New hire, cash windfall introduced at Council meeting

The regular council meeting of Monday, January 8. Pictured are Thad Beard, Melissa Young, Cheryl Scales, Steve Jazwiec, and Jerry Coon.

Nearly $8 million in building permits for 2017 is good news

By BETH ALTENA

Rockford has been approved for a Kent County Community Block grant for $96,000, which will fund a 1,500 section of linear feet of sidewalks on Courtland Drive, City Manager Thad Beard said at the regular council meeting Monday, January 8.

The new sidewalk will be from Ten Mile (past MVP) north on Courtland Drive on the left hand side of the road to Castle Way Court. It is phase one of a project will be at least two phases, possibly more and will end up with a sidewalk from Courtland Drive to the intersection of Eleven Mile on down to Northland Drive at Wolverine Boulevard.

Beard said originally the city had been approved for a $36,000 grant for the project, and then engineers realized it would cost significantly more. Beard said he applied for a grant to fund this new amount, which was approved. Phase two will be to continue the sidewalk to the intersection of Eleven Mile.

“I’m very pleased to spend no city dollars on this,” Beard said of the financial windfall.

He said a large number of students would be touring City Hall on Martin Luther King Day as a field trip. He said they were required to prepare written statements about what they would do about social injustice. Beard said he was interested to see what the students came up with.

Renovations are underway at the public restrooms at the Welcome Center. The work is being done by the Department of Public Service crew, who are also responsible for snow plowing in the city. “Depending on how the snow treats us, it could be another month or so,” before the project is complete. They are currently putting up drywall before replacing fixtures.

There is good news in the number of building permits issued by the City office in 2017, Beard told council. The dollar value of the permits is $7.8 million. “If it feels like we are busy, it is because we are busy,” he said. “This is a sign of the economy, the property values will be going up at least by that amount.” He said he was surprised when he saw the amount, and that’s why he brought it to council.

The city’s newest hire, Jennifer Vlas, who will, among other duties, help the city out in social media.

He also introduced the city’s newest hire, Jennifer Vlas, who will, among other duties, help the city out in social media.

Rockford Area Museum Director Al Pratt gave an update on the facility. “We winded down out year,” he said. The community has been very generous in donating artifacts. They recently held a budget meeting. “As always, we wish there was more income than expenses.” He said everyone survived the extreme cold and snow of the previous week. “As always, I thank you for all you do.”

Lynn McIntosh stood to comment. “I wish I had warm fuzzies, but I have deep concerns. I knew about the PFOS in 2013 but it took four years to get the DEQ to pay attention.” She said her neighborhood group was the organization to have the fish in the river tested. She warned that storm-water running over contaminated sites spreads the contamination.

“I’m not just trying to stop a development in my neighborhood, I really care.”

Council members tabled a discussion about appointing former councilwoman Tammy Bergstrom to the Board of Review. They then asked for clarification about contractors for the Tamarack Run development and a project to relocated the flow of storm-water into the old mill pond east of the development and south of Rum Creek. Beard said contractors have met with the Department of Natural Resources about the proposal and it looks like they may approve of the plan. “I won’t go so far as to say we will get a permit… I’m leery to say that will occur but it could occur.” Council commented that concerns of contamination and storm-water are valid and this would help with that concern.

“I really think this is a great long term project. It protects downstream partners and reduces the flow so it is not so destructive,” Beard stated.

Among new business the council considered repairs to the Glen Eagle water tower at a cost of $130,000. He said the work would be done in the spring when flow is lower. Jerry Coon moved to approve the work with Melissa Young seconding. They voted next to hire Dixon Engineering to administrate the job, moved by Cheryl Scales seconded by Melissa Young, passing unanimously.

They discussed a complicated easement arrangement for a sewer main on private residential property. The homeowners have an interest in having the main moved so they can complete an addition on their property so are willing to share the costs of moving the main. It was approved by Melissa Young, seconded by Cheryl Scales and passed unanimously.

Furnaces at the water plant came in significantly under budget. Two were budgeted as a $9,000 expense but came in quoted at $4,800. Terry Konkle moved to approve the purchase, seconded by Jerry Coon, passing unanimously.

Discussion about a new chlorine feed system was interesting. There are chlorine feeds in different areas of the water system. If too much chlorine is added at the plant, it gets flagged. If not enough is added at the plant, it become diluted by the time it reaches homes farther away from the plant. The new feed puts the chlorine in closer to homes that are farther away. Department of Public Services Director Jamie Davis summed up, “By the time it gets all the way to Heritage, it’s diluted, if we put more in, we get calls about chlorine smell in the water. The cost of the new chlorine feed is $11,800. Mayor Jerry Coon moved to approve the purchase, seconded by Cheryl Scales and it passed unanimously.

Upcoming boards and commission meetings were discussed. The Planning Commission will consider a special land use permit for a restaurant banquet facility in a former Road Commission garage on Northland Drive. Also, preliminary plans for Tamarack Run, Heritage Park phase five and a sign ordinance change.

The Downtown Development Authority will not meet in January. The Board of Zoning Appeals met, approving a sign request. Under current rules, signs require a ten foot setback in front or on the side of a building. The business owner asking for a variance does not have ten feet, so the board approved a three foot setback. Beard said most business owners cannot comply with the ten foot setback and the city will seek to amend the ordinance with which so many owners cannot comply.

The Rockford Area Community Endowment did not meet in December by were scheduled to meet at Cannon Township Hall Wednesday, January 10.

Miscellaneous items included a comment by Cherly Scales about Lynn McIntosh’s comments on storm-water and the Tamarack Run development and noted the developer is going above and beyond city ordinances in the development of the property. She also complimented Thad on working with property owners concerning the water main being relocated.

Terry Konkle thanked Al Pratt for his comments and thanked Thad for speaking at a recent Historical Society meeting. He said in September the group heard from the school districts Dr. Ryan Kelley, so they are up to date in both school and city matters. He also added that it was pretty nice items were coming in under budget. He complimented Jennifer on joining the city and being a graduate of Central Michigan University. “Fire up, Chips.”

Jerry Coon said he also went to Central Michigan University, somewhere in between Jennifer and Terry. He reminded everyone the Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner is Friday, January 19. “It is always a good time.”

Melissa Young said she has attended a library board meeting and Comstock Park and Plainfield libraries have had their water tested with no traces of PFOSs found.  Mayor Steve Jazwiec said Lynn had some good tannery concerns and that there will be another town hall meeting about contamination at the former tannery site. Cheryl Scales said she is also glad there will be another town hall meeting.