Lowell City Council met for 50 minutes last night to discuss four agenda items during their second regular meeting for September. All councilmembers were present.
Before starting discussion on old and new business, the council opened the floor for comments concerning items not on the agenda. One resident approached the podium to discuss holes left in her siding after a utility box had been moved. She had previously stopped by city hall and left a message but has been able to connect with anyone who could resolve her concerns.
Charlie West, general manager for Lowell Light & Power, was in the audience during the meeting and said this was the first he had heard of the concern but would address it as soon as possible.
Lowell’s First Look learned that West went to the resident’s house immediately after the meeting and determined the utility box isn’t one belonging to Lowell Light & Power or the city’s water utility. While it is not a city box, West is working to help the resident identify and connect with the company that installed it.
Kent District Library Annual Report
The first item on the agenda was a report from Kent District Library. Several representatives from the library addressed the council and shared how KDL and the Englehardt branch had fared during the pandemic. Overall, the system held approximately 1,400 livestream events for patrons and delivered some 400,000 items via curbside pick-up.
“COVID was a huge pivot for us,” explained regional manager Sandy Graham.
She noted the Lowell branch was one of the first to offer curbside pick-up and had actually launched the service prior to the pandemic as a way for parents with young children or those with mobility issues to easily receive materials from the library. However, when KDL launched the service for the whole system, it helped streamline the process. “The way we were doing it at first was a little bit clunky,” Graham said.
In-person programming for children, such as story times, has resumed, and the library hopes to be able to restart adult programs at the branch soon. In the meantime, the library is dropping off books to senior centers such as Green Acres and Senior Neighbors and is holding senior book discussions via the phone.
Although foot traffic hasn’t entirely bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, Graham noted that the Lowell branch is now circulating more books that it did in 2019.
After Graham’s presentation, Councilmember Marty Chambers added that the library was essential to making sure the 2020 Pink Arrow game could be broadcast to an audience in Recreation Park. He explained that three internet hotspots from the library were used to stream the game.
At the end of the meeting, during council remarks, Mayor Mike DeVore commented on the fact that the library building will need a new HVAC system in the next two years. The library building is owned by the city, and the cost could be as much as $120,000. DeVore said the townships need to pitch in to pay that cost.
Councilmember Cliff Yankovich questioned if that would be possible, and City Manager Mike Burns replied, “You can ask, but they have no legal obligation.”
Chambers said he thought the city had a good relationship with Lowell Township which may encourage them to help with the cost. “I would hope the townships would kick in,” he said. “It don’t hurt to ask.”
“At the end of the day, we’re going to take care of the library,” DeVore said in wrapping up the discussion.
Line Shack Bids
Next on the agenda was a review of bids for a former Lowell Light & Power line shack located along the Flat River on Riverside Dr. The utility no longer uses it and would like to sell the property. However, since the building is owned by the city, councilmembers have final say in the matter.
Six bids were received for the building. The minimum bid required by Lowell Light & Power was $100,000, and the high bid was $118,000. At its meeting last week, the Lowell Light & Power board invited everyone who placed a bid to present their idea to the board. Suggested uses for the building include retail, dining and condos.
While the Lowell Light & Power board declined to make a specific recommendation to Lowell City Council, it noted that the proposals with higher bids were more attractive to the utility.
By consensus, the council decided to ask all the bidders to present their ideas during a special meeting on October 11. Eric Bartkus, who submitted a bid, asked if the city would be considering parking needs as it evaluated proposals. He noted that the parking requirements for various types of establishments could be significantly different.
Burns said he had not thought about doing an evaluation of parking needs, but it was a good suggestion and he would look into the matter prior to the October meeting.
Hillside Court Turnaround and Wolverine Power Easement
The final two issues on the agenda were addressed in short order.
First was a decision to pave a turnaround on Hillside Court. This had been discussed at previous meetings and is being done to address dust issues on the road. Lowell City Council voted unanimously to approve the work to be done by Great Lakes Paving at a cost of $3,980.
Next, Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative asked to amend an easement on city owned property on Ware Road. The power company has had an easement on the property since 1957, and they would like to reduce the size of the easement so that it will no longer apply to the whole property but only to the section that contains their power lines. In exchange for amending the easement, Wolverine Power will pay the city $285.
“I don’t know how you turn down $285,” DeVore quipped before the council voted unanimously to approve the amended easement.
The next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will take place on October 4, 2021 at 7pm in City Hall.