War of words continues in Plymouth
Oct. 25, 2018 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Administrators at the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex (PARC) are reeling this week after recent surprise visits by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and representatives from MI-OHSA, the state Occupational Health Department, and a TV news crew. PARC staff and board members say the actions were an attempt to harangue and harass the staff and mislead voters just before the upcoming election on Nov. 6.
The inspectors’ visits were prompted by a complaint filed by an anti-PARC dissident group headed by ousted elected township officials and vocal activists. The complaint stated that the Plymouth High School/Central Middle School building where PARC is housed is contaminated with asbestos. Tom Parrelly, treasurer of Say NO to PARC campaign, filed the DEQ complaint according a Freedom of Information Act Request obtained by The Eagle.
PARC officials and supporters adamantly deny the allegations and complaint and state emphatically that the inspections found no health or safety violations whatsoever.
Misleading mailers titled Notice of Property Tax Increase were delivered to area residents from “The Office of Tax Collection and Enforcement, One Plymouth Drive, Plymouth Michigan 48170,” using the same U.S. Mail permit as one that has appeared on mailers for Republican candidate for state senate, District 7, Laura Cox. Members of the anti-PARC group include former township officials and GOP precinct delegates. The mailer states, “Paid for by Plymouth Voters for Responsible Government and list the address of the post office box.
Supporters are also incensed at this tactic which contains, they said, misleading and false information presented in a manner contrived to misinform and alarm voters.
Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise said he filed a complaint Monday with the U.S. Postal Service against Parelly in his capacity as treasurer of the group listed as the sender of the fake tax notice.
“I believe this is a fraudulent document and this is mail fraud. These people have tried to imitate a government agency. This is not a joke and it is not funny,” Heise said. “These people have used a fake township address and tried to impersonate an official township government agency.”
The project to preserve the historically significant structure and create an 800-seat performance theater on the properties 16-acres is the creative idea of long time community residents Mark and Patty Malcomb along with Don Soenen. The investors are credited with saving and restoring the 77-year-old Penn Theater in 2005.
There is a capital funding campaign under way and the issue of local tax support from residents will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, allowing the people to decide whether they want to fund the effort. The business people have been working on the project for more than five years and have received support from both the Plymouth City Commissioners and the Township Board ofTrustees. In addition they have conducted two independent engineering and feasibly studies.
Soenen said officials are well aware a century old building will have asbestos and both MIOSHA and DEQ inspectors say they found no facility violations. Soenen said asbestos is only a threat when it is disturbed and the particles become airborne. He said he is aware they may be mitigation expense and that has been factored into the project. The law doesn’t permit a FOIA disclosure of who filed the MIOSHA complaint.
More than $3.5 million has been donated to the PARC effort, with more than $7 million more pledged in donations and grants. PARC is a 501c3 public charity and is prohibited by law from making a financial profit. The proposed millage is estimated to cost $8 per month for the average home value of $300,000.
Recently the Wilcox Family Foundation announced a $1 million grant to PARC. The Wilcox grant can be used for operational purposes in conjunction with the approval of a millage to fund improvements at PARC, including the construction of the proposed new 800-seat theater. The millage proposal, if approved, will generate revenue that may only be used to service debt incurred to make the capital improvements.
“No taxpayer money from this millage will ever be used for operation of the PARC organization and the Malcombs and Soenen will never gain financially from the PARC project,” according to statements from the supporters of the project.