sewer or annexation issues since it is quite a way from the City of Dexter boundary but it is in the Dexter School District.
Jack also mentioned that plans are being developed for re-use of the old University Microfilm building at the corner of Zeeb and Jackson. The building has been vacant for a long time and would be demolished to allow construction of a complicated mixed used development. This one is not quite so far along.
We had a general shout out of appreciation to the Chamber of Commerce for the wonderful Dexter ice festival. It was truly spectacular.
We don't talk much about national issues. It is not against any rule it is just that opinions are pretty well formed and we would rather focus on fully understanding things closer to home. But......friend Phil Arbour felt that we should get off the path given all of the national excitement and try to make a prediction on the outcome of the Super Bowl. We settled on supporting Mary Ellen Miller who's pool numbers are 0-0. That also pretty much summed up our interest in the Super Bowl as well.
============================================ Dexter Forum Notes 1-18-20 -It was a record setting morning at the Dexter Forum. We had the smallest crowd ever (19) and good friend Al Ruhlig actually called in and requested an excused absence. It was granted. For historical reference purposes it should be noted that freezing rain was falling on top of 6 inches of snow with the weather predicted to get worse so it certainly made good sense to stay home. -Sue Sherrill presented two petitions to prevent the construction of the Hill Top Housing development. The first was a charter amendment that would require the City to seek a vote of the people prior to the sale of city property and the second was a zoning ordinance to prevent the construction of supportive housing within 1,000 feet of a school. As with nominating petitions she was asked to handle the signing in the lobby after the Forum. -Our friend Robin from the Dexter Tree Farm was allowed a little plug for his tree farm on the corner of Island Lake and Dexter Town Hall Roads. Just because they look like Christmas trees doesn't mean that they can't be dug up and planted this spring as enhancements to your landscape. -Ray Tell alerted us to discussions at the school board about the inclusion of LGBTQ issues in the curriculum. We didn't have any good information on the topic but it brought back memories of heated battles in the past over sex education issues. One of the motivations seems to be the high rate of suicide among gay kids who are victims of bullying. It was noted that the Episcopal church sponsors the Open Hearts club to give gay kids and their allies a safe place to gather. -We scratched our collective heads some more about the county public safety and mental health millage. -One of our infomercials highlighted the fact that today was Dexter's first ice sculpture exposition. It is underway even though mother nature decided to add her own contribution to the event. The next meeting of the Dexter Forum marks the begining of our 6th year in business.