City Council Recap: Short Meeting to Start the Year

City Clerk Sue Ullery welcomes Eric Bartkus to Lowell City Council.

Lowell City Council eased into the new year with a short meeting on Tuesday night. Clocking in at less than a half hour, the meeting mainly consisted of annual housekeeping tasks such as the election of officers and approval of rules of procedure. All councilmembers were present except Marty Chambers. There were no public comments.

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Annual Business to Start the New Year

To begin the meeting, City Clerk Sue Ullery swore in Lowell’s newest councilmember, Eric Bartkus. He won an open seat during last November’s general election and takes over the spot vacated by Cliff Yankovich, who opted against running for reelection.

After that, councilmembers voted for the mayor and mayor pro tem positions. Mike DeVore and Chambers, who currently hold those respective positions, were returned to them unanimously.

By consensus, the rules of procedure were also approved for 2024. DeVore noted there were no changes to the rules compared to last year.

Councilmembers also unanimously approved those authorized to sign on city bank accounts. The list of authorized signatures is the same as last year and includes the following:

  • Mayor
  • Mayor Pro Tem
  • City Manager
  • City Treasurer
  • Police Chief
  • Deputy City Treasurer

The city clerk and assistant clerk were also approved to access city safety deposit boxes.

Finally, councilmembers unanimously approved 2024 poverty exemption guidelines as required by the state. The poverty exemption allows the city to waive taxes for those who fall under certain income thresholds.

Recreation Park to Host Dog Events

Representatives of West Michigan Dog Sports

Two organizations — Kent County Youth Fair Dog Project and West Michigan Dog Sports — have proposed using the Reath Barn at Recreation Park (the former fairgrounds) for year-round training and event activities. The groups have proposed making improvements to the building as well as paying a monthly fee and covering electric expenses.

Bartkus noted that the groups’ proposal mentioned a “nominal” fee and asked how much that might be. An unnamed representative in the audience replied that the groups didn’t have an amount in mind, but since both organizations were non-profits, they were hoping to keep costs as low as possible.

Councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the proposal and directed city staff to work out the details of the agreement.

Other Meeting News

In other meeting updates:

  • The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy PFAS Team will hold a meeting about the Ware Road Landfill and contamination site at 6pm on Jan. 23, 2024 in Lowell City Hall.
  • Jason Rosenzweig has been selected as the new city assessor. He is also currently the assessor for Algoma Township and previously served as assessor for the City of Cedar Springs.
  • Bartkus was appointed to represent the council on the Downtown Historic District Commission and the Arbor Board

While discussing appointments, it was shared that two individuals – John Barnett and Jake Davenport — had applied to fill a vacancy on the Planning Commission. That spot on the commission became available in December.

Bartkus suggested waiting to fill the position. “These appointments are very important…but I don’t think the public is aware of these vacancies,” he said and added that he didn’t see any notice of the Planning Commission vacancy on the city website.

“We preach it at every single meeting,” DeVore replied. “We cover what boards are open and how to go about applying. I think we’re very proactive about the vacancies.” He then requested a nomination from councilmembers for one of the two current applicants.

Councilmember Jim Salzwedel asked if Barnett was at the meeting and mentioned that he didn’t know him. Councilmember Leah Groves asked DeVore if he knew Barnett, and he replied yes. When no councilmember offered a nomination, DeVore nominated Barnett. No other nominations were made, and DeVore appointed Barnett to the Planning Commission.

The meeting adjourned at 7:26pm, and the next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 7pm in Lowell City Hall.

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