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Walled Lake Improvement Board - Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the Walled Lake Improvement Board formed?

The Walled Lake Improvement Board was formed under Part 309 of Public Act 451 of 1994 (Michigan Compiled Law [MCL] Sections 324.30901 through 324.30929) to control nuisance growth of invasive aquatic plants in Walled Lake.

How was the Walled Lake Improvement Board formed?

The Walled Lake Improvement Board was formed by passage of a resolution from the City of Novi and the City of Walled Lake under MCL 324.30906. The Walled Lake Improvement Board was not formed by petition, although petitions were used to provide each City Council with an idea of the level of support for the formation of the Walled Lake Improvement Board by resolution.

Who are the members of the Lake Improvement Board and how were they appointed?

The composition of the Walled Lake Improvement Board is governed by MCL 324.30903 which states that the lake board shall consist of a member of the county board of commissioners appointed by the chairperson of the county board of commissioners, one representative of each local unit of government, other than a county, affected by the project, the county drain commission or his or her designee, and a member elected by the members of the lake board at the first board meeting (riparian representative). With the exception of the riparian representative, the Board members were chosen by the respective elected body/official per the statute. Board members do not receive additional compensation from the Walled Lake Improvement Board for serving on the Board.

The Walled Lake City Council appointed William Burke to serve as Walled Lake’s representative. The Novi City Council appointed Brian Coburn to serve as Novi’s representative. The Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner (formerly known as Drain Commissioner) appointed Karen Warren as his designee. At the continuation of the first meeting of the Lake Improvement Board on March 10, 2009, the members of the Lake Improvement Board elected Dave Galloway as the riparian (or lakefront owners’) representative after interviewing several candidates. The representative from the County Commission is appointed by the Chair of the Oakland County Board of Commissions. Due to the untimely passing of Jeff Potter, County Commissioner-District 8, this position is currently vacant.

What authority does the Lake Improvement Board have?

The Walled Lake Improvement Board is authorized as a statutory public agency under Part 309 of Public Act 451 of 1994. The statute gives the Walled Lake Improvement Board the ability to develop a project to improve the lake and to establish a special assessment district to fund the improvements.

How much money has been spent by the Lake Improvement Board to date?

The total expenditures by the Walled Lake Improvement Board as of March 31, 2010 totals $26,724. The expenditures include $16,115 for the engineering study required by MCL 324.30909, attorney fees of $9,098, $970 for required public notices in the Spinal Column and Novi News, and $541 in postage for mailing public hearing notices.

Why are the cost estimates higher than originally presented by some at the beginning of the process?

Informal petitions were circulated before each City considered forming the Walled Lake Improvement Board by resolution. The individuals circulating the petitions were using limited information to develop an estimated cost per parcel. After the formation of the Walled Lake Improvement Board, the development of the engineering study, and the creation of the special assessment roll, the Walled Lake Improvement Board now has much more information that can be used to calculate project costs per parcel. It is important to note that the Walled Lake Improvement Board was not created by petition, but by resolution from each City.

What is included in the project that was approved by the Lake Improvement Board?

The Walled Lake Improvement Board passed a resolution on November 5, 2009 approving a project that includes a combination of mechanical weed harvesting and herbicide treatment on a portion of the lake. The engineering study has more detailed information about the project.

Has the Lake Improvement Board selected a contractor to perform weed harvesting and control?

No. A contractor has not been selected and will not be selected until such time that the assessment roll is approved and funding is available to pay a contractor.

How will the Lake Improvement Board select a contractor?

The Walled Lake Improvement Board is required under MCL 324.30926 to advertise for competitive bids and to award to the lowest bidder that is qualified to perform the work.

Why is the Lake Improvement Board proceeding with consideration of the assessment roll before a contractor is hired and the actual project costs are known?

The statute requires that the Walled Lake Improvement Board must complete items in a certain order. After the Board is formed, it must first complete the engineering study. A key component of the study is a cost estimate based upon the engineer’s expertise and recommendations for the project. The Walled Lake Improvement Board must then develop the assessment roll based upon the estimated costs supplied from the study. Once the assessment roll is in place and the Walled Lake Improvement Board is funded, the Walled Lake Improvement Board can proceed with hiring contractors to perform the work. Once the actual contracts have been awarded the Walled Lake Improvement Board will adopt a budget based upon the actual costs as well as allowable contingencies.

How much am I being assessed?

The proposed special assessment roll has been prepared by the assessors as required by MCL 324.30913 and is on file with the Walled Lake City Clerk and the Novi City Clerk, as well as on the Lake Improvment Board page. The Walled Lake Improvement Board will meet on May 20, 2010 to continue the public hearing and to review the proposed special assessment roll.

Is interest being charged on the assessment?

No. The proposed special assessment roll does not include an interest component.

What chemicals are proposed for treating the weeds in the lake?

While several herbicides are mentioned in the engineering study recommendations, no specific herbicide has been selected by the Walled Lake Improvement Board. This will be determined at the time a contractor is hired to apply the herbicides as part of the bid package. Regardless of the type of chemical selected, it will be a chemical approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources & Environment.

Are the herbicides harmful?

It is important to note that herbicide application is controlled by, and requires a permit from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE), formerly Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The aquatic herbicides that are permitted by the MDNRE are registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Agriculture. They also undergo toxicological review by the MNDRE. If the herbicides are applied according to label instructions and permit requirements, these chemicals should pose no danger to public health and the environment. Please refer to the MDNRE website on Permitting Information for the Chemical Treatment of Aquatic Nuisance Plants for additional information on this topic.

What happens if the actual cost of the contract exceeds the total amount assessed for the contract?

The possibility of contract overages is addressed in MCL 324.30919. If the assessments prove insufficient to pay for the improvement project the Walled Lake Improvement Board shall make additional assessments to supply the deficiency. Similarly, if the actual contract costs are significantly less than the cost estimate supplied by the engineering study the Walled Lake Improvement Board may adjust the assessments down in keeping with its adoption of the budget, which is to be adopted within 10 days of awarding the contracts.

Will there be interest earned on the funds collected through the assessment that will be added to the funds available for the project?

There will be no interest income added to the funds for the Lake Improvement Board by the City of Novi. Similarly, the City of Novi will not charge the Lake Improvement Board for bank fees, interest for advancing the funds for expenditures already incurred, or administrative fees for the City of Novi’s administration of this account.

What are the legal requirements for the public notice?

Section 324.30913 requires that “the lake board shall appoint a time and place when it will meet and review the assessment roll and hear any objections to the assessment roll, and shall publish notice of the hearing and the filing of the assessment roll twice prior to the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in each local unit of government to be affected, the first publication to be at least 10 days before the hearing.” It further references MCL 211.741 to 211.746 of the Michigan Compiled Laws for the requirements for the notice of the hearing. These sections require the notice to be mailed to the owner or the party at the address shown on the tax records at least ten days before the hearing. The notice shall include a statement that appearance and protest at the hearing is required in order to appeal the amount of the special assessment to the state tax tribunal. The Oakland County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office has produced a Lake Improvement Board Guide which provides sample documents for Lake Boards to use, however these templates are only examples and not necessarily requirements under law.

Is a special assessment tax-deductible?

While each property owner should carefully review their tax situation with their tax professional, special assessments are generally not tax-deductible under Internal Revenue Code Section 164. This is supported by a January 2010 Newsletter from the Internal Revenue Service Office of Federal State and Local Governments which states on page 4, that deductible property taxes do not include local or special assessments. This is not meant to be advice or an opinion, should you desire additional information regarding your specific circumstances you should direct questions to your own personal tax consultant.

 

Last updated 5/24/10