By BETH ALTENA
The regular meeting of the Rockford City Council opened at 7 p.m. and adjourned at 7:51 p.m. However, the meeting covered a lot of ground and was observed in the audience by two of five people interested in earning a spot on the board this November. Five people have put their hats in for the seats, according to City Manager Thad Beard. See related survey prepared by the Rockford PAC in this week’s issue.
The meeting began with Beard’s comments, which he kept brief. He discussed progress to involve nearby townships with the Krause Memorial Library as the library nears a major and much anticipated expansion. He said three townships, Algoma, Cannon and Courtland, have expressed interest in joining forces in some sort of authority to partner with Kent District Library over operations.
“It is slow process to share ownership in the future,” Beard stated. Currently City of Rockford residents represent one quarter of the users of Krause, which is the most heavily trafficked library in the district. Beard said the townships have asked Branch Manager Jennifer German and District Director Lance Warner to attend their meetings to discuss the prospect. Beard said it is encouraging to see this go forward.
The residential property to be removed for the expansion is still standing. Asbestos abatement had to be completed. “I expected it to be razed by now,” Thad said. The abatement is now complete and the building can either be trained in by firefighters or razed or removed. Beard said there is some historical significance to the structure, but with the character of the building changed dramatically over the years he is not sure it is worth saving on a historic basis.
He mentioned five candidates for council seats and noted there will be two seats on this November’s ballot.
Beard addressed the “detours and dirt in the road” due to ongoing construction. He said there have obviously been complaints about the rain and dirt but he has been pleasantly surprised by the patience of homeowners and the consideration of the contractors. He said Jamie (Davis, Director of Public Works) has been intervening with any issues. Beard also said the boardwalk behind the Promenade is in the process of being replaced.
Beard ended by noting Harvest Fest is around the corner and he marks the event as a one year milestone for his tenure here in Rockford. He especially looks forward to the “Jones Car Show.”
Mayor Steve Jazwiec said he had received an email complaint about trash pick up on Bridge Street. Beard said that was one of the more entertaining complaints than most. A resident complained that trash service was interrupted due to construction but it turned out the holiday week put the collection back one day.
Jeff Lewis and Ken Phillips were in the audience during the evening’s meeting and are two of the five people interested in becoming a councilmember.
Public comments were up next on the agenda and a surrogate for candidate Deb Havens stood to talk about her interest in representing the people of Rockford on the Kent County Board of Commissioners, Kent County District One. He said she is a Rockford High School graduate who had a conflicting meeting that evening. He said she feels Kent County can be more proactive on issues, such as water contamination.
The next speaker is a resident of Prospect Street who complained the city’s construction information has not been updated online. She said she does not know what is still to be done and her road has been dug up three times. “The aprons to our driveways are all washed away,” she said.
Beard responded to her comments. He said “It is very straightforward. It is behind.” He said the road was dug up three times because three different utilities had to do upgrades. He said stormdrains will go in right away, reinstall of curb and gutter, concrete driveway base and sidewalks are all happening shortly.
“I share your frustration. It’s been longer and it’s still not done. We will get the information out to everyone and especially to you.” The speaker added that school busses will not cross the construction and kids are having to walk through it.
Jim Wendling, creator and organizer of Open Mic Night, said his program runs twelve Thursdays in summer. He likes to thank the city every year and this year’s line up had no rain days.
“You never know who is going to show up,” he said. He said lots of young people attend and perform and this year a twelve year old girl who has been practicing in a stage her dad built performed. “Whole families show up for this,” he said. The Open Mic Night is in its eleventh year.
Linda Southwick, Director of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, said Harvest Festival is coming right up, including the Rotary chicken dinner on Friday and Saturday and there will be a chili cookoff, car show and much more. Harvest Festival is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 28, 29 and 30.
Al Pratt, from the Rockford Area Historical Museum, talked about the horrible loss of Paul Krupp from the Rockford Community. He said he always heard the story that when Paul Krupp and Pete Kruer came across each other Pete would pull out his wallet without saying a word. He said Paul was always on hand to fundraise and support all Rockford community endeavors. Without Paul there would not be a museum or a John Sjogren memorial. The loss to Rockford is unmeasureable.
The Scarecrow contest event is fast approaching and volunteers are still needed. Boulder Creek Country Club will host the fifth anniversary banquet for the Rockford Museum and it will take place September 27.
The next speaker described herself as at “ground zero” for the construction. She wanted to thank Dean’s Excavating for repeatedly cleaning up messes that other contractors did not clean up. She said there is a newly-formed delta due to rain and mess and the city’s facebook page was posted incorrectly and never fixed. She said the “real crook in our craw” was that mailboxes have been temporarily moved to the opposite side of the road on a blind corner. “It’s just not a tenable situation.” She said she has been gracious, despite a toilet in her front yard, but she and neighbors would appreciate some communication.
Mayoral appointments and proclamations included approving a Museum Month and a Memorial for late city manager Michael Young.
On the consent agenda Jerry Coon clarified a payment to Algoma Township of two of the city’s 12.9 mills, leaving the city to keep 10.9 mills, which he called “fair to them, fair to us.”
Everyone talked awhile about purchasing a city chipper for $57,176 with three accessories, a hydraulic jack, a winch and a light. The old chipper will go to auction with funds from the sale going to the motorpool. This was approved unanimously.
An amendment was approved for the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Grant that will be used to acquire real property south below Ten Mile and Bridge Street. Beard described that as “in process.” The money is a seventy-five, twenty-five match with state versus city money. The city proposes increasing city costs because prices have been going up and likely will go up over the next two year window allowable for purchase by the grant.