FLINT TWP. — New legislation is being proposed to pave the way for the township’s potential name change.
In an effort to resolve legal uncertainties, a bill is being drafted to update language in Act 156 of 1851 which enables county government officials to make changes to townships.
State Senator Jim Ananich and State Rep. Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) have been approached to draft the legislation, said Jerry Preston, chairperson of the Suggestion Committee, in a report on Monday to the township board.
The Suggestion Committee was formed almost a year ago. Over the course of about six months, the volunteer group debated the pros and cons of the township either converting to a city or changing its name. The Committee recommended the name change to the board in May. It is now on hold pending the outcome of the proposed law change.
Proposed language for the bill update states that “by a vote of 3/5 of all the members elected a county board of commissioners may change the name of a township upon application by the township board of trustees to the county board of commissioners. The township’s application must be in the form of a resolution supported by one more than a majority of the elected trustees. A township cannot change its name more than once every 25 years.”
Preston noted that the wording is in draft form and may be changed in the final bill presented.
He explained that the state attorney general, county board and other government entities were asked for guidance on how to proceed but and had none to offer.
He also noted that no precedent for a township changing its name could be found in state records with the exception of when Garland Township became Flint Township back in the mid-1800s.
As currently written, Act 156 of 1851 allows the Genesee County Board of Commissioners to vacate, divide or alter a township, establish a new township or organize or consolidate townships. The language calls for application from “at least 20 percent of freeholders’’ who are residents of the township. Township Attorney Peter Goodstein had concerns about the antiquated term freeholders, generally meaning property owners, because all township residents now have a right to vote, not just property owners.
Goodstein said a clear definition was needed of what the name-change process should be, Preston said.
The original intent was to take the name change question to voters but that was challenged early on as not allowable as a ballot issue.
In June, the township board approved hiring a consultant to conduct a community survey but then postponed it until after Labor Day. That survey is also on hold pending the outcome of the proposed legislation.
If and when that happens, Preston noted that the township board ultimately still would decide on whether to move forward with the survey or to approve a name-change resolution to submit to the county board of commissioners.