City Council Recap: Discussion on Showboat, Cemetery Rules Update

Lowell City Council met for approximately an hour on Monday to discuss seven agenda items. However, before they got to those, members approved a process to fill a vacancy on the council created by the resignation of Greg Canfield.

Those interested in being appointed to the council position should submit a letter of interest to city hall by 5pm on November 16. Councilmembers will then interview applicants during a special meeting to be held on November 23 at 6pm. The person appointed to the position will have to run for reelection in 2021.

After that, the council moved onto agenda items, and here’s a look at the major topics of discussion.

Discussion on Showboat Continues

The Showboat has been a frequent agenda item during Lowell City Council meetings, and councilmembers recently held a special meeting with the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Showboat Committee to determine how best to manage the boat once it is complete.

After that meeting, the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce sent a memo indicating their willingness to help with promotion and scheduling. The chamber will also assist with the creation of a separate non-profit to manage the boat in the future. This non-profit would have a board of directors that would include two members from the chamber, two members from the city and three members from the community at large. Once the non-profit was set up and a manager hired, the chamber would step back from scheduling the venue.

City Manager Mike Burns added that it would probably be cheaper to keep the Showboat on the city’s insurance policy rather than have the non-profit pursue its own coverage. The boat could be included on the city’s plan even if managed separately.

Councilmember Marty Chambers said he felt the chamber and the council had made good progress on the issue and was surprised to get an email from Showboat Committee member Mark Mundt which seemed to indicate that everyone was not on the same page. “It was very confusing,” he said. “I thought we had a good thing going and now I’m not so sure.”

Mundt, who was present, said the letter was from him personally and not representative of the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. He also noted that he was not a part of the chamber, but a citizen member of the Showboat Committee.

The contents of Mundt’s letter were not shared but apparently included a concern that some information stated by the council during the recent special meeting was incorrect. After the meeting, Mundt told Lowell’s First Look that his email was intended to ask councilmembers to be more mindful when making public comments.

Councilmember Cliff Yankovich asked why Mundt did not raise his concerns during the special meeting, and Mundt replied that it wasn’t until he saw an article in the paper that he became concerned about some statements that had been made. Mayor Mike DeVore said he didn’t think media reports always conveyed the context of comments made at meetings.

After the exchange about the letter, Mundt shared that the Showboat Committee had raised $353,900 of its $780,000 goal. Brick sponsorship and naming opportunities will soon be opened to the public.

Liz Baker, executive director of the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, then shared that an instructor at Davenport University was interested in helping the city set up a non-profit for the Showboat as a class project. She also reiterated the chamber’s desire to work with the city, saying, “I think my board is really positive about moving forward.”

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Cemetery Rules Being Revised

Later in the meeting, Dan Czarnecki, director of the Department of Public Works, reviewed proposed changed to the rules and regulations governing Oakwood Cemetery.

One of the most notable changes is intended to limit the transfer of burial rights from a resident to a non-resident. Currently, residents pay $250 for burial rights in the cemetery while non-residents are charged $500. However, there is no language in the cemetery rules that prevents a resident from buying a plot and then giving it to a non-resident.

“The city loses money when this happens,” Czarnecki said. Going forward, people will be asked to name a specific person to be interred when a purchase is made. Those wishing to transfer burial rights to another person will need written approval from the city.

  • Additional changes include the following, among others.
  • Directing people to make payments at city hall rather than the cemetery
  • Prohibiting metal detecting in the cemetery
  • Extending the time flags remain on the graves of veterans
  • Prohibiting private niches which can result in multiple cremains being stored at one site

The fee schedule is also being reviewed and will be brought back to city council at a future date.

Other Meeting Items

During citizen comments, Perry Beachum said there seemed to be a delay in completing the land swap with the Unity School Investors. That was preventing Lowell Light & Power from completing easements. Beachum, who is chair of the LLP Board, said he hoped the issue could be resolved before General Manager Steve Donkersloot’s last day with the utility.

At their last meeting, Lowell City Council agreed to meet with a facilitator to discuss regional water and wastewater needs with Lowell Charter Township. This week, the city appointed Burns, Czarnecki and DeVore as city representatives to the task force. Todd Schaal was selected as the citizen representative.

“What is our overall goal when we meet with them,” Councilmember Jim Salzwedel asked.

Burns replied that it was township needs that would be discussed, and the city doesn’t need to get anything out of the negotiations. He added the city has a firm stance that it isn’t interested in extended water and sewer lines without some sort of financial compensation. “Where I sit, it’s got to be a 425 [agreement] or a significant amount of money,” Burns said.

Lowell City Council also unanimously approved a $6,567 expenditure o Progressive Heating, Cooling & Refrigeration for a new HVAC unit for the DPW building and $39,100 for survey work for road projects on Monroe and Washington Streets.

The next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will take place on Monday, November 16, at 7pm.

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