“In a short period of time we will be a fire service running a township,” opined supervisor John Pazlar when the May Township Board of Supervisors considered a new contract with the Stillwater Fire Department at its March 5 meeting. 

The supervisors expressed concern that the cost of firefighting services is steadily increasing and will soon “dominate the township budget.” The township had requested that a representative from the fire department be on hand to explain the significant cost increase – from $117,229 in 2018 to a proposed $145,215 by 2021. No one from the fire department was in attendance. 

May, Grant and Stillwater townships all contract with the Stillwater Fire Department for services. Stillwater had already signed a new contract but May’s contract expired in December. 

“They are oblivious to the townships who set levies in March,” said Pazlar, who expressed frustration at the lack of bargaining power that the town had. “We don’t have the tax revenue.” Pazlar and chairman Bill Voedisch wanted to know if the increases were in line with state permits, how many runs Stillwater made to May Township and how the budget broke down per run. (There were 68 runs to May Township in 2019.)

The supervisors said it may be time to revisit the idea of the municipality providing its own volunteer fire department as a long term solution to ever-rising costs. In the meantime, signing of the new contract is held over until the April meeting when a representative from the fire department will again be invited to attend to explain the bill.

Bees on the move:

Nature’s Nectar event approved

For several months Nature’s Nectar has been working with the board to gain approval for a conditional use permit and a change in the city’s small business ordinance. The Oakdale business sells bees and bee supplies and was seeking permission to allow customers to pick up their pre-ordered bees from their Square Lake Trail home. 

The Planning Commission worked with the owners, Jessie and Tom Minser, to determine the scope and impact of the proposed bee delivery weekends. As many as 2,000 packages of bees are delivered to the Minser home and about 280 customers pick up their bees and bee supplies over the course of three days, for two weekends in a row. 

The Planning Commission determined that the Minser’s property met required codes and building setbacks. The home’s looped driveway was sufficiently long enough to accommodate 30 or more cars at a time so no cars would be backed up along the roadway. 

The board was impressed that the couple had received support from all of the neighbors in their area, many of whom had written to say they were in favor of the operation. Mr. Minser said four of their neighbors are also beekeepers.

The Board was satisfied that the hours of service, signage regulations, and visitor limits were all satisfactory so Resolution 2020-02 for an interim use permit was approved. The resolution required a minor addition to the town’s retail sales ordinance to permit the sale of previously ordered items with no onsite sales. 

1/3 acre of a problem

Kevin Jutz came before the Board to report on his attempts to resolve a challenging code violation in which the size of an ancillary building was over the allowable footage for the size of his property. Extensive negotiations with a neighbor for the purchase of land were scuttled with the sale of the neighboring property. The board was satisfied that Jutz is making every effort to come into compliance as he renews negotiations with neighboring property owners.

Panorama stormwater project seeks deeper pockets

Township representatives will meet with the Watershed District and its engineers next week to discuss engineering issues and the potential for finding additional funding for the completion of the project. The approved levy for 2021 is not sufficient to cover the township’s portion of the project costs, which are greater than originally anticipated. 

While the supervisors affirmed the township’s support for the project, Pazlar said that “when this became a $300,000 plus project, then money became an issue.” In a community with no commercial or industrial base, he said elected officials need to be very responsible with funds. “We can’t have a 30% levy.”

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