2014-06-19 / Front Page

City advances water project, OKs contract for business study

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pbarbeee@mihomepaper.com

GRAND BLANC — A long-term plan which involves using the State of Michigan Drinking Water Revolving Fund (DWRF) for improvements to city-wide water infrastructure saw progress when city council voted in last week’s meeting to authorize City Manager Paul Brake to seek bonds for the initial phases of the project.

Councilman Lonnie Adkins questioned if the electronic water meters would be included in those bond funds, and Brake said the city is seeking grants for those ($709,700). Brake further indicated that the loan being sought is “a forgivable loan” which will include payment of construction costs not to exceed $938,000.

Adkins also raised questions as to why the contract indicated funds would be used to pay it back via the general fund but Brake clarified there is a stipulation in the contract that if the city defaults on the loan, which is actually paid out of the water and sewer fund, then the general fund can be tapped, but only in the case of a default from the sewer and water fund.

“It is indicating a payment of last resort,” Brake said. “The bond holder cannot rely on a fund which has no taxing authority (revenue generating source) so we are setting that as a backup fund.”

He said this is typical in municipal projects.

Adkins, who ran on a platform of lower fees in water and sewer rates, voted no on both items regarding the DWRF loan. Also concerning the city’s water infrastructure, George Metz, a former city councilman, questioned officials regarding drainage in the Kirkridge Condominium subdivision.

Part of his complaint was runoff from the Grand Mall, which he indicated was approximately 60 percent of the problem, and which council stated they hoped to have resolved by the pending Kroger improvement plan which includes a detention system at the mall.

Metz said the condominiums are in the lowest part of the area and based on his previous experience on council he is aware of issues with the piping which he feels are responsible for the balance of the flooding and need to be addressed.

The council called on DPW Director Matt Wurtz to address his concerns also regarding a depression in the road at the end of Sandhurst Drive. “We went out six weeks ago,” he said. “The catch basin has collapsed.” He indicated the DPW has started on other road repairs this week and will work on areas needing concrete work when that is done—including that catch basin.

The Farmer’s Market was also brought up by Metz who was under the impression that the city was looking at instituting a millage to fund a permanent structure. The council corrected him stating it was a question on the recent survey but is definitely not something on their radar at this time

Mayor Susan Soderstrom said, “It’s just one step to start looking at things,” and that it gives them a little something to go on. “At the end of the day the community will decide if they want to pay, she added.

The survey said out of 349 responses, 65.3 percent were in favor of a permanent home for the market, and out of 227 people, almost 60 percent would favor a millage to support that goal.

Councilwoman Paula Nas, who administered the survey, and other council indicated they had responses from township residents as well as city. Adkins felt it was not accurate to include the township responses.

In addition, council, again with the exception of Adkins, voted to approve a contract with a national retail consulting firm, Gibbs Planning Group (http://www.gibbsplanning.com/) to help “sell” the retail property at the corner of S. Saginaw and Holly Road (Kmart).

Brake said he hopes Gibbs will be able to convince retailers that it’s not just about the small town of Grand Blanc, but the potential customers in both Oakland and Genesee County as well. The contract will end up in the $3,000-3,500 range per Brake.

Based on input from residents, many have advised city they would like a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods market, but as was indicated in the last council meeting, the final decision rests in the hands of the property owner.

“You have to talk to the brokers they use on a statewide basis,”Brake stated. “We have to reach the right decision maker….generally retailers looking to expand in Michigan are those who are already here.”

The site is not shovel ready as Brake has previously indicated and current zoning restrictions could have an impact on what type of business goes in there. He indicated another possibility is to think creatively along the lines of a “new age urbanism” and create a mixed use or planned unit development with first floor retail, and upper office or residential.

“We have to deliver data on our end for retailers who aren’t familiar with us,” Brake added Adkins indicated he had a problem using tax dollars for this purpose. Other council approved the measure based on an amendment which would include analysis of other retail areas in the city.

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