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Posted: 01/23/13

Bruce trustees agree to
bid out township land

Observer Staff Writer
      Bruce Township's goal is to keep the area rural, and in its most recent venture, it may collect some revenue in doing so.
       Following a public hearing, the board voted 4-0 to start the process of bidding out 140 acres of township-owned land at its Jan. 16 meeting.
       The two parcels are approximately 140 acres of property located at the corner of 36 Mile Road and Hipp Road. It is currently leased and cared for by the Schapman farms.
       Supervisor Richard Cory initially asked the board to table the hearing since Trustee Mark Falker was not present. He said Falker's experience with agriculture would play a key role in investigating the land.
       Clerk Susan Brockmann said the board should begin the bid process and adjust it as they go if new or more information is discovered.
       "We don't have to choose a particular bidder, but we could at least have the process going," she said. "Evaluate the land and how much it's worth and how much is tilled."
       She added that the township bids out most items per its purchase policy and should abide by that for bidding out the land.
       Treasurer Deborah Obrecht said in speaking with a local farmer, the township needs to factor in the location of the property and that about 70 acres of the property is landlocked, making it un-farmable.
       "It's one large parcel, you lose six acres for every parcel that has a berm on it because you can't farm it," she said.
       She said the property should have a formal lease agreement if the board chooses to keep the Schapmans as the leasee, and encouraged the board to table the matter.
       "You want to make sure that you get a farmer that's going to take care of the property," she said.
       Brockmann said the township should investigate the property since it could bring in $5,000 to its budget. Cory said when speaking to local farmers he was told the property could be leased for at least $60 per acre. Obrecht said the current leasee pays $42 an acre.
       Cory agreed that action should be taken instead of tabling it for another month, and would try to find out the exact amount of tillable acres with Falker.
       "I think we could probably go ahead and at least get the paperwork going," he said.
       During the hearing, residents asked for the board to go out for bid, suggesting it was already behind in the process since it was mid-January.
       Mary Meissner said by waiting until February, the board would be too late since farmers usually make preparations around this time for their land.
       She said if the township couldn't put it up for bid that it should try to sell the land.
       "Put the money in the coffers, we sure could use it," she said.
       Linda Kelly asked the township to finalize a formal agreement with the current property's caretaker if it decides not to go out for bid.
       "This is a great opportunity to do that, to be more professional in the way you deal with things," she said.
       In 2010, the township considered transforming part of the property into a park by applying for a $500,000 grant from the Michigan National Resources Fund. The plan was originated by former Trustee Ron Walker, who died from illness in March 2011.

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