New Community Services Building Dedicated

By Gerry Sell, Correspondent – Elk Rapids News: July 3, 2008

On Saturday, June 28, it seemed like most of the township was gathered in the parking lot to watch the dedication ceremonies for the new Torch Lake Township Community Services Building.  The plan was to have all the firefighters and EMS personnel there, but there was an ambulance run, and a fire alarm, and the next thing you knew it was just another day at the office.  Still, the ceremony proceeded.  Dignitaries acted dignified.  The business community was there in force.  Bringing the kids, the camera, and a good attitude, the taxpayers came to see what they’d bought.  They stood there, baking gently in the sun, as Boy Scouts raised the flag and elected officials made speeches – all of them mercifully short.  The ribbon was stretched, the ribbon was cut, the crowd applauded and headed inside for the lemonade and cookies.

Harold Kruse reminisced about giving space to the first official township offices in the Kruse store and post office building in Eastport.  If they fixed the roof, he told them, they could stay as long as they liked.   And that is what they did while township residents gathered donations and held fundraisers to build a permanent fire house and Township Hall.  The building they paid for with bake sales and Firemen’s Field Day raffles served the township for 60 years, and it is showing its age.  The $1.9 million replacement was funded with money set aside from tax dollars since 1996, and with a $1 million loan from Alden State Bank.

It was clear that this is an election year.  U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak was there, and Michigan Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, bearing gifts of flags that had flown over the Capitol Buildings in Washington and Lansing.  County Commissioner Jerroll Drenth, whose mother had died, could not come as planned, but he sent a gift he crafted – a wood carving symbolizing the Township with a ship in full sail surrounded by the blue waters of Grand Traverse Bay and Torch Lake.  Candidates for office came, too:  Connie Saltonstall, campaigning for the 105th House seat, Sheriff Terry Johnson and challenger Dan Bean (former undersheriff), Township Clerk hopefuls Kathy Windiate and Erin Shepley.

The crowd flowed through the building, munching on cookies, peering into the decontamination room, checking out the offices, climbing the ladders in the equipment bay.  Everyone was pleased with the community room – no pillars!  (The old township hall resembles a basement recreation room, and has a number of “view restricted seats.”)  There was a little grousing about the travel slides of China and India flickering by on the giant video screen, but by next week, the Upper Torch Lake Association can watch a collage of photos from the dedication during its potluck.  When the room is used for public hearings, the screen will project any documents under consideration, like budget spreadsheets and site plans. 

Space has been reserved in the cornerstone for a time capsule, and the contents were spread out in a conference room:  Photos of Eastport and Torch Lake Village, of businesses and cottages and the Wilkinson Homestead – a book of Terry Wooten’s poetry – aerial photos showing the shifting shoreline.  There’s a Letter to the Future from Betty Beeby, and a loving look at the past in historical clippings and memoirs. 

For many more photos of the dedication, or to read the text of Betty Beeby’s Letter to the Future, visit [Ed. note: OK, so this is where I got in trouble, because I promised you photos and Betty’s letter, on Torch Lake Views, but did I post them before the ERN hit the mailbox?  I did not.  I humbly beg your pardon – Gerry]

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