Ann Johnson At Work Gerry Johnson Building Fitzgerald
Ann and Gerry Johnson are Eagle Harbor veterans and astute observers of the local scene. Luckily for us, they are also a wonderful writers. Their quarterly "letter to taxpayers" is a Harbor institution, eagerly anticipated and read by many Township property owners, especially those who are yet to make Eagle Harbor their permanent home. A big "Thank you" to Ann and Gerry for contributing their letter to George's Eagle Harbor Web.
NEWS FROM YOUR EAGLE HARBOR NEIGHBORS - Fall - 2003
A FRIENDLY "HOWDY" FROM TEXAS – We took our first long trip out of the Keweenaw in several years to visit family and friends in the Lone Star State. There we were back in freeway traffic, huge shopping malls, million item grocery stores and long traffic lights. Cars and houses were locked and alarmed even though we were in a rural lake community fifty miles from the heart of Houston. Any wonder we chose to retire to Eagle Harbor?
Now for a look back at happenings in our quiet Township over the last six months: The last few weeks of August and September we went from summer to winter, back to summer and then a brief fall. The fall colors were lacking the brilliant reds and oranges–lots of yellows and golds. Snow came early with white flakes in late September followed by a few beach days in October. (We returned in November to COLD and snow followed by wind, rain and wet snow) Now the deer are hiding in the deep woods from all the hunters with a minimum of tracking snow.
By now many of you are aware of your new address for property in Eagle Harbor. If you receive mail when you are here, the 911 address should be on your mailbox in place of the old box number. Your December tax bill will show the property address but old addresses will be honored for quite awhile. Street signs are up throughout the County. Green signs are public roads and blue signs indicate private roads. Individual property signs are being installed by the County and the old fire numbers are being removed. Both old and new addresses should be honored by the post office until next summer.
Our Volunteer Fire Fighters were very disappointed when their request for millage for an additional pumper-tanker truck was defeated (82 to 67) in July. The USDA notified the Township of a grant for $50,000 the day of the election. That grant will be forfeited unless some alternate financing becomes available. The firemen have asked that options continue to be explored as they strongly believe the additional equipment is vital to the best possible protection for our sprawling, growing Township.
July and August were gone in a flash with family events--gala wedding celebrations and beautiful memorial services. The 4th of July was a glorious summer day for the parade and games. There was no rain on the Art Fair weekend for a change, and money was raised for a new playground slide by a Township wide bake sale organized by Gratia Scrutton and Charlotte Barber. Doug and Ginny Schubert supported that effort with the profits from their food booth. Many volunteers helped with both projects and the balance of the funds for the slide were donated by the 4th of July committee. Labor to anchor and assemble the slide was organized by Wayne Sickler. What a project that was after all the parts and components were finally delivered. Next summer the colorful slide will be a central attraction in the ball yard playground.
Junk Jettison day in July saw tons of discards hauled to the Solid Waste facility. The opportunity to get rid of a pick-up load of accumulated discards, old furniture, building leftovers and scrap metal is a real perk for Township householders. Thanks go to the committee and volunteers headed by Doug Schubert. For the second year, they spent a summer Sunday working to benefit the Township.
Township board meetings are marvels of organization and information (if a bit lengthy at times.) Supervisor Doug Sherk covers all bases with up-dates on land acquisition, grant programs, meetings, county issues, etc. So far the Township has acquired 2/3 of the land needed to secure the cross-country ski trails as well as preserving wetlands, dunes and forest for our future generations. The current grant approved for $300,000 will bring us to the 90 per cent of the hoped-for acreage from the Eliza Lake area to Sand Bay. Thanks to years of work by former Supervisor Jim Boggio and current Supervisor Sherk, NO TAX MONEY has been spent on these acquisitions costing over half a million dollars. Grants, donations, and in-kind matches from other sources have provided the funds.
The Eagle Harbor village water system has been the focus of hard decisions this year. The aging system keeps springing leaks and freezing up at difficult places. Several lakes were created artificially in yards and roadways these past months. (We only want one skating rink this winter, thank you!) Reid Rastello (the new water operator), Don Keith (our water operator emeritus), and Rick Finke (the recently retired, but still active when in town, "water baron") all scramble to keep ahead of the problems. Reid reports all known leaking valves have been replaced. Several major leaks from broken pipes have also been taken care of with heavy equipment. John Wakeman, chairman of the water committee and Dick Supina, our consulting engineer, along with the Township Board, have been actively pursuing grant or loan money to upgrade the whole system. The price tag is a staggering 2.5 million dollars which cannot be met without major federal or state funding as only those properties within the water system service area would be paying the cost. So far our Washington legislators and agency bureaucrats are sympathetic, but not encouraging. Under 300 voters in our Township doesn’t put us high on the pork-barrel priority list, I’m sure. In the meantime, our water rates and fees have been doubled to keep the best water in Michigan flowing through ancient pipes.
There is currently a push from the State of Michigan to identify illegal homestead exemptions which seriously impact the schools’ budgets. The new regulation changes the "homestead" designation to "primary residence." Filing for this exemption must be done by Dec. 31st in order to qualify for the tax break in the following year. The exemptions currently on the books will be subject to scrutiny to determine if they meet the required standards as "primary residences."
Keeping our Township the way we want it through zoning in Keweenaw County is moving forward. A consulting firm has been selected to update the zoning ordinance. An informational meeting in Copper Harbor was held in June by the the consultants. The Eagle Harbor board members attending were very favorably impressed with their presentation and answers to questions. They recognized that a "cookie-cutter" approach to the entire county would not satisfy individual township’s concerns. The efforts of our representatives on the County Zoning and Planning Commission, Janet Shea and Rich Probst, are greatly appreciated.
Houses, garages and additions to residences are keeping the local construction companies busy. Sales of properties are brisk and the prices paid may mean another sharp rise in SEV’s next year. Our assessor shakes his head in disbelief as sale information comes in. Taxable values fall farther behind until a transfer removes the cap, then the new owners have "reality shock". Lots in Eagle Harbor South are yet to go up for sale. (Lake Superior Land now says hopefully next spring.)
Our excellent prison crew finished only a fraction of the "to-do" list assigned to them last summer as they were diverted to other projects for six weeks by the prison coordinator. The cemetery fence is up, however, and they can work through the winter on in-door projects in the old pump house which has been converted by the crew to a maintenance "castle". It is a wonderful program for townships like ours with limited resources for maintenance projects.
November brought joy to the Township with the birth of the first baby in Keweeenaw County in sixteen years. Amy and Rodney Westlake welcomed Lucy Ione Westlake, born in the historic Westlake Hotel on Front Street. The last baby born in the Township is now over twenty years old. Sadness marked October as we lost our wonderful friend, Keith Willoughby. We will miss his enthusiasm, optimism and concern for everything and everyone in Eagle Harbor.
As we look forward to the winter months ahead, we are a bit concerned by the height of the sticks the County Road Commission has placed by all the roadside obstacles. Past years have seen modest six or seven foot sticks to warn the plow drivers of the road edges–this year they are at least eight to ten feet all around town. Is this a prediction of snowfall? Better wax the cross-country skis and break out the snowshoes.
Our best wishes are sent to each of you for Happy Holidays and Peace and Prosperity in the New Year.
Your Eagle Harbor Correspondents, Ann and Gerry
Your Eagle Harbor Correspondents,
Ann and Gerry
Ann & Gerry Johnson
HC 1 Box 280 B
Eagle Harbor, MI 49950
Ann and Gerry Letter Archive:
Winter, 2001 Fall, 2001
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