City officials predict another great year for business

Published 12:51 pm Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Officials with the City of Dowagiac are hoping to ride the momentum of a successful 2013 into next year.

A number of long-term city projects are closing in on their estimated completion date in the early part of 2014. These projects include the completion of the new dental clinic complex, located across the street from city hall at the corner of Front and Main streets iin downtown, and the completion of the second phase of the Russom Park expansion.

Construction on the new dental facility, which is expected to wrap up in May, was funded by the city to give the Dowagiac Cass-Van Buren County District Health Department’s dental clinic additional operating space, allowing them to add three doctors to their current staff of four. The new medical offices will be located on the second floor of the complex, while the first floor will have office space available for lease.

“I’m really looking forward to not only the new building, but what will take place inside of it,” said City Manager Kevin Anderson.

The clinic is currently housed inside the Donald Lyons Health Clinic, another city-owned facility located across the street from Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital. The hospital plans on using the vacant space left by the departure of the dental clinic to expand their health care offerings, Anderson said.

Later in the spring, the city plans on wrapping up construction on the second phase of the Russom Park sports complex, adding additional baseball, soccer and softball fields for park visitors.

The project, which is being overseen by officials from both Dowagiac and Silver Creek township, completed phase one of the expansion last year, adding expanded parking and walking trails to the park.

“I’m excited to see how both communities will use the park,” Anderson said. “The special thing about the it is that it’s something that can be used by more than just one community.”

Last year, the city planted the seeds for both of these construction efforts, breaking ground on both the new office complex and the park expansion.

“I’m real positive about what happened last year,” said Mayor Don Lyons. “I think by any measure it was a good year for the city.”

In addition, the city completed construction on the new Dowagiac Area History Museum facility, which is now managed under the supervision of city hall. The opening of the new downtown museum, which was formerly located on the campus of Southwestern Michigan College, was perhaps the largest endeavor the city accomplished in 2013.

“2013 was a great year for the city, and the keynote moment of the year was the opening of the museum,” said Mayor Pro-tem Leon Laylin.

Another project that the city manager is excited about the next year is the planned revival of the city’s farmers market, which stopped running around seven years ago, Anderson said. The city has been working with the Downtown Development Authority to relocate the market to the museum’s parking lot in the summer, the city manager added.

“Farmers markets are a tremendous asset to the communities they are located in, and I’m looking forward to seeing one return to Dowagiac,” Anderson said.

Besides the city’s commitment to the completion of these projects, Mayor Lyons said he has his own New Year’s resolution for the city this year: To fill the local government’s vacancies with younger members of the community.

Last year, Lyons appointed 27-year-old Whitney Behnke to the city’s planning committee, and the mayor hopes he and the city council can continue to fill additional committee openings with similar candidates, he said.

“Our world is changing so fast, and there’s a large amount of technology available today that wasn’t available 10 years ago,” Lyons said. “That is a young person’s game, and the city will face a challenge if we don’t start to reload our team with younger members now.”

Another thing Lyons said he is looking forward to this year is again working with his colleagues at city hall to keep the city on course throughout the next 12 months.

“The thing that I’m struck with the most is what a good group associates the city has, from the elected officials to the people who collect the city’s waste,” Lyons said. “They all make my job awfully easy to do.”