Supervisor highlights businesses, projects, people ‘That make Orion great!’
By Jim Newell
Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett’s 2018 State of the Township address on March 28 highlighted the people, businesses and projects that shape the community and tell “Our Story.”
Hundreds of people attended the address last Wednesday at the Woodside Bible Church in Canterbury Castle for Barnett’s sixth State of the Township.
The slideshow and interactive presentation – always more of a production than a presentation – emphasized that Orion Township is a safe community, attractive to business development and offers plenty of “quality of life” or recreational amenities for residents.
“I’ve never been more excited about my job than I am today. It’s absolutely the best community in the nation, in my opinion,” Barnett said.
The University of Michigan College of Business recognized Orion Township as a five-star community, up from a three-star community in last year’s ranking.
Orion Township also was ranked the 14th safest community in the state by the National Council for Home Safety and Security in 2018.
Barnett also noted that General Motors will began developing and building driverless (self-driving) cars at the Orion GM Plant.
“It’s hard to believe that in 2008-09 there was talk about shuttering the plant. Now, they’re going to invest another $100 million in the community,” Barnett said, adding GM Lake Orion already is building the battery-powered Chevy Bolt.
Other State of the Township highlights included:
Parks & Recreation Millage
“One of the things we’re going to start talking more about is the Parks & Recreation millage. That’s definitely going to be on the August ballot,” Barnett said.
The Parks & Rec. millage proposal will be one mill for five years. The township has established a committee to define the millage and communicate to residents what the money will be dedicated toward.
The Fire Capital Improvement millage (0.6 mills) expires this year and a parks millage would partially replace that millage, with an additional four-tenths (0.4) mills increase.
“The average taxable value of a home in Orion Township is $100,130. For every one mill, it’s $100,” Barnett said.
“The three areas that we focus on are safety, great schools and quality of life stuff, like our great recreational amenities. That’s why we put so much effort into the trails and the parks and that’s why we’re asking for this millage, because we can’t continue to sustain and, frankly, grow, with our current level of funding,” Barnett said.
According to the 2017 Orion Township Community Survey, 58 percent of respondents said they would support a parks and recreation millage, while only 18 percent opposed the millage.
Brown and Baldwin Roads
Barnett highlighted the development of the Brown and Baldwin roads corridors to attract new businesses.
Menards will open sometime this summer on Brown Road. The Brown Road widening project came in $500,000 under budget from the projected $6 million – paid for through the Corridor Improvement Authority.
The three-year Baldwin Road project represents a nearly $50 investment in the township, financed mostly by the road commission and grants, with the township contributing about $5 million. When completed in 2019, the project will widen Baldwin Road to four lanes, add five roundabouts, a divided median in some stretches of the road and several pocket parks and safety paths for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Business & Community Development
“People are taking notice and want to invest in our township,” Barnett said. “To me, it’s a celebration of all of the efforts that our whole team has been working on to get this done.”
Lava Mountain Coffee Shop will open this year in the old Crates Coffeehouse location on M-24. “I’m so excited about this because it’s going to employ Dutton Farm farmers. It’s going to employ special needs adults. So, we’re calling it a coffee destination,” Barnett said.
Fire Station No. 1 on Anderson Street will undergo a major rebuild this summer, with construction starting April 2. The township has planned the project since last year, with a cost of $2.393 million.
Part of the project includes a new parking lot between the fire station and the Orion Art Center, with a cost of $141,000. The Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority will contribute $100,000 toward the parking lot.
The renovated fire station also will have restrooms accessible to the public, modern facilities for firefighters and be able to accommodate the fire department’s female firefighters. Previously, the station did not have separate facilities for women.
The impetus for adding the parking lot and restrooms is to increase parking downtown and to add facilities near the Paint Creek Trail extension into the village.
Pulte Homes Bald Mountain development was named Development of the Year by the Southeastern Michigan HBA.
The township has received four grants for the Clarkston Road Safety Path – the wooden pathway on the north side of Clarkston Road – to connect the Polly Ann and Paint Creek Trails. Doing so is a required step for the trails through Orion Township to be granted Iron Belle Trail designation.
Three of the grants cover the path, which will be finished this year, from Pine Tree to the Polly Ann Trail. The fourth grant, which the township received two weeks ago, is east from M-24 toward Oakland Township (from the plaza on the corner of Clarkston and M-24 to the first subdivision along E. Clarkston Road). The township also will apply for a fifth grant, a TAP grant to make the final connection to the Paint Creek Trail.
The $1.664 million Safe Routes to School project will start this summer, adding sidewalks/pathways near all of the elementary and middle schools, except Oakview Middle School in Oakland Township. The project is financed through a grant, with the township and Lake Orion schools contributing 20 percent of the funds.