Archived Story

Assessor’s agreement revamped for savings

Published 11:37pm Monday, June 13, 2011

Dowagiac should save $300 a month, or $3,600 during 2011-2012, by revising its assessing agreement with Edward VanderVries of Portage.
“He’s done a good job for us and the contract is coming to a close,” City Manager Kevin Anderson advised Dowagiac City Council Monday night, highlighting a one-year agreement that will be reduced from $2,275 annually to $1,975 per year for office hours on the second and fourth Wednesdays each month.
“We are finding,” Anderson said, “that fewer people are using the face-to-face meeting times and that phone and e-mail contacts are much more common. Mr. VanderVries will still be available outside of office hours via phone e-mail. We do not anticipate any decline in service or accessibility with this change in office hours.”
The term of the agreement is for one year.
“Typically,” the manager said, “this type of service agreement is for a longer term. However, given the call from the state Legislature for sharing of services, it is prudent to enter into a one-year agreement while we sort through the many directions that shared services could take regarding property assessing and equalization.”
In addition to the $1,975 per annum fee for assessment services, VanderVries will be paid $100 per month salary so state and federal employment regulations regarding certain specific statutory tasks can be met, Anderson added.
A 90-day opt-out provision with written notice is unchanged in the agreement, which runs June 1, 2011-May 30, 2012.
“A wise approach,” Commented Third Ward Councilman Dr. Charles Burling, seconding Mayor Pro Tem Leon Laylin’s motion.

Mill Pond Association fishing tournament
Council approved Mill Pond Improvement Association plans for its first multi-species fundraising fishing tournament at Heddon Park on Saturday, July 16, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. for two-man teams paying a $45 team entry fee.
Prizes include first place in each category — $100 for the longest bluegill, $100 for the longest crappie, $100 for the bass with the largest combined weight of five and $100 for the carp with the largest combined weight, no limit.
There will be door prizes for all participants.
Proceeds go to the Mill Pond Association for dam repairs and pond upkeep.
To sign up or to direct questions, call Rick O’Konski at (269) 375-6132.
Anglers may also register at Kranky Hank’s bait shop on Marcellus Highway.
Vice President Don Wolford said the state several years ago began requiring inspections on the dam, including a formal report, every three years, which costs almost $1,500.
“We have also seen the weeds getting progressively worse throughout the lake,” Wolford wrote June 9 to City Manager Kevin Anderson. “Weed control estimates have ranged from $30,000 to $130,000, depending on the treatment process.
“In an effort to raise funds to cover the inspections fees and begin working towards a weed control treatment,” Wolford wrote, “we have chosen to begin holding fundraising events.”
“This looks like a very good event to highlight the Mill Pond and fishing,” Anderson advised council members.
“I had an opportunity as a young man to be in fishing contest on the Mill Pond and they were a lot of fun. I learned a lot on that water out there,” Burling moved, with support from Laylin.
“We’re going to have to hold it down to 40, and I’m allowing five to fish offshore,” O’Konski answered Laylin about participation, “so people who don’t have a boat still have an opportunity. That’s 35 boats, and Guy Piper is letting us park on his property if we have any overrun — which hopefully we do. This is just a start. Hopefully, we’ll do it every year. It should bring a lot of people to the community.”
Mayor Donald Lyons, who owns the Heddon National Museum on West Street, commented somewhat tongue in cheek, “If any participants wanted to use all Heddon tackle before 1984 (when James Heddon’s Sons ceased manufacturing in Dowagiac), the museum would double whatever prize money they had.”
“We talked about that,” O’Konski responded, “but most fishermen are liars,” dissolving the council chamber into laughter.
“And wooden boats,” Burling quipped.
O’Konski said future fishing tournaments might be planned later in July to coincide with the three-day Summer in the City festival.
“It’s good to see you again, Donna,” the mayor said to Mrs. O’Konski, the former First Ward councilwoman, seated in the audience.
“It’s a different view,” she said.

Keesler complains about ball parking
Linda Keesler said a week ago Saturday night she stopped by Riverside Cemetery during a baseball tournament at Rotary Park.
It was so congested she had trouble maneuvering her Volkswagen through double-parked cars, including on graves as far back as the veterans section.
“Linda, thanks for the comments,” Second Ward Councilman Bob Schuur, who serves on the city Cemetery Board, said. “I don’t go to ballgames, so I wasn’t aware that parking was such a problem. We will look into that.”
Burling echoed Schuur, saying, “I had the same reaction. I hope the next time around the school would put some signage up that there is parking available,” including at his dental office.
Schuur said there had been no-parking signs, “but they disappeared.”
Anderson said, “We’re aware of this situation and made some adjustments we’d hoped would take care of it. It didn’t. A couple of people have come to us about this. We’ve got a Parks Board meeting coming up and we’ll ask the Cemetery Board to take it up as well. Clearly, parking has become a bigger problem there on some of the ballgames. We need to take some steps. We’re aware of that, and we share your concern. We don’t have any big games scheduled real soon, so we want to look at options.”
“I don’t know if they’re too lazy to walk across the street” or unaware of its availability, but Burling said the school district contacted him about using his office parking lot. “The school made an effort to try and keep that from happening.”

Dale Pallas returned to Housing Commission
Council reappointed Dale Pallas to the Housing Commission for a term expiring August 2016, as recommended by Lyons and proposed by Laylin.

103 E. Wayne St declared nuisance
A council vote declared property at 103 E. Wayne St. a public nuisance which needs abating under the city’s boarding ordinance.
The resolution requires property owner Cathy Andre to obtain a permit and initiate repairs of the condemned property within 20 days which must be completed within 60 days or it will be demolished.

Fire memorial dedication June 15
Second Ward Councilman James Dodd reminded everyone of the firefighters memorial dedication ceremony Wednesday, June 15, at 5 p.m. at the fire station, 302 Wolf St., and the carnival on Saturday, June 18, at the adjacent Northwest Park youth soccer fields.

Motorcycle rally back  at Beeson St. July 10
Council granted Beeson Street Bar co-owner Tom Lawrence’s request to shut Beeson Street from N. Front Street to Depot Drive on Sunday, July 10, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. while the 11th annual Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) motorcycle rally is passing through town.

Car vandalized
Laylin reported on a white car in his ward coated with barbecue sauce, ketchup and mustard, with some condiments splashing inside the vehicle through a window slightly open.
“A considerable amount of sugar was added to the gas tank,” which had just been filled with $80 of fuel. “There seems to be some activity in that general Third Ward area, in relation to Water Tower Park and on Bishop Street. It’s something everyone should be aware of and make sure your cars are locked. I do know it’s being investigated. It’s that time of year when people are wandering around who shouldn’t be, I guess. That behavior is not what we desire, that’s for sure.”
June 13 council authorized paying $702,533.34, including bills for $571,110.89 and payroll of $131,422.45.
Council gave first reading to an amendment to the election ordinance to reflect new ward boundaries set April 25 by the Dowagiac Election Commission which will be used for Nov. 8 balloting.
“Every 10 years, federal law requires that we redistrict with the goal of one person, one vote,” Anderson explained. “Within our city charter, it calls for the Election Commission to do that on behalf of the city. Shortly after April 25 the clerk reported to City Council that we had some remarkably close boundaries with slight adjustments to two — Ward 1 has 1,922 persons; Ward 2, 1,019; and Ward 3 remains the same at 2,038. It’s very, very close in its distribution. Tonight we’re giving first reading to adopting legal descriptions for each of those districts. Second reading will be in two weeks.”

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