Council compliments carvers, ice festivalPublished 10:13am Tuesday, February 9, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
There were carver kudos all around Monday night from Dowagiac City Council.
“It was a real positive day,” Third Ward Councilman Dr. Charles Burling commented. “It was nice to see people downtown” Saturday for the 14th annual Ice Time Festival.
Burling said he rewalked the sidewalk art gallery again on Sunday to admire the crystal created from 440-pound blocks of ice.
“Special thanks to the carvers,” Burling said. “I came through at 6:30 and they were still carving. They had a long day, and I think we really benefited from it. There are some beautiful pieces down there.”
“The ice festival was wonderful,” agreed Second Ward Councilman Bob Schuur.
“I saw Tim Dowsett, who’s been the chairman of that for quite some time. He’s done a nice job. The ice sculptures were wonderful, and that elephant certainly deserved to win the prize. He was fantastic.”
Schuur also noted that First Christian Church, which sponsors Boy Scout Troop 563, on Sunday acknowledged Boy Scouting’s 100th anniversary.
Mayor Donald Lyons showed off the plaque Dowagiac received from the tri-county Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in Benton Harbor for receiving the Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Cooperation Award for working with Silver Creek Township to lay the groundwork for the Russom Little League fields to become a sports park.
The award named for former Dowagiac mayor Graham Woodhouse was presented Feb. 2 during a meeting at Southwestern Michigan College.
It’s also that time of year when council members nominate their pet potholes for attention.
“One that I’ve noticed in particular is on Prairie Ronde Street by the entrance to the Armory parking lot, adjacent to the school entry area, and east on Prairie Ronde, there are four or five spots in the eastbound lane,” Mayor Pro Tem Leon Laylin reported.
Schuur pointed out the persistent pothole by the mailbox on Zarry’s Alley between Dowagiac District Library and Huntington Bank.
Last month the city proposed selling an undevelopable parcel it owns at 111 Hendryx St. to adjacent neighbor Randolph Lee Ahonen Sr. for $200, plus closing costs.
After lying on the table for the requisite 21 days called for in the charter, “There have been no other inquiries,” City Manager Kevin Anderson said.
“It’s a very small piece, but he can combine it with his and have some value. This puts it back on the tax roll and relieves us of the liability of maintaining it.”
The council concurred.
Anderson reported that his office continues to receive calls about Indiana Michigan Power (I&M), a subsidiary of American Electric Power (AEP) Jan. 27 filing a base rate case with the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) seeking a $62.5 million, or a 29.8-percent, revenue increase.
The filing is the company’s first base rate case before the PSC in almost 20 years.
Anderson said, “The question I’ve been receiving is, ‘How is that going to impact the rates for us?’ Basically, that increase is on their retail customers, primarily out of St. Joseph and Three Rivers, although about 10 percent of the residents (in Dowagiac) are I&M customers,” including Councilman Junior Oliver.
“By the time we get into late fall or early winter,” Anderson added, “they would expect that rate case to be through the Public Service Commission and have a final result.
“But we as a city have negotiated wholesale rates for a long-term, fixed contract. It will vary somewhat based on the price of purchasing fuel, but we should experience some very stable electrical rates over the next 12 to 15 years.”
Asked how the city obtains applications for appointments, Mayor Lyons responded, “Most of the time they come unsolicited from people who express an interest in serving. On occasion, myself and other elected officials and city staff have recruited someone we thought was a particularly good fit.”
“Also,” Lyons added, “the affected board or commission will sometimes recommend someone.”
Asked how many people were interviewed for the two seats on the Dowagiac District Library board and the Local Officers Compensation Commission which were filled Feb. 8 with Teri Frantz and Diane Barrett-Curtis, Lyons answered, “No one was interviewed.”
“As both candidates to the library board were well known to me, I recommended the person I felt was most qualified. The second was the reappointment of a person who has served well and faithfully and is also known personally by me. Again, I felt no interviews were necessary,” Lyons said.
From the audience, Howard Hall commented, “I think your appointment to the library board is perfect. Very seldom do I agree with you, but Mrs. Frantz will do really well.”
Hall agreed with council members that the ice festival was “fantastic.”
“So,” Hall informed the council, “I got up at 5:30 Saturday morning and started blogging and ended up with about 600 hits. I took pictures all day, put them on the Internet and everyone who couldn’t get out to go to the festival hit that Web page, looking at all of the pictures that we took.
“I did advertising for the stores – the new store – the Girls Scouts selling cookies, Caruso’s, everything. But your theory that you get more with honey just doesn’t work.
“I took one picture of the director of the Chamber, standing by an ice sculpture. Ten to 15 minutes later I got chased down the street by her boyfriend, who threatened me that I can’t take pictures and if I put them on the Internet, something would happen to me.
“I would appreciate it if all of you went to the Web page and see what I wrote. Not one negative thing through the whole ice festival did I write negative about. I warned people where the icy spots were because people were falling down.”
“I’m out there doing a good thing, people enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading the blog, updated every 20 to 30 minutes. And I get accosted on the street.
“That’s totally uncalled for. She’s the director of the festival. It would have been nice to have a picture of her standing next to one of the ice carvers. I take a picture and I get chased down the street. That’s a city employee. It’s not very fair to pick me out. I’m sure (the Daily News) and the South Bend Tribune didn’t get told not to take pictures. I got singled out.
“Over the last week or so, I’ve had the problem with my ticket I thought was unfair, I get accosted at the ice festival and threatened if I put pictures up on the Internet of a public display in the City of Dowagiac and I get threatened to be sued by one of the councilmen,” which First Ward Councilman James Dodd denied.getting along well. I came in with suggestions and you listened. But for some reason, it has severely switched around over the last couple of weeks. If anybody on the council would like to sue me, bring it on.”
Hall did thank Mayor Lyons, Oliver and Lori Hunt, who was absent, for accepting his invitation to participate in an Internet townhall forum sponsored by his Dowagiac Informer.
Oliver issued a public apology for criticizing Fire Department response time in the Blackamore house fire last month on Pokagon Street. “I think I got some inappropriate information and I acted on it,” he said. “I was wrong in what I did.”
Schuur moved to pay out $193,277.72, including $61,996 for bills and payroll of $131.281.72.