City Council Recap: Field Trip to Ware Rd, Income Tax Resolution and Extra Day for Fireworks

Head to Ware Road in Boston Township, and you’ll find what appears to be a pristine piece of natural property. However, the greenery hides a secret underneath. The City of Lowell used the land as a public landfill for decades before it was closed in the early 1980s.

Current city leaders recently learned that their predecessors never addressed contamination discovered at the site in 1986. City Manager Mike Burns is working on a plan to address the issue, and city councilmembers held a special Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday night at the Ware Road site.

After the Committee of the Whole, the group headed back to City Hall for a short regular meeting in which they passed a resolution declaring their intent to use any city income tax revenues for road repairs and agreed to give residents an additional day to launch fireworks within the city limits.

Local Leaders Visit Ware Road

At the Committee of the Whole, councilmembers and other city leaders gathered at the site of the Ware Road landfill in Boston Township. The property was operated by the city from the 1930s to 1980s as a place where local residents could dump their refuse. The landfill was open during business hours for anyone to dispose of their trash, and garage was not monitored for potentially hazardous materials, as seems to have been the norm in the mid-20th Century.

By the 1980s, the state became more proactive in addressing contamination issues, and the city stopped accepting refuse in 1982 as a result of new solid waste regulations. In 1986, the State of Michigan installed three monitoring wells at the Ware Road landfill and discovered elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene, dichloroethane and carbon tetrachloride.

At that time, the City of Lowell should have taken steps to address the contamination. However, they didn’t, and the oversight was recently noticed by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

Burns and Councilmember Greg Canfield have personally visited all the homeowners adjoining the property. The two either spoke to neighbors directly or left a flyer about the situation if no one was home. Burns says most neighboring homes were built in the late 1990s or early 2000s, and he believes their wells were likely tested and approved by the Health Department during construction.

The city plans to install additional monitoring wells to determine the level and extent of any contamination that may still be present. Additional testing results should be available by the fall, and that information will help guide the city’s next step.

Short Regular Meeting Covers City Income Tax, Fireworks and More

Back at City Hall, Lowell councilmembers kicked off their regular 7pm meeting with an update from Burns about the status of the Showboat project. Currently, the Showboat Committee is in the process of finalizing plans for renovation of the former DPW garage along the Riverwalk. Depending on the cost, the city would like to renovate the façade of the building and update it to include both restrooms and meeting rooms.

Next up was a review of changes to the state law pertaining to fireworks. In 2018, the Michigan Legislature reduced the number of days in which residents can legally discharge fireworks from 30 days to 12 days. While cities can’t restrict the number of the days on which fireworks are allowed to fewer than those 12, they can allow additional days. Lowell City Councilmembers agreed that they would add the Riverwalk Festival as an acceptable date for the discharge of fireworks in the city.

Councilmembers also passed a resolution indicating that all revenue from a city income tax, after accounting for the millage rate reduction and administrative costs, is to be used for public street maintenance, repair and replacement.

In other council action, councilmembers approved the following:

  • $21,799 to purchase a new stainless steel salter for a plow truck
  • $12,960 for an employee classification and compensation study
  • $472.88 for membership in The Michigan Coalition to Protect Public Rights-of-Way
  • Amendments to Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which accounted for items such as the sale of city property at 2560 Bowes Road and greater than anticipated attorney fees

During the city manager’s report, Burns noted that seven applicants for the vacant Department of Public Works Director position had been interviewed. Four are being called back for a second interview, and the position is hoped to be filled shortly.

The next regular meeting of the Lowell City Council will take place on Monday, July 1, 2019 at 7pm on the second floor of City Hall.

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