By Pat Maurer
Clare City Commissioners voted 4-1 Monday not to have a referendum vote on their tentative plans to develop an industrial park on Colonville Road, and also voted not to withdraw the application for a $2.3 million Economic Development Administration grant, which would fund 60 percent of the costs for a new water tower, a lift station and infrastructure for sewer and water on the north side of the city.
City Attorney Jaynie Smith Hoerauf had given the Commission an opinion on the same matter in 2010, saying “the matter is administrative in nature, and not subject to a referendum according to [Michigan] law.”
Their vote followed a lengthy discussion with Commissioner Tom Koch urging the board to reconsider the grant application until more information about the project, and potential businesses at the proposed park, is available.
City resident and former Mayor Al Demarest also spoke, saying the Commission has a responsibility to have all information available to the Commission to assist them in making a decision.
City Manager Ken Hibl had reported at the last meeting that there is a potential business interested in locating in the new park who told him they would invest $3 million there. He said he was approached by the potential business and asked to keep their name confidential, which he agreed to do.
He said, “The only thing that we (the city) has held confidential is a potential customer up there. I was asked by that person not to reveal the name. I’m sorry, but I don’t think to do that [reveal the name] would be appropriate.
Hibl also said the north side of the city could not grow without some improvements there. “We only have the equivalent of seven residential units available there [with the present water system] . That wouldn’t even allow even one more restaurant [to be built].” He added, “We have a lift station that is about to fail up there and we know we need a new water tower. This grant would provide 60 percent of the costs.”
The Commission had voted at the last meeting to authorize City Manager Ken Hibl to submit the EDA grant application, despite Koch’s warnings that it is “not in the best interests of the city.”
Koch said, “My feeling is that we’ve not had much input about this. I’m not comfortable with this.”
“You are asking for more input,” Commissioner Karla Swanson said. “We have had input on it [developing an industrial park] for the past nine years. There has been a lot of hard work done on this by the city, the planning commission and many others.”
“How are we going to make bond payments on this if it goes?” He asked. “And what about the improvements to Colonville Road?” He added, “My other concern is there is no mention of the property adjacent to the present park.” Swanson told Koch, “That’s where the growth will take place [the north side of the city]. That is what we agreed on – at least most of us.”
“That [improvements to Colonville Road] is completely separate from this [project],” Hibl said. “We would look for other funding, possibly another grant for road improvements.”
City Treasurer Steven Kingsbury reported that 30 year bond payments on $1.2 million would be approximately $55,000 a year.
In a written statement read to the board, Koch said he had requested, and received a copy of the grant application that was submitted to the EDA. “In my opinion the document is permeated with prevarication,” He wrote. “It tests the creditability and transparency of this City Commission in dealing with an agency of the federal government. Tragically prevarication has become a well-used method in the area of justification for request for grants. In the quest to achieve results in the pursuit of grant dollars, which are of course tax dollars, fabrication are readily used and accepted as the norm, but that does not make it right…”
He made a motion to reclaim the grant application, “until we have more information.” The motion was seconded by Jean McConnell, who then asked Koch, , “What are you referring to specifically?”
Koch said, “It appears we that we need a water tower and are looking for a grant for that, but this is worse for the city. We haven’t even had any workshops on what we can afford.” He said it would take a long time before income from a new industrial park would be seen by the city, and added that any property up there would have to be given to potential businesses, citing information from Farwell Village President Steven Grim on the Industrial Park developed there. He said he didn’t feel the economy was good enough to expect that businesses would locate in the new Industrial Park, if it is approved and developed.
Koch’s motion was denied by the Commission 4-1 with Koch’s vote the only “aye.”
In another matter under old business, The City voted unanimously to deny the request for reimbursement for damages from Jack and Cathy Rendel, whose basement in their home on Glendale was flooded with storm water and sewage May 29.
Craig Goodrich, a managing partner of Gourdie Fraser and Associates, was asked by the City Manager to look into their claim that the damage was caused by a city sewer back-up.
Goodrich said he reviewed videos and researched the system, including using dye to try and see where the problem came from and concluded that the damages were caused because of a drainage system being connected to the city sewer.
City Manager Hibl said the connection was still in place and they are attempting to determine where the water could be redirected. “There aren’t any storm sewers in that area,” he said.
Jack Rendel questioned the determination. “There just wasn’t enough sewage in our line to have caused all of the backup,” he said.
Other business at the City meeting Monday included:
*An announcement that because he did not submit his re-election petition in time, Tom Koch will be running for re-election to his seat on the Commission as a write-in candidate.
*Approval of a bid to replace the roof liner and the Waste Water Treatment Plant building from Kawkawlin Roofing for $43,400. The City had set aside $25,000 for the roof.
*Approved the Title VI Plan and Policy, which is required by the Michigan Department of Transportation. The plan must be renewed annually to qualify for Federal-aid highway funds.
*The second reading and approval of changes to the ordinance requiring property owners to keep lots mowed. The change eliminated the provision that the requirement did not apply to owners with three adjacent lots or more.
*Approved a contract extension for the Teamsters Supervisors Unit.
In his report to the Commission, City Manager Hibl reported on an “Inter-county Drain Board Meeting outlining improvements to the Little Tobacco Drain. The Drain Board has asked that the City consider providing the needed petition (resolution) from the city to begin a project to improve the drain. The costs could be $1.5 million.