Grey Cloud Island Township best kept secretWhen the natural springs around Moore’s Lake can be seen, it’s time for the Grey Cloud Island Township annual town meeting. Held once a year in the smallest township in the state, it’s an example of pure democracy.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
When the natural springs around Moore’s Lake can be seen, it’s time for the Grey Cloud Island Township annual town meeting.
Held once a year in the smallest township in the state, it’s an example of pure democracy.
People can bring up any topic at the annual meeting but the most important item is the budget for the next year.
Aggregate Industries owns and operates a large limestone mine in the township that can’t be seen if you’re just driving through. There is blasting and noise that residents don’t like but are accustomed to.
On the upside, mining and the township’s land plan, has discouraged developers from attempting to carve it up.
“It’s still paradise,” Town Clerk Rich Mullen once told me.
Aside from a cell-phone tower, the only municipal structure is the town hall on County Road 75 that I call “the bunker,” because it’s essentially a concrete-block building built in the ‘40s.
Mullen served as town clerk from 1957 to 1962 when he was elected to the board and served nine years. He was also justice of the peace for two years. Since 1990, he has been elected to the clerk’s position.
Mullen has a mixed relationship with technology. He uses the fax machine but doesn’t e-mail.
The town hall has a push-button telephone that went out of general use in the early ‘60s, an example of the frugal approach to government spending. The town board and clerk are cheap and proud of it.
When the township had to convert to voting machines that scan ballots, it needed to send results to Washington County via a phone modem, which is not possible on the old phone.
Mullen bought a modern phone. It’s made of see-through plastic with a tinge of mauve color. Its most attractive feature is that it was on sale for less than $5.
Nothing changes much in the town hall and residents like it that way. Attempts have been made to spruce the place up but it still has the same two, slightly banged up, four-drawer file cabinets.
There have been proposals to build a new town hall that has bathrooms year ‘round as opposed to the rented ones that are only available from May through September.
During this month’s meeting held March 11, the clock stopped.
It’s the township’s fourth clock in Mullen’s memory and those at the meeting thought it might have to be replaced.
After the meeting, Mullen checked the fuse box and after moving one of the switches back and forth, the clock started up. Water from a leaky roof in the past has affected the box, he said.
Several chunks of plastic are missing from the clock’s sides because it has been dropped several times. But as long as it still runs, why replace it?
I love everything about the township and, even though I have to restrict my liquid intake 10 months out of the year, I’m fond of town hall meetings.
I can still drop in at Mullen’s house for an unannounced visit and I don’t worry about locking my car.
It’s like stepping back in time.
Judy Spooner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.