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Scottville approves special election for charter change

SCOTTVILLE — After a decision from city commissioners on Monday, Scottville residents could be voting on changes to the city’s charter as soon as March 10.

City commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to hold a special election on that date — the same day as the 2020 Michigan presidential primary — to allow voters to consider consolidating the city’s two wards into one and to make each city commissioner a representative of the city as a whole rather than a specific ward.

City Attorney Tracy Thompson told the commission that the charter amendment has not been approved for the ballot by the state attorney general, but noted that he’s “optimistic” that it will be completed in time.

The attorney general’s office has tentatively approved the measure, but needed a resolution from the city commission in order to formally approve it, according to Thompson, who noted that the drafted amendments had been revised several times to get the language just right.

“It’s gone back and forth to comply with some very technical language,” Thompson said. “They are very particular about exactly how we amend our charter.”

He stressed that the resolution passed on Monday was not the last step in the process.

“(Tuesday) is the deadline to get it to (Mason County Clerk Cheryl Kelly), and from there it will go to the state and attorney general. Hopefully they give approval quickly so we can move the process forward,” he said. “This is not a done deal until we see it on the ballot in March, but I’m an optimist, so I’m optimistic that we will get this on the ballot. If we don’t … we’ll get it on in November.”

The resolution states that “there will only be one ward, which shall encompass the whole city.” It also stipulates that during the next election — which, if the measure is on the March ballot and is approved by voters, would be the November 2020 general election — the four city commissioners whose terms expire that year would run in an at-large capacity for four-year terms.

The other three commission seats — which are set to expire two years later — would be elected, also to four-year terms, in November 2022.

Thompson said the decision to have the special election on March 10 was made to save time and resources.

“It coincides with the 2020 presidential primary so we’ll be voting anyway,” he said, adding that, if approved, the consolidation of the precincts and change to an all at-large commission would “help streamline the city.”

The amendment was drafted by Thompson. Commissioners initially approved sending it to the state for review on Nov. 4, after directing Thompson to draft it in October.

Water and sewer rates

City commissioners briefly discussed recent increases to the cost of water supplied by the City of Ludington.

“We know that the City of Ludington has raised water rates. That means our rates our going to go up, so we need to take a look at what we’re going to do,” Mayor Bruce Krieger said.

Marcy Spencer, Ward 2 commissioner and mayor pro-tem, recommended that the matter be referred to the city’s finance committee for further discussion.

Audit

During Monday’s meeting, Eric VanDop, a CPA from Brickley Delong auditing firm, presented the city’s audit for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Revenues were down from $705,987 during the previous fiscal year to $701,262 in 2018-19.

Expenditures also decreased from $724,816 to $707,194.

VanDop said the city’s fund balance was $373,318.

“We issued an unmodified opinion, also sometimes called a clean opinion,” VanDop said. “It’s the highest we can give, and it’s what the city traditionally receives.”

Also on Monday

A vacant seat on the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board was filled by Roy Holden, co-owner of Holden’s Home Emporium. Carla Mayer and Nancy Sanford were also re-appointed to terms on the DDA board.

City Manager Courtney Magaluk noted that there is still one vacant DDA seat and one vacant seat on the city’s planning commission that need to be filled.

Magaluk also stated that, to date, she has received one letter of interest from resident Ryan Graham about filling the Ward 1 city commission seat vacated by Sue Petipren in early December. Magaluk said that if there are any residents who are interested in being considered for the seat, they should step forward before Dec. 31.

Prospective applicants for any of the vacant seats can contact city hall at (231) 757-4729.


Local
Dozens of kids participate in Shop with a Hero

Their smiles grew by the second and their eyes widened as 35 area children beamed with pride as they, along with emergency responders, searched up and down the aisles at Meijer selecting Christmas gifts for their families on Monday.

The children participated in the annual Shop with a Hero, which is in its second year. The Shop with a Hero program pairs a child with local safety officials like firefighters and medics to purchase gifts for their families.

The funds for this year’s Shop with a Hero were raised through donations and the annual Shop with a Cop and Shop with a Hero Pie Auction which raised more than $5,600 according to Chad Skiba, an officer with the Ludington Police Department and the event organizer for the past four years.

This year, the program raised roughly $20,000 which is the largest amount to date and funds both the Shop with a Hero and Shop with a Cop events.

“That money was raised donations from the community, donations from local businesses,” he said “Basically the program would not be where it is at without the amount of community donations that we have gotten.”

Shop with a Hero consists of firefighters, the coast guard, EMS, law enforcement and military. It really cover everyone in the public safety field, according to Skiba.

“It gives the kids a chance to shop with everybody that serves in the public service field,” he said.

One of the local shoppers on Monday was Dylon Denten, boatswain’s mate third class with the U.S. Coast Guard, who has helped for the past three years with the Shop with a Hero/Cop program.

“I love this program,” he said. “It just feel great to give back to the community.”

The program is set up to allow the children to shop for their families, purchasing items from their siblings and their parents but also allows them to buy for themselves as well.

After each child was done shopping, their purchases were wrapped by volunteers and each participant were treated to a bag of goodies from the military, dinner from Jimmy Johns, a Christmas dinner, a Christmas tree donated by from Ben Nickelson of Needlefast Evergreens and Todd and Brad Reed donating a calendar to all of the kids.

Today the annual Shop with a Cop will take place at Walmart allowing for roughly 35 children to shop with local law enforcement officials for Christmas items.


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WSCC talks architect contract, again

VICTORY TWP. — The West Shore Community College (WSCC) Board of Trustees Monday unanimously approved a contract of up to $240,000 with Kendra Thompson to be the architect for its planned Manistee Downtown Education Center project.

The project will remodel the two-story, 13,000 square-foot building at 400 River St. in Manistee to create a new WSCC satellite campus. The project is the board’s No. 1 priority in its facilities master plan, and it’s preliminarily estimated to cost a total of $3.2 million. The college would pay $2.2 million from its funds, and an anonymous donor has pledged an added $1 million for the project, according to WSCC President Scott Ward.

The contract is for Thompson’s architecture firm to be paid 6 percent of the project amount, which would be up to $240,000, but that is the high-end estimate, according to Ward. He said the basic amount for the contract is $200,000, and Thompson would get the added $40,000 if the scope of the project is expanded.

Trustee Jim Jensen thanked WSCC President Scott Ward for recently going over the plans and the financial data for the project with him, answering his questions and concerns.

“We’re looking at a substantial expenditure of public funds here, and we need to make sure that it’s done properly,” Jensen said. “It’s an exciting project, but we need to make sure we’re spending the money properly. So I thank you for bringing that (financial data) forward.”

At the board’s Nov. 18 meeting, the trustees tabled the discussion of hiring Thompson for the project at that time because a concern arouse around uncertainty about whether Thompson would handle both the engineering designs and the construction management aspects of the project. Ward said Monday that Thompson’s contract is for her to do both the engineering design and construction management.

Ward proposed hiring Thompson, since she had already been doing “pro bono” work, creating engineering designs for the project. He said his administration engaged with her to start design work this fall after the board approved purchasing the River Street property. Ward called this error an “oversight” by his administration, and he then sought the board’s formal approval for Thompson to be hired.

The question has been raised why the college didn’t send out a request for proposals (RFP) to allow other contractors to bid to perform the job, as is often standard practice for other projects and for other governing boards, especially for such an expensive contract.

Ward told the Daily News that since the project won’t be using any funds directly from the state, it was unnecessary for the college to send out a RFP.

“We’re not legally required (to send out the RFP),” Ward said. “But we do feel the obligation to use our best business practices. We believe (Thompson) is the right fit, and her cost was comparable, if not lower, than (other architects’) we’ve seen in the past. We did our due diligence. Although we didn’t do a formal competition (using RFP) ... we did find what we felt was a fair and comparable price.”

Ward told the board Monday that Thompson’s rate of 6 percent is on the low end of other architects’ going rates of 6 to 7 percent, which the college saw during the last time it sent out an RFP for architectural work, which was for its Tech Center renovation project.

“We should have bid this out previously,” Ward told the board, adding later, “Although we did fail to bid, we did look back to see if (Thompson’s rate) it is in the right range.”

OTHER BUSINESS

The board approved the fall 2019 graduate list, which includes 25 students.

The trustees approved the board meeting schedule for 2020 as well as the board’s calendar. The meetings are scheduled to continue to be held at 4 p.m. on the third Monday of the month. As is tradition, the April and November meetings will be held at 5 p.m. off-campus at locations not yet determined.

The board went into closed session to discuss its collective bargaining strategy for negotiations with the college’s unionized faculty employees.

The board also recognized the college employee chosen as the outstanding staff member of fall 2019, who is Dan Dellar, the director of the WSCC criminal justice program, who is now retiring.

The board also heard a presentation of a new campus housing study by Wendy Gradwohl Wells, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor for WSCC. She noted that are some potential benefits of building dormitories, but there are also some challenges to consider.

To read more about the housing study, see Wednesday’s edition of the Daily News.


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Ludington OKs seawall, 2020 budget

The Ludington City Council on Monday approved the city’s 2020 budget and three-year capital improvement plan as well a $185,000 contract to build a seawall to stop erosion.

The contract is for Hardman Construction to install a seawall made of steel sheet piling at Ludington’s Maritime Heritage Park to — hopefully — prevent shoreline erosion there in the future.

The park, located just north of the Loomis Street Boat Launch, has been impacted by Lake Michigan’s powerful waves this year, and the sidewalk along the shore in the park has been destroyed.

The city solicited bids from contractors to install the sheet piling, and Hardman Construction was the lowest of the three contractors that bid. The other two companies were Adams Marine Construction, which offered to do the work for $236,170, and Hallack Contracting, which bid to do it for $285,000.

The work on the site is expected to begin in January, but this won’t be the only project that addresses the damage to the shoreline at the park, said Ludington City Manager Mitch Foster.

“We’re splitting it up into two projects, just based on time-wise when we can get them done. This (project) is the seawall sheet pile and that sort of work. The second (project), which would come later in the spring, would be the armor stone, which would be lakeside of where the seawall is at, as well as the sidewalk and finalized repairs,” Foster said. “That will be a separate contract.”

City Councilor Kathy Winczewski noted that Ludington would be paying a total of approximately $200,000 or more to complete both projects — the sheet piling and the repairs — and asked if the seawall will be able to withstand against the water in the long-run.

“Will this hold?” Winczewski asked. “I mean, no one can predict how high the water level is going to get, but does it seem like it’s going to be worth our money to put that much into it?”

Foster said he believes the sheet piling will be effective to stop the wave action and ice damage. He said that the seawall will be connected as a continuation of the existing sheet piling at the boat launch parking lot, as well as be at a consistent height with it, so they will be able to structurally support each other.

“What this will not prevent — and nothing can — is if the lake goes up another 10, 12, 14 inches over the next few years. There is not a seawall along Lake Michigan that will provide protection from that,” Foster said. “But what we can do is work with the engineers to, on the land side of it, have some drainage out so that if we have water that splashes over, it can drain better than it would if it’s stuck behind the wall.”

Foster said that improved drainage will be an item of consideration moving forward, and that repairs to the parking lot will need to be done as well in the spring.

BUDGET

Following a public hearing in which no one chose to speak, the council approved Ludington’s 2020 budget and three-year capital improvement plan.

The city’s general fund is expected to get a total of approximately $6.6 million in revenue for 2020, and Winczewski inquired why the general fund’s expenditures are estimated to be about $600,000 more than the revenue.

Foster replied that the city is carrying over about $600,000 in funds that were intended to be spent on projects in 2019, but those projects were delayed and should begin in 2020.

The projects included the seawall installation at Maritime Heritage Park, the repairs to the sunken pier at the boat launch and fixing the street at the flooded Rath Avenue and Melendy Street intersection, Foster said previously.

Foster added that he plans to hold meetings with residents to discuss the city’s finances, which he calls Burgers and Budgets. He said he will be contacting local restaurants to plan when and where the Burgers and Budgets meetings will be held. The dates and times are not yet set, but he hopes to host two meetings in January and two in February.

OTHER BUSINESS

The council appointed the Mason County Prosecutor’s Office as its attorney for the city’s criminal cases. The city has contracted with the county for the prosecutor’s services for many years. The contract for 2020 is $525 more than the contract for 2019, according to Foster.

The council chose members to sit on Ludington’s standing committees as well as appointed people to serve on the city’s official boards for 2020. Mayor Steve Miller selected volunteers to serve on the boards, and the council voted to approve his choices.

The council also set its regular meeting schedule for 2020. Council meetings will continue to be held at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of each month, with the exception of March, May and December, when the meetings will be on the first and third Mondays.