The Washington Township Board of Directors could vote Wednesday night to significantly change its commitment to the Romeo/Washington/Bruce Department of Parks and Recreation.
Several people familiar with the process expect the board to pass its own proposal to create a parks and recreation department just over two years after voters rejected a similar decision.
According to Washington Township Supervisor Sam Previti and Washington Township Parks and Recreation Commission Representative Greg Brynaert, negotiations have been underway for more than a year to change department regulations that were established in 1986.
Washington’s proposal would create a seven-person commission with five representatives from Washington Township and two from Bruce Township. The current commission is composed of only two members; Bryneart and Bruce Township Supervisor Mike Fillbrook.
It would also require the Township of Washington to contribute only mileage funds which are the funds collected from the Township of Bruce rather than the total amount collected by Washington.
The remaining township funds “will be held in a bank account, operated by the Township of Washington, and reserved for the purposes of a P&R organization within the Township of Washington,” according to a document approved in January by the township council. by a 5-2 vote.
The four-year Parks and Recreation mile that passed voters in 2020 is estimated to have raised $1.44 million from the three communities in its first year.
Brynaert and Previti said there were four joint workshops, with lawyers from both sides on hand to negotiate a reasonable alternative; two of these meetings included former judges to help mediate.
Both called the meetings “partial,” with Washington not deviating from their proposed changes to the establishment of the commission and mileage deductions.
“The back and forth continued to fall apart until we made a final offer to Bruce (Township),” said Washington administrator Dan Detkowski, who added that regulations that have been followed since 1986 are “absolutely” illegal and allow the canton to change their relationship within the framework of the tri-community agreement.
“He wasn’t trained properly, that’s why this whole thing was implemented, even before I was elected,” Detkowski said. “Voters approved a mileage, not a mileage to stay with Bruce Township.”
He said another reason Washington is seeking to change the framework is deteriorating relations with its neighbors.
“Why would I want to work with a hostile entity? Detkowski said, adding that residents of the villages of Bruce and Romeo had “attacked Washington for quite a while.”
Romeo/Washington/Bruce Parks and Recreation Director Clara Russell, who has overseen the department since 1989, disputes that and accuses the Washington board of trustees of altering the 2020 election outcome.
“For five people, changing the will of the people is not fair,” she said. “If they want to bring it back to the people in 2024, let them, but I’ve never heard people in Washington Township complain about what they’re getting for services.”
“It was created by community vote and if the community no longer wants it, it should be taken down by community vote,” he said. “And from what I hear, we don’t want it split.”
Russell and Washington Treasurer Mike Nicley also said there was no outcry from residents to change the current arrangement between the three municipalities.
“I’ve seen email after email from residents saying ‘leave it as is,'” Nicley said.
The Washington Treasurer estimated that the funds withheld by the township would result in lost department salaries of more than $65,000 and more than $75,000 in department improvements in areas such as paths, trees, tables and benches. Both are first year estimates.
In November 2019, Washington voters rejected a 20-year-old mileage proposal to create and fund their own Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as the creation of their own recreation/community center by purchasing a private facility for $11.5 million. The ballot initiative failed by a margin of 70-30.
Russell and Previti said the trustees backing this plan have not presented them with any detailed plans for what they will do in terms of funding or future sites for their own parks and recreation program.
“It was all done behind closed doors and they didn’t present anything or tell us anything about their plans,” Previti said.
“Right now we’re putting the bylaws in place and then we’ll do our due diligence,” Detkowski said of future plans for a Washington-only department.
The matter will be the last item on the agenda on Wednesday and is expected to take place behind closed doors. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Washington Township Hall, 57900 Van Dyke Ave.