It’s been five weeks since Michigan votes decided to legalize recreational marijuana, but Williamston City Manager Corey Schmidt said he does not expect a huge change for community residents. “To the extent that is, if it’s occurring in public, there could be some ramifications there,” said Schmidt. “But as of right now, when I talked to our police chiefs and whatnot, we just don’t expect a huge change.”
With the passing of Proposal 1, all communities who are against it still have the opportunity to opt-out of dispensaries within their city limits. Communities had this ability to opt-out when medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan. The Williamston City Council has been debating this issue for months.
Holly Thompson is the Williamston city clerk and has been busy working on preparing Williamston for one day – the 2018 midterm election. A couple of large tasks that she does for elections which help ensure a fair and easy process for her community are ordering ballots and updating computers. For residents who order ballots overseas, they ship out the absentee ballots 45 days in advance. Thompson’s office also has bipartisan flyers for people looking to learn more about the candidates. “We’ve been extra busy with the absentee ballots because those have been really high and just emails and phone calls and everything,” Thompson said.
In the center of downtown Williamston, is a small printing business owned and operated by Wendy Shaft and Don Bixler named Limner Press. Shaft and Bixler both come from printing families – one in Missouri and one in Michigan. For Bixler, it started with his grandfather who started his own publishing house in 1892 and even printed a newspaper called The Center Colorado Dispatch. His father followed in his footsteps and then with Bixler in tow. The two met while working different jobs in Anchorage, Alaska, and Bixler ran into Shaft at her work.
At the Oct. 8 Williamston City Council meeting, the cost of keeping the city running safely and efficiently was the focus of the evening. The theme of the night was the costs of replacements. The first item on the agenda for approval was a new 2018 Factor 2100i Frontliner chassis for a street-cleaning Vactor truck with the price of $390,981.86. Vactor trucks are used for sewage and excavation but also helps clear out clogs in sewers which can damage homes and back up into basements.
Tucked into one of Williamston’s neighborhoods, the Monette house greets you with a large chalk drawing on the driveway and a wall of paint tubes in the garage. Barbara and Dean Monette said they have always loved children, whether it be teaching or simply helping the neighbor kids with painting which started with their own children. To channel that love, the couple created The Monette Children’s Enrichment Fund. The fund became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit about a year ago but the Monette’s have been raising money for about four years. The fund is for promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) programs in local schools as well as in Haiti.
Despite rising tensions around a re-vote of Williamston school board over a trans-inclusive bathroom rule, the Oct. 1 meeting was business as usual. The board focused on working to get a passenger van, approve the construction of a dividing wall to separate a section of the gym for the wrestling team and review the goals of the board and its respective progress. The decision between whether to vote for new board members or re-vote for the same members over a rule passed by the current school board which attempted to be more inclusive for transgender students in the district. The rule wanted to lay out a rule that would allow students who identify as transgender to use the appropriate school facilities during the school day according to their gender identiry, which has become a divisive topic at previous school board meetings overshadowing other work being done at the meetings.
Williamston has all the markings of an American small town: historic buildings comprising its downtown section, local family owned restaurants, a bridal shop, a glass blowing studio and the local hardware store. Nestled above the affairs of the main Williamston strip on Grand River is a somewhat unknown plaza that even local Williamston residents may pass by: Keller’s Plaza, home to “Williamston’s hidden gem” as nearly all of the Plaza’s shop owners called their little hideaway. Keller’s Plaza is home to a small candle shop Mud Country Candles, a small party store, a glass engravings shop called the Glass Fox, a dance studio, and Peculiar Perspective’s. Matt Mulford runs Peculiar Perspectives, a studio and art gallery at the top of the landing on the second floor of the plaza, along with Tony Steele. Mulford and Steele’s friendship and passion for art goes back years Mulford says.
Going back to its roots, Williamston had its first inaugural Alleyfest which included musicians, artists and glassblowers, creating an old-fashioned festival reminiscent of the antique shops littering Williamston’s main drag. The festival was spearheaded by founder Will Long and his partner and co-founder, Matt Mulford. This was a way that Williamston could bring back its brick-and-mortar history. Williamston is known for its antique shops, however, the downtown area now has four vacant buildings and residents are becoming worried Long said. “It’s great for all of our businesses that are downtown and it gives our residents that live in town, something to do,” Tammy Gilroy, Williamston mayor, said.
After months of deliberation and a slew of meetings trademarked with passionate arguments, the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education passed a pair of policies in November 2017 in relation to transgender youth and their definition, among other guidelines. And despite passing months ago, the debate surrounding the policies have yet to go away. Currently, there’s a pending federal lawsuit that names six of seven Williamston Board of Education members as defendants: Greg Talberg, Christopher Lewis, Sarah Belanger, Nancy Deal, Kathy Hayes and Joel Gerring. The seventh member of the board at the time, Jeffrey West, was the lone vote against the policies, which the school board passed 6-1. He is not named in the lawsuit.
The house at 5108 Barton Road in Williamston looks like any other house. There are trees out front, a few cars parked in the driveway and a garage door wide open, giving people a glimpse of the backyard. All seems normal until the sound of dogs, chickens and alpacas fill the air. Yes, alpacas. In the backyard of this home lies Circle 6 Alpacas, a fiber production farm that houses 30 alpacas, one goat, three horses, two dogs, five cats and 10 chickens.