2017-05-04 / Front Page

Planning Begins For Railroad Grade

Manager Search, Chamber Contract Also Topics for St. Ignace City Council
By Erich T. Doerr

The St. Ignace City Council will continue its selection of a new city manager at a May 8 work session, and, at its Monday, May 1, council meeting, approved its agreement with the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce for promotional services to the city, approved renewing the St. Ignace Police Department’s mutual aid agreement with neighboring Mackinaw City Police Department, and learned the city will begin planning development of the old railroad grade running from the vicinity of the marina to Little Bear East.

A city council work session Monday, May 8, has been set to further discuss applications for city manager. At a previous session April 24, the council narrowed the field to 12, but received five additional applications by the April 28 deadline. Councilman Steven Paquin suggested council members each select their top five candidates before scheduling interviews.

The work session, which is open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m.

A new manager is being hired to replace Les Therrian, who will retire at the end of the year.

In a related matter, City Clerk Reneé Vonderwerth said she has posted the assistant city clerk position to replace Andrea Insley, who has been hired to be city clerk when Mrs. Vonderwerth retires at the end of the year. There being no interest expressed from city union members, she said the job is now open to anyone.

A renewal of the city’s $5,000 annual agreement with the chamber of commerce was approved with the money scheduled for use by the chamber to promote local organizations and assets such as the St. Ignace Golf and Country Club and the St. Ignace Public Library. The $5,000 is structured as a payment for services rendered, not dues to the organization.

Councilman Jim Clapperton said he would feel better about the payment if the chamber was also running a membership drive to increase its revenue. Councilman Robert St. Louis said he would like to know more about what the chamber is doing for the city.

Chamber President John Kling said the chamber conducts a membership drive every year, and its membership usually remains steady as new members balance out businesses that have closed. He added the chamber provides free counseling to local businesses who are interested in developing a larger web presence.

The chamber office is not open on weekends, and Councilmember Jay Tremble suggested the chamber should offer at least limited weekend office hours. Mr. Kling said they try to, when their budget allows them.

Mr. Paquin said the $5,000 paid to the chamber is money that will help support the town through its work.

Planning Commission Chair Betsy Dayrell-Hart announced that St. Ignace has applied and been accepted to work with Michigan State University’s Sustainable Built Environment Initiative (SBEI) to help develop a new plan and recreation opportunities along land once used for railroads. The area is already used as a fire lane and a snowmobile trail, and there are no plans to change that, with Dr. Dayrell-Hart pointing out it is also ideal for slow moving and non-motorized traffic like bicycles.

The project will extend along the railroad grade from Spring Street to Little Bear East.

Some State Street businesses would also like to be able to use the backside of their buildings that open up onto the grade. The SBEI work will cost $7,500, with $5,000 paid with a grant from the St. Ignace Community Foundation. Dr. Dayrell-Hart said the commission will have to raise the other $2,500, but believes this project will be a good addition to the city’s upcoming master plan update.

Downtown Development Authority Director Deb Evashevski updated the council on the proposed downtown park at St. Anthony’s Rock, reporting the DDA board has agreed to postpone the work until after Labor Day. The park will be fixed up a bit before the summer season arrives. The project to develop the park is expected to take 60 days to complete.

The council approved a resolution of support for St. Ignace’s ongoing effort to be certified as a “Redevelopment Ready Community” by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The resolution formally announces St. Ignace’s intent to seek the certification and information collected through self-assessments are being sent to the MEDC for review.

The city and all local townships will be receiving new electronic voting machines as part of a grant from the Michigan Secretary of State office to Mackinac County. The state will pay the cost of $26,175 for Mackinac County cities and townships, according to Mackinac County Clerk Lori Johnston. Local communities will have to pay $615 a year per voting precinct to cover extended service and maintenance work with the county, adding an annual payment of $1,700 for the city.

The mutual aid agreement with Mackinaw City will allow officers from both sides of the Straits of Mackinac to be deputized to assist on the other side if needed, acting under the jurisdiction of the other department when called in. St. Ignace Police Chief Mark Wilk said the agreement allows officers to assist other local communities with handling large events. St. Ignace officers are annually called to help in the village when it hosts the Memorial Day Weekend Fort Michilimackinac Pageant. Returning the favor, Mackinaw City always sends an officer north to help during the St. Ignace Car Show each June. The city has a similar agreement with the Mackinac Island Police Department, which already is in place.

Mr. Wilk also updated the council about the sale of a retired 2009 Ford Crown Victoria police car, an ex-Mackinac County Sheriff’s Office unit that was recently taken out of service by the city. The buyer, Lance DeKeyser of George’s Body Shop, told The St. Ignace News it is likely the car will be recycled after all salvageable parts are removed.

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