The last City Council meeting for 2018 took place this week. Councilmember and staff welcomed Cliff Yankovich to his first official meeting after being appointed to the board, filling the spot left by Jeff Phillips. Councilmembers and staff participated in their second (annual?!) ugly sweater event and reviewed old business items on the agenda to close out the year.
Capital Improvement Review
Brian Vilmont of Prein and Newhof presented a brief review of findings after evaluating city infrastructure beneath Lowell’s roads. The stormwater, asset management, and wastewater (SAW) assessment has been an ongoing project since 2016. Now complete, Vilmont will sit down with City Manager Mike Burns and Assistant City Manager Rich LaBombard to go over findings and start establishing projects based on overall infrastructure need.
As the scope of projects and overall need in the city is discussed, the cost involved in fixing, replacing, and maintaining storm and wastewater pipes as well as roads will be established. A more detailed scope of priorities and project suggestions is anticipated to come before City Council in the new year.
Continued City Tax Discussion
City Manager Mike Burns indicated that in order to pay for new roads and other infrastructure needs additional revenue is needed, suggesting City Council and residents would need to make decisions on how to generate funds.
It has been almost a year since Burns presented information about implementing a city income tax. A presentation by an expert was brought before council during their last meeting. During this week’s meeting Councilmember Canfield expressed concerns that a city income tax would be a “tough sell” with residents. It was pointed out that older residents who are retired would not necessarily see a tax increase due to a lack of income which could be taxed by this method and they could see a savings as property taxes would be lowered should a new tax be put in place.
There was a brief discussion on whether a city income tax would appear on the ballot in 2019 vs 2020 or later. Councilmember Salzwedel indicated something needed to be done sooner rather than so projects could be started so the issue of fixing the roads could be addressed with action. While others agreed, no action was taken nor was any direction given to the City Manager from council.
An estimated $12 million is needed to deal with the city’s crumbling roads plus funding to maintain streets to ensure they withstand use over the years. A bond for this amount could be sought as a way to pay for new roads as well as a millage increase. Regardless of the method used, it’s likely residents will have to help pay the bill. Even the option of cutting city services will not cover all of the anticipated cost.
No action or specific direction was taken during the meeting.
Sale of City Land
City Council approved the sale of city property located at 2560 Bowes Road to Lowell Charter Township. They will use a portion of the land for storage and a gateway to their new park. The remaining part will be leased to Vergennes Broadband. This will allow the property to be sold but also generate a little tax income. The property is being sold under the condition that it will be be detached from the city.
During citizen comments, Perry Beachum mentioned the passing of Bill 477. This bill states motorists must slow to 10 miles below the posted speed limit when passing not only emergency and police vehicles but now includes roadside tow trucks, garbage trucks, maintenance, and utility vehicles. Violations would be considered a civil offense.
City Manager Mike Burns sought council input with regard to giving employees time off on New Year’s Eve after the Lowell Light and Power board recently deemed December 31 a holiday for the 2018 calendar year. After some discussion, it was determined that city workers would be able to leave work early on December 31 and essential employees who are not able to leave would receive two hours of comp time to use at a later date. Burns also welcomed a Boy Scout troop who was in attendance as part of earning a merit badge.
City Council will meet again in the new year on Monday, January 7 at 7pm on the second floor of City Hall. 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.