REED CITY — Those folks who lived in either Reed City or Richmond Township quite some years ago when the word annexation was first uttered in these parts already know that things weren’t always real friendly between the two.

Time passed, but the animosity between the two entities continued. Sometimes it was business against business, or best friends ended friendships because one lived in the township, the other in town.

The anger and the attitudes lingered long.

When Ron Marek became city manager of Reed City, he set some goals.

“One of them was to help build a better relationship between Reed City and Richmond Township,” he said.

He called township supervisor Maynard Bluhm. “We met one-on-one and then got together with others and discussed what can we do to move our two governmental units closer and have a positive relationship.”

At the second meeting, Marek said they talked about why the relationship between the township and the city had so many disagreements and lawsuits, and negativity had been so prevalent.

“Dave Bonsall gave me a couple scrapbooks with information and articles from the late 60’s and on into the 70’s telling about the city stealing property and land-grabbing,” he said. “I went to them with open arms and extended hands to say this is who you’re dealing with now. We’ve got to work together and build something for our kids.

“One of the things I did with Maynard (Bluhm) is ask him, ‘Who are your key players and the significant voices?”

“We agreed to form a committee and brought along Dan Massey from the county into the committee,” Marek explained.

“We decided we’d endorse this committee and agree to work together on economic development. Nothing is binding. We operate on a total consensus basis. We don’t move forward unless there is a total consensus. There’s no bullying the committee and there’s no stacking the deck.”

The committee became the Reed City-Richmond Economic Development Committee.

Members believe that in order for a city to be successful, the township has to be, and in order for the township to be successful, the city has to be.

Marek noted that he is in “a unique position of living in a township and working in the city. This is like business engineering and management. We realize the township didn’t ask to be part of Reed City nor did the city ask to be part of the township, but we are.

The group’s next job was to deal with the question, what’s the goal?

“We need to develop communication and trust,” said Marek. “We agreed we would set aside water and sewer, 425 agreements, and annexation topics. No discussion. Again, we need a relationship that creates communication and trust.

“Committee participant David Bisbee said he knew of a non-profit organization, Land Information Access Association, out of Traverse City. He told us state money is given to them to support planners, governmental units, people that help people collaborate with each other. Several levels of grants are available through them with Michigan money.”

A representative from that organization came and told the committee about a $7,000 80/20 grant available, then asked what kind of a project they could come up with.

“Our master plan is up at the end of 2011, and we need a new one so we came up with the idea, why don’t we look at a joint recreation plan?” said Marek.

“They were really quite interested, and we all felt this might be a great, non-threatening benefit to both parties.”

From that point, things moved rapidly and the consensus grew as the project did. A suggestion was made, and it was decided encompassing a larger area might make the project more feasible.

After thought and revisons a new plan including neighboring communities was sent in, “...and last week we got a phone call. We will receive that $7,000 grant. We’re thrilled. Like any other committee, we gain some trust and know we can get through some things.”

And so community cooperation goes and so it grows.

“This is exciting for the community, the bigger community. Now, within this five-member governmental unit that is that committee, we have all sorts of things to look at together,” noted Marek.

As a result, instead of the grant going to a project in one governmental unit, the scope takes in much more and the whole area may benefit as a result. The committee brings into the recreational thinking “the Muskegon River, Hersey River, both trails, nice park at Hersey, Westerburg Park, Rambadt Park and a lot of other things. The skies the limit with what they can do.

“Despite the poor economic times, this is like a breath of fresh air. It’s productive. We need to work together and have that consensus.

“We all win then.”