If not for the political bickering, Billings Township would be a quiet place.
But the residents of Billings, near the eastern edge of Michigan's lower peninsula, have a reputation for being cantankerous.
For years, the community was considered a weekend getaway for workers in the auto factories of Detroit and Flint, Mich. Their cottages line the shores of Wixom Lake, a body of water created by a series of dams along the Tittabawassee River. Boaters keep the place hopping in summer and run everything from jet skis to pontoon boats.
The unincorporated community of Albright Shores, situated at a bridge across the river, is the location of the actual "town" in the township. Michigan's counties divide into smaller governmental units known as townships, somewhat akin to Louisiana's parishes.
In recent years, the area has shifted from a vacation spot to more of a retirement/vacation area, said Tom Tucholski, executive director of the Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce. Some retirees are "snowbirds," who spend their winters in Florida or the Southwest.
Guys tend to gather for morning coffee at the Coach House, a restaurant in Albright Shores. The women get together to play bingo, said Doug Smith, a 70-year-old who lives in a mobile-home park on the lake.
Smith goes catch-and-release fishing for bass in his 16-foot boat. When he wants a nice meal, he goes after bluegills. He worked in maintenance for U.S. Graphite in Saginaw, Mich., before retiring and said he's getting too old to ice fish.
Tempers in Billings flared when the government forced the township to build a sewer system to lower E-coli bacterial contamination levels along Wixom Lake, said Stephanie Buffman, editor of the Gladwin County Record and Beaverton Clarion.
Factions recalled four members of the original sewer board.
"People dug their heels in every step of the way," Buffman said.
In early September, when the wastewater treatment plant finally opened, 80 people showed up to tour the facility.
The township has a strange dichotomy of dirt poor, substandard homes often occupied by third- or fourth-generation residents juxtaposed against $250,000 waterfront properties built by newcomers, Buffman said.
The Gladwin County Ice Carnival in February features snowmobile races, motorcycle races and truck pulls on the iced-over lake. Although the carnival features lots of family activities, you're more likely to see a blow-up doll than an ice sculpture, according to one area resident.