The Township’s Top Five news stories of 2013

FLINT TWP. — In a year that began with large fires at two apartment complexes and ended with a widespread power outage caused by an ice storm, Flint Township weathered many highs and lows in 2013.

Many new businesses opened but long-timers like VGs grocery store closed and Citizens Bank branches were renamed under new ownership. Choosing only five top stories for the year is difficult but here goes.

Budget crunches

Budget shortages for both township government and Carman-Ainsworth Schools was and still is a big issue. Declining property taxes are taking a toll as once-hefty surplus funds dwindle away.

Carman-Ainsworth took a hard look at outsourcing some services but ultimately met its budget crunch with 10 percent salary cuts across the board and other concessions from staff members.

The township board argued over its growing revenue shortage and some members initially balked at approving the 2014 budget. But ultimately a $11.5 million budget — higher than 2013 and $1.7 million more than available revenues- was approved. The deficit was covered by the township’s fund which is projected to dwindle to about $2.6 million at the end of 2014, down from about $5 million this year.

Elections galore

Elections took a prominent spot this year with two expensive special elections being necessary to replace elected officials who resigned. Voters first went to the polls in March to choose among seven candidates vying for a state Senate vacancy created when John Gleason resigned after being elected county clerk in November 2012. State Rep. Jim Ananich, a Democrat, emerged the ultimate victor in May special general election.

That vacated the state representative seat Ananich was reelected to fill in Nov. 2012.

Eight candidates threw their hats into the ring to replace Ananich including Flint Township’s own supervisor Karyn Miller.

Ultimately, the seat was filled by Phil Phelps who won in the November election.

C-A school issues were also on the ballot in May and November. Voters approved 10-year millage renewals in May but narrowly turned down a request for an additional sinking fund millage to pay for technology improvements.

The school board decided to try again in the November election to win voters approval for the sinking fund increase but it was narrowly defeated again.

Guns at school

In March a first-grader at C-A’s Dye Elementary School brought a hand gun to school which a teacher discovered in a backpack.

Police were called and the gun turned out to be unloaded but the situation created quite a stir in the wake of the tragic shooting at a Connecticut elementary school a few months earlier.

C-A officials reacted with tighter security measures. Police conducted active shooter training at the school and the county prosecutor considered bringing charges against family members of the child who had allowed access to the weapon.

Hospitality House rolls out the welcome mat

Another big deal in township circles was the opening of McLaren’s Hospitality House on Beecher Road in July. The $8 million facility was built to provide a place to stay for cancer patients being treated next door at McLaren’s Proton Therapy Center which is expected to open this year.

The Hospitality House also generated buzz in April when a gala fundraiser hosted by the Art Van furniture store on Miller Road brought in two Hollywood celebrities — Ted Lange (aka Isaac) from “The Love Boat” and Flint’s own Terry Crews (Expendables). The party had a cruise theme and raised $100,000 for the Hospitality House which will provide low or no-cost shelter to families who stay there.

The Hospitality House was unveiled at a special Open House to give supporters and the public a chance to tour the amenities of the facility which includes private sleeping rooms, a massive kitchen with individual pantries and numerous entertainment areas.

Police station refinanced

Another big accomplishment for the township board was refinancing its police department bond — a move estimated to save taxpayers more than half-million-dollars in interest costs and also speed up the payoff process.

Board discussions started in March weighing various strategies to pay off the police debt including borrowing the money from the township’s sewer and water fund surplus. Some board members were against that. Ultimately, the board decided to pursue bank financing and chose a 12- year refinance plan with JPMorgan Chase Bank.

It replaced a bond repayment plan which had a 4-5 percent variable interest rate with 19 years to go until it would be paid off.

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