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Save Columbus Township, Clerk Appointed

By Sterling McGinn

The Columbus Township board may be saved from state intervention after several interested individuals stepped forward to run for the multiple positions expected to become vacant after the November election.

The municipality with approximately 169 inhabitants faced a very uncertain future after many old civil servants decided not to stand for re-election. The outgoing board has announced the vacancies and township Supervisor Jeannie King recently sent letters to every registered voter in Columbus Township, emphasizing the need for individuals to step forward for the board to function.

At the April 9 City Council meeting, Jeff Anderson was appointed to fill the upcoming clerk vacancy. Don Leech, former secretary, submitted a letter of resignation last month, hoping that his absence would attract interested parties. Leech’s resignation takes effect on April 30.

Anderson has lived in Columbus Township for about three years. “I grew up in the Detroit area and moved to Grayling in my late 20s,” Anderson said. “I used to have a computer company that did sales and service.”

Anderson will become city manager on May 1 and will run for election in November to continue in the position. Leech will assist Anderson during the transition and said his son could be Anderson’s deputy if he is interested.

The positions of supervisor and treasurer will also be open because Kelly and Jeannie King have also decided not to seek re-election. Neither does Trustee Emerson Smith, creating yet another vacancy. Appointed trustee Ed Stielstra, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Ed Auge, said he plans to run for the seat.

Jeannie King said resident Roger Auble wants to run for supervisor and Dan Schultz, a CPA, is moving to the family farm in McMillan and is interested in becoming township treasurer.

“Dan Schultz, who did not meet the residency requirements to file the candidacy paperwork now, could be a write-in candidate in the August primary, or if no one else files, he could be appointed by this board before we’re done . Jeannie King said.

In other news, Columbus Township Fire Department Chief Paul Gaberdiel has filed his intention to resign effective June 1. He remains with the department as a firefighter, but plans to travel and felt it was best to hand over the chief position to someone else.

“I just feel like I can’t serve the department the way it should be,” he said. Gaberdiel stated that he did not yet have a candidate for the position. The department has about 10 firefighters, and all but one live in Lakefield Township.

The board also discussed the fire agreement between Columbus and Lakefield Townships, which is up for renewal in July. The Columbus Fire Department serves Lakefield Township, which pays a base fee of $20,000 per year to Columbus. This year, Lakefield provided another $10,000 as partial payment for the tanker purchased last year.

The board briefly discussed the fire brigade, which will soon be without a chief.

“There have been comments about whether Lakefield should take over the fire department, but they are not interested,” Jeannie King said.

Trustee Emerson Smith is concerned about the number of firefighters showing up to calls and believes the department is dysfunctional. Fire Chief Gaberdiel said about six or seven Columbus Township firefighters are responding to calls.

The city is working on written mutual aid agreements with the Portage, Seney and Germfask fire departments.

Columbus Township no longer has a mutual aid agreement with the Newberry Fire Department. Jeannie King said the Newberry Village Council would not vote on the agreement they presented and planned to charge the council for services if the agreement was not fulfilled.