By Gari Voss
Allegan’s City Council meeting begins with a Study Session that digs into topics which enables the Regular Meetings to focus on making final decisions. Monday, August 14, 2023, the Study Session addressed topics from reviewing the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Report to developing Pingree Park to revisiting the EV charging stations to establishing rental inspections. Then the Council concentrated on the business at hand.
The Study Session
Michael Kiella and Dave Redding represented the EDC that had been charged with several questions back on January 14, 2023. In essence, the group examined what is happening in Allegan regarding economic and enterprise support from a variety of advisory groups. Are there any gaps, what still needs to be done, and how can it be accomplished?
In short, Kiella shared that in the areas of economic and enterprise support, the EDC has no real responsibilities at the table. Lakeshore Advantage has contracted responsibilities with a focus on Primary Enterprises, or Exporters, and wants to develop large tracts of land. They work primarily with Chamber of Commerce groups. The townships have strategic Master Plans but little ability to support Enterprise Development.
The Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce focuses on Enterprise Development. The AACC, in theory, should be identifying and servicing the needs of its members in the 49010 area code. In the end, the suggestion was to develop a document of definitions for common terms and put the EDC on the shelf until a situation arises for the group to investigate and evaluate then link needs while being above political boundaries.
Joe and Deb Leverence, who own Allegan Old Mill Properties, LLC, have had visions of bringing the Old Mill District back to life. Joe presented a proposal to reestablish Pingree Park, which is a parcel of land originally owned by Mr. T.M. Russell and that housed the original Allegan courthouse. No building has been on the property along the river near M-222/Monroe St. since about 1865 and has not been used since the 1900s when the circus would come to town.
Because a channel was dug around the perimeter, the area is basically an island that does not get flooded. The State of Michigan has it listed in its Wetlands Inventory. Leverence has been doing preliminary investigations and was advised to go to the State for Wetlands mitigation and now with the City of Allegan to turn the island into a tiny house “motel”. The vision is to clear the property of brush, attach city water and sewer, and install wheeled tiny houses on stilts. Other amenities could be added later, like a pavilion.
The Council made no decisions, but thanked Mr. Leverence for his thoughts and visions for the City of Allegan. Leverence will continue working his way through the steps to bring some much-needed tiny housing to the Pingree Park area along the Kalamazoo River.
From Pingree Park, the Council reviewed the finding on re-establishing a Rental Inspection Program for Allegan. In earlier discussions, the Council and City Staff were hoping to work with PCI to create an inspection program. After some consideration, PCI did submit a proposal that would include costs for establishing the program then implementing it. Before implementation, the Council wanted to be sure that property owners and renters knew how the program operated and their responsibilities because properties would be inspected every 2 years until a parcel was well-established. The City Staff will continue working on this program.
The proposed EV (electric vehicle) charging stations for the Cutler Street Parking Lot have yet to materialize. It seems that the original contractor that had been hired by numerous cities and communities to deliver the stations backed out of Allegan and cited that their contract was to “service” and not “construct” the stations. The City Staff, with the assistance of Abonmarche, have been rethinking the placement of charging stations. They have some plans for EV stations and will present their findings as more is known regarding if the State gave the previous company funding for the project, where additional stations might be installed around the city, and if there are some funding sources for the project.
The Council Meeting
When the Council reconvened, they were greeted from the podium by Erin Dewey of Dewey Family Properties LLC requesting the approval of an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act (OPRA) Certificate for 128 Locust Street that is on the corner of Locust and Trowbridge Streets. Dewey purchased the property during COVID when Perrigo closed its office doors and she needed to take her health business off site.
Since then, the back of the main floor has been her message and health business while the front housed the Regent Arcade Showroom. In 2022, the City Council implemented the OPRA Policy that if approved would allow businesses to apply for tax abatements for six to ten years depending upon the use of the property. For Dewey, she will maintain her business at the back of the main floor while offering a variety of Yoga classes in front. The second floor will house two 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartments.
Because of the extent of the renovations, the Council awarded Dewey a 9-year OPRA Certificate. With this and the $250,000 Build MI Community Grant to remove the façade on the Trowbridge side of the building and refurbish the original windows, Dewey stated that she has checked all the boxes and is ready to get to work.
Commission reports kept the Council abreast of the work of the Airport Advisory Board that reviewed and revised its Airport Layout Plan (APL) to take into consideration changes to the turf runway. In addition, the Council updated the Airport Capital Improvement Plan and discussed how ACIP funds could be used for replacement items but not for painting. The $104,000 left from FY2019 MAP funds were transferred to the Coleman A. Young Airport (DET).
The Historic District Commission moved through the approval of two requests – one for 402 Trowbridge that was the Safe Harbor Office and will become a second home to Little Tigers Learning Center, and one to replace the sign at Orton Tooman, PC. The members then discussed steps for how they wished to operate using the report presented in November 2022 and the current ideas generated by the commission.
Mayor Galloway shared that the Downtown Development Authority was updated on the Downtown Improvement Project, the pouring of sidewalks, and steering committee for Wayfinding Signage. An update on the status of the Match on Main grant from the MEDC to the City of Allegan on behalf of Heronmark was successful. Options were discussed for the restrooms on the Riverfront and the dumpster fences around the city.
The Council approved accounts payable in the amount of $2,418,355.03 and payroll in the amount of $115,413.82 for a total disbursement of $2,533,768.85.
Water Utilities Director Doug Sweeris came to the podium to request the approval of a purchase order for System Specialists to provide three diverting and isolation valves for the Water Resource Recovery Facility in the amount of $12,566.00. These pieces have gone beyond fixing to replacement status.
Director Sweeris then requested the approval of a purchase order for Kennedy Industries to provide replacement parts for the JWC Septage Honey Monster in the amount of $14,200.00.
The parts for Sub-station 2 cannot hold another weld so a replacement is needed.
In mid-June 2023, Sweeris had to call on NorthWest Kent Mechanical and Waste Recovery Systems to perform an emergency repair on the Eastern Avenue lift station force main. The city water utilities staff were able to locate the problem, but the hydro excavator services were needed to prevent raw sewage from spreading. The Council accepted the report regarding payment for the emergency work performed. Perrigo will reimburse the city for the invoice because the degradation of the force main was caused by their industrial discharge.
AT&T had contacted the city regarding the renewal of their lease agreement for the use of the water tower on Western Avenue. After consideration and conversations with other municipalities, City Manager Dye could not agree to AT&T’s terms. In the end, the Council approved the extending of the lease until February 14, 2045, with the current 3% escalator applied each year. In addition, AT&T must repair the damage done to the tower by their contractor.
The request to construct six dumpster enclosures in Downtown Allegan was approved. But the Council wanted to make sure an ordinance was completed on the use of waste material receptacles in the Downtown area, and that the ordinance would be clarified for all businesses and residents Downtown. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) had suggested beginning the program in January rather than starting during construction. Implementation in January 2024 would give time for everyone to be advised.
Communications from City Manager, Council & Mayor
Director Sweeris updated the Council on the water loss report. Numbers have improved and are under 20% now. Leaks were located in the Mill District and along Marshall St. He will continue monitoring their progress toward rectifying the problem.
Parker Johnson reminded the Council that Rollin’ on the River and Fork in the Road were coming to a close which signaled the end of summer. On the other hand, the Griswold Auditorium will be quite busy with the Allegan Area Art Council’s Art Camp; the Thursday meeting of the Mothers Against Drumk Drivers; Friday’s set up for Saturday concert that is almost completely sold out; Sunday’s private rental; the Allegan Area Education Service Center meeting on Monday; and a private reception the next Saturday.
Dave Redding inquired as to the Powerhouse for the dam. Dye shared that a regular check was made on the sagging roof, but there were no plans for removing the structure.
Delora Andrus reminded Council members that the coloring contest is still online.
Roger Bird shared that he and some of the city staff had visited the growing plant facility. Plants are growing, and there are plans to expand.
Mayor Galloway reminded Council of City Manager Dye’s evaluation on Aug. 30th at 5:30pm. Evaluations should be completed and ready for review and discussion.