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Street repair project prompts questions from council

Savanah Kaechele

Contributing Writer

Approval of a $85,327 bid from A-1 Asphalt Inc. to resurface State Street between Broadway and South Michigan Avenue raised questions at Hastings City Council meeting Monday.

 “There was a plan put together to take care of some of the downtown streets,” Director of Public Services Matt Gergen said. “This was one of them.”

But council member Don Bowers wondered about the choice of streets being resurfaced.

“Is South Hanover on the list at all?” Bowers asked. “It's pitiful. I’ve asked for that to be looked at and taken care of for several years. I won't vote for anything until you get there.”

“This is just one project,” Gergen said later. “We’re also going to do more road projects this year, which are going to be primarily chip sealing.”

This is the only mill and repave project scheduled for this fiscal year, he noted.

“This is the before-July projects,” council member Brenda McNabb-Stange added.

The bid was approved, with Bowers casting the lone dissenting vote.

But the issue came up again in the meeting during comment time:

“I’m just wondering how we select the streets,” Bowers said. “I mean, obviously, we aren’t selecting the worst ones first.”

Jim James, street superintendent with the department of public services, said a variety of information is taken into consideration, such as traffic, condition of the street, funding source, and whether it's a major street.

In other action, the council approved a $15,800 proposal from Hubbell, Roth & Clark that will allow the DPS to meet requirements set by the state's administrative consent order as the city continues its plan for upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant.

“Part of the ACO is implementing the headworks upgrade, and that’s already scheduled,” Gergen said. “In addition to that, it also includes further assessment of equipment; coming up with a plan, budget, schedule for upgrades; and additional equipment is required.”

Council member Bill Redman asked which account would be tapped for the $15,800 needed for the cost of the services. It will not be from the bond, Gergen said. It will be paid out of the city's water and sewer fund.

Included in Gergen’s report on the wastewater treatment plant was work that has already begun there, regarding internal quality control. An update also has been made to the non-domestic user list, which is used to identify potential mercury sources. Construction for the plant upgrades is expected to begin this year.

In other action, the council was asked to consider authorizing staff to work with Neo Network and draft a partner agreement on the management and regulation of the distributed antenna systems and small cell equipment.

McNabb-Stange commented on the issue after a motion was made. “I have a big objection to this. I think they are not being totally truthful with us.”

Neo Network doesn’t seem to be partnering with the city for the benefit of the public, she said, and the company is not representing the profit properly. She also expressed concerns about allowing enough time to review the proposed agreement, especially when it doesn't seem to be a pressing issue.

“I think we are jumping the gun here,” she said. “We’ve got a process. We’ve got a packet that we can give to people. We’ve got our fees.”

After hearing McNabb-Stange’s comments, the motion failed. Four of the seven members present casted no votes. Council members Don Smith and Jim Cary were absent.

City Manager Jerry Czarnecki also was absent.

During public comment, a city resident informed the council of a stray cat problem in an area along South Washington Street. The resident explained that someone seems to be feeding the cats, which is causing a problem for her and other neighbors.

Three to eight deer, along with eight to 15 cats, appear each night in the resident’s yard, resulting in an excessive amount of fecal matter in her yard.

Another resident of South Washington Street, Dr. Robert Bercier, attended the meeting to support the claim.

“On a regular basis, I can see anywhere between 20 and 25 [cats] out my side window,” he said.

He explained that along with the population problem, the cats are also a health issue. Toxoplasmosis, a disease acquired from exposure to infected cat feces, is a present risk due to the stray cats.

“I rebuilt my deck. Wound up with an eye infection because of all the fecal matter that’s underneath my deck,” he said. “So, for me it was a health problem, let alone everybody else.”

Mayor Dave Tossava replied, “I’ll get with the chief of police, we’ll talk to staff, and even talk to animal control and see what they can do.”

In other business, the council:

-Approved a budget adjustment of a $25,200 increase in the library’s building repair and maintenance account allowing repairs to the building and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

-Approved a request from Kim Martin, business manager at the Barry County Chamber of Commerce, to hold the ninth annual Hastings Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament in downtown Hastings. The tournament will be July 10, 11 and 12. Martin said they saw a 15 percent increase in teams last year and another increase is expected this year.

-Approved a request from Megan Lavell, executive director of the Thornapple Arts Council, to solicit donations at the Thornapple Plaza and spray plaza during the program season. A donation bucket will be carried through the audience at the Hastings Live concerts, a bucket sitting out at the spray plaza, and merchandise and tickets sold at the jazz festival. Lavell said all donations go back into supporting the program.

-Approved the final site plan, recommended by the planning commission, for properties 400 W. State St. (current site of Hastings Pharmacy) and 410 W. State St. The site plan includes the demolition of the building at 410 W. State St. and merging the two properties to allow an extension to the building housing the pharmacy. An entrance off State Street will be made wider than the current entrance.

-Scheduled two public hearings for 7 p.m. March 23. Both hearings will focus on possible ordinance changes, one regarding regulation of wells in the city and the other on the expiration date for the prohibition on marijuana establishments.

-Approved $18,956 in repair costs for the Bandit Woodchipper. During a tree clearing project at Bliss Park, a reinforced rod concealed by a tree entered the wood chipper and caused damage to the machine. It is estimated to take two to three weeks to repair the machine.

“There is not a tree branch or tree that’s taken down in the city of Hastings where the chipper doesn’t show up as part of that project,” Gergen said. “It’s a very important piece of equipment for us.”

-Received an update in the DPS, including new proposals from Hubbell, Roth and Clark regarding the Rutland special assessment district sidewalks project. McNabb-Stange asked why the council was back-tracking on the project.

“How many times do we have to do this before we get it done?” she asked.

“That’s been in front of the joint planning commission and the biggest issue has been [Michigan Department of Transportation] changing their requirements,” Dave Hatfield, chair of the city’s planning commission and the JPC, said. “We thought [we had] a plan approved by them and we are moving forward with it, and then they reneged on the approval and came back with a whole other set of standards.”

-Received a report from library director Peggy Hemerling, including news on March reading month. The theme is “Wild about Reading.” Corresponding with the theme, the Michigan Society of Herpetologists will host Reptile Day at the library Saturday, March 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

-Conducted the first review of two ordinances. One is regarding rezoning of property at 1500 Star School Road from D-2 to planned unit development. The second ordinance is for tax exemption in the form of a service charge in lieu of taxes for Kendall Place, a project for low-income persons and families. Both ordinances will be reviewed again at the next city council meeting.

-Expressed their appreciation for the department of public services, and the entire city staff for their work.

-Was informed by council member Al Jarvis of his decision to seek re-election to the 1st Ward seat.

“The last council meeting I made an announcement that I wasn’t going to run for city council. I had a lot of people come up to me and ask me to change my mind,” he said.

Various members commented on his decision.

“I want to thank Al because I really appreciate him doing that,” Mayor Dave Tossava said. “He’s a valuable member of this board.”

“I’m tickled to death to hear that Mr. Jarvis has changed his mind and is going to run,” Bowers added. “He’s a valuable part of this council.”

-McNabb-Stange clarified a comment attributed to her in the Hastings Banner:

“In light of comments in the paper, I guess for the last two council meetings, I feel a clarification may be due: The statement that I harped on the city about getting plans was not intended to be about the IT [information technology], it was about the roads,” she said.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for March 23 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at the city hall.

 

 

 

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