City officials are hosting a fundraiser, offering area residents a chance to purchase T-shirts or hoodies, to help Ludington Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Kurt Malzahn and his family with medical expenses.
Malzahn, who was found unconscious by a water treatment plant employee Friday evening at the bottom of a valve pit at Brye Road booster station in Amber Township, was hospitalized at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital and was later flown via AeroMed to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.
City Manager Mitch Foster told the Daily News on Tuesday people can purchase either T-shirts or hoodies with the words “Malzahn strong” printed on them, and that the proceeds from the sale of those items will go to Malzahn and his family.
“When all this occurred with Kurt, we had a couple different staff members in the department who wanted to help Kurt and his family out,” Foster said.
He said order forms for the shirts are now available at Ludington City Hall, 400 S. Harrison St.
The T-shirts and hoodies will come in designs reminiscent of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University logos.
“Kurt loves Michigan,” Foster said.
The clothing is made by 2nd Shift Graphics and Tees of Ludington. T-shirts are $15 and hoodies are $25 for small, medium, large and extra-large sizes. Costs are $18 for T-shirts or $30 for hoodies in sizes 2XL or larger.
“Drop off order forms and payment at city hall,” Foster said. “All of the net proceeds will go to Kurt and his family.”
Foster said Jackie Steckel, assistant to the city manager, is in the process of developing other ways for people to help the Malzahns.
“We’re working toward also working with the family and setting up a separate bank account, where people can donate money and it will go directly to the family,” Foster said. “We’re also looking for help with transportation and food for the family as well.”
Steckel can be contacted at (231) 690-2398 or in person at the city hall building for more information about those planned fundraising campaigns, which have yet to get underway, according to Foster.
Ludington Police Sgt. Tony Kuster told the Daily News late Tuesday that an account was set up to benefit Malzahn through West Shore Bank.
“Primarily, right now, it’s the T-shirts and sweatshirts, but we’d also be willing to accept direct donations as well,” Foster said.
Regarding Malzahn’s condition, Foster said that, as of Tuesday, they’re still waiting on new information.
“There are no real updates at this point,” he said. “The family and Kurt could still use everyone’s prayers and thoughts as they go through this difficult time. We ask that the community do the same, and help in any way they’re able to… whether that’s buying a T-shirt or hoodie, or helping with food or transportation.”
The Daily News previously reported that Malzahn sustained injuries to his head and leg during the incident on Friday.
On Monday, Foster said Malzahn was determined to have “fairly significant” bleeding on the left side of his brain that was successfully treated by neurosurgeons at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.
He also sustained damage to the skin tissue in his leg and underwent an operation to relieve internal pressure. He has also been put on dialysis for his kidneys, according to Foster.
As of Monday, detectives from the Ludington Police Department, as well as Mason County Sheriff’s Office deputies, were investigating the incident to determine the cause of the injuries.
The possibility that Malzahn fell while working in the 8- to 10-foot valve pit is being explored, according to Foster.
It has been more than two years since Eric Lund underwent his double-arm transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Lund lost his arms in Afghanistan in May 2012, when the vehicle he and his fellow U.S. Army National Guard 126th Cavalry Charlie Troop soldiers were traveling in struck a roadside bomb. The vehicle overturned and landed on top of Lund, and a firefight followed. His arms had to be amputated above the elbow while he was in Germany healing from his wounds.
Not a day goes by that Lund said he doesn’t think about the donor and their family.
“I do not know the name of the person,” Lund said.
But, he said if he could talk with the donor’s family today, he would thank them for giving him a second chance.
Lund said he received a Christmas card from a friend of the donor’s family, but they did not disclose any information about the donor.
“I will make the most of this gift,” he said.
Since the surgery, Lund has been through a rigorous treatment of physical therapy. Sessions are five days a week for several hours a day, with the goal of one day being able to pick up his tools again and work with his hands.
“I liked to work with my hands before, and I would like to do that again,” he said. “I used to work on my own car, and I built houses for a while.”
Lund said it has been difficult paying people to do stuff around his house that he knows how to do.
Today, Lund finds himself traveling back and fourth between his home in Ludington and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He spends three weeks in physical therapy for his hands at Walter Reed and one week in rehabilitation, seeing a hand specialist at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital.
“It has been a slow process,” Lund said. “It is getting gradually better.”
Lund said he can flex and extend all of his fingers, but he doesn’t have full strength yet, at least in his left hand.
Lund started rehabilitation immediately after the surgery. He started out by picking up foam blocks, and has progressed to now, two years later, to picking up a television remote.
Lund does have feeling in his hands, and has pretty good control when he’s picking up heavier items.
“I have feeling down into some of the fingers, and a littler higher up it is more localized. I can tell where it is being pressed,” he said over the phone. “I can feel if I bang my finger on something.”
Lund said that while spending time in Baltimore he has enjoyed getting out and exploring the city.
“There’s a lot of history here,” he said.
Lund said he likes the museums, and he has gone to see the Washington Nationals and D.C. United play this season. He even saw the World Series trophy up close and personal, when the Major League Baseball world champion Nationals brought it to Walter Reed following their game seven win against the Houston Astros.
Lund said he also really enjoys the seafood around the Baltimore area.
He recently decided to have surgery to correct a discrepancy in his legs, which also occurred in the 2012 battle in Afghanistan.
“In the blast I hurt my right leg, and when it healed back together there was about two-and-a-half centimeter differences between them,” he said. “Because of the difference I had to wear special shoes, and that has affected my gait, which could lead to back problems in the future. So I decided while I was here in Bethesda, this would be the best time to address the issue.”
Lund said now that he’s had the surgery his legs are even again, but he is finding it difficult to walk because he had compensated for the discrepancy for so long. It will take about three months before Lund can start running on the leg.
Lund is currently rehabilitating his legs five days a week in the afternoon following his morning rehabilitation session for his hands. He is expected to return home to Ludington next spring.
Also, this past spring and summer, he participated in a golf clinic and met with pro golfer Bob Estes, who gave Lund some tips.
“I have a device that the prosthetics department made for me,” Lund said. “Golf went really well this season. It is also part of the physical therapy; we play once a week.”
Lund said they have about seven or eight sessions, and they put on a clinic that pairs people in physical therapy with a professional to get some golf tips.
Lund said he is looking forward to getting back to Ludington in the spring to get some yard work done. As far as future goals, he is hoping to one day be able to drive again and get his independence back.
6900 Wisconsin Ave.
P.O. Box 5789
Bethesda, MD 20824-7601
Ludington’s water and sewer rates could increase for 2020 and again for each of several years afterward, to compensate for the rising cost of living and since the city is preparing to pay for replacing lead pipes.
Utility Financial Solutions, which specializes in water rate studies for municipalities and was contracted by Ludington, recommended the city increase the rate for drinking water by about 7.5 percent overall. The sewer rate would increase closer to 2 percent, which is assumed to be the inflation or cost of living amount.
If approved, the proposed rate increases are estimated to cost an average household a total of an additional $5.40 per billing quarter, according to City Manager Mitch Foster.
The water readiness-to-serve charge, which is fixed based on the size of the user’s water meter, is proposed to be raised in 2020 from $7.95 to $9.75 per quarter for the typical household. The water commodity rate, which is based on user consumption by volume, would also increase from $2.05 to $2.15 per 100 cubic feet of water.
The city’s sanitary sewer rate is also proposed to increase by about 2 percent overall for the fixed quarterly charge, as well as for the commodity charge from $3.05 to $3.11 per 100 cubic feet of sewage water.
This Monday, the Ludington City Council heard a first presentation of the proposed rates. The council is expected to vote on whether or not to approve the rate changes during its meeting at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 9 at city hall.
Councilor Dave Bourgette noted that Ludington currently charges less than many other municipalities for its water and sewer rates.
“Not that it’s good news for anybody, but it’s inevitable that the rates are going to have to come up a bit,” Bourgette commented. “That’s why I think we’re doing a nice ... in-between: we’re not going to go up 14 percent, and we’re not going to go with (just the 2 percent) cost of living (increase). I think the 7.5 (increase) for five years is a good place to start.”
As part of Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule, the state has mandated that drinking water providers, like the City of Ludington — regardless of lead contamination levels — must replace all lead service lines at a rate of 5 percent per year, and the replacements must be done within 20 years, unless an alternate work schedule is approved by the state.
Ludington is currently inventorying the total number of lead lines in the city. It is believed that Ludington does have a large number of short, lead goosenecks in its water service lines, which connect buildings’ pipes to the city’s water mains. Following the state’s mandate, the entirety of the service line would have to be replaced, not just the section of lead pipe.
Dawn Lund, vice president of Utility Financial Solutions, presented its analysis and recommendations to the council Monday about how the city can afford to pay for its water infrastructure, including the cost of the lead line replacements, in the coming years.
Utility Financial Solutions created recommendations for two possible scenarios — if Ludington has to replace 50 percent of its lead lines or 100 percent of its lines — so that the council has a range advice ready for when the actual replacement number is known.
If Ludington has to replace 50 percent of its lead lines, then it is estimated to cost the city a total of $10 million, which would be spread out into $500,000 payments during a period of 20 years. If the city has to replace 100 percent, the total cost would be an estimated $20 million, with $1 million yearly payments.
For either outcome, in order to be prepared for the costs, the city would need to raise its water rates as well as likely borrow millions of dollars in bonds, Lund said.
“You could consider not bonding, by having more aggressive rate increases,” she noted, but added that a more balanced approach is advised.
“I’m trying to phase in the rate adjustments,” Lund said.
She recommended Ludington increase its water rates overall by 7.5 percent each year from 2020 through 2026, as well as by 2.5 percent each year from 2027 through 2037. That’s for the 50-percent lead line replacement scenario. For the 100-percent replacement outcome, the yearly increases are recommended to be 7.5 percent from 2020 through 2029, and 2.5 percent from 2030 through 2037.
She said that Ludington charges much less than many other municipalities for its water, both for its commodity rates and its readiness-to-serve.
“(Ludington is) currently charging $7.95 per quarter (for readiness-to-serve),” Lund noted. “In general, for a five-eighths-inch residential meter, across the country, I would expect that to be $12 to about $17 a month or $36 a quarter. I’m not proposing that, I’m just trying to give you an idea ... of the average monthly customer charges across the country.”
She recommended the increase of $7.95 to $9.75 per quarter for readiness-to-serve, and an increase of $2.05 to $2.15 per 100 cubic feet of water for commodity.
“The average residential customer will be affected by about $3.60 per quarter or $1.20 a month,” Lund added. “Sometimes rate increases can sound scary ... but when we break it down to the dollar impact per month for the average residential user, it’s about (an additional) $1.20 per month.”
Councilor Kathy Winczewski commented that the city having to pay for the lead line replacements is “a very depressing situation.”
“First of all, we have water and sewer rates that have been astronomically low for years and years, and that’s what we’re all used to, but we do need to increase those,” she said.
Winczewski said the council knew it would have to increase water and sewer rates to help pay for the recent and ongoing upgrades to the water and wastewater treatment plants.
“But the really big hit that’s going to kill all cities, villages and townships is this lead pipe situation, which the state is mandating that we must do at our expense. ... This is huge. We’ve just bonded out, (about) $34 million for our water and sewer plants, which we know was hard for us to do in the first place, but we had to do it; those plants are 45 years old — they had to be redone. So we bit the bullet ... so we’ll be repaying those (bonds) for the next maybe 36 years,” Winczewski said.
“Now, we’re looking at ... bonding out again, just for ... the lead pipe situation. (It’s) something close to $28 million again (in total cost). (The state is) burdening the city — not only us, but everybody else in Michigan — with an awful debt. It scares me. Even at 7.5-percent (water rate) increase, we’re still having to bond out millions of dollars.
“It really concerns me, and it’s frustrating that the State of Michigan mandates this with no financial help for any of us,” she added.
Michigan career networking event today
Re-Think West Michigan, a networking event for people who are home for the Thanksgiving holiday to interface directly with area business recruiters and HR professionals about current and future career opportunities in Mason County, is being held today from 5 to 7 p.m. at Stearns Hotel, 212 E. Ludington Ave.
Several area companies and nonprofit organizations will be at the happy hour-like gathering. The event is free and includes appetizers and drinks for attendees. Pre-registration is encouraged at www.rethinkwm.com.
Ludington is one of six cities in West Michigan hosting events throughout the region on the same night that target candidates who are living outside of West Michigan and are interested in relocating. This is a chance for job seekers to network with nine local employers and discuss available career opportunities in the Ludington area.
ReThink will be held in conjunction with Business After Hours, another local networking event hosted by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce that provides Mason County professionals a time of networking over drinks and appetizers. Cost is $5 for Chamber members and $10 for non-members.
The City of Ludington is one of 36 Michigan municipalities to recently receive certificates for environmental sustainability efforts.
Ludington for the first time participated in the Michigan Green Communities Challenge in 2019, and was awarded a bronze-level certification, which is the easiest of the three tiers — bronze, silver and gold.
Councilor Kathy Winczewski made the announcement Monday during the city council meeting. She attended the conference in Lansing on Nov. 21 to accept the award on the city’s behalf.
Winczewski, along with Councilor Cheri Rozell and city employees, filled out the application for the bronze award, which detailed some of the steps that Ludington and its community took toward environmental efficiency. Some of the local projects highlighted were the following:
• Ludington’s Tree Advisory Board, which “protect(s) the urban tree canopy;”
•the citywide recycling program;
•the city’s sidewalk ordinance, which focuses on improving the sidewalks of “the core area of the city to encourage non-motorized transportation;”
• a community sustainability team was established by the local environmental group AFFEW;
•installing more energy-efficient street lighting;
•the new apartments under construction at 225 Ludington Avenue and 200 Loomis Street are designed with efficiency heating and appliances.
“Those requirements allowed us to earn the bronze award,” Winczewski said, adding, “As a gesture towards our sustainability, the City Council of Ludington is going from plastic glasses to paper glasses.”
With that, the councilors, mayor and other officials raised their Dixie cups, and Winczewski said the aim next is to earn the silver certification.
“It may take us a year or two to get to the silver (award),” Winczewski said. “It’s a lot harder.”