‘Skateboards are for tricks, longboards are for transportation’ —Levi Raymond
by Beth Altena
There were sixteen people in attendance at the Monday, July 9 meeting of the Rockford City Council. Everyone learned a little something about longboards based on the comments of Levi Raymond, who asked the council to consider separating longboards from skateboards in local rules on using the boards in the downtown district.
“I used to have a bike, now I have a longboard. Longboards are for transportation, skateboards are for tricks.” He said he disliked driving his car to visit downtown Rockford from his home on Fremont, and downtown is probably better off without his car adding to parking.
The meeting began with city manager comments by Thad Beard. He said the city had been having meetings with local townships about the planned expansion of the Krause Memorial Library. The city closed on a home adjacent to the library on June 29 and city crews have removed some items from the yards.
“It is expected to be razed in the future. The exterior isn’t pretty but we believe it is safe.” He said city firefighters may train in the structure prior to demolition.
“The street work is going well,” Beard stated. “It’s hot, it’s a mess, we are disrupting the lives of our residents. We hope the contractors are being nice.” He said himself and city staff will meet on site at West Bridge Street to talk about the proposed sidewalks that have caused controversy.
Beard said the city had opened up bids on the Rogue River Boardwalk from Bridge Street to Ten Mile and the bids came back not in the city’s favor. “The issue is the cost of metal,” he said. “The bids were greatly in excess of what we were expecting.” He said there is no hurry to completing the project and the city will rebid in the fall when construction is less busy. Contractors said tariffs have made the price of steel fluctuate from day to day and contractors would not even quote a price until the day they are going to purchase the steel. He said the one contractor who did give the city a bid is one they know and have used in the past, but the quote was too high. “Not at this cost.”
Finally, Beard said the sustainability issue, brought up by Mindy Miner in last month’s meeting is a hot topic. It was featured on the front cover of the Michigan Municipal League newsletter. “We hope to establish some dates for work sessions or small group discussions soon.” He noted the agenda for the evening’s meeting was by far the shortest since he’s been in Rockford.
Rockford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Southwick began public comments by thanking the city staff again for all their hard work during Start of Summer. “It seems like forever ago,” she noted. Weather did not cooperate and attendance was down by ten percent, but the event was a big success and was very safe.
Al Pratt spoke on behalf of the Rockford Area Museum and said attendance has been up. Many visitors from Rockford’s Golden R Reunion (Rockford graduates from 50 years ago or longer) stopped in and enjoyed the facility. He said he loves listening to the stories he hears from them. Also, a young family moving here from Lansing because of the school system, stopped by and spent an hour. They promised to be back.
Planning is underway for a banquet to celebrate the fifth year of the museum in the current location. It will be September 27 at 7 p.m. at Boulder Creek Country Club. He said that date will coincide with the one weekend of Harvest Fest and the first weekend of the scarecrow making event.
“We think it will be the largest scarecrow making event in the country and hope to have 2,000 scarecrows made. He said volunteers are cutting twine and sewing t-shirts into heads, very exciting.
The first of several people stood to talk about the proposed West Bridge Street sidewalks and talked about unfunded mandates. She said the city requires residents to clear their sidewalks of snow and thus adding sidewalks places a burden on homeowners they didn’t have before.
Next Levi Raymond spoke about longboards and skateboards.
A resident who said he lives at the development on the top of West Bridge Street asked how the city decides where to put sidewalks. He said if you allow five feet for a boulevard and five feet for the sidewalk that takes up a lot of space on a cul de sac, which is a circle. He said if he has to clear a sidewalk of snow there is no place to put it and street plowers will push it back onto the sidewalk again. “How do you decide where you put the sidewalks?”
Mayor Steve Jazwiec said the comment section is for comments, not questions and the speaker responded, “I’m asking a comment.”
The next speaker said, “This is a city, it’s our city. I hope we’d all have a voice in what happens. He said he kept hearing about the sidewalk issue but never had any information until he received a letter about them. He said he had the same concerns as the other lady and the city is putting a lot of liability onto neighbors.
“I’m at the end. I know where the snow is going. It’s going on my flowerbeds.” He said his cul de sac is just nine houses and no one wants sidewalks there. He asked the city to please reconsider.
Beard said later that council doesn’t explain itself during the meetings, but they have already taken consideration of the neighbors concerns into account. First they were told the sidewalks would be too close to the property so they omitted the easement and planned the sidewalks right against the curb, eliminating the need to remove trees the residents were so concerned about. Plus the sidewalks were originally planned for both sides of the street and that has also been eliminated to alleviate concerns.
“This comment about having to keep the sidewalks clear is a new one to me,” he stated.
A mayoral appointment for National Nite Out was unanimously approved for August 7 (always the first Tuesday in August). The consent agenda was unanimously approved as well.
Under new business council voted to approve purchase of several pieces of machinery that all came in under bid. A brush cutter attachment estimated at $6,000 was bid at just over $5,000 and a tilt bed equipment trailer was estimated at $6,600 came in with a low bid from Bobcat at $5650. The high bid was $8,181. “I’m glad we are not going with the Cadillac version of this,” Beard stated.
Rates will go up for various services the city offers, from renting the Community Cabin to burial rites and all are well within what other communities charge, Beard said. Costs for the Community Cabin will be monitored in the future to get a better idea if the facility use is being subsidized by the General Fund or paying for itself. Beard said he suspects it is being subsidized. In the past those costs were grouped in with park funding so the real cost is unknown. The rate is increasing from $250 to $275. Service groups like Lions and Rotary use the building for free.
Councilman Terry Konkle asked about burial rites, which are nearly doubling. Department of Public Works Director Jamie Davies said that involves several hours, finding the right plot, digging up the plot. He said the “foundation” referred to in the document is the square footing underneath the headstone.
The Planning Commission, Downtown Development Authority and Rockford Area Endowment did not meet. The Board of Zoning Appeals did meet for two matters, one was approve and one was not.
Mayor Jazwiec wanted to use the miscellaneous time to discuss the idea of a sustainability commission. He said he believes it should consist of only city residents. He said he thought a commission of eleven people was too big and the suggested seven sounded better. Apparently talking about bylaws he saw, he suggested city staff would not have to be present at meetings. “It’s something we need to do. Others are doing it.”
Konkle said he thought the whole council should meet to discuss the idea and said he had a “lot of concerns.” He said people from the city’s other commissions should be involved in the discussion because some of the ideas are things they already do. Beard suggested bringing in a professional, perhaps someone from the Michigan Municipal League.
“At no cost to us?” Jazwiec asked.
“That would be the intent,” Beard answered. “We want our sustainability commission to be sustainable.”
Councilman Coon said he thought Al Pratt was being modest and that museum attendance is up because of the quality of the facility and the reputation it has built. Councilwoman Melissa Young thanked Levi for this skateboard/longboard comments.
Councilman Konkle said he went to the Golden R and heard many good comments about the museum. He said he went up to highlands looking for the crooked curbs but couldn’t find them. (The Squire incorrectly called sidewalks crooked, not curbs, sorry for the mistake) The man who called them snakes in the grass said they are up to the left on Glen Cairn.
Konkle said he is impressed with two renovation projects he saw, McDonald’s and Glik’s. “It’s nice they want to keep their businesses here and put money into a prosperous Rockford.” He said Glik’s worked with the museum for old photos they installed. “They care about history.”
Mayor Jazwiec brought up pickleball and wondered why Rockford doesn’t have it. He discussed this with Algoma Township and Rockford Public Schools. He noted the Meijer State Games had 550 participants here and pickleball is “something that might happen.”
Finally, when will the Corner Bar open? The town has watched the dramatic transformation this past year. Jazwiec said he hears from everyone they want to know when it will open. Southwick said she heard owner Jeff Wolfe is hoping the business will open August 14, the one year anniversary of the fire.