GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood Township’s levy will remain at $150,000 for next year, following action at the township’s reconvened annual meeting held July 22. Township voters overwhelming …
GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood Township’s levy will remain at $150,000 for next year, following action at the township’s reconvened annual meeting held July 22. Township voters overwhelming supported the status quo levy by a vote of 46-5. The meeting was held in-person, with over 50 in attendance at the town hall, but three residents opted to cast their votes by phone.
Chairman Mike Ralston, at the regular town board meeting in July, had asked the board to increase their levy request to $200,000, and that request was approved by a split 3-2 vote. He had also requested the township levy an additional $200,000 for possible broadband expenses, anotherbut that move was not supported by other board members.
Mike Indihar, elected as moderator back in March when the annual meeting initially convened, continued his duties, running a relatively peaceful and productive meeting.
Treasurer Belinda Fazio presented the proposed 2022 budget, which showed the township ending this year with a balance of $529,443, with anticipated 2022 receipts of $282,500 (assuming a $150,000 levy), and projected expenses of $359,200. It showed the township ending 2022 with a fund balance of $452,743, though some of this balance is in restricted funds— $39,008 in the Isle of Pines bridge fund, and $14,487 in the Greenwood Trail Fund.
Several items in the projected budget were questioned, including the amount of taconite tax revenue the township will receive (possibly too high), and the expense for the ambulance subsidy (budget showed the amount increasing from the current $13,000 a year to $22,000 a year). The budget also includes $25,000 for broadband spending.
“This leaves our fund balance at 1.11-percent of spending,” said Indihar. “I am not saying that is good or bad, but I like to see an objective reason on where to set the levy.”
Those who spoke in the audience seemed to agree that the current projected reserves were adequate.
The projected budget included $18,000 in attorney fees, $50,000 for general buildings and grounds, $80,000 for fire department administration and salaries (paid on call), $41,300 in other fire department/EMS related spending, $10,000 for marine and recreation vehicles, $27,000 for town board salaries/expenses, $16,700 for clerk, $11,000 for treasurer, and $30,000 for general government expenses.
A detailed budget was not presented, just a two-page summary.
The budget does not include expected revenue from the American Rescue Act, which will be paid out half in 2021 and the rest in 2022. These dollars must be used for specific pandemic-related expenses, but possibly can be used towards the broadband project.
Some residents were concerned about the township’s possible responsibility for paying a portion of any broadband project in the township. The township’s quest to get high-speed internet access was far enough along, research-wise, to qualify for possibly as much as $5.5 million in federal funding. The total estimated cost for the project is $6.6 million. Grant dollars are also available from St. Louis County and the IRRR.
“A lot of money is coming in for broadband right now,” said John Bassing, who has been working on the issue for at least two years. He said that some neighboring townships have only needed to put in around $10,000 in local match dollars for their broadband projects.
“A lot of you are working very hard on this issue,” Indihar said.
Supervisor Sue Drobac, also a member of the broadband committee, said she felt the township was on track with what it would need in local dollars to get a project underway. She said that the possible provider, CTC, would also contribute some dollars to the project.
“We should be okay,” she said.
Lee Peterson asked the board to look at splitting the township’s ambulance per capita subsidy between the Tower and Cook ambulance services. He asked that the township look at the number of residents being served by the Cook Ambulance, as opposed to the Tower Area Ambulance Service. Indihar noted that the TAAS responds all the way to Oak Narrows, as well as to many of the water access areas on the Cook end. First Responder Krystal Strong said she hasn’t seen the Cook Ambulance responding very often to calls out on the Frazer Bay Road. The residents passed a motion asking the board to look at this issue.
Local election judge Bev Peterson, with several other election judges standing in support, read a statement concerning Chairman Mike Ralston’s comments made at the July 13 town board meeting where he stated the 2020 levy vote was “probably swung by an ineligible voter.”
“These exact words can be heard on the meeting recording and were quoted as such in the Timberjay,” she said.
“This statement,” she continued, “in his official capacity as Chairman of the Town Board is problematic and damaging.”
Bev Peterson said that stating an ineligible vote occurred directly implicates “all Greenwood Township election judges and raises unwarranted doubts about the integrity of our election process.”
Levy votes at the township annual meeting in the past several years have been by paper ballot, with election judges checking names of the current voter registration list before letting a person cast their vote.
“Chairman Ralston needs to formally retract his statement and apologize to the election judges and people of Greenwood Township,” Peterson said.
Ralston was not present at the annual meeting to respond to the comments.
Others also had comments relating to the current board.
“What has troubled me at meetings I have been to,” said Marilyn Mueller, “is that anything the women propose, the men say no. Women actually do have some good suggestions and good ideas. I haven’t been so happy with some of the things the men have proposed and passed.” She asked the male members of the board to “grow up,” and start “thinking for yourself and making your own decisions.”
Jeff Maus echoed Mueller’s and Bev Peterson’s concerns.
“I’ve listened in to board meetings and attending board meetings. His [Chairman Ralston] treatment of other supervisors, and cutting off their comments while he feels he can talk at length, is not acceptable,” Maus said.
Retired fire department founding member Gary (Curly) Skogman asked township residents to give the fire department more respect. He talked about how the fire department responded during the Mother’s Day Fire in 1992 and said such a response could likely be needed this year, with the elevated fire danger and drought conditions.
Fire department member Jet Galonski read from an article in the Timberjay about the Ely Fire Department, quoting their new fire chief, that “our members are here for the right reason, not money or pensions, but to help people in their time of need.” He said conflicts within the fire department should stay within the department, putting concerns on the table and sorting them out.
Residents did pass a motion, supporting a request from Supervisor Barb Lofquist, to raise the annual EMS pension amount from $1,500 to $2,000 a year, effective in January. This item will require board action.
“The majority of our calls are EMS,” said First Responder Jeff Maus.
This article was edited from the original published version, to correct information about the levy approved by the town board at their July 13 meeting. The motion to ask for a $200,000 levy was appproved on a split 3-2 vote, with Supervisors Drobac and Lofquist voting against.