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With Master Plan Workshop Approaching, Orion Twp. Celebrates Successes

With Master Plan Workshop Approaching, Orion Twp. Celebrates Successes

(Crystal A. Proxmire, June 11, 2021)

Orion Township, MI – In a nearly two hour gratitude fest that ended with Supervisor Chris Barnett wiping tears from his cheeks, the Orion State of the Township Address showed what the community had accomplished, and endured, over the past year.

Barnett said that when the COVID pandemic hit, “Our community sprang into action.  It was remarkable and we did it together.”

Hundreds of deliveries of food and necessities happened in the community, with a pantry being set up with Woodside Church.  But beyond just helping with food, Orion Township put their employees, who might otherwise have been furloughed, to work checking in on the most vulnerable residents.  “We made over 10,000 calls to seniors, and veterans, and disabled citizens from our staff to their homes,” said the Supervisor.  “Most people were just excited to be checked on, and one of the cool things about this senior call program is not only were we recognized by the state through MParks for out COVID Response Team Plan… other cities copied, and duplicated this program across the country.”

Township departments were already accustomed to teamwork, and the investment in some team soul-searching put them in a great position to face the challenges of the past year.

“Right before the pandemic we spent almost a full year with our staff trying to understand who are we? Who do we want to be? What’s the best version of Orion Township?” Barnett said.

Among the results was the Township’s new vision statement “To daily exceed the expectations of our residents for how local government can serve them.”

“This will be on the wall of our new building,” he said.  “It should define everything we do.”

The shutdowns of COVID gave municipal leaders a chance to evaluate, adapt, and find new savings.  Orion Township entered the fiscal year with a budget expected to bring $5,546 in savings.  Instead they came away with an extra $1,356,695 into the general fund.

A laundry list of successful projects was shared across the giant screens of Woodside Church where the event was held. Much of the viewership tuned in on Facebook to see successes like the addition of disc golf to Camp Agawam, the opening of the Miracle Field in fall of 2019 for players of all abilities, the addition of a giant “Playful Dragon” pocket park on Baldwin Road, completion of the Baldwin Road corridor project, the construction in progress for the new Civic Center, and a slew of private developments to be proud of, including Hills of Woodbridge and Pomeroy Living Villas.

To make it even easier to attract quality development, Orion Township is in the process of becoming a Redevelopment Ready Community, which means working with the State to improve all aspects of development.

Working with others is part of the reason for community success, and the Supervisor shared several ways that Orion’s leadership connects with neighbors for stronger solutions to problems.  Barnett, who recently won a Michigan Municipal League Leadership Award, is one of two municipal level officials serving on the County’s Economic Taskforce along with Royal Oak Mayor Mike Fournier.  He is also the Vice Chair of SEMCOG (South East Michigan Council of Governments) where he will be President next year.

Within Orion Township, the Village of Lake Orion has its own council, and its own successes to celebrate.  The Village created a Social District that allows for outside drinking of beverages from approved businesses in certain areas.  Nine bars and restaurants are participating.  Another bright bit of news was that $314,709 of COVID grants were given out to support local businesses.

And yet with all the successes, there was still sadness and strife.

With the year starting out in the midst of the COVID pandemic, the challenges felt a bit to local officials like walking on a trail of sharp edged Legos. But as visualized in the State of the Township video, as time went along those pieces came together.  People began making healthy choices, volunteers and donors stepped up to fill needs, and various groups and departments came together until a smoother path was set.

But along the way there was loss.  Gatherings and events were missed, and lives were lost to the disease. Businesses struggled. Some closed.  And people had to find different ways to connected.

The sadness expressed on stage by Barnett was for the loss of a good friend and active Orion Township resident. In January, Anthony Reighard passed away at the age of 43, unrelated to the pandemic.  And his image was shown at the end of a slideshow full of community faces and efforts, bringing tears to the eyes of audience members and the Supervisor himself.

“He was a local business owner of M&B Graphics. But he was literally involved in just about everything happening around town. He supported every nonprofit and charity and was one of the kindest people you could ever meet,” Barnett said when asked later about his friend.  “We were similar in that neither one of us really figured out how to say the word no. But whenever I would stop and visit him he would always stop his extremely busy schedule and engage with me. Such a sweet man and always gave 100% for our community.”

As Orion moves forward, members of the community including residents and business owners, are encouraged to attend a Master Planning Open House on June 16 from 4-6:30 p.m., at the Orion Center, 1335 Joslyn Rd.

The open house is one of several opportunities for residents to provide input on the Orion Township Master Plan. This spring, an online survey was conducted, and a second open house will take place in the fall.

More info:

Orion Township official website

Oakland County Times Lake Orion/Orion Twp News Page

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Check out the full video of the speech:

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