Efrain Sandoval Correspondent The grassroots organization Saugatuck Township Recall Committee, on Monday, Feb. 26, submitted 435 petition signatures to the Allegan County Clerk’s Office in its ongoing effort to recall four of the five Saugatuck Township officials from public office. Those being recalled are Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich, Treasurer Lori Babinski, and Trustees Doug Lane and Roy McIlwaine. The committee listed wide and varied reasons for their recall, including unprofessionalism, irresponsible spending, risking citizen safety and well-being, and lack of transparency, among other issues. The recall signatures’ submittal comes just as fire department personnel seek legal advice related to what they say is yet another example of Saugatuck Township officials’ “hubris”, “incompetence” and actions that “gamble with people’s lives,” namely township officials’ failure to ensure adequate fire and safety measures for the recently approved 41- home condo development, NorthShore, formerly the McClendon property. This latest recall development also comes amid the contentious discussion of police coverage in the Tri-Community area. Some critics place partial blame on Saugatuck Township officials for the City of Saugatuck’s decision to break away from its joint police department with the City of Douglas, arguing that most of the 18 percent of calls outside of the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department jurisdiction occur precisely in Saugatuck Township, yet township officials have refused to reimburse the department (Saugatuck and Douglas cities) for those calls. If the Allegan County Clerk’s Office confirms the validity of the petition signatures - in process now - the recall will be on the ballot of the Nov. 6 general election. Those who are being recalled also have the right to review and challenge the petition signatures’ legitimacy. When township voters go to the ballot box in November, they will see a partisan ballot that looks very much like previous election ballots: voters will be asked to select from incumbents (those being recalled) or select from candidates vying to replace those incumbents. Voters will be asked to vote for not more than one clerk, one treasurer, and not more than two trustees. Whoever gets the majority vote, wins the election (if an incumbent loses, it means they were recalled by voters). The procedure follows the rewriting of the rules by Michigan lawmakers in 2012 when they decided to combine recall petitions and elections into one ballot or one procedure, meaning the recall becomes part of what is essentially an election. Before 2012, the state of Michigan required two different procedures: first, conduct a recall vote, then conduct an election vote. Earlier this month, the Saugatuck Township Recall Committee rethought the idea of holding a Special Election in May for the recall election, and in an effort to save taxpayer dollars, opted to move the recall to the already scheduled Nov. 6 election for gubernatorial and legislative races, as well as several ballot proposals. The Recall Committee, started by residents Cindy Osman and Kathy Sturm, say they are currently assisting persons who want to be candidates for a township seat so they are prepared to run in November. The 435 petition signatures is a figure that is just about 100 more than the minimum number required by state statute - 336 - determined by 25 percent of the total votes gathered at the last gubernatorial race. The county will conduct seven days of preliminary review, then have 30 days to review and verify the status and validity of the voter signatures. “We’d like to thank all the people that signed the petition even though we disrupted their Saturday at midday. It’s great to see people participate in the democratic process,” said a pleased Osman. Regarding the 41-unit condo site at NorthShores, Saugatuck Township Fire District Chief Greg Janik noted that when the Saugatuck Township Board voted to amend the International Fire Code ordinance last year, township officials essentially ostracized and excluded the fire department, leaving it without the authority to properly conduct reviews and enforce fire and safety standards. “I was forced to go see an attorney,” Janik told The Local Observer Tuesday about a recent example of the effects of that fire code amendment, namely Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator Steve Kushion’s refusal to let the fire department review and inspect NorthShore’s current site plan and driveway plans. It is well documented (i.e. videotaped meetings) that township officials promised fire officers that the fire department would have a say in those developments that had five or more home sites as it relates to aspects of site plans, driveways and firefighting water systems. Janik’s concern at NorthShores is that it is a development that has big houses, but there is no pressurized hydrant water system, calling it a spectacularly risky and potentially hazardous situation (the developer is proposing a dry hydrant, essentially sucking water out of the lake and running it to the fire hazard location). “They (Saugatuck Township officials) are manipulating the code to suit them. They have the (legal) right to do it, but does that mean it’s right? Of course not.” The Local Observer was unable to reach Kushion for comment prior to publication. Township officals have repeatedly declined comment.
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