Hartford City gives West Main building demolition a second chance
By Jon Bisnett The City of Hartford had previously condemned buildings at both 32 and 34 West Main and solicited demolition bids until 32 W. Main owner Daniel Santos showed up in February asking for a reprieve to save his building. The council demanded a contractor’s bid, time table and escrow of funds to affect the repair. When the owner returned with a $3,000 estimate to repair the roof, several questioned if that was truly valid. “What else is needed to really bring this building up to code?” questioned Commissioner Dennis Goss. “The building hasn’t had any serious maintenance in decades, are we talking putting lipstick on a pig?” Commissioner Frank Dockter also questioned vague plans described by Santos as to living in an upstairs apartment and perhaps a business or tanning salon on the first floor. None the less, commissioners find enough merit in possibly saving a downtown building that they tabled demolition bid opening at the workshop meeting on March 18, pending further inspection and evaluation of the property.
Public Comment Patti Schroeder visited representing the Annual Strawberry Festival seeking a donation from the city. Alex VonKoenig of Med+Leaf, the city’s first medical marijuana dispensary applicant, spoke to request the city grant an extension of their application as the State of Michigan approval process has been behind by several months. Med+Leaf has been denied over a technicality that their lawyers are confident will be overcome with a simple redistribution of ownership shares within their LLC.
Communications Van Buren County Sportsman’s Club has applied for use of Ely Park for Annual Easter Egg Hunt April 13, 2019 – rain date April 20.
Police Report Chief Tressa Beltran presented a written report detailing activity of 672 duty hours with five foot-patrol hours which included 64 complaints for the month of February, resulting in five arrests including three felonies.
Ordinance Officer Report A written report from Ordinance Officer Jim Coleman reports nine property inspections for the month of February. Blight postings for the month totaled 27 violations resulting in 27 follow-ups. Mayor Rick Hall stated in the prior month that he has steps in place to crack down on repeat offenders, but failed to expand on any specifics.
Fire Report The Hartford Joint Fire Department had a bit of a breather responding to just 39 calls in the month of February, including 29 rescue/medical calls with no structure fires, according to Chief Robbie Harting. Firefighter Ryan Fleming just became certified as a Medical First Responder giving HFD a total of 13. A new cadet from Hartford High School is reported to be doing well with the program presented at the Van Buren Skills Center in Lawrence and is on track to become a new member of the HFD team. Harting has done his final walk-through of the rebuilt Dollar General store and expects inventory to be moving in any day. Commissioner Goss praised the efforts of the chief and department as a whole saying, “It was one of the best things we ever did in the city, when we made the decision to go with a full-time chief. The community loves the HFD. I remember just a few short years ago we had only two medical first responders and now have 13. Job well done.”
Ambulance Report Pride Care Ambulance submitted a written report of 11 Priority I calls at 9:47, four Priority II runs at 11:30 and one Priority III run at 9:39 for an overall average response time of 10:12. Public Works Superintendent Dan Staunton was present to answer questions on his written report noting February with ongoing snow removal and salting of city streets along with hauling of snow from accumulated piles in city parking lots. Clean up of Ely Park has begun as has patching of large number of potholes this year. Four water turn-offs took place on vacant properties and two turn-ons took place for the month. The city pumped 5.8 million gallons for the month. Wastewater Treatment Plant Plant Operator Tom Strand filed a written report indicating that all State of Michigan reports for the month have been filed along with routine maintenance tasks. Lime and water lines failed due to a heater malfunction. It required repair and replacement.
Treasurer’s Report Treasurer Pam Shultz presented a written report of $92,902.20 in bills for February with nothing unusual.
City Manager Report City Manager Yemi Akinwale’s plans to pursue a Rural Development Grant to replace the city’s Ford Explorer police vehicle came under fire from Commissioner Dennis Goss challenging the need for a $30,000 four-wheel drive SUV as opposed to a lesser cost squad car instead. “We’re a one square mile city of paved streets!” said Goss. Akinwale defended his point in vain and agreed to explore options prior to a vote at the business meeting. Akinwale is in the process of a grant application for reconstruction of Marion Street from Prospect to N. Center. The project in the amount of $280,000 will require a $70,000 match by the city plus the cost of engineering. Akinwale again came under fire, this time from Commissioner John Miller, when he proposed an asset management plan for the city under the Safe Drinking Water Act to be provided by Wightman and Associates at a cost of $20,000. Miller was adamantly clear by insisting the city seek competitive bids on the plan. Akinwale addressed critical areas of the city identified by the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) grant in hopes of securing council approval for application of a Community Infrastructure Grant. The funding provides up to $250,000 with a 50% match to be targeted at Linden Street from Spaulding to Olds Avenue. Goss again spoke up challenging the expense commitment. “It was my understanding that we could handle sewer repairs with Public Works without exceeding funds we have already in hand.” Akinwale wants to replace sanitary and storm sewer all at once along with repaving of the street. Akinwale has been in contact with PNC Bank officials wishing to place a new ATM in the Family Dollar parking lot. The proposal will first go to the Planning Commission before returning to the City Council for final approval. Conversations with the Downtown Development Authority have taken place concerning a strategy to revitalize the downtown business district. No action will proceed until after the fiscal year end in July.
Old business Mayor Hall appointed commissioners John Miller and Frank Dockter to serve on the Joint Fire Agreement Committee.
New business Bids are out for the demolition of 32 and 34 West Main to be opened at the March 25 Business Meeting. Authorization will be sought for submission of a Rural Development Grant for police vehicle. Authorization will be sought for submission of a Michigan Department of Transportation Grant for street work.
Proposed Resolutions Resolution 2019-005 – Category B Grant Application to M-DOT Having no further business, Mayor Hall adjourned the workshop meeting at 8:57 p.m.
Business Meeting of 3/25/19 Mayor Rick Hall broke down the numbers on the SUV versus squad car debate from the workshop meeting. Looking at available grant incentives the Ford Explorer was actually the less costly option. Further, industry insiders say that all major auto manufacturers are moving to SUV only offerings in their police vehicle fleet offerings which would make some equipment exclusive to a sedan obsolete in the near future.
Guests Van Buren County Sheriff Dan Abbott visited along with Undersheriff Chad Hunt as they are making their way around the county to visit the various municipalities in their charge. Abbot spoke briefly to say his narcotics division is turning up the heat in the Hartford area after identifying what he referred to as hot spot of activity. Jerrod Birmele visited as director of the local recreation council with news of opening days’ festivities planned for Saturday, April 20 including a parade, local celebrity first pitches and all Hartford teams active that day.
Old business Joint Fire Agreement Committee will meet later in the week. New business Bids for demolition of 32 and 34 West Main were tabled. Authorization for submission of a Rural Development Grant for Ford Explorer police vehicle was unanimously approved. Water Asset Management Program bid from Wightman and Associates was unanimously approved. A $250 donation to the Strawberry Festival was unanimously approved. Med+Leaf was unanimously approved for a 90-day extension of their dispensary application.
Resolution 2019-005 Category B Grant Application to M-DOT for total reconstruction of Linden Street from Spaulding to Olds, replacing road, water, sanitary and storm sewer at a cost of $832,100 was tabled. Having no further business, Mayor Hall adjourned the workshop meeting at 8:29 p.m.