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Sand Lake reports they are fiscally healthy

Votes to become part of Nelson Twp Planning Commission

By Judy Reed

The Village of Sand Lake held a special meeting at the VFW Hall on Friday, April 23, where they reported on their fiscal health, voted to join the Nelson Township Planning Commission, and appointed a new council member, among other business.

The council had several letters of interest for the position of council member, and chose resident Maggie Merritt, who has also been busy restoring the Sand Lake Museum. Former trustee Glen Baker, who was defeated in the fall election, also applied. The vote to appoint Merritt was 5-1, with trustee Rachel Gokey the lone no vote. She said she had nothing against Maggie personally, that it was because of Merritt’s ties with the Sand Lake Chamber of Commerce, which Gokey felt was supposed to be subservient to the Village Council. “And we already have some of that,” she said, referring to trustee Stacy Rudicil, who sits on the Sand Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Village President Mollie Doerr opened the meeting by giving a President’s report on the state of the Village and its financial health. “We have heard from people who have heard rumors that the Village is broke,” she said. “These people want to understand if that is true.”

She said that the presentation would help people understand the Village is in good financial condition, generates sufficient revenue to continue, has some long-term debt but not too much, and has a healthy bank account.

There were some comments from the auditors, Vredeveld Haefner, about the March 31, 2020 audit, which audited the 2020-2021 year. They noted an instance where a Village staff member was being paid in excess of the approved wage rate. They also noted there was not always clear documentation of the approved wage rate for village staff. They suggested maintaining documentation of approved wage rates for all Village staff would enhance the Village payroll process.

The auditor also suggested the Village revew and update policies and procedures for operations, including policies for credit card usage, etc, as well as personnel policies. They also noted that there was a corrective action plan submitted to the State of Michigan the by former Village President on Sept. 28, 2020 for overspending, which was a Village budget violation.

Doerr also noted that there were some things they were investigating, including why $6,000 of CARES Act funds were returned to the State after being paid to the fire department in the fall of 2020; documentation for a payment from Kent County of $4,094 from the CARES Act in October 2020; and whether the water tower lease was sold. The Village recorded $359,697 in the general fund other revenue account from Title Vest Agency, LLC, on July 30, 2020, but haven’t yet found documentation for the transaction. She also said they have found indications that the contract for maintenance and painting of the water tower may have been canceled. “Maintenance of the water tower is important for the Village’s compliance with State statutes and for providing safe drinking water to public water customers,” said Doerr. She said they are working to find documentation regarding that contract.

They are also looking into some accounting services that were performed from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, for which the village paid $17,600. It was not for the audit.

The reason for legal fees tied to Paradise Cove is another thing they are looking at. Records show over $92,600 was spent on that of that $151,263 in legal fees spent in 18 months.

In a step forward that should take some burden off the Village Council, they voted to have a joint Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals with Nelson Township (which Nelson must still approve). The Village of Sand Lake will now have members on both boards. Any businesses that want to come into Sand Lake will still have to abide by Sand Lake ordinances (not Nelson Township).

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