City Council Recap: Trail Funding, Foreman Building Repair

Lowell City Council had a short agenda last night, but an extended closed session meant their meeting ran for one hour and 46 minutes.

The two agenda items addressed trail funding and a repair to the Foreman Building. The closed session was to “discuss item subject to attorney/client privilege.” All councilmembers were present for the meeting which was held in Lowell City Hall and streamed on YouTube.

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American Rescue Plan Money and Trail Funding

At last month’s meeting, resident Greg Canfield asked the city to consider making a contribution to a more than $5 million trail project that will connect the final section of a 125-mile regional trail system.

The Lowell Area Trailway has been working for years to fund the project through grants and private sources. Currently, $212,000 remains to be raised and if that money isn’t committed by October, the project will lose a major state grant. Without that grant, it appears unlikely the project can be completed, and Canfield explained Lowell Charter Township was willing to match whatever the City of Lowell would contribute. The township expects to use stimulus money from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay for their portion.

Last night, City Manager Mike Burns said he had investigated the use of city stimulus money to contribute to the trail project, and it appeared it would be an allowed use. The City of Lowell expects to receive $436,573 from the American Rescue Plan, with that money arriving in two installments.

Originally, Burns had intended to recommend the money be used for needs such as new police vehicles, a county fire truck and restrooms on the Riverwalk. If the council would like to use some money for the trail, Burns said his new recommendations are as follows:

  • $120,000 to purchase police vehicles in Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022
  • $106,000 to fund the connector trail
  • $76,000 to pay for the municipal portion of restrooms on the Riverwalk
  • $75,000 to pay for a portion of the city’s cost of a new fire truck
  • $59,573 to cover potential tax chargebacks

Chargebacks can occur when a property owner appeals their tax assessment to the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Should the tribunal rule in favor of the property owner, the city may need to pay back any excess tax.

Burns told Lowell’s First Look that the city usually doesn’t have any chargebacks, but they occur more frequently during recessions. His recommendation to set money aside for chargebacks is a precautionary measure in case of an economic downturn, not the result of any currently pending chargebacks.

Councilmembers seemed agreeable to the recommendations from Burns and, by consensus, agreed to contribute $106,000 to the trail project. “I would hate for this [$5 million trail] to not be happening because of $212,000.” Burns said.

No vote was taken on the matter last night, but it appears a formal commitment letter will be brought before the council for approval at their next meeting.

Foreman Roof Repair Approved

The second agenda item was a roofing repair for the Foreman Building. Three years ago, a portion of the roof was replaced with a rubber membrane roof material, and now the remaining shingled roof has begun to leak and needs to be repaired as well.

The City of Lowell received bids from two companies for the work:

  • Risner’s Roofing bid $59,600 for an EPDM rubber roof membrane that comes with a 20-year membrane warranty and a 15-year workmanship warranty.
  • Ostrander Windows Siding and Roofing bid $55,300 for a roof using Malarkey Impact Resistant shingles that come with a limited lifetime materials warranty and a 5-year labor warranty.

Department of Public Works Director Dan Czarnecki recommended the council accept the bid from Risner’s Roofing, noting the company has completed a number of projects for the city in the past. They also apparently replaced the first half of the Foreman Building roof three years ago.

Councilmembers unanimously voted to accept the Risner’s Roofing bid, with Councilmember Cliff Yankovich explaining he would like to have the entire roof completed by the same company.

Councilmember and City Manager Comments

During her board report, Councilmember Leah Groves shared that the Parks & Recreation Commission is discussing the possibility of an art project at the skate park on Bowes Road.

In his report, Burns provided an update on road work. The project on Amity Street has begun ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, repairs to Jane Ellen were wrapping up, and the Foreman Street project was completed as well.

Yankovich thanked Police Chief Chris Hurst for his assistance in responding to two separate cases of dogs biting a mail carrier. He also explained he recently visited another city and was reminded of how excellent Lowell’s drinking water is compared to other that of other communities.

Closed Session to Conclude Meeting

After 45 minutes, the open session of Monday’s meeting concluded, and councilmembers voted to go into closed session.

Under state law, public bodies are allowed closed discussions for six specific purposes, such as personnel evaluations or discussing an attorney’s written memorandum. For Monday’s closed session, Lowell City Council said its purpose was to “discuss item subject to attorney/client privilege.”

The closed session lasted nearly an hour, and when the council came back into open session, members voted unanimously to “direct the city attorney to do what we talked about.” No further information was provided.

The meeting adjourned at 8:46pm, and the next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will take place on Monday, August 16, at 7pm in Lowell City Hall.

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