By Sharon Hallack

Contributing Writer

Paul Erickson, president of the Oceana County Agricultural Society, addressed the Hart City Council Aug. 13 to inform it of the latest improvements and plans in the works for the fairgrounds.

Most notably fair-goers will see new signage on the corner of Polk and State Street as well as the grandstands. To make the fairgrounds safer and more enjoyable for all, many dark areas have new LED lighting.

“The pit area for the demo derby will be lit up like it’s day time,” said Erickson.

No more tents will be set up between animal buildings. Instead, a fenced in “Kids Camp” has been developed. It will be chaperoned by 4-H leaders and offer a place for 4-Hers to recharge, both physically and electronically. “We’re happy that our poultry barn pond has been updated and is now ADA accessible. We’re addressing ADA accessibility all over the fairgrounds,” Erickson said.

Another new addition is the installation of a 50 amp service by the horse racing barns. “This is hopefully the beginning of camping at our fairgrounds,” Erickson said. “Camping is available at many fairgrounds around the state and is a way to bring in extra revenue. If we can install a 150 amp service by next year, the Good Sams Club has expressed interest in adding Hart as a camping destination.

“By far the most requested and the most needed improvement is a change to the fair entrance,” Erickson said. “Thankfully no serious accidents have ever happened, however, having hundreds of vehicles drive between the barns, for four days, is not the best scenario. I’ve spoken with Senator Bumstead and his office has made a connection with the Michigan DNR Land Grant Division to help us gain access to the fairgrounds off Polk Road. I personally purchased some property west of the rail trail recently. I’ve also talked to others who own property to the west of the rail trail and they are all in. Because it takes a unit of government to apply for such grants, I am here tonight to ask the city to consider a land grant purchase of property for the purpose of a new entrance. My vision for the remaining land is to see it developed into a campground and be another reason for people to use the rail trail and visit the area. There are many possibilities.”

“Would this fall under parks and recreation?” asked council member Patrice Martin.

“Could you work with Lynne to get us some more information?” asked council member Joe Frontiera.

“There is a committee meeting in September that would be a good time to address this further,” said Mayor Ron LaPorte.

Council member Vicki Platt asked hydro Superintendent Mike Schiller if there was any plan to prune the “decorative” trees on State Street.

“I’m open for suggestions,” Schiller said. “They grow about a foot a year and are taking over. They are covering many awnings and signage.”

“I’d like to see us bring an arborist in just once and get some information on the city’s trees,” said LaPorte.

“What would it take to make that happen?” asked council member Patrice Martin.

“I can make a call to the local conservation district office and see who is available,” said Ladner.

Traffic concerns on Polk Road also were discussed.

“There seems to be some local chatter surrounding getting a stop light at 72nd Avenue and Polk Road,” said Martin. “I even saw a sign posted there earlier this week.”

Tim Tariske, Hart Township Clerk who was present in the audience, asked to address the council.

“I didn’t come to this meeting to speak on this matter, but I do have some information. We’ve fought and fought to get something done on that corner. We had two separate traffic studies done, but we never fit the criteria. It is difficult too because the road involves four entities — the township and the city where it is located, the road commission who maintains the road and the state, who owns it.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” asked Martin. Ladner said that she would reach out to Senator Bumstead’s and Representative VanSingel’s offices to ask for further information and possible assistance.

In response to last month’s request by council member Joe Frontiera for Board of Review increase in pay for service, Ladner provided a list of Board of Review information from various cities around Michigan. Hart is the only municipality where Board of Review members are still elected to the position.

“The city charter states that this sort of request go through the compensation committee,” said Ladner.

“We haven’t had a compensation committee in years. Rather than create a new one, I’d like to defer this to our finance & personnel committee to begin with and have them get back with us,” said LaPorte.

“I think it merits a thoughtful discussion,” said Martin.

When questioned about the Gales IGA and Shopko building vacancies and possible new tenants, Ladner informed the council, “The Gales IGA has had some interest, but nothing formal is in process. As far as Shopko, an organization is in the process of purchasing the building, but I’m not able to disclose much information. Nothing has been finalized, but if a sale goes through, the tenants would take possession in September with the plan to open next February. Hopefully by our next council meeting I will be able to announce who the new tenants will be.”