2017-07-27 / Front Page

Stelmaszek Chosen As City Manager

By Erich T. Doerr

Kingsford Public Safety Lieutenant Michael Stelmaszek was selected as St. Ignace’s top choice for new city manager at the city council’s Monday evening, July 24, meeting. Mr. Stelmaszek is pictured here before his job interview with the council Tuesday, July 11. Kingsford Public Safety Lieutenant Michael Stelmaszek was selected as St. Ignace’s top choice for new city manager at the city council’s Monday evening, July 24, meeting. Mr. Stelmaszek is pictured here before his job interview with the council Tuesday, July 11. The St. Ignace City Council voted to offer the city manager job to Kingsford Public Safety Lieutenant Michael Stelmaszek Monday evening, July 24, following interviews and discussion with 10 candidates. If Mr. Stelmaszek accepts the position, he will train with current city manager Les Therrian before taking over at the end of the year.

Former Lexington Village Business Manager Thomas Raymond and former Okemah, Oklahoma City Manager Richard Hart were two other finalists under discussion by the council at a public work session Monday, July 17.

Mr. Stelmaszek’s hiring will be contingent on successful contract negotiation and a background check. The council voted 6-0, with one absence, to select him for the position. While Councilmember Paul Fullerton was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, the other council members noted he supported the choice during the work session a week earlier.

Mr. Stelmaszek has been working with Kingsford Public Safety since 1992, being promoted to lieutenant in 2013. He brings experience writing and enforcing new policies from his prior position. During his first interview with the council, Mr. Stelmaszek said he thinks the manager position is a good opportunity for him to make a positive difference in others’ lives. His parents live in the local area, in Kinross.

Andrew Shaffer, manager of the Breakers Resort and the St. Ignace Holiday Inn Express, raised concerns about blight with the council. Abandoned motels and cabins, such as the former Riviera Motel on North State Street, are becoming a dangerous nuisance that discourages St. Ignace tourism, he noted, and asked the city to enforce its ordinances to get rid of them. He complained of one motel with walls missing and some local wildlife squatting in its former rooms, a creature bolting out of the structure at night, reportedly spooking some guests at a neighboring business enjoying a campfire nearby. While blight is also an issue in parts of Evergreen Shores in St. Ignace Township, he said, the city shouldn’t slow enforcement in the city limits. The city has already contacted the owner of the Rivera about concerns at that property.

Mr. Shaffer said the blight is starting to have an impact on area property values. The Breakers was previously valued at $3.7 million, but the combined value of the Breakers and the Holiday Inn Express came in under that when the hotels were reassessed following the death of their owner, Timothy Brown, in a September 2016 plane crash.

Mr. Shaffer’s concerns also included non-motorized travel possibilities. He cited lack of sidewalks in the northern parts of the city and little room for bicycle or foot traffic. Guests wishing to go downtown almost always have to take their cars and park, he said.

Planning Commission Chair Betsy Dayrell-Hart pointed out the city wants to increase areas for nonmotorized traffic through its Sustainable Built Environment Initiative, starting with the former railroad grade. Hotels on the I-75 Business Loop account for 1,485 hotel rooms.

Councilmember Jim Clapperton said Monday that zoning is a serious issue in St. Ignace but, while its enforcement falls to building inspector Brian Olsen, he does not have the time to take up those duties owing to his other roles with both the city and as an engineer with R.S. Scott Associates.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls to the city council through its budgetary and hiring processes.

Mr. Clapperton recommended the city hire a zoning administrator. Councilman Steven Paquin said the administrator needs to have the authority to enforce city policies.

Mr. Olson sent out three blight letters this week, Mr. Therrian told the council, but “someone needs to start knocking on doors.”

Resident Patricia Conguy asked that the city do something about the city’s stone retaining wall abutting her lot at 404 Ellsworth Street, as it is starting to crumble. A pair of trees growing behind the wall could fall and damage her house or vehicle if the wall gives way, she noted. The city has no record of the wall’s construction, but admits it is on city property. To repair it would require access through Mrs. Conguy’s property, and Mr. Therrian said he didn’t believe city employees can work on private property, so the job would have to be bid out. He estimated replacing the wall could cost about $135,000, including $10,000 for engineering. The city will ask an engineer about options for repair, replacement, or removal altogether.

Council approved its policy committee’s recommendations for renting offices at City Hall, which will allow rental to government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and companies that work regularly with the city government, but not to general businesses. Offices will cost $1.50 per square foot to rent monthly and be required to close around 5 p.m. with the rest of city hall’s facilities. The new rental policy will go into effect January 1, 2018.

Mayor Connie Litzner said city attorney Tom Evashevski would prepare a formal policy to put the new rules into effect.

Council approved a September 23 Mighty Mac Bridge Race and September 30 Trek the Mighty Mac off-road vehicle crossing, both staged by the St. Ignace Events Committee.

The city and Maverick Construction are making little progress resolving their issues regarding local water and wastewater line work and related payments. Mr. Therrian said city engineers contacted the company and had heard back from a company lawyer.

A council resolution supporting a tavern liquor license for Harrison’s Diner at 2 North State Street will allow the restaurant to serve beer and wine, if its application is approved by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

St. Ignace Police Chief Mark Wilk introduced police officer Jon Ruegg, the department’s newest member, who started work earlier this month.

Monday’s meeting was preceded by a one-hour work session during which the council spoke with Clerk Rene√© Vonderwerth. The council used the time to carefully review the city’s budget, line item by line item.

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