Proposed language changes to the articles of incorporation for the Gun Lake Area Sewer and Water Authority produced heated debate among Yankee Springs Township board members Thursday night.
The board voted 4-1 to table a decision approving any changes to the articles of incorporation until its next meeting.
Township attorney Catherine Kaufman presented to the board proposed changes to the GLASWA articles of incorporation, which were originally written in 1977. Among the recommendations in the rewrite by attorneys from the law firm Dickinson Wright include giving GLASWA the ability to own its water system. Currently, Yankee Springs contracts with the authority to operate the township water system.
“It doesn’t mean it converts your township water system to the property of the sewer authority,” Kaufman said. “It just says they would have the authority under the law, if they wanted to at some point in the future, to own, operate and maintain [a water system].”
Township Trustee and GLASWA director Larry Knowles, who was the lone dissenting vote on the tabling motion, said the need for rewriting the bylaws came up when the authority recently sought to upgrade its sewer system.
“This all came about when we went for our bond for our latest improvements, and the attorney took our articles and he told us they were way out of date, that we’re not running the sewer like the articles claim we’re supposed to, and never have,” Knowles said.
“We’re just trying to make a document that actually reflects the way [the system is operated],” he added.
One proposed change that sparked debate focused on the authority’s budget. The new bylaws would require the authority to put together a budget by Nov. 1 and submit the document to its four member townships - Yankee Springs, Orangeville, Martin and Wayland. However, the townships would not be able to vote on approving that budget, which Township Supervisor Mark Englerth objected to.
“Believing in transparency of government and being accountable to the public, why wouldn’t you want to bring it to the board and why wouldn’t you want the constituents to know [what’s in the budget]?” Englerth asked.
“GLASWA has never, ever brought you a budget. Ever,” he said. “They’ve never brought any township a budget.”
Englerth and Knowles later squabbled over a recent renovation of the GLASWA office – Knowles estimated the cost at $200,000, defending it by saying it was needed to improve security of the office.
Another proposed change would allow authority board members to serve more than one three-year term. Each of the member townships in the authority appoints a representative to serve on the board. The proposal also gives each member township the ability to remove their representative and appoint a new member to the board at any time for any reason, Kaufman said.
Englerth spoke out against the current representation makeup of the GLASWA board, where each township has equal representation. Since two-thirds of the sewer system is in Yankee Springs Township, he said the township should have a greater share of representation.
“That’s not a fair representation of the public or the people that they serve,” Englerth said.
Martin and Wayland townships already have approved changes to the language in the bylaws, said Township Treasurer Alice Jansma, who is Yankee Springs’ representative on the authority board. Orangeville Township is expected to consider the changes next month.
The Yankee Springs board could schedule a special meeting later this month to consider changes to the GLASWA articles, or hold off until its next regularly scheduled board meeting Thursday, Feb. 13.