2011-09-15 / Front Page

City Gets Money for Demolition

Will Shore Up Safety, But Still Leave Option for Preservation at Chief Wawatam Dock Site
By Mary Petrides

Plans for the Chief Wawatam dock, manager evaluations, and tall weeds were discussed at the St. Ignace City Council meeting Tuesday, September 6.

St. Ignace has received $25,429 from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority for demolition of the Chief Wawatam dock track elevator. The money will be used to restore the site to safety while a grassroots effort is underway to try to preserve all or part of the railroad and ferry artifact.

“We’re going to talk about what that means with our city engineer, to figure out what’s the best way, how to make it safe, with an eye also to this community grassroots effort to rebuild,” City Manager Eric Dodson said.

At the city council meeting August 15, a few community members had presented suggestions and plans for preservation of the track elevator, which collapsed August 3.

The city is insured for personal injury and property damage that could result from further collapse, Mr. Dodson said, but he does not want the elevator to cause these problems.

“We need to try to make it as safe as possible,” he said.

City Council Member Tom Della- Moretta said that, while the area needs to be safe, he doesn’t want to stop efforts to preserve and restore the elevator and track apron, which raised the rail tracks to the railroad ferry decks.

“I hate to yank the rug from underneath them,” he said of the grassroots group.

Mr. Dodson said he plans to preserve the metal pieces, but the wood will probably be removed.

After a public hearing, City Council adopted Ordinance #630, which changes the steps the city takes when a resident doesn’t keep “noxious or poisonous weeds” under 12 inches.

The city will give a written notice to the owner or occupant that the weeds must be cut and destroyed by a certain date, at least five days from the notice. If the city cannot notify the owner or occupant, notice will be published in the newspaper. If the owner or occupant doesn’t mow within the allotted time, the city will mow and bill the owner or occupant. If this happens twice in a calendar year, the city can mow the property with no notice and increase the mowing fee.

Meeting attendees asked about the process for such weeds on city property, why the city would not be able to notify an owner or occupant, and how much a public notice in the newspaper would cost. A resident also asked whether the ordinance means city properties will be held to the same standards for weed control.

Mr. Dodson said the city would do its best to keep its own weeds under control. He said the city could be unable to notify an owner when properties are foreclosed on or change hands several times without the city having records of it. This is a typical process not limited to St. Ignace, he said. Cost for the public notice would be regular public notice rates, he said. Mayor Paul Grondin added that, in his view, newspaper notification would rarely be needed.

If the city cannot find the homeowner to bill, the cost of cutting the lawn would be added to the property’s tax bill, Mr. Grondin said.

Mr. Grondin collected, but did not read or comment on, annual evaluations for the city manager submitted by council members. The negotiations committee – Mr. Grondin and councilmen Jim Clapperton and William LaLonde — met at 2 p.m. Tuesday, September 13, to go over the evaluations with the manager. Mr. Grondin will provide a synopsis of the evaluations, which will be available Monday, September 19, at the council meeting, and the council will go over the evaluations with the manager. He said he is open to suggestions for changes to the evaluation form. Council members evaluate the city manager on criteria that include personal and professional skills, relations with elected officials, policy execution, reports to council, citizen relations, staffing, leadership and supervision, fiscal management, and his working relationship with the community.

Varsity Catering Company bid $1,000 on a parcel of land at 55 Central Street near Central Hill. The bid, the only one submitted to the city, was opened at the City Council meeting and accepted. The company’s owner, Mark Sposito, had approached the city August 1, requesting to buy the parcel. The lot, which borders a residential parcel Mr. Sposito owns to the west, is assessed at $2,800 and is not large enough to allow the construction of a home, the city has reported.

The city will open a bank account to be used for 2010 capital improvement bond debt retirement.

Council member Merv Wyse commended the Special Events Committee, Downtown Development Authority, and Department of Public Works for this summer’s events. Mr. Wyse is a frequent volunteer at events.

“The feedback from people visiting St. Ignace has been so positive,” he said.

“We heard a lot of positive comments on the beauty of the community and how clean it is,” said City Clerk Renee Vonderwerth of Arts Dockside, where she was stationed to direct traffic on State Street. Arts Dockside was Saturday, September 3, and Sunday, September 4.

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