Wonders never cease

Posted on August 4, 2009

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Phragmites invades Township Hall

Phragmites invades Township Hall

I spent last Thursday at a Special Meeting of the Torch Lake Township Board.  You’re probably already wishing I’d posted a flower, right?  Bear with me. 

Bang off at the beginning of the meeting Supervisor George Parker did something I never thought I’d live to see a public official do.  He said that he’d made some mistakes in how he’d tackled a problem and he’d decided to have another shot at it.  Then the rest of the Board nodded their heads and agreed that they, too, thought that they needed to revisit one of the Prickly Issues that vex the Township these days. 

You don’t even need to know what the fuss was about to put your paws in the air in astonishment. 

Our Township officials did not run for cover.  They did not waffle around.  They did not posture.  They did not back down on their determination to address the issue.  They did not use weasel words or bluff or bluster or other such tried-and-false measures in the playbook.  No indeed.  They said “We could have done a better job on this” and then they sat down and listened to a roomful of people who did not agree with each other.  They focused on the concerns people had.  They arrived at solutions that accomplished their goals, but did so in a way that the assembled citizenry found agreeable.   

Phragmites discussion - Jerry Hug asks Bruce McLachlan some questions

Phragmites discussion - Jerry Hug asks Bruce McLachlan some questions

You will have noticed that I haven’t even gotten into the Prickly Issue itself.  That is because it is beside the point with respect to the astonishment factor.  What is smack dab on the point is that on this night, in this little Township, the democratic process worked.  People with different perspectives talked together about what to do, and how to do it.  

Show and tell: Bruce McLachlan brought phragmites from his inland pond

Show and tell: Bruce McLachlan brought phragmites from his inland pond

OK, now we get into it.

Phragmites: Loraine Mottern explains it all for you

Phragmites: Loraine Mottern explains it all for you

Phragmites.  Everybody agreed they wanted to see the pesky critter gone.  The devil, as always, lurked in the underbrush.  The Township had passed an ordinance . . . well, you can read all about that here.  People felt their Sacred Property Rights were being violated with this ordinance.  (People feel that way a lot in the Township, but this time they were really on a tear).  What to do? 

Here’s the new deal. 

  • The Township will proceed with a Phragmites eradication program this summer wherever people have given permission.  The professionals hired to apply the herbicide will apply it only where permission has been granted.
  • In future, a phragmites patch will be targeted for Township action only when someone makes a complaint.  That someone could be the property owner, who wants help getting rid of the pest, or a neighbor who wants the pest murdered before it can spread across the Sacred Property Line. 
  • The whole Township, not just the lakeshore, will be included in the effort.
  • This year the Township will pay for its eradication program from the Township general fund.  Taxpayers will not be assessed any extra taxes for having the Township eradicate phragmites on their property.
  • People can take care of their own phragmites if they prefer.  Any necessary permits and any costs incurred will be their responsibility.

Bryan Graham, the Township’s legal counsel, was there to offer advice and answer questions.  He took plenty of notes, and will prepare an amendment to the ordinance.  The Board expects to approve the amendment at another Special Meeting on Thursday, August 6.

I’m feeling quite cheerful about our Board of Trustees. 

Getting to the rhizome of the problem

Getting to the rhizome of the problem

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