A few weeks ago, Lowell City Council members were contemplating whether to dismantle the current Showboat and leave the Flat River empty while raising money to build a new boat. But residents no longer have to worry about that happening.
“We were trying to figure out how to fundraise $1.3 million,” said city manager Mike Burns during last night’s regular council meeting. “Now we have that $1.3 million.”
That money comes from a state budget bill signed into law prior to the end of last year. State Senator Dave Hildenbrand was instrumental in getting the funding included in the bill, and it comes on top of the $1 million he was able to secure for the city in 2017. In total, the City of Lowell has $2.3 million from the state to build a new Showboat. That’s in addition to nearly $150,000 raised through other activities such as the annual Larkin’s Chili Cook-Off and Rotary Club auction.
Together, the money is enough to move forward with a bid from Moran Iron Works of Onaway to build a new Showboat. The city council was originally scheduled to meet with the Planning Commission at their next Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss zoning for recreational marijuana facilities but decided to push that back in favor of meeting with the Rebuild the Showboat Committee instead.
“The Showboat is such a priority,” noted councilmember Greg Canfield.
City Audit Shows Increase in Capital Investments
Peter Haefner of accounting firm Vredeveld Haefner was also on hand for the meeting to review the city’s annual audit. Before launching into the results, he noted the city was found to have followed generally accepted standards for accounting. He then reviewed the major changes from the previous year.
When it comes to the city’s net assets, its capital investments show positive growth. Haefner said the overall growth in the value of infrastructure such as roads and public facilities indicates the city is investing at a greater rate than its assets are depreciating.
However, the balance of both restricted and unrestricted funds saw a significant decrease from the previous year. That was due largely to changes in accounting practices rather than any material change in city spending.
While the balances of the LCTV Endowment Fund and Look Memorial Fund were previously included in the city’s accounting, those were removed from the books this year. Haefner says community foundations typically aren’t reported in city budgets with the exception of any money expended from the fund for a specific project. With the removal of the two funds from the city’s accounting, the restricted funds reported in the audit dropped approximately $2.75 million from the previous year.
Unrestricted funds also dropped substantially from 2017, and Haefner attributed this to new reporting requirements for liabilities in the city’s pension fund and health care obligations.
Other City Council Action
Lowell City Council passed several motions during their meeting. One was for an agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation to allow the installation and maintenance of wayfinding signs and electronic speed signs on Main Street.
The council also established two public hearings. The first will consider whether to create an industrial district for King Milling. Creating the district is the first step in allowing the company to request a future tax abatement. The second public hearing pertains to the city’s involvement in the Small Urban Program, a federal initiative that provides transportation grants. The section of Monroe from Fremont to Avery is eligible to receive money through the program.
In his city manager’s report, Burns noted that MDOT would be conducting another study in the spring to determine whether a left turn light could be added to Main Street at the Hudson Street intersection.
Chief Steve Bukala shared that he and Sgt. Chris Hurst would travel to Lansing to start a two-year accrediting process. Bukala said that he believed the accreditation of police departments might soon become a federal mandate. Beginning the accreditation process is one of Bukala’s goals for the upcoming year.
Since January 21 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and a federal holiday, the next regular city council meeting will fall on Tuesday, January 22. It will be held at 7pm in council chambers on the second floor of the Lowell City Hall. Preceding the regular meeting will be a Committee of the Whole meeting at 5:30pm to discuss plans for the Showboat.