Baldwin Township hashes out 2018 budget

Baldwin Township held its election and annual meeting March 14, when supervisors and officials outlined in detail the township’s plan for budget and operations in 2018.
Supervisor and Board Chairman Brad Schumacher presented the township levy and budget proposal, which increased by about $100,055 – from $1.03 million for 2017 to $1.13 million for 2018. Three main items prompted the increase.
Road work ahead
The township budgeted $540,000 for the 2018 road and bridge fund, which is about $59,000 more than last year’s allocation. Schumacher explained that the township would reconstruct 2.5 miles of 136th Street Northwest between County Road 42/315th Avenue Northwest and County Road 9/293rd Avenue Northwest.
He said the township was joining with Sherburne County as it plans to redo County Road 45/128th Street Northwest this summer. Baldwin will use the same contractors and save money, since the big equipment will already be nearby.
Schumacher said the exact cost numbers for the project have not yet been finalized, but Baldwin is likely to have a $1.5 million expense to redo the road. It will sell 10- or 20-year bonds to finance the project and prepare for an approximate bond payment in 2018 of about $60,000.
Residents asked how much it would cost them. It was determined that for a 20-year bond term, it would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $26 more per year. For a 10-year bond term, the same homeowner would pay about $69 more each year.
Schumacher said the township has been clearing trees along 136th Street now to prepare for the roadwork this summer. The Department of Natural Resources required that the trees be taken before owl nesting season begins. Schumacher said the township would schedule a public meeting before the board votes on the bond financing for the road project.
A resident asked about the projected life of the new 136th Street, but nobody knew the road’s estimated lifespan. Schumacher said the township would ask about it before the bond vote.
A resident asked if all the townspeople pay for the increase or if the costs would be assessed only to the adjacent benefiting property owners (the people who live on 136th Street). Schumacher said while some other entities do targeted assessment only to the benefiting properties, Baldwin assesses all its property owners to pay for such projects.
Other road and bridge projects Baldwin will do in 2018 include crack sealing on about 11 miles of roadway in the township’s northwest corridor, chip sealing and a second overlay on 125th 1/2 Street.
Vote boosts firefighters fund
The proposed levy at the beginning of the Baldwin Township meeting included $10,000 more for increased firefighter training, and former Fire Chief Mike Rademacher explained that the department would like an additional $15,000 to increase the amount it pays into the vested firefighters pension fund. Financial planners manage the account and advise the department on its fund strategy.
Rademacher said, “The current relief benefit is quite a bit lower than surrounding departments.”
He explained how volunteer firefighters value the pension benefit, which basically pays firefighters a lump sum amount when they leave the department – $2,000 for every year of service. The members must belong to the department 20 years to gain full vestment, but they get a gradually ascending proportion if they leave sooner than that, starting with 45 percent vesting after five years.
Rademacher said though the pension account is fully funded now, the additional amount would enable the department to raise its current members and be more competitive with surrounding departments when recruiting new members.
A motion to add the $15,000 was approved despite a few nays.
The firefighters also made clear that due to a few retirements expected this year, the Baldwin Fire Department is accepting applications.
It responded to a total of 215 calls in 2016, including:
•15 structure fires.
•Seven grass fires.
•Three vehicle fires.
•16 mutual-aid fire calls.
Ball field completes Young Park
Supervisor Tom Rush, a member of the parks committee, said the $10,000 increase to the park fund would be for several finishing touches at Young Park, where the upcoming season will be the first ever played on the new ball field there. Rush said it was good to see the field usage schedule filling fast.
Baldwin Township will also begin work in 2017 to develop land near Goose Lake into a park. The land was donated to the township in 2012, but there were some access issues to resolve before development could happen. Preliminary plans for the park include a parking area, walking trail and possibly a fishing pier.
Board members applauded Rush for his ongoing efforts over 10 years to make the ball field project a reality. They said Rush had been the driving force, always filling in when any community groups or other volunteers were unable to make scheduled work days or coordinate the many details of the project.
Rush said the committees for parks, planning and Funfest need members after experiencing attrition over the past few years.
Town administrator discussed
Within the town business was the possibility of adding a town administrator. Schumacher said the board discusses the option every year, especially the more Baldwin and its town business grows. He said the idea has been consistently rejected during board meeting discussions but in recent years, it seems like the supervisors were slowly becoming more open to the idea.
Schumacher said it could be an item on the ballot next year or in a future year.  Supervisors are aware that if and when they decide to vote on hiring a paid administrator, it is likely to be a six-figure expense for a full-time person. Schumacher said if and when Baldwin decides to hire an administrator, a public meeting would be held before the decision is made.
Lastly, Baldwin Township set March 13, 2018, as the date for its annual meeting next year.