2017-12-07 / News

St. Ignace State Street May See Safety Changes

City Council Sets Public Work Session for This Monday
By Kevin R. Hess

New St. Ignace City Manager Michael Stelmaszek was officially named to his new post at the city council meeting Monday, December 4, taking his seat at the council table while former manager Les Therrian sat in the public seating area. Mr. Therrian will officially retire at the end of the year.

Highlighting a short agenda was the setting of a public hearing on plans to narrow State Street for Monday, December 18, introduction of the annual appropriations bill and new contracts for Department of Public Works (DPW) and police department employees, and progress on the demolition of the Marsu Motel.

Council has also scheduled a public work session for Monday, December 11, at 4:40 p.m. to review appropriations and contracts, and, immediately after, at 6:30, plans to attend a Planning Commission review of development ideas for the old railroad grade stretching from the vicinity of McCann Street to Little Bear East. At that meeting, Michigan State University Professor Warren Rauhe will share plans for the railroad grade improvements based upon public feedback in September.

The public is invited to both meetings next Monday evening.

The public hearing the following week, Monday, December 18, is scheduled to receive public input on a proposal to narrow State Street from four lanes to three lanes, from Marquette Street to Antoine Street, to accommodate a pedestrian crosswalk near the Star Line and Shepler docks.

Mr. Stelmaszek said the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be micro-milling and resurfacing State Street, from High Street to Antoine Street, sometime next spring and the city will work with the agency to make sure the work does not interfere with any major events. MDOT has said it will modify a plan to change the area between Marquette Street and Antoine Street from four lanes to three, and potentially add a crosswalk for people walking to the ferries, if the city will give it a resolution asking for such a configuration. With the closing of Arnold Line’s passenger service in the center of town, most of the ferry traffic has moved to the Shepler and Star Line docks at the north end of town, and safety there has become a concern. Now, the street is not narrowed to three lanes until just south of Marquette Street, so pedestrians must race traffic across four lanes to get to the ferry docks. The speed limit could also be addressed, but that is ultimately a decision MDOT will make. A speed study would need to be done to determine if changing the limit was in the best interest of safety. Complaints have been made that vehicle traffic does not slow down enough, and a move to three lanes could help manage that and maximize the safety of pedestrians.

Before introducing a resolution for MDOT, Council opted to solicit public opinion on the matter and so scheduled the public hearing December 18, with the expectation that it will take action on the matter during its regular meeting to follow.

Mr. Stelmaszek also announced to the council that, after meeting with the negotiation committee, DPW and police department employees have agreed to new contracts, pending council acceptance. DPW employees will receive a 2% wage increase. Police employees agreed to the elimination of their lowest wage tier and a 2.5% increase for their highest tier. The elimination of the lowest tier means that police officers will begin at a higher rate of pay than in the past. The new contract also changed the timeline to reach the highest tier, reducing it from five years to four. The rationale for both decisions was to make it easier for the city to retain police officers. Police Chief Mark Wilk said that their department is still below the median wage for police officers of a city the size of St. Ignace but this agreement is “a step in the right direction.”

Donald Lawson, owner of the Marsu Motel, presented council members with a letter from Mackinac Environmental Technology, Inc. saying the company will be inspecting the property for any environmental issues, such as asbestos, before it can be torn down.

Mr. Lawson’s property has been deemed a dangerous building according to city building codes. If it is deemed safe to do so, the St. Ignace Fire Department may be able to use it for a controlled burn training exercise. Mr. Lawson would still be responsible for cleanup of the debris.

New DDA director Renee Kosor was introduced to the council by Deb Evashevski, who is leaving the post at the end of the year. The new director officially began her employment with the city Monday, December 4, and will receive training from Mrs. Evashevski during December.

The St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce sent updated agreement papers to the city manager for services and promotions of St. Ignace entities and events for 2018 and for the organization of weekly performances of Bayside Live at the St. Ignace Marina. If approved, the city would pay the chamber $5,000 for membership services, and $3,000 for Bayside Live. These are the same amounts the city paid the chamber for 2017. City council will discuss the proposal at its budget meeting, Monday, December 11, at 4:30 p.m. at Little Bear East.

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