ALPENA - The Alpena County Finance Committee approved ballot language Wednesday for a renewal of the 0.50 mill youth and recreation millage that was passed in 2010. The renewal request will be on the ballot for the August election.
The committee recommendation will now move forward to the board of commissioners, which will have the final vote on the ballot issue.
Alpena County Youth and Recreation Committee Chairman Tony Suszek presented the ballot language at the meeting that could help to continue the effort to improve recreation for the area's youth, as well as adults. He said the first millage has led to a lot of projects everyone has benefited from in one way or another. He said the final round of allocations has been made and $483,000 has been used to improve facilities, subsidize programs and help with operational costs of some facilities.
"It would be the same millage for four years and a half of a mill," Suszek said. "We felt as a committee the millage has been a success. It has keep the Plaza Pool open, kept 4-H in the community and improves the county's parks and improved most of the ball fields in. There has been something done in every township in the county."
Even though there was a lot accomplished in the four years, Suszek said there is still more that should be done. He said the committee thought long and hard about whether another millage was needed, and in the end decided it was.
"We reviewed to see if four years took care of all what needed to be done, but this last year we had twice as many requests for funds than what we could approve, so we see there is still a need out there," Suszek said.
The amount of projected funds if the millage is to pass for the next four years is about $448,000, which is less than the past millage generated. It will cost $25 a year for someone who owns a home valued at $100,000. Suszek said the committee decided to have it on the ballot in August so if it is passed, the committee can begin to take requests and have enough time to see presentations before allocating the money.
Over the last four years Plaza Pool has been the recipient of the most funds. Suszek said that was important because it may not be open today if it wasn't granted the funds to operate. The recreation millage was geared toward the pool all along and it appears it may be the same way if the renewal is approved by the voters. Suszek said there has been a lot of investment into the pool and it is running more efficiently, but without millage support it will have a difficult time surviving.
"Part of the new millage would definitely have to be used for the pool's operations because it is still not self sustaining," Suszek said. "It would probably have to shut down if the millage isn't approved. However, the county has done a good job of making improvements to it and that should help lower some expenses and that will help it become some self sustaining. We ask that question of the pool management each year and it will continue to be a large cost to the county, but we have distributed a lot of funds to other organizations in the county as well."
Commissioner Lyle VanWormer complimented Suszek on the job the committee has done in how it has distributed the tax money. He said the millage made a large difference in the communities in the county.
"They reached out to so many different groups, organizations and so many projects would have never been done without the millage," VanWormer said. "It has helped improve every sport and lowered the cost for the kids to participate. I think it reached the maximum amount of people it could have."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com