Oct. 18, 2018 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Arts and recreation millage spawns opposition groups
The ballot proposal to fund the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex has become one of the most contentious issues facing voters in both the city and township.
Last week, a second or perhaps third group filed for registration as a Political Action Committee (PAC) with the state elections commission. The group opposes the ballot proposal asking voters for .75 of a mill to support the arts and recreation facility.
Supporters of the proposed project have invested more than $3 million into the purchase of the former Central Middle School which sits on 16 acres of property at the edge of downtown Plymouth. The facility has drawn numerous non-profit arts groups now housed in the building, including the Michigan Philharmonic Orchestra, The College for Creative Studies and Friends of the Rouge along with about 30 other arts and recreation groups, who have leased offices in the facility.
The proposed millage will be used to construct an 800-seat performance auditorium on the site and upgrade and renovate the other building facilities.
President of PARC Don Soenen has expressed his confidence in the plan and the financial viability of the project. “The theater has to be a part of the project for it to be successful,” Soenen said. “We need that revenue to operate.” He explained that the cost of the theater is $15 million and that the PARC already owns the land which was purchased from the PlymouthCanton Community School District following a professional evaluation of the land and buildings. Mark and Patty Malcomb purchased an option on the property at a cost of $3,350,000 and owed another $50,000 on the property. Malcomb then donated the property and made the final $50,000 payment, Soenen said. There have been multiple other private donations in support of the facility, he said.
Despite gossip and claims to the contrary, Soenen said, the purchase documents, appraisals and financial documentation prove the legitimacy of the purchase price.
“We’ve conducted two independent studies and both the township board of trustees and the city commission have thoroughly reviewed our plans,” Soenen said.
He adamantly denied the claims of the anti-PARC groups that this is some for-profit or money making scheme for himself or the Malcombs, characterizing it as malicious gossip and completely untrue.
Recently, a vocal group formerly identified as Say No to PARC and then as Say No To All Taxes registered with the state election commission as Defeat PARC Millage.
Informed sources say the loosely formed group has recently organized as a PAC and is now soliciting contributions to pay for signs and mailers. The group is also reportedly planning litigation to block an upcoming township public safety millage and defeat the PARC proposal.
Earlier this month, lawn signs supporting the PARC millage were defaced and sprayed with black paint in one neighborhood and at a church. Members of the anti-PARC group denied any involvement in the vandalism and hinted that supporters of the measure may have damaged the signs in an effort to paint the opposing groups in an unfavorable light.
Robert Harris, an automotive manufacturer retiree, and republican precinct delegate is registered as the treasurer of the new Defeat PARC entity. Estella Oliansky, also a GOP precinct delegate, is among those who have posted comments on Facebook critical of the PARC and public safety millage questions. Also critical of the proposals is former Township Clerk Nancy Conzelman, former Township Supervisor Shannon Price and Plymouth Township Planning Commissioner Jim Harb. Conzelman and Price were soundly defeated by voters in the 2016 election.
“It’s a shame that the people who lost in the 2016 are still trying to make life miserable for township residents. It’s time for them to move on. The divisive, bitter politics of Washington DC and Lansing need to be rejected by people of goodwill in the Plymouth Community,” commented Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise.
“Is it bizarre to fight a millage proposal that is not right for your community and expands government? I don’t think so,” Oliansky said.
Also active in the anti-millage movement is Tom Parrelly who was listed as the treasurer of the Say-No-to PARC group. Becky Krupa, daughter of the late Plymouth Township Trustee Kay Arnold, is also active with the anti-PARC campaign.
I oppose a tax increase to support PARC. It is my right as a voter in Plymouth Township to voice my opinion…” Oliansky posted on social media.
Soenen said he is frustrated by the twisted misinformation being bantered about concerning the project. He said he feels the opposition leaders are misinformed and their negative efforts and methods are going to “destroy the fabric of the community.”
Soenen was also critical of some of the tactics and rhetoric being used by opponents of the project.
Soenen stressed, too, that he has repeatedly offered to meet with those in opposition to the project.
“My door is always open. The opposition has never asked questions. I’ve pleaded for a face-to-face meeting but no one has come forward,” Soenen said.
Oliansky did not return calls seeking comment.
(Staff Writer Don Howard contributed to this story.)