By Paul Garrod
LAWTON – A new Lawton village manager was approved at the Nov. 14 Lawton Village Council meeting.
Todd Hackenberg, the current village Department of Public Works Superintendent, was selected to fill the village manager’s post that had been held by Lisa Imus. Imus recently resigned from the post to accept a new position with Van Buren County government.
Lawton Village Council President Josh Appleby told the village council that a hiring committee had met to hire a new village manager. President Appleby said the committee was unanimous in recommending Hackenberg, now serving as interim village manager, to take the position permanently. President Appleby said contract talks with Hackenberg would be forthcoming.
Council member Nicole Smith said it would be good for village continuity to have someone as vested as Hackenberg in the village for the long term.
In a related area, the council approved a motion to give Hackenberg a raise of $2.50 an hour increase to be retroactive, effective Oct. 16.
The village council also approved a request from the Lawton Lions Club to hold Christmas in the Village, Dec. 8, beginning at 7 p.m. The Lions Club was given approval to host Santa in the Village Hall Community Room, while the Lawton Library would host Christmas crafts.
In another area, the council approved a request from Heather Shannon, representing the Lawton Summerfest Committee, to place the village Christmas tree at Reid’s Corner in downtown Lawton. Shannon said it would coincide with Christmas in the Village, with a tree lighting on Dec. 8, at 6:30 p.m. The committee will decorate the tree with lights, as well as decorate the square.
The council also approved a proposal from Lawton Public Library Director Lyn Tone to have local artist, Jackie McDowell, paint non-licensed characters in the hallway to the library entrance.
Tone said the library will serve as a hub for Michigan Legal Self Help. Also, the council approved an updated library lease agreement. Tone said the lease agreement was scheduled to be brought up for approval at this month’s library board meeting.
The council approved a resolution to update the Village of Lawton personal policies that all fulltime DPW employees be allowed a $325 clothing allowance per year, and all parttime and seasonal DPW and all part time and seasonal DPW employees to be allowed a $250 clothing allowance per year.
Interim Manager Hackenberg reported that with the DPW union increasing the amounts of clothing allowance for fulltime employees of the DPW, and the cost of inflation, this resolution will bring the village handbook in compliance with the union contract. It will also give seasonal and parttime more clothing allowance.
Following a discussion, the village council approved Ordinance 03-2023, an ordinance to amend the Zoning Map and modify the zoning map designation of 325 Walker St. from I-1 Light Industrial to R-3 Single Family Residential.
The Village of Lawton Planning Commission held a public hearing at their last meeting in reference to the ordinance and made a recommendation to the council. The current owner and tenants were in attendance. The property, a single-family home, is located across the street from Welch’s property. It is currently zoned industrial; however, the village’s future land use map details it as being a transitional strip of property, meaning it can be done between industrial and residential uses.
The village council was informed this particular property is the only one outside of that strip because it is rental property and current tenants wish to purchase it. The tenants, who have lived there approximately 10 years, could get assisted financing; however, the financial institution will not lend money to them if the home is in an industrial zone. The village zoning ordinance states if the property should be destroyed, the home cannot be rebuilt because it is a non-conforming property.
The council also approved a motion to enter into a contract with the Van Buren Conservation District (VBCD) for its recovery and recycling program. Lawton Village Council President Josh Appleby said the village council has approved previous community recycling and recovery support with VBCD.
The council approved upcoming holiday hours for the village hall, following a recommendation from Lawton Village Clerk Brittany Rathbun.
Rathbun said the village hall office will be closed the afternoon of Dec. 22, from 2 to 5 p.m. for a Christmas staff party. It will also be closed Dec. 25 and 26 in observance of Christmas Eve and Christmas holidays, and Dec. 29 through Jan. 1 in observance of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Council members also approved canceling the Dec. 26 meeting.
Village Manager Hackenberg reported that Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has a planned start date of April 14, 2024, and planned completion date of the Aug. 23, 2024, for the M-40 project. Hackenberg said he is planning to meet with businesses and discuss concerns they may have about the project. He said there will be no wide load permits allowed on M-40 during that time.
It was announced that the Lawton DDA will once again hold “Deck the House” holiday house decorating contest, following the same guidelines as last year. Eligible homes will need to be within two miles of the village limit. Deadline for contest entry is Dec. 11, with judging on Dec. 14, between 7 and 9 p.m.
Council members Eric Dudek and Nicole Smith both expressed comments saying that they would like to see Lawton Village Council second meetings of the month become more discussion-based meetings and less formal meetings, moving to more of a committee of a whole structure. Fellow council members were in unanimous agreement this should occur going forward.