City Council Recap: New Showboat Expected in River by December

Lowell City Councilmembers got unexpected news at their regular meeting this week. The new Lowell Showboat is expected to be in the Flat River by late November or early December.

“This year?” councilmember Greg Canfield asked.

“This year,” replied Michael Mroz, sales and marketing manager for Moran Iron Works which will be building the Showboat.

The news appeared to be pleasant surprise for councilmembers who went on to award a contract to Moran Iron Works to complete the work. Keep reading for more on that and other action taken at this past Tuesday’s council meeting.

Showboat Projects Moves Forward, But With Some Questions

First up on the agenda was an item to hire JAVO Construction to oversee work on the Showboat. Assistant City Manager Rich LaBombard presented the proposal, noting the Showboat Committee felt it was important to have someone with construction experience supervising the project.

Jim Vanoverloop of JAVO Construction provided LaBombard with proposals for two services. The first was $10,400 to assist with general contractor bidding, and the second was $68,000 to oversee the interior construction of the Showboat. The $68,000 bid assumed 850 hours of work.

“This 850 hours is supervision only?” Canfield asked. LaBombard said yes and added the number was a wild guess since the project was so unique.

“Those hours just boggle my mind,” Canfield said. “I’m a little disappointed that they guy we’re going to pay $80,000 couldn’t be here to meet us,” he added, referencing the fact that Vanoverloop wasn’t in attendance.

Councilmembers opted to approve $10,000 to hire Vanoverloop as the general contractor bidding consultant but decided to wait on the second proposal until they could meet with him and gather additional information.

Next up was Moran Iron Works which provided the good news about the Showboat’s timeline. Mroz said the boat would be fabricated at their facility and then transported in four segments to the Flat River for final assembly. While some of the contract details need to be ironed out, Lowell City Council approved $1,497,920.00 to be paid out of grant funds for the steel structure fabrication of the new Showboat.

Although the new boat is expected to be in the water by Christmas, don’t expect to see Santa there this year. Once the hull is placed on the river, interior work will begin and run into 2020.

Math Lesson on Why Bonds for Roads Won’t Work

In another agenda item, City Manager Mike Burns presented two scenarios for using bonds to pay for road repairs. Burns had the city’s bond advisor run numbers on 10 and 15-year bonds to pay for the estimated $10 million needed to get most city streets to good condition.

In order to pay off the bonds, the city would need to institute a street millage that, according to Burns, could effectively double property taxes for some residents. The average home value in Lowell according to the Census Bureau is $140,000, making its taxable value $70,000. Currently, that home pays $1,099 in property taxes.

However, if a millage were enacted to pay for a 15-year street bond, that home would see an additional $609 in property taxes. If a 10-year bond was used, the property tax increase would be $819. Burns said a city income tax would be much less costly for residents, resulting in a net tax increase of $309.

“And we’re not in debt,” Mayor Mike DeVore added.

All councilmembers seemed to be in agreement that the city income tax was the best solution to fix local roads. City Attorney Dick Wendt is currently working on ballot language for the fall election, and Councilmember Cliff Yankovich suggested adding a calculator to the city website so residents could determine what the proposal would cost them personally.

Township Water and Sewer, Airport Paving and New Mobile Phones

In other action, Buns noted he and Lowell Township Supervisor Jerry Hale had run into some “sticky points” while discussing a revised water and sewer agreement for the township. Lowell City Council approved hiring a facilitator to help resolve those issues, and the cost will be split between the city and township.

Casey Brown, the Lowell Airport Manager, was on hand to request the council’s blessing in using $28,000 to pave the taxiways between hangers A and B. The money will come from the Airport Fund which relies on revenue from airport tenants. “It does not come out of the taxpayer funds at all, and we are pretty proud of that fact,” Brown said. Councilmembers gave their ok to the expenditure.

The last major piece of business discussed was a proposal from Police Chief Steve Bukala to switch mobile service from Sprint to FirstNet, a service of AT&T. FirstNet has a greater coverage area than Sprint, doesn’t require a contract and will save the city approximately $400 a month. More importantly, FirstNet service gives police and first responders priority access to the mobile network. This can be crucial to keeping lines of communication open during emergencies.

Burns noted that some phones, such as the ones issued to him, LaBombard and Clerk Sue Ullery may not be compatible with the system. However, new iPhones could be purchased for $25. He also noted that it might be possible to add councilmember iPads to the system for 99 cents per month. The proposal to switch to FirstNet was approved.

The next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will be held on Monday, May 6, at 7pm on the second floor of City Hall.


  1. Does the income tax go away in 10 years or 15 years? Or is it permanent? Eventually costing tax payers much more?

    If a household has 100k of income with a 1% income tax, that comes to $1,000. In addition, the administration expenses of an income tax compared to property tax are much more. Enforcement, etc.

    • Based on discussions at previous city council meetings, it sounds like the proposal will be for the income tax to run for 15 years and then be discontinued. City property taxes would be reduced by 5 mills during that time but return to the previous rate once the income tax ends.


  2. Income Tax for a town as small as Lowell does not make sense and will kill any momentum for growth Lowell has had. Assuming two new full-time employees (with total comp of $100k each) will be required to audit and administer the income tax filing, this equates to over $50/person (based on 2010 census) just to administer the tax. If you look at labor participation rates (average 63% in the US, couldn’t find local data)… This bumps the administrative cost alone to over $80 per working resident.

    The article claims a net tax increase of $309.

    Should Lowell Tax payers lose 25% of their investment on the city in administrative fees? I wouldn’t make that investment. I live in the township and this tax would not directly impact me. However, this will kill development in Lowell and that will impact me. Just my 2 cents.

    Please, someone with a brain stop this stupidity.

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