City Council Address Four Agenda Items and Ratify Police Union Contract

This week’s City Council meeting there was a presentation of KDL’s Annual Report, two approved resolutions, and a discussion about new playground equipment at Stoney Lakeside Park.  The first portion of the meeting was just over 45 minutes.  There was an almost 30 minute closed session where union negotiations between the city and police department were discussed.  

Citizen Comments
During the citizen comment section of the meeting two individuals from Buzz Solutions, LLC spoke.  They asked City Council to add an agenda item to a meeting to discuss allowing medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.  Connor Baker and Will Miller believe they can offer a quality, clean product to those with a state issued medical marijuana card.

KDL Annual Report
Board member Chuck Meyers spoke briefly about what the Kent District Library (KDL) has accomplished in the past year.  He mentioned that libraries have become more significant in recent years including, “We’ve become a community center.”  Through outreach programs even more people are being served.  

Over 10,000 books have been placed at the airport.  Travelers are encouraged to take a book on a trip and return it or swap for another book when returning.  Books numbering 400 along with KDL swag were sent to the 182nd Infantry serving in the Middle East.  Outreach programs for seniors also generated additional patrons across the district.  

KDL Director Lance Werner referred to himself as the “head banana”.  His update included numbers information such as 8.2 million items were circulated, 8.4 million visits occurred with 2.9 million of them being in person.  He also indicated the bookmobile would be returning thanks in part to a Steelcase grant.  

Englehardt Branch Manager Heather Woods-Gramza concluded the presentation with information about the Lowell location.  2016 saw a 3% increase in the number of people served, 98% increase in wi-fi logins with patrons using personal computers and those provided by the library, 4% increase in the Summer Reading program participation.  And so far in 2017 there is a 7% increase in visitor count.  

Woods-Gramza spoke of the various outdoor projects happening at the branch and of some of the outreach programs within the community to such as working with Lowell Middle School with their Mock Newbery Club, Great Start in area schools, preschool at the Methodist Church, and professional development classes for staff at the high school.  

Through an innovation grant libraries across the county are now offering Go Packs.  These items include things for people of all ages and often promote family activities.  Board games, disc golf equipment, and items with a science, technology, engineering, and math focus are available.  No branch has the exact same items available.  

Offering mobile hotspots is also something new within the last year.  The ability to check these out helps those without home internet service become connected.  It has been a life changer for numerous students and adults.  One on one tech training appointments are also gaining popularity.  A library staff member will look at a computer, phone, or some other electronic device and answer questions on how a program works, how to solve issues, and more.  These appointments often save people hundreds of dollars.

KDL continues to offer innovative items which can be checked out as well as programs for people of all ages.  

Resolution Approval
Two resolutions were approved at the meeting.  The first was one to amend a resolution which was passed at the last meeting.  The public museum tax rate needed to be changed from .2424 mills to .2423 mills.  The change is due to receiving information from the Kent County Department of Equalization stating the maximum rate should be .2423 mills.  

The second resolution was to grant Litehouse a facility tax credit on the expansion the company is adding to their facility.  Under Public Act 198 a 50% tax reduction on property taxes for up to 12 years.  The abatement would be for the expanded portion of the facility.  City Council approved the resolution which provides a 50% tax credit for five years at which time the resolution will be reviewed again with the option of extending it up to an additional 7 years.  

Councilmember Canfield questioned the tax break citing the need for road funding.  But he appreciated an explanation from the City Manager and also included he supports Litehouse as a business in the community.  After further understanding of the resolution he was part of a unanimous vote to approve it.

Account for Playground Equipment at Stoney Lakeside Park
Last fall Bob and Amanda Rogers began efforts to raise funds to replace the playground equipment at Stoney Lakeside Park.  With fundraising and grant money new equipment will be purchased and installed the end of June.  Lowell’s First Look is working on an article with more information about the equipment installation.

Bob Rogers briefly explained the fundraising efforts.  It was determined that Sinclair, the vendor will invoice the city for the cost of the equipment.  All funds raised will be put in an account.  This process will make paying an invoice easier for all parties involved.  

New playground equipment will be installed by volunteers during Impact Church’s Love Week June 26-30.  The manufacturer will guide some of the beginning portion of the installation.  DPW Director Rich LaBombard will also oversee installation as his department will be responsible for continued maintenance on the equipment.  

Due to community fundraising and volunteer installation the city will not have to pay anything for the new equipment.  Nearly $59,000 was raised for the purchase of the new structure and cement needed as part of set up.  The price tag on would be around $16,500.  The only cost to the city will be regular upkeep as is the case with playground equipment in all city parks.  

Closed Session for Union Negotiation Discussion
Upon completion of the regular meeting a closed session took place to discuss union negotiations between the city and police department.  After approximately 30 minutes there was a return to an open session where a contract between the two entities was ratified.  

Council Board Updates and Comments
Most of the monthly board meetings have not taken place so there was light reporting this meeting.  Councilmember Teelander did mention he attended a Showboat Committee meeting on May 17.  It has been determined that a barge/pontoon structure will replace the current boat rather than a permanent structure.  The change in plans came after something permanent would be difficult to meet environmental requirements and be useful to the community.  

During council comments all five members commented on the great job staff is doing keeping the city looking great.  The cemetery commended for being more than ready for the recent Memorial Day service which took place there.  

City Manager’s Report
City Manager Mike Burns commented that Chief Bukula’s investigation continues.  Currently the prosecutor’s office in Barry County is reviewing information.  Burns hopes to hear something within the next couple of weeks regarding the case.  

Burns also commented on taking part in Memorial Day events.  He enjoyed walking in the parade and attending the ceremony in the cemetery.  He was impressed with his first experience in Lowell.  

Representatives from Lowell will travel to Wayland June 16 and to Fenton on June 23.

Finally, he received information recently about bridge repair on Hudson Street.  The bridge will be one lane in one direction from 7am-5pm June 14-21.  Alternating one way traffic will occur when necessary.  At other times two-way traffic will be allowed.  Work which would cause a lane closure will also be avoided during the morning and evening commute.  

Meeting Information
The next City Council meeting will take place in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall on Monday, June 19 at 7pm.  Meeting minutes and agendas can be found on the city’s website.  And meetings can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.  Or check in with Lowell’s First Look after each meeting for a recap of what happened.

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