Lowell City Council met in open session for nearly 50 minutes on Monday night. All councilmembers were present, and the meeting included six pieces of business. At the start of the meeting, there was a brief presentation by Department of Public Works Director Dan Czarnecki to introduce Jeff Phillips as the city’s new parks and streets supervisor.
Since their last regular meeting, councilmembers also met in a joint session with Lowell Light and Power. The only piece of business for that meeting was a closed session which lasted approximately two hours and 40 minutes. According to the meeting minutes, the closed session was to “review materials exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute.”
At the conclusion of the open session, both Lowell City Council and Lowell Light and Power approved the following expenditures unanimously:
- Up to $62,000 to “purchase supplies with IP Consulting”
- A 5-year service management agreement with IP Consulting at a monthly cost of $3,709.42
Lowell’s First Look sent an email to City Manager Mike Burns and LLP General Manager Charlie West to ask what services would be provided by IP Consulting, whether the service was bid out and what underlying state or federal statute applied to the closed session.
City Attorney Jessica Wood replied to say that IP Consulting was providing “services relating to supplemental, future IT related services” and the underlying statute that supported the legality of the closed session was the Freedom of Information Act. She specifically cited the following provisions of the law which exempt from disclosure material in the following situations:
- (i) The information is submitted upon a promise of confidentiality by the public body.
- (u) Records of a public body’s security measures, including security plans, security codes and combinations, passwords, passes, keys, and security procedures, to the extent that the records relate to the ongoing security of the public body.
- (y) Records or information of measures designed to protect the security or safety of persons or property, or the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information systems, whether public or private…
Wood also stated in her email: “This service was exempt from the bidding process as the company is uniquely qualified to provide this service.”
According to its website, IP Consulting is a Virginia-based company with a virtual office in Michigan. The firm says it specializes in communications and security.
Public Comments: Lowell Pride, Bridge Flower Boxes
During the public comments portion of Monday’s meeting, Nicole Lintemuth and Craig Fonger spoke about the previous weekend’s Lowell Pride event.
“By every possible measure, it was a success,” said Lintemuth, board president for Lowell Pride. She noted the event hosted more than 75 vendors, had more than 90 volunteers and saw approximately 4,000 visitors throughout the day.
Fonger added his appreciation that all councilmembers were present during the day and helped in some capacity. As a member of Lowell Pride, Councilmember Leah Groves helped organize the kids area. Meanwhile, Councilmember Cliff Yankovich assisted with trash collection and Councilmembers Marty Chambers and Jim Salzwedel helped with some set-up duties. Salzwedel also kept the pink lemonade flowing freely and made sure the restrooms on the Riverwalk were opened and stocked with supplies.
During their comments at the end of the meeting, councilmembers praised the event and its organization.
“I’m glad that it’s here, and I think you should arrange one every single month,” Mayor Mike DeVore said.
Groves read a statement about her appreciation of the Lowell community embracing the event and added, “Lives were saved.”
The third public comment of the meeting came from Perry Beachum. He noted the new flower boxes on the Main Street bridge and shared his appreciation of the generous gift from the Donna Jean Ford estate which made them possible.
Special Event Insurance Discussed
Continuing a discussion from its last meeting, Lowell City Council considered how to handle insurance for special events held in the city. In the past, most events were sponsored by either the city or the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce and covered by those organization’s umbrella liability insurance policies.
However, in recent years, more events have been hosted by smaller organizations. These groups have been required to purchase a $1 million liability policy for their events. Chris Arendshorst from the city’s insurance provider BHS said these policies could be $100 or several thousand dollars depending on the event and perceived risk.
Councilmembers worried about the cost being a deterrent to events being held in the city. There was also a question about events such as Market on Main which are loosely organized and involve many vendors who may not have any insurance coverage.
“To me, the easiest solution would seem to be a waiver,” Yankovich said.
Arendshorst said that BHS works with some communities that use liability waivers. “It’s the next best thing in terms of redirecting risk away from the city,” he said.
At the end of the discussion, councilmembers agreed that city staff and the city attorney could develop waivers that could be used for smaller events. For larger events with more risk – as determined by insurance underwriters – an insurance policy would continue to be required.
Other Meeting Items and Information
Other action and informational items from the meeting included the following:
- A street asset management plan, which has been in development since 2018, was unanimously passed on Monday. Once it is filed with the state, it will allow the city to use more of its major streets fund for repairs on local (non-major) streets.
- Council unanimously approved up to $15,600 to be used to analyze soil on the Washington/Front Street Moose property for potential contamination. Debris from street cleanings was previously deposited there, and a concern was raised about it possibly being contaminated.
- The purchase of a variable speed drive for two pumps at the water plant was approved unanimously at a cost of $33,374.
- Public hearings were set to create an industrial development district for Atwood and approve an industrial facility tax credit for King Milling. These public hearings were originally scheduled for Monday’s meeting but needed to be rescheduled since notifications were not sent by certified mail to the tax jurisdictions as required by law.
- Burns said that River City Cannabis had reworked its air filtration system, and he had toured the business recently to see the improvements. He did not believe odor from the site would be a problem in the future.
- New Union Brewery was required to pave their lot as part of a site plan approved by the Planning Commission last year. The business missed the deadline for the work to be completed, but Burns has met with the owners and believes they are on track to remedy the situation.
At approximately 7:50pm, councilmembers voted unanimously to go into closed session for the following reasons:
- To consider material exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute
- For strategy and negotiation sessions connected with the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement…
- To consider a periodic personnel evaluation of a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent…
The next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will be held on Monday, June 20, at 7pm in Lowell City Hall.