Southside Park sale tabled indefinitely by Cassopolis Village Council

Published 3:10 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016

Restrictions in the Handbook for General Law Village Officials has staved off the sale of Southside Park to Community Mills.

At its previous work session Jan. 25, the council had reversed course again and decided to sell the park to Community Mills for $15,000 and use that money to build a new park on property already owned by the village that was previously used for a community garden.

During Monday night’s regular meeting, the council heard from nine citizens who are still concerned with selling the property to the long-time Cassopolis business and moving the park.

After hearing from the citizens, trustee Geraldine Norwood-Sim read from the General Law Village Act, Act 3 of 1895 in Section 4 of Chapter VII that provides:

“A village may acquire, purchase, and erect public buildings required for the use of the village, and may purchase, appropriate, and own real estate necessary for public grounds, parks, markets, public buildings, and other purposes necessary or convenient for the public good, and for the exercise of the powers conferred in this act. Such buildings and grounds, or any part thereof, may be sold at a public or private sale, if authorized by an ordinance, or may be leased. A public park shall not be sold without the consent of a majority of the electors of the village voting on the question at an election.”

In a unanimous vote, the council decided to table the sale indefinitely. Trustee William Blount was absent.

According to Norwood-Sims, the earliest the council could put the matter to a vote would be Aug. 2.

“According to the Secretary of State’s election information website the deadline to file ballot wording for local proposals on the March 8 ballot was Dec. 15,” she said. “So I looked at the deadline for the May 3 ballot and it looks like ballot proposals needed to be filed with the county clerk on Jan. 26. So that leaves Aug. 2 as the next available election with a filing deadline of April 26.”

After agreeing to move forward with the sale at the work session, the Cassopolis Parks Committee met Feb. 1 and decided that it would rather look at other pieces of property to be used for the new park.

Two of those properties are not currently owned by the village.

LaGrow Consulting, which acts as the village manager for Cassopolis, has stated previously that it would like the sale of Southside Park to go through and that the money received be used for improvements to Clisbee Park.

“This park is within about a mile or less distance of everyone in the village,” said the report, presented to the council by Emilie Sarratore of LaGrow Consulting. “Currently, the parks budget has $45,000 and with an additional $15,000 that would be $60,000. This amount could go a long way toward upgrading this park versus splitting funds between multiple parks.

“However, if the council believes that we need to replace Southside Park with another park, then it makes the most sense to utilize property that the village already owns, and is in agreement that the old community garden site would be the best spot.”

Community Mills representatives declined to comment.

In other action, the council:

• Voted to bid on the operation and maintenance of the lift stations for the Cass County Jail and for Ontwa Township.

• Approved the purchase of a new truck for the Department of Public Works for no more than $26,000.

• Approved the Cassopolis Police Department policies and procedures.

• Tabled the rate discussion for and office/cleaning position.

• Failed to approve budget amendments to the general fund, cemetery, street lighting, parks, summer maintenance (major and local streets) and roadside park.

The next council workshop will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22 and the next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. March 14.