Five Ontwa Township, Mich., board members to face recall stemming from controversial sewer plant plans

Critics in Michigan and Elkhart County worry the proposed sewer plant would harm Cobus Creek.

Posted on Aug. 28, 2014 at 4:19 p.m.

EDWARDSBURG, Mich. — Five of the seven Ontwa Township Board members will face recall in November elections stemming from their role in pushing sewer plant plans in the Michigan locale.

Foes of the Ontwa Township sewer plant proposal launched a petition drive in May to force the recall vote, upset over the five officials’ role in promoting the project. They secured the necessary signatures in the paperwork, and Cass County, Mich., Clerk/Register Monica Kennedy announced in a press release Thursday, Aug. 28, that the five officials’ posts will be up for grabs Nov. 4.

The five are Supervisor John Brielmaier, Treasurer Meryl Christensen, Clerk Paula Ralph and trustees Norman Krupp and Nathan Brousseau, all Republicans. Trustees Jerry Duck and Jerry Marchetti, also Republicans, weren’t targeted.

The five officials will automatically appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. Democrats may appoint one candidate to run for each of the posts, and other unaffiliated Ontwa Township residents may also run for the posts, with a filing deadline of Sept. 5. The top vote-getters in each of the five contests will serve out the respective terms, which go until Nov. 20, 2016.

Technically the five facing recall have until 5 p.m. Thursday to challenge Kennedy’s determination, but she said she had received no word of such action as of around 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Ontwa Township sewer plant plans have generated strong opposition among residents living along Cobus Creek, both in Cass and Elkhart counties. The proposed plant, southeast of Edwardsburg, Mich., would discharge into the creek, which flows south through Elkhart County before emptying into the St. Joseph River, and the critics worry the plant would adversely impact the waterway.

The city of Elkhart, too, opposes the plans, subject to review by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality before Ontwa Township officials would be able to move forward with the project. Ontwa Township reps have defended the plans, saying the treated output would be minimal.

The reason cited for the recall push, according to the petitions, was the Feb. 10 vote by the Ontwa Township Board to approve a contract between Ontwa Township and Cass County to build the treatment facility. Recall proponents, who have said they’d recruit replacement candidates, had to get 457 signatures on each of the five petitions. Each petition had around 680 signatures, on average, according to Kennedy.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.


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