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Village of Climax Ponders Whether To Exist

January 21, 1987

CLIMAX, Mich. (AP) _ The sign for this historic little village often draws double takes from motorists on Interstate 94. Some even try to steal it.

″It’s tough keeping signs around here,″ said hardware store owner Al Hoover.

However, replacements might not be necessary soon, as residents vote Thursday whether the village of Climax should cease to exist.

Some residents say merging the one-stoplight village with rural Climax Township would lower the cost of local services. Others say it would mean a loss of control and identity.

″I had a great-great-grandfather who helped settle this land in 1836,″ said Maxine McNutt, who has lived in the village all of her 69 years. ″It took 150 years to get this far and it’d be a shame if we got rid of the village.″

Former village President Steve Johnson, who collected the 102 petition signatures to put the issue to a vote, said Tuesday that disincorporation would lower taxes and make services more efficient.

″I just think the village form of government is obsolete and the township form of government has the power,″ he said. ″We have so many duplications.″

The move to disincorporate must be approved by at least two-thirds of the village’s 370 registered voters, or 247 people. The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners would have the final say at its annual meeting in October.

Climax is about 15 miles from both Kalamazoo and Battle Creek and almost midway between Detroit and Chicago.

The area encompassed by Climax Township was founded in 1835 and the population center within it was incorporated as a separate village in 1899. The township has 1,978 residents, while 1,619 live in the village.

In 1896, Congress singled out the area for an experiment with rural free delivery. Today, a monument stands in the village center, built with stones from each of the 300 farms on America’s first RFD route.

The area also is known for its unusual name and the tongue-in-cheek comments it provokes. A village store sells souvenir t-shirts trading on the moniker’s off-color connotations.

Residents are good-natured about the occasional ribbing about the town, which got its name because it climaxed the original inhabitants’ search for a place to settle.

″I never heard jokes about it until I went to orientation at college and learned to be embarrassed,″ said Marilyn Woodman.

Except for lower taxes, little would change in Climax if it were to cease being a village, said Township Supervisor Allan Hayward, who is tax assessor for the township and the village.

The village’s mystique could be preserved while getting rid of its cumbersome form of government, Hayward said. Michigan is divided into townships, which sometimes overlap with villages or, as in the case of Climax Township, contain them.

Among those against disincorporation is Village Clerk Lucille Betz, who lives in the house she was born in 69 years ago and said she doubts county road crews could remove snow as quickly as village plows.

″I’m kind of supposed to sit on the fence, but I have lived here all my life and would hate to see the village go,″ she said.

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