City Council Recap: City Charter Delays Unity Development, LPD Officers Take New Positions, City Income Tax Moves Forward

While the City Council meeting on Monday only took an hour before going into closed session to discuss union negotiations, a lot of information was covered.  Developments took place in a number of interests for the City.

Lowell Officers Take Positions in Grandville
At the start of the meeting, Officer Dustin Brown of the Lowell Police Department (LPD) read prepared words.  He is set to start a new job in Grandville next week. During his comments addressed to City Council, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work in Lowell.  “I’ve done my best to serve this department with honor and integrity.” Brown said during his remarks. He started with LPD in 2012 as a part-time officer before being offered a full-time position in 2013.  

During the City Manager report, Mike Burns also noted that Ian Shears, a part-time officer would also be leaving the department for Grandville next week.  Current part-time officers interested in the full-time opening will be interviewed with a recommendation given to Burns by the end of the month. The department will also seek to interview candidates for the vacant part-time spot.  

Infrastructure Review Prompts Continuation of Income Tax Discussion
City Manager Mike Burns had the opportunity to meet with Prein & Newhof to further review their findings when it comes to areas of infrastructure beneath the road which will need to be replaced or repaired.  A map was shown to indicate areas where water and/or sewer could be worked on in conjunction with road replacement.

Burns also provided information on how money received from the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF), which was created via Act 51 and is composed of monies collected through things like the gas tax, along with a transfer from the General Fund to the Local Street Fund creates the pool of money used to fix roads.  Additionally, this budget line item pays for operating costs for City roads such as filling potholes.

Under the current budget, less than $300k per year is available to budget for road replacement.  An estimate of the cost to repair roads was also presented as well as a projected increase in revenue should an income tax be put in place.  Burns’ next step is to work with Williams and Works to develop a review of City streets, an estimated cost to repair or replace where needed, and calculate what could be done with the current budget versus one which included income tax revenue.  

Projects where infrastructure beneath the road needs to be addressed can use funds from sanitary and/or sewer funds, however replacing roads alone will need to be paid for by the street fund.  City Council directed Burns to continue looking into information regarding reducing property tax by four or five mills while implementing an income tax. It was mentioned that a vote on adopting a city income tax could be on the November ballot with Burns indicating coming up with additional revenue was the only way to address infrastructure needs without a significant cut in city services.

Unity Project Faces Hurdle
City Council held a public hearing regarding whether or not a piece of park property on the Riverwalk should be removed as park land in order to be sold or traded to Unity School Investors, LLC who is looking to develop the property to include residential and retail space.  The board was anticipating voting on whether to approve taking land out of the city’s park system, however the City Manager was notified by the city’s attorney’s office hours before the meeting that a resolution needed to be sent to the Planning Commission to review.  Part of this review includes holding a public hearing prior to offering a recommendation to City Council. These new steps are outlined in the City Charter.

The resolution would then go back to City Council which would review comments from Planning Commission before voting to pass the resolution, which needs a super-majority (four positive votes) to pass.  Once the resolution is passed, it has to sit for 20 days before anything official can be done. The DNR must also sign off on removing the land from the park system because a grant was obtained in order to create the portion of the Riverwalk in question.

Riverview Flats, the name of the proposed condominiums, is looking to start their project as soon as possible.  They are seeking a 263.2’x7’ piece of land in order to be able to offer a larger patio space for the residential units.  The City’s Parks and Recreation Board has had some questions about taking this piece of property out of the parks system.  Regardless of what happens with the issue of this land, the project still needs to come before Planning Commission for, at minimum, a site plan review.  

Review of Lowell Township Water and Sewer Rates Adjusted
The City of Lowell sells water and processes sewage for the township at a wholesale price.  The township inquired about a significant spike during a two-year period for sewer rates. Accountant Peter Haefner has worked with the City and Lowell Township to review the method which was used to calculate the rate for both sewer and water.  It was found that an incorrect formula had been used, resulting in an overcharge.

Additionally, in looking at the contract between the two municipalities, Lowell Township has not been paying a portion of capital improvement as outlined in the agreement.  The result of these findings shows the City owing Lowell Township approximately $120,000 and the township needing to pay the City an estimated $250,000.

The two entities will continue to work together to resolve the situation and make sure correct rates and upgrades are accounted for moving forward.  

Board Openings
The City is looking to fill two open board positions.  The Construction Board of Review and Historic District Commission have a seat to fill.  Interested parties can contact City Hall to obtain an application to complete to fill a vacancy.  This is a great opportunity to become involved with what happens in the City of Lowell.

Meeting Information
The next City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 19 due to the Presidents Day holiday.  Meeting agendas, packets, and recordings can be found on the Lowell City website. Or check in with Lowell’s First Look for recaps following each meeting.

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