It was one for the record books as Lowell City Council adjourned after 14 minutes last night. In what was the shortest meeting in recent memory, the four main agendas items were tabled as part of the first order of business.
“I apologize for the sudden agenda change, but it couldn’t be avoided,” Mayor Mike DeVore said at the close of the meeting. In making the motion to table the items, he noted that Councilmember Marty Chambers was absent and wanted to be part of the discussion and that he himself had a commitment at 7:30pm.
The four tabled items were:
Vacation of Horatio Street — Lowell City Council previously voted to oppose the vacation of Horatio Street, which is needed to pave the way for a development on the east side of town. However, they have now received a legal opinion and are being asked to reconsider that decision. Details of the legal opinion were not available in the council packet posted online.
Observed City Holidays – First raised earlier in the month, councilmembers are considering how best to observe federal holidays, specifically Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Juneteenth and Veterans Day.
Utility Billing Policy – According to a memo in the council packet, it was discovered that some utility customers have been inaccurately billed for eight years. One account in particular has been apparently underbilled by more than $100,000 for sewer charges. This agenda item was to discuss how best to approach the collection of back charges.
Lowell Light and Power Update – No information was provided in the council packet about this item, but at the end of Monday’s meeting, LLP General Manager Charlie West noted that he would have a future announcement about a change in hours at the utility.
Citizen, Manager and Council Comments
During the citizen comments portion of the meeting, resident Perry Beachum rose to speak on the ongoing negotiations between the city and Lowell Township regarding the water system.
“I feel that we’re in an adversarial relationship, and we should be in a partnership,” Beachum said. He added that while some seem to think the city doesn’t need the township, he thought that city residents would see their water bills increase if the township left to create their own water system.
Beachum, who is chair of the Lowell Light & Power Board, also encouraged the city to look into using Utility Financial Solutions out of Holland to evaluate and set utility rates. He noted that LLP used the firm and found them to be very helpful.
During his report, City Manager Mike Burns said there would be a presentation in January about the creation of an affordable housing plan for the city. He also shared that the city assessor is stepping down, and he is working with the county to have them pick up assessing duties for the city.
Councilmember Cliff Yankovich noted that the Look Memorial Fund had only one funding request this year — $5,000 for a speed sign for the Lowell Police Department – and that was approved. He also noted that Christmas Through Lowell “rocked.”
Other councilmembers echoed Yankovich’s comment about Christmas Through Lowell, noting the event seemed to be a huge success. Councilmember Jim Salzwedel also mentioned that he was concerned about people cutting across the road mid-block and asked if MDOT could be contacted about repainting or otherwise increasing the visibility of crosswalks.
The meeting adjourned at 7:14pm. The next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will be on December 4 at 7pm in Lowell City Hall.
Joint Meeting with Lowell Light & Power
Before their regular meeting, Lowell City Council met with the Lowell Light & Power Board at 6pm for a joint meeting that lasted an hour.
During the meeting, the two boards went into a closed session to discuss a technology project. Upon returning to open session, they approved a $3,000 monthly expense for the project with the cost to be shared by the City of Lowell, Lowell Police Department and Lowell Light and Power. No details of the project were shared, but West told Lowell’s First Look it should take about a year to complete.
The two boards also discussed the city’s tree policy. Currently, both the city and Lowell Light & Power are required to deposit $250 into the city tree fund for every tree removed from public grounds.
According to Beachum, who also sits on the Arbor Board, councilmembers and LLP board members discussed the possibility of each entity instead contributing a flat amount, such as $4,500, to the tree fund each year with a cap on the total amount held in the fund. The city attorney will be consulted about the feasibility of making that change, and the issue should come back before Lowell City Council in the future.