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Council to vote on $1.04M change order for wastewater project

The Ludington City Council on Monday will consider approving a change order totaling more than $1.04 million for the city’s ongoing wastewater treatment plant upgrade project.

The total change order amount is $1,044,797.79, according to the order document.

Ludington City Manager Mitch Foster explained in a memorandum to the city council that much of the costs relate to the expense of removing solid waste from the decommissioned sludge pond as required by the state. Foster said the solid waste had to be excavated from the pond and transferred to an acceptable landfill or spread on agricultural fields, which is a cheaper option the city has chosen.

The solid waste is bagged and has been draining water. After the waste is dried, the solids are applied to agricultural fields. Transporting the waste to fields began on Aug. 13, and it is expected to be completed within two weeks, Foster said.

The project has had added challenges because there was more solid waste to dispose of than was initially estimated by the sonar readings of the sludge pond, Foster told the Daily News.

“They underestimated it significantly because they thought they’d found the bottom, and it wasn’t the bottom,” he said.

Foster said the waste solids had never been removed from the pond since the wastewater treatment plant was built in the 1970s.

Part of the proposed change order would modify the method of payment with the contractor to be based on a the waste’s dry ton weight rather than per liquid gallon rate. Foster said the dry weight is an easier price to quantify and to agree upon among the city council and the project’s contractors, Davis Construction and Fishbeck Thompson Carr & Huber.

There are an estimated 4,200 dry tons of waste, which would be removed at a rate of $331.69 per ton.

Foster said the cost of the project is inevitable and that the city should have been doing routine maintenance on the pond to remove waste incrementally during the plant’s decades of existence.

“We should’ve been paying,” Foster said. “Over the last 20 years we’d have this same amount of money spent for cleaning it out every so often, but instead it’s all hitting us at once.”

HARBOR VIEW MARINA

The council will consider approving 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.

“As the city has continued to work with the DNR and the operators at Harbor View Marina towards the potential result of the city taking over operations, we have entered a phase needing some due diligence work,” Foster stated in a memo. “As with most situations involving property, the city has the responsibility to make sure there is not an environmental issue waiting for it at the Harbor View location and must proceed with an (environmental study) in order to review historical data regarding the site.”

PARKING CHANGES

The council will consider making permanent a traffic control order to prohibit on-street parking of motor homes, campers and travel trailers on South Rath Avenue between Foster and Dowland streets.

“The purpose of this prohibition is to prevent individuals from conducting camping type activities in the public right of way adjacent to the Harbor View Marina,” stated Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett in the temporary traffic control order.

The council will also consider reconfiguring the angled parking on the Harrison Street side of the Ludington Area Center for the Arts, 107 S. Harrison, to add two additional parking spaces.

Currently the area is marked to have six regular parking spaces, four handicapped-accessible spaces and an unloading zone.

The request from the Ludington Area Center for the Arts is to eliminate the unloading zone and two of the handicapped parking spaces, and to move those parking spaces toward the north end, which is closer to the wheelchair ramp. After the proposed reconfiguration, there would 10 regular parking spaces and two handicapped spaces.

CLOSED SESSION

The council will enter into a closed session in order to consult with its attorney regarding trial and settlement strategy for its ongoing court case between the city and residents Tom Rotta and Dianne Seelhoff.

After the closed session, the council will reconvene in open session and is expected to address the settlement of the court case.

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 — specifically in regard to the approval process of the splash pad to be constructed at Copeyon Park — as well as other allegations of violations.

OTHER BUSINESS

The council will consider setting public hearings to establish Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act (OPRA) districts for three different properties seeking rehabilitation tax credits.

The properties 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 the former location of the store Grateful Heart & Home and is planned to be renovated into two residential units in addition to its existing commercial space.

The council will consider approving an on-premise tasting room permit for Love Wines’ proposed facility at 925 S. Washington.

The council will vote on approving a proposed change to the city’s adaptive reuse of existing buildings ordinance to remove the requirements that mandate the minimum square footage for one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom dwellings.

The council will hear a first presentation of a proposed ordinance to regulate buskers performing in public places.

The council will consider approving a residential anti-displacement and relocation plan.

The city council will hold its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Ludington City Hall. At 4 p.m. Monday, the council will hold a committee of the whole meeting to discuss the 2020 city calendar and a webinar on priority-based budgeting.


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Putting for school supplies

With putters in hand — and with backpacks full of notebooks, colored pencils and other supplies — 300 kids putted around the Ludington area-themed obstacles Friday afternoon at Stearns Park.

The occasion was the Back to School Backpack Bonanza, at the Ludington Area Jaycees’ Mini Golf Course, and hundreds of kids and parents participated.

The event was from 2 to 7 p.m. and welcomed children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Kids received a free backpack at check-in, and they also played a free round of golf.

At each hole, the kids were given a different school supply item to fill their backpacks. Many parents also played mini golf along with their children.

Kerry Terryn, outreach specialist for Staircase Youth Services, who helped organize the event, said the bonanza was held to help the youth of Mason County, and she said there were enough school supplies and backpacks for 300 kids.

“It’s to help out the ones who might need a little bit (of) extra support ... because there’s always a need,” she said. “School supplies, we know, are very expensive — I think the list gets longer every year. We thank the community businesses that volunteered and offered donations, which was great.”

She said 18 businesses sponsored the holes, donating school supplies or the funds to purchase supplies. Many different businesses and organizations pooled their resources to put on the bonanza, such as Safe Harbor Credit Union, which donated 100 backpacks.

She said having mini golf as an activity made the event more fun than simply receiving school supplies would be.

“It’s nice to get them out and moving, and the parents are out with them, so it’s definitely a great community event. Kids love mini golfing. It’s great the Jaycees offered free mini golf,” she said.

She added that she hopes to grow the event for next year, so that the next bonanza can give 500 kids school supplies.

“We want to make it bigger and better every year,” she said.

Staircase Youth Services partnered with the Ludington Area Jaycees and with Aaron’s store, which has been hosting its own back to school supplies event in recent years but this year combined with the bonanza.

Frank Luevano, Aaron’s sales manager, said the last time there was a school supplies mini golf event at the Jaycees’ course was about five years ago. He said he was glad Aaron’s partnered with the event Friday and that there’s a significant need in the community.

“It’s very successful,” Luevano said. “It’s been a fantastic turnout. It helps families that need help. It’s good for the families in Mason County.”

Mary Burden, Jaycees mini golf director, said the first participants lined up an hour before the event started.

She added that she was glad to see all the businesses, organizations and volunteers that came together to make this event possible.

“It’s awe-striking how much community support we get here in Ludington,” Burden said.

The free school supplies included erasers, scissors, folders, headphones and more. There were also coupons and door prizes, including for ice cream, kayak rentals and haircuts.

The Ludington Police Department, Ludington Fire Department, Pere Marquette Township Fire Department and Michigan State Police all had vehicles open for families to tour. The police offered car seat safety checks.

Girls from Flipstar Gymnastics performed a demonstration, and there was a disc jockey playing classic rock. The Ludrock bus and Fountain Community Center offered transportation for families traveling from Scottville, Custer and Walhalla.

Stacy Johnson played mini golf with her two children.

“It’s really fun. It gets us outside,” Johnson said. “It lets everybody come together and gets school supplies out to the kids.”

Jason Terryn attended the event with his wife and two daughters, and he said they were enjoying it.

“It’s super nice that this is put on for us,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to try something they may not have done and they get free school supplies to boot. It’s awesome.”


Local
MCE ranks among nation's best schools, hires new teachers

CUSTER — Mason County Eastern Schools received recognition from U.S. News & World Report, being listed on the publication’s annual Best High Schools in America list.

MCE ranked second in the Ludington area, behind Ludington Area Schools.

MCE Superintendent Paul Shoup told the Daily News on Friday that it’s an honor for the district.

New teachers

MCE will welcome two new teachers for the 2019-20 school year.

Shoup told the Daily News in an email that school board trustees voted to approve hiring Tracy Schwass, formerly of Baldwin Public Schools, and Matt Gunberg, formerly of Jackson Public Schools, during the Monday, Aug. 19 meeting of the board of education.

Schwass will teach first grade, and Gunberg will teach middle school science.

Gunberg will fill the vacancy left by Matt Millspaugh, who resigned at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

“We are excited to have these two teachers join the team at MCE,” Shoup said. “Both have experience in teaching these grades and we look forward to a great year.”

Bus purchases

The school board also approved spending $52,000 to purchase two buses from the Ludington Area School District.

In early July, the district allocated money to its capital project fund to cover the cost of the buses, which Ludington sold after purchasing a new fleet in May.

Shoup said the buses have mileage of “between 45,000 and 78,000 miles,” and added that they are expected to be useful to the district for several years.

Other business

Also during the Aug. 19 board of education meeting, trustees approved a $5,300 bid from Rieth-Riley for trap rock to add 1.5 inches to the north parking lot of the middle-high school.

“This was done last 25 years ago,” Shoup said of the work, which is expected to be completed in early fall.

Additionally, trustees voted not to raise or lower fees for admission to athletic events.

“(We’re going to) keep athletic admission fees the same as last year,” Shoup said, adding that costs will remain at $2 for students, $4 for adults and $2 for senior citizens. The board also approved offering a lifetime league pass to seniors age 62 and older.

“The lifetime league pass allows the card holder to attend any athletic event in any school in the WMD league for free once it is purchased,” Shoup said.


News
Stiles Road to be closed between Hansen, Fisher roads starting Monday

The Mason County Road Commission announced Thursday evening that Stiles Road between Hansen and Fisher roads will be closed starting Monday, Aug. 26, for water main installation.

Eric Nelson, county highway engineer, stated in a release that Stiles Road will be closed for about three weeks as Hallack Contracting of Hart installs a new 12-inch water main along the road.

The water main installation is a part of a project to extend water access from the water along U.S. 10 to West Shore Community College.

“The water main is being installed approximately six feet west of the existing roadway,” Nelson stated. “For the safety of the motoring public and the workers, the roadway will be closed to thru traffic.”

The road commission recommends the use of Victory Corner Road as a detour, between Hansen and Fisher roads. Nelson stated emergency responders, school buses picking up and dropping off students and those residents on Stiles Road will have access. However, they will need to “proceed with caution and expect delays.”

Nelson stated that after this section of Stiles Road has the water main installed, another section of Stiles Road will be closed to continue the water main’s installation to West Shore’s campus.


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Jobless rates increase throughout region, state

Jobless rates throughout Michigan increased during the month of July, both on a month-to-month level and compared to July of 2018, and in Mason, Manistee, Oceana and Lake counties were no exception.

According to statistics released by the Michigan Department of Management, Technology and Budget (DMTB), jobless figures climbed from June to July in Mason, Manistee, Oceana and Lake counties.

The dip in employment during the summer months is a common trend for Michigan markets, according to Nick Gandhi, who analyzes data for the Grand Rapids and Muskegon metropolitan areas, as well as the Northwest lower Michigan region.

Gandhi told the Daily News on Friday that the statistics — though indicating a spike in joblessness — are actually expected when it comes to evaluating employment figures in the summer.

“It’s definitely common … (employment throughout the state) is only one percentage point greater than it was last July,” Gandhi said, indicating that the increase is in keeping with year-to-year trends.

Mason County saw its jobless rate increase from 4.8 percent in June to 5.1 percent in July. Compared to July of 2018, the jobless rate has also increased from 4.7 percent.

There were 50 more jobless people in the county compared to both June and July 2018.

Manistee’s jobless rate increased 0.2 percent from 5.5 percent in June to 5.7 percent in July; that figure is a .04-percent jump from the county’s July 2018 rate, which was 5.3 percent.

Oceana County’s unemployment — also at 5.7 percent — is up 0.4 percent from June and 0.4 percent compared to its 5.3-percent rate in 2018.

The highest jobless rate in the region was in Lake County, where unemployment roes from 6.7 percent in June to 7.4 percent in July — a 0.5 percent increase from last July, when the jobless rate was 6.9 percent.

Gandhi said the statewide increased in joblessness are primarily a result of jobs in public education.

“A lot of it has to do with government employment, so that would include teachers in public education,” Gandhi said. “So once school’s out for the summer that’s where you see a lot of these rates going up.

“The main takeaway from this … is the seasonal changes in government and education, and k-12 schools being out for the summer.”

Figures tend to stabilize when school starts back up in September, he said.

He noted that the area’s tourism industry has helped prevent seasonal jobless rates from being higher than they could be.

“In the northwest (part of the state), you don’t necessarily see as high jobless rate gains during the month that we did in other parts of the state,” Gandhi said. “That’s because of a spike in tourism … on the lakeshore.”

Other local statistics

• Mason County’s unemployment rate of 4.8 percent ranks it at 41st place among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 14,475 people in the labor force with 13,300 working and 700 jobless.

• Manistee County’s unemployment rate of 5.5 percent ranked it in 60th place among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 11,150 people in the labor force with 10,525 working and 625 jobless.

• Oceana County’s unemployment rate of 5.3 percent ranked it in 55th place among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 13,300 people in the labor force with 12,600 working and 700 jobless.

• Lake County’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent ranked it in 77th place among Michigan’s 83 counties. There were 3,850 people in the labor force with 3,600 working and 250 jobless.

Statewide

Michigan saw labor force gains of 18,000 for the month, but the state jobless rate increased from 4.4 percent in June to 5.1 percent in July. That figure is also an increase compared to 4.8 percent in July 2018.

There were 254,000 unemployed people in the state in July, representing a 36,000-person increase since June and an increase of 17,000 people compared to July 2018.