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Sand Lake residents upset with Village decisions

By Judy Reed

It was standing room only at the latest Sand Lake Village Council meeting on Monday, February 17. The room was full of residents who wanted to voice their opinion or ask questions on issues that the Council was either considering or had already approved. Many residents expressed they feel like they are not getting their questions answered and they want the Council to be more transparent.

Some of the issues they have questions on include how many wells they actually have working; why are they allowing the new development by Sable Homes off Ritchie Avenue to not connect to the Village sewer and instead only have individual septic tanks, especially when EGLE (formerly DEQ) recommends it; why they forced former DPW Director Jerry Dines out by reducing his pay and then hired the Village of Howard City and someone related to President Tracy Quinlan to handle the work; why they pulled out of their part of the agreement to support the Nelson Township/Sand Lake Library; why are many decisions being made at the committee level, and more. Some of these questions and concerned were expressed at the meeting and some to the Post directly.

One surprise attendee was former Village President Tom Norton, who is currently campaigning for Rep. Justin Amash’s seat in the 3rd District. He and current president Quinlan exchanged some harsh words. 

Norton explained he was there about the wells. He said he may have moved out of town but he still owns property and has a renter there with children. “All the wells should be working,” he said. He also talked about the Council reducing Dines’ wages so he would quit, and then hiring someone related to the Village President and Howard City for $71,000. “That should never happen,” he said. “You should never hire family.”

President Quinlan responded that there was nothing against nepotism in their charter. She also later said she was not the one that hired him.

Norton was told that his 3 minutes were up. He remarked that it was five minutes, and he was going to finish. He told the people, “You didn’t know this when I was your president but you can strip the Village President of her powers so that she can only run meetings.” 

Steve Brandow gave his comment time over to Norton, and during that time, President Quinlan lambasted Norton about the wells. “It was your mismanagement of the Village that put us in this position,” she told him. “Your mismanagement of the wells.”

Norton vehemently disagreed. “We treated those wells 6 months before I left. They were tested every spring. You can shake your head no and lie all you want but I have meeting minutes you all deleted to prove it,” he said. He did have some meeting minutes from several years earlier that stated that the water was tested daily.

One woman said, “These are the people you serve and it doesn’t feel like you are.”

Quinlan also told someone to FOIA the information they asked about.

At one point, President Quinlan laughed when asked about sewage spilling into Duke Creek. “I’m laughing because it’s not true,” she said.

It took a long time to get there, but an explanation was finally given about the wells. Councilor Glenn Baker explained that there are three wells. One was capped for contamination years ago. Of the two remaining wells, one has some organics in it and needs to be treated because of a sulphur smell. “Before Chad came on, it wasn’t tested or wasn’t done properly. We just need to clean it,” he said.

President Quinlan told the audience, “We try to get the correct info out there but someone’s whipped the constituents into a frenzy. We get blocked or deleted. I look at what’s on social media and sit and think ‘You people are more intelligent than that.’”

The remark did not go over well with the audience. 

At the end of the meeting, people were invited to stay and talk to get more questions answered.

The Post did email some questions to President Quinlan at her request, but did not receive a response in time for this week’s story.

She did tell the Post in November that while the first phase of the Genevieve project would not be connected to the village sewer system, the second phase would be. Or if a homeowner’s system fails and phase two is complete, they would need to connect also.

“The Village planners foresaw this as a potential development and it is included in the Master Plan that a re-zoning may be necessary to facilitate a housing development,” she wrote. “The Village of Sand Lake wants and needs to grow!  The first step in the process is to work with a developer and come to terms that are fiscally responsible for both parties. Without the concession of allowing Phase 1 to be exempt from hook up to Village sewer, the development is not economically feasible for a developer. All of the homes will hook into Village water. The fact is:  Sand Lake is at a crossroads—it either grows or it will die. The Council chooses life!”

Below, we will post several documents related to the Genevieve Plat. One is a letter from Michigan EGLE (formerly DEQ), one from Sand Lake resident Marty Helton, one from the Kent County Health Department, and one from the Drain Commission.

Residents are urged by Council to attend Village Committee meetings (March 4 at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall) and other meetings for clarification on issues they are concerned about.

Letters from KCHD and DEQ

Letter from resident Marty Helton

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Ray Winnie
Kent County Credit Union


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