HART — One of Hart City’s Capital Improvement Projects moved closer to implementation May 12.

The council approved Resolution 2020-28, establishing a request to the Michigan Department of Transportation for its Transportation Economic Development Category B grant funding for the reconstruction of Hanson Street between State and Hart streets. This project has been on a priority list for the city for the past several years.

City Manager Lynne Ladner, provided this background of the area involved with this project, “MIchigan Freeze Pack (MFP) employees have long used an alleyway as a shortcut between MFP and Dryden Street to access Hansen Street from the MFP property. Because that property is considered an alleyway it is not maintained, and the additional traffic through that area poses a safety issue for the daycare located at 302 Hanson Street. With the amount of vehicles that take the undeveloped and improper alley to leave work, versus using the Polk Road entrance/exit, the council asked the DPW to block off the alley at the end of Hansen Street last fall. In doing so it created problems for bussing with the school district. As Hanson Street exists today, with the barricades preventing travel through the alley, buses did not have adequate space to turn around. The daycare accommodated the situation by walking students to meet the bus further down the street before and after school. In speaking with the owners of the day care, their preference was not to reopen the alley, but to provide an easement onto their property for the construction of an adequate bus turnaround. This would be constructed at the east end of Hansen where it dead ends. Also included in the grant application is the replacement of the lead water service line to the center. This upgrade is in keeping with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) requirements to replace these lines throughout the community”.

The total cost for this project is estimated at $194,000 — $167,500 would be the cost of the road construction and the lead service line to the daycare; $26,500 would be for the estimated engineering. The city is seeking a 50 percent grant equaling $81,000. Councilor Rob Splane asked if the city could decline the grant if it was received. Ladner said that the city could decline receipt of the grant, however, the city does have street funds they need to spend down.

The council tabled two other expenditures until further information could be acquired. One was to accept bids for the removal of trees around the city that are near energized power lines. Even though the trees are in the city right-of-way, a few council members felt property owners should be advised about the tree removal first. There were also questions about how much of the stumps would be removed and when.

“It makes more sense to remove the trees than to trim them up and do it again in a few years. When they remove half a tree, it looks like heck,” said Mayor Ron Laporte.

A funding request for tiling at the city’s water discharge facilities from BioPure Superintendent Paul Cutter was also tabled until at least one other bid for the work could be secured.

“Because of the large amount of water being discharged, the center pivot area becomes a ‘lake’ which violates our groundwater discharge permit. Michigan Freeze Pack is up and running again with carrots from Alabama this week and Michigan asparagus starts Monday. To prevent the water from ponding, I’ve been stopping the pivot’s cycle when it is about two-thirds complete. After brainstorming with Prein & Newhoff, I’d asked Near Farm Tiling of Shelby for a bid. The quote was roughly $10,000 to install underdrains that would pull water away from that area. I did not get any other bids due to the time constraints with COVID and Nears is able to do the project next month. EGLE still needs to approve this, but we have high hopes that they would,” said Cutter.

After a brief discussion, council felt that despite the urgency of this project, it thought it best to get EGLE’s official approval along with at least one other bid before committing to the expenditure.

Ladner updated the council on some cost savings ideas she had in regards to office staff working during the shut-down. A work share program would allow partially furloughed employees to work from home while collecting economic stimulus payments and unemployment insurance. The program would run through July 31 and has the potential to save the city $10,000. She stated she was still researching the possibility and wanted to speak to the employees who would be affected first. She doesn’t want to harm any employees or have them look elsewhere for work. Ladner also brought the council up to date on the latest health insurance proposals being offered by the city’s provider Priority Health.

“They are getting rid of the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) in our plan and offering an alternative, which would be a greater out of pocket cost to employees,” said Ladner.

She informed the council she is looking at several other companies for comparisons. Finally, Ladner said that the city will be implementing a Direct Bill Pay option for city residents by July 1. Council members and city employees will test pilot the program in June. Barring any problems, the option will be made available to city residents.