The Ludington City Council on Monday approved a change order totaling $1,044,797.79 for the ongoing wastewater treatment plant upgrade project.
Ludington City Manager Mitch Foster said that most of that amount will be paid for by the project’s budgeted contingency funds. However, the change order does result in the project’s approximately $20.6 million total cost increasing by about $450,000, Foster said.
Foster and Josh Redner, an engineer from Fishbeck Thompson Carr & Huber (FTCH), the firm overseeing the wastewater project, explained to the council that much of the costs of the change order relate to the expense of removing solid waste from the decommissioned sludge pond as required by the state.
The solid waste is bagged, drained of water and will be transported to be spread on agricultural fields, which is a process that is “two-thirds to three-fourths” complete, Redner said, clarifying that all the waste has been removed from the pond.
The cost is higher than anticipated because there was significantly more solid waste in the sludge pond than previously estimated by the sonar readings, Foster said.
“After 20 years of not doing true maintenance on the sludge pond, there is significantly more sludge in the pond than was initially anticipated,” Foster said. “So that is a large increase in the cost.”
Redner added that the pond hasn’t been truly emptied of waste in about 40 years.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep the cost in line, but there’s just a lot more sludge there than we anticipated,” Redner said.
The change order also modifies the method of payment with the contractor to be based on the waste’s dry ton weight — about 4,200 tons — rather than on the liquid gallon rate. Foster said the dry weight rate is an easier price to agree upon with the project’s contractors, Davis Construction and FTCH.
“This is a huge number for us to absorb … but this is something we have to do,” Councilor Kathy Winczewski said. “This is not a project we can stop at this point. We need our sewage treatment plant.”
To help finance the ongoing project, the city has $23,093,000 in 40-year bonds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Agency. This is the second change order to the project. The project began in mid-March and was estimated to take 18 months to two years to complete.
HARBOR VIEW MARINA
The council approved a $2,150 contract with Lakeshore Environmental Inc. for a phase I environmental study of Harbor View Marina.
The city has been in discussions to lease Harbor View Marina from its owner, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, once its current operators vacate the property.
The council banned the on-street parking of motor homes, campers and travel trailers on South Rath Avenue between Foster and Dowland streets.
The council also reconfigured the angled parking on Harrison Street in front of the Ludington Area Center for the Arts to add two additional regular parking spaces. It will retain two of the handicapped parking spaces but relocate them closer to the wheelchair ramp.
The council held a closed session to consult with its attorney regarding its trial settlement strategy for its ongoing court case between the city and residents Tom Rotta and Dianne Seelhoff. The council then reconvened open session and approved terms of settlement for the case, without disclosing the terms to the public.
The case is a civil lawsuit in 51st Circuit Court in which residents Rotta and Seelhoff allege that several of the city’s committees have at different times violated the Open Meetings Act, including specifically in the approval process of the splash pad to be built at Copeyon Park.
The council scheduled public hearings to be held during its 6:30 p.m., Sept. 9, meeting regarding establishing Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act (OPRA) districts for three different properties seeking rehabilitation tax exemptions.
The properties requesting OPRA districts are 801 N. Rowe St., which is the site of the proposed Lofts on Rowe apartment building; 925 S. Washington, which is a new facility in which Love Wines is planning to operate; and 115 S. James St., which is planned by Riemer Real Estate Investments to be renovated into two residential units in addition to its existing commercial space.
The council approved an application for an on-premise tasting room permit for Love Wines’ proposed facility at 925 S. Washington.
The council removed the minimum square footage for housing units requirement from the city’s adaptive reuse of existing buildings ordinance. The buildings must still adhere to all building and fire codes.
The council heard a first reading of a proposed ordinance change that, if approved, would require street musicians to register with the city clerk and have city approval before performing.
The council approved a residential anti-displacement and relocation plan, as was required by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to continue receiving grant funding for the city’s building rehab program. The plan sets procedures for the scenario when tenants must be moved from their rehabbed housing.
There will be public input meetings on the topic of the city allowing short-term rentals in Ludington, Winczewski added. The meetings are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Lakeshore Resource Network, 920 E. Tinkham Ave.
VICTORY TWP. — West Shore Community College was buzzing with activity Monday morning as students returned to class, kicking off the 2019-20 academic year.
Students, faculty and staff were met with several construction projects currently underway on campus, including an irrigation project on the north side of Schoenherr Campus Center near where ground was broken for the college’s sculpture plaza last month.
A second project — the installation of a 4-mile-long water main from U.S. 10 and Stiles Road to the campus — will result in the City of Ludington providing drinking water to the college.
Other construction work was taking place as classes began, including improvements at the Tech Center, which should be completed in a couple weeks according to Thom Hawley, executive director of college relations.
“(It’s good) to see all this work on campus and to see the students back because that is who this work is really for,” WSCC President Scott Ward said. “(It’s) really nice to see the (positive) reactions of the students in the Tech Center this morning.
“It is still a work in progress, but (we’ve had) really positive reactions … All of the projects that we have going on here (are) really to benefit the students in the community.”
One student on campus Monday was Quinn Barcus of Ludington, who was waiting for class in the Schoenherr Campus Center.
Barcus is beginning his third year, was deciding to switch his area of academic focus from business administration to music and entertainment business, a new program offered at the college this year.
Barcus said music has always been a passion of his. He has traveled to Europe through Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and he currently plays trombone and is the section leader for the WSCC Wind Symphony.
“Music has always been a big part of my life,” he said.
He said that venue management has always interested him, working for somewhere like DeVos Place or the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, or Wharton Center in East Lansing.
WSCC music professor Ted Malt, who was also at the college on Monday, said the program is in its infancy, but already a handful of students have expressed an interest.
“Right now I have four students who are here and getting their general education credits at WSCC,” he said. “They will do a seamless transition to Ferris State University.”
Malt noted that the program has other benefits as well.
“What’s great about this program is we have this new Ferris Connections program, as they are here getting ready to go into the Ferris program they have all the Ferris rights in terms of being able to go to a football game or a hockey game.”
Shelby native and first-year student Michelle Brito was also on campus Monday. She said she was a little nervous for the first day of classes, but once she got through her first class those nerves quickly calmed.
Brito said she chose to attend WSCC because it’s close to home gives her an opportunity to get all of her general education courses out of the way.
As of Monday morning, enrollment was up about 7.6 percent, according to Dean of Student Services Chad Inabinet.
“The numbers are up currently and that’s based on prior year’s numbers during the first two weeks,” Inabinet said.
The final enrollment numbers will not be available for two weeks, and could be even higher, according to Ward.
“(The enrollment increase) is really positive for the campus and the community,” Ward said.
Students of Ludington Area Catholic School had their first school day of the 2019-20 academic year on Monday, and LAC Principal Collin Thompson said school faculty and staff members are expecting a successful year.
Throughout the school building at 700 E. Bryant Road, children gathered in classrooms for the first time in months after summer break.
They greeted the new year with enthusiasm, according to Thompson.
“The excitement of the kids on the first day is really something,” Thompson told the Daily News.
The 2019-20 school year for public schools in the area is still a week away, but Thompson said LAC starts a bit early so it can finish up at the same time as those schools.
“We try to accommodate the parents who have kids here and at other schools, he said.
There are approximately 100 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students at LAC, several of which are new to the school.
“It’s going to be great,” Thompson said. “The children seem very excited coming in, and we’re looking forward to the year.”
Tip-A-Cop for Special Olympics Wednesday at Applebee’s
The Ludington Applebee’s is participating in Wednesday’s Tip-A-Cop promotion to benefit the Special Olympics of Michigan Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Twenty percent of all food sales between 4 and 8 p.m. Wednesday will be donated to the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Michigan.
The Ludington restaurant is one of 26 Applebee’s locations statewide participating in the event.
AMBER TWP. — Two men were apprehended by the Mason County Sheriff’s Office and a woman is still at-large in connection to a series of thefts from Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and citizens, according to a press release from Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole.
Deputies responded to a complaint of a stolen license plate complaint at 10:23 a.m. Saturday in the 2000 block of west U.S. 10. The victim returned from Walmart and noticed the license plate missing from the vehicle, according to the release. Deputies reviewed footage from Walmart and identified two people, a man and a woman, allegedly stealing numerous items from the store, according to the release.
A 43-year-old Holland male was arrested for larceny, obstructing and receiving and concealing stolen property, and a 33-year-old Muskegon male was arrested for a felony sex offender registry warrant from the Fruitport Police Department at 2:14 p.m. Saturday, according to a Mason County Sheriff’s Office press release.
The Muskegon man was a passenger in the vehicle the Holland man was driving when they were apprehended.
A 29-year old female was suspected from California fled the scene and has not been arrested, according to Cole.
According to the report, deputies recovered more than 50 items of suspected stolen property. Items included electronics, power tools, fishing equipment, clothing and a stolen vehicle registration. There was $1,200 of recovered property from Lowe’s and $250 from Home Depot.
“We tracked the bar codes on the boxes,” Cole said.
The report will be forwarded to the Mason County Prosecutor’s Office for review and possible additional charges.
The Holland man is lodged in the Mason County Jail and the Muskegon man was taken to the Muskegon County Jail.