City Council Recap: Sewer Dispute Continues

Lowell City Council met for nearly an hour last night to discuss a variety of issues. The most heated conversation came during the citizen comments portion of the night when resident and business owner Greg Canfield again asked councilmembers to place a sewer line issue on a future agenda.

All councilmembers were present for the meeting, with City Manager Mike Burns joining from home via the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

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No Council Response to Agenda Request

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Canfield rose to speak on a concern he has about a sewer line running under the Main Street bridge. The sewer line apparently freezes in the winter, and Canfield asserts that the line is the city’s responsibility to maintain and fix. The city argues that the line is not a main sewer line but a lateral line, in which case maintenance falls to the property owner.

The issue was originally discussed as an agenda item in February, and last night’s meeting was the third time Canfield has spoken during the public comments portion of a meeting to request that it be placed on the agenda again.

Canfield provided copies of text messages and emails showing he has tried multiple times to be placed on the agenda to discuss information he had gathered related to the matter, including MDOT plans from the Main Street bridge reconstruction project and an email from former DPW Director Dan DesJarden saying that the city has always maintained the line.

On March 15, he emailed all the councilmembers asking to be placed on the agenda for the next meeting. Three days later, Mayor Mike DeVore allegedly called back to say that it was too late to add anything to the agenda since the council packets had already been delivered.

On March 28, Canfield texted Burns to again ask that the issue be added to the agenda, and Burns replied that it would not be proper for him to do so. He noted, “I have no new information to give the council and they have taken action on the matter…”

Last night, Councilmember Marty Chambers told Canfield that he had texted him to set up a meeting to discuss the matter, and that he apparently didn’t want to.

“You wanted to meet me in Ada,” Canfield shot back.

When DeVore added that he too had tried to reach Canfield by phone to discuss the matter, Canfield reiterated that he wanted to have a discussion at a council meeting. “This is where we deal with it, not in Vitales,” he said.

Canfield asked if the issue could be placed on the agenda, noting that it only took one councilmember to make the request. However, there was no reply from councilmembers.

During public comments, two letters were read into the record and another resident spoke in support of Canfield’s request. The seating area was largely full, and roughly half the attendees left with Canfield after the public comments portion of the meeting was over.

2022-2023 Budget Approved

Councilmember unanimously approved the budget for the upcoming year. While a public hearing was held on the budget, no citizens spoke on the issue.

Below are the anticipated revenues and expenditures from each city fund for the upcoming year:

Road Closures Approved

Councilmembers unanimously approved two road closure requests.

The first will close Main Street from Hudson to Monroe on Memorial Day. The road will be closed from 10-11am to allow for the Memorial Day Parade.

Sections of Avery and Washington will be closed on July 7-9 for the annual Riverwalk Festival. Main Street will also be closed on Saturday, July 9, at 1:45pm from Hudson to Jackson for a Riverwalk Rumble as classic cars leave the Cruise-In area.

There will not be a parade at this year’s festival. “We didn’t do it last year, and we believe it wasn’t missed,” said Liz Baker, executive director of the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’re going to focus on Christmas.”

Air Conditioner Purchase Approved

The city budget includes $160,000 for a new air conditioning unit for Lowell City Hall. Burns shared that he had been told by Progressive Heating that due to new electrical codes going into effect, the unit would need to be ordered by the end of May or the cost would increase 15-30%. The city manager recommended the council approve the purchase of a new air conditioning unit from Progressive Heating at a cost not to exceed $160,000.

Canfield approached the podium and said it was his understanding that the city charter required all expenses of $10,000 or more to be put out to bid. Burns said that the city’s purchasing policy allows purchases from preferred vendors without the need to go through the bidding process.

“If it gives exclusivity, it needs to be changed,” Canfield said.

The purchasing policy was last updated in 2019, Burns told Lowell’s First Look after the meeting. As currently written, the policy allows the the city manager to skip the bidding process for reasons such as the “known or perceived disparities in the skill, knowledge, integrity, experience, judgement or performance of specific vendors.”

Lowell’s First Look reached out to Burns for additional information about how preferred vendors are selected but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Councilmembers unanimously approved the purchase of the air conditioning unit as recommended.

Other Meeting Items and Discussion

Other items from Monday’s meeting include the following:

  • After extensive discussion, councilmembers tabled an agenda item about insurance requirements for special events held in town, such as Market on Main. They requested that the city’s insurance agent attend a future meeting to discuss their options.
  • Dave Emmette of Glenn Morris & Associates was named an agent of record to allow him to secure insurance quotes for Lowell Showboat VI.
  • A public hearing was set for June 6 to discuss the establishment of an industrial development district for Atwood. The district is needed for the company to apply for an industrial facility tax credit.
  • A public hearing was set for June 6 to discuss an industrial facility tax credit for King Milling.
  • Councilmember Cliff Yankovich shared that the Kent County Youth Fair had a goal of raising $14 million for their new fairgrounds and were only $1.4 million short of that goal. Funding so far included $5.2 million from the state and $2.1 million in federal funds as well as corporate and private donations.
  • A Lowell Township resident addressed the council at the end of the meeting for information about how to offer kayak rentals on the Riverwalk. She would also like to establish an old-fashioned ice cream float shop.

The meeting adjourned at 7:53pm. The next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will be held on Monday, June 6, at 7pm.


Editor’s Note: This article was updated to clarify that the last change to the city’s purchasing policy occurred in 2019, not 2017 as was previously written.

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