By BETH ALTENA
Rockford City Council unanimously approved the purchase of a home directly south of the present library building at 140 E. Bridge St. in downtown Rockford. The vote took place during the city council meeting held Monday, April 8 after a ceremony honoring two women’s lifesaving heroic efforts last February.
Other business took place during the meeting. In City Manager Thad Beard’s comments, he noted that the recently held Recognition Night, to honor all the volunteers who give their time to the community, was standing room only and with a full City Hall parking lot. He said there are 11 boards that serve the city, 64 positions and 20 citizen volunteers on the Department of Public Safety. “Being new here, everything looks new and fresh, it was amazing.”
In public comments, Rockford Area Museum director Al Pratt said people from Glik’s are looking for old photos of Rockford for décor in their building when the renovation is finished. He teased that the Make It Take It Scarecrow Event might have a sponsor.
Rockford Chamber Director Linda Southwick said the downtown businesses have decided to change the dates for the annual sidewalk sales to August 2 through 4. She said the office has received lots of calls about the schedule for the Blues on the River concert series that takes place every Tuesday evening during the summer.
The consent agenda was opened to discussion and Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Scales corrected the first item, which either called an architect and engineer or the other way around.
Under New Business, bidding for work on Pearl and Donald streets came in lower than the estimate of $427,000 at $405,000 for the low bid. Scales asked when that work was supposed to start. The preference is to begin after school lets out for the year, but until the financing is in place it is hard to know for sure.
Councilwoman Melissa Young asked if sanitary sewer upgrades are included in that project. City Manager Thad Beard said it was, but it won’t be used until it is needed, which will likely be soon.
Bridge Street (west of the Bridge Street bridge) reconstruction will begin soon, including the street, curb and gutter. Estimates are coming in at the mid to high $800,000s. The work will include curb to curb work, new sidewalks and elevations on the road, including a retaining wall on the north side to protect the sidewalk. A vote to accept the low bid of Dean’s Excavating was moved by Young, seconded by Terry Konkle and
Council discussed the development of Highlander, Phase 5 with five foot sidewalks, a trail system with six foot sidewalks. There are two phases of development left to go in the area, Phases 6 and 7. Beard said there would not be improvements to the park until after the next phase, and fifty percent of the lots have to have building permits before the next phase is started. “That has not been a problem,” Beard said.
The next item on the agenda was the sale of capital improvement bonds. Beard said he wished he had the treasurer here and she showed up then. She said the bids are out currently and she would be in the following Wednesday to tabulate and put together the bond package and close on it. The city should then get the money mid May and work to get the best competitive price for ten years worth of road work. Altogether she said the city will spend a little over $3 million. She said she hoped for a 3.3 percent annual percentage rate in interest. Young moved to approve the bonds, seconded by Konkle.
The next agenda item was advertised by Beard as “new and exciting.” It is a potential 95 percent grant from Michigan Department of Transportation to repair bridges. He said the grantees must show a need for the project and identified the project as the bridge over Rum Creek on Main Street (near the Footwear Depot). The bridge needs to be replaced and repaved and is also a culvert. “We are working on a letter of support,” he said. “It’s exciting, it’s new, but it is slow. It looks like we would receive the money in 2021.”
Mayor Steve Jazwiec asked if the city has to wait, and if it wouldn’t be possible to do the repairs now and be reimbursed. Beard said the answer was yes and no. Scales pointed out that it doesn’t cost anything to pursue the grant. Beard said the city would still be responsible for paying for five percent of the cost. A motion was moved by Scales and seconded by Young to proceed with the grant process. It was unanimously approved.
Discussion began about the purchase of a truck crane for the Department of Public Safety. “This is something that is not critical but important for safety,” Beard explained. “A crane is much more precise than a backhoe.” He said the only vendor offering the crane is the same company selling the truck it would be attached to. It was unanimously approved.
The next item on the agenda was about the expansion of Krause Library, identified years ago as in need of expansion. The library is owned by the City but used by people outside city limits as well as city residents. Krause has the highest per capita circulation rate, right up there with the East Grand Rapids Library on Reeds Lake. “The library could do even better in an upgraded facility,” Beard explained. “A library is an asset, certainly, when trying to life the game for the entire community. A library is key .”
The discussion was about purchase of a home adjacent to the library on the south side of the parking area and across from City Hall. Council voted unanimously to approve proceeding with the purchase. Earlier other sites around the city were explored with no good option to have a larger library footprint. Raising the currently library to two stories is also an option that has been proven to be less ideal than a larger one story building. The owners have been open to selling the house.
A public hearing on a new stormwater ordinance was discussed and stated that another public hearing was also scheduled for April. Its intention is to further protect Rum Creek and properties abutting Rum Creek from future development. Twenty seven units of government are working together with the Grand Valley Metro Council to develop stormwater rules, including maintenance agreements.
“Because we are ahead of the game we will be in a position to create some documents. This will put us in line with the county,” Beard stated.
On the activity of boards and commissions, Beard said the Planning Commission will be looking at Highlands development restrictive covenants to be amended. The Downtown Development Authority did not meet in March and the Board of Zoning Appeals did not meet. The Economic Development Commission met to review previous efforts to market downtown and is reorganizing to market while so much development is taking place. It will create obstacles.
The Rockford Area Community Endowment met, and is not having a banquet this year. There were no miscellaneous items brought up, leaving council comments to end the meeting. Terry Konkle said he wanted to echo Beard’s thoughts about Recognition Night. “All those people give their time and expertise.” He said he also really enjoys the city’s new website and facebook page.
Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Scales also thanked all the volunteers who give of their time. She also commented regarding the decision to purchase a home and expand Krause Library. “This is an important day. We’ve talked about a library expansion for years.”
“I’d just like to thank everyone, whether in saving a life or in the vote for the library,” said Melissa Young .
Mayor Steve Jazwiec commented, “This is an emotional night. Those two women who saved somebody’s life, it’s a great story. And now the library. These are exciting times.”