Villager readies petitions to dissolve village

Joyce Verplank Hatton and the dozen or more people she said are ready to help with the grassroots effort to dissolve the village may be out knocking on doors as soon as this weekend with petitions to get that issue on the village's Aug. 7 ballot.
Mark Brooky
Mar 22, 2012

grassroots effort may be out knocking on doors as soon as this weekend with petitions to get that issue on the village's Aug. 7 ballot.

She said the 11.6 mills annually taxed to village property owners for village services is unnecessary, and the village should end its search for a new manager before spending any more money or time on it.

"This is crazy to have two full bureaucracies right next to each other," Hatton said, pointing to the Spring Lake Township offices less than a block away from Spring Lake Village Hall.

Praising the work of Ryan Cotton, who is leaving as the village manager at the end of the week to become Holland's city manager, Hatton said this is an opportune time to make such a drastic change. She points to the $1.3 million annual village budget serving about 2,500 residents as being out of proportion with the $2.2 million township budget that serves about five times the number of residents.

"We only need one manager at $80,000 (a year)," she said. "We don't need two managers across the street from each other, literally, at $80,000 a piece."

The only service that probably can't be duplicated by the township that is worth keeping, and maybe expanding, is the local police department, Hatton said.

Expanding it to a township force means officers would be able to patrol Spring Lake High School.

"The whole thing just makes such great sense, and that means there is no village tax at all — it's gone," Hatton said. "... And whatever increase there is, is borne by 15,000 people (township and village residents combined)."

Hatton presented her plan to Village Council near the end of its meeting Monday night, but council did not discuss it.

Village President Jim MacLachlan said he is planning to discuss Hatton's proposal with the village's attorney and other members of council over the next several days, and discover its legal ramifications. He also plans to discuss it with the other members of the committee tasked with searching for a new manager.

"I don't have any thoughts on it just yet," MacLachlan said. "... However, as a resident, I chose to move into the village 25 years ago because I like the services and quality of life here."

Spring Lake Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said the issue has not yet come up with township officials.

"There's all sorts of discussions that get bantered around when opportunities become available," he said.

Spring Lake Township Supervisor John Nash said the Township Board would listen to any proposal to see if it would be beneficial. However, he said disincorporation came up in recent years when village officials were in discussions about becoming a city, but the idea was shot down.

Ottawa County Elections Coordinator Justin Roebuck said state law requires a petition for the dissolution of a village to have the signatures of not less than 15 percent of the registered voters in that village. As of last week, there were 2,036 registered voters in Spring Lake Village, which means Hatton will need to collect at least 306 qualified signatures, Roebuck said.

Hatton said she plans to collect at least 500 to be safe, and has purposefully recruited only village residents to help collect them.

"Petitioning would be the easy part, as the rest of Michigan law that determines the disincorporation of villages gets a little more detailed as to exactly how it should be carried out, and the timeline for each step," Roebuck said. "Also interesting to note that, if the proposal were to be placed on the ballot, the law calls for a two-thirds majority vote, rather than a simple majority, to pass the measure."

Hatton has obtained a legal adviser, who she said helped with the successful move to lift the ban of Sunday alcohol sales in Ottawa County in 2008. She said he's working on the legal language for the village dissolution petitions this week.

Should the issue be approved by village voters, Hatton said her legal counsel told her that the village and township would be charged with forming a disincorporation commission to work out the details, such as resolving debt and transitioning services — likely in a phased-in approach.

Hatton said she is confident in getting the proposal on the August ballot.

"Right now I'm confident because all I've had is positive feedback," she said. "It's terrific."

Hatton grew up in Spring Lake, ran several businesses, and served on the state and Ottawa County Republican Party committees in the 1960. She returned to the area in 1994 and moved to the village in 2005. She can often be seen riding her bicycle around the area on warmer days.



I support your idea because I know you stand up for what you think is right and will be beneficial for everyone. I admire you for starting a petition because most of the people will be scared to take the initiative. I hope your crusade will be successful!
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Although many patterns of village life have existed, the typical village was small, consisting of perhaps 5 to 30 families. Homes were situated together for sociability and defence, and land surrounding the living quarters was farmed. -Steven C. Wyer

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