City manager discusses upcoming year

Published 10:12 am Monday, January 4, 2016

Be it furthering development of plans to the city’s downtown district to working toward securing funding for the demolition of “old grey,” City Hall had quite a busy 2015.

Despite the city’s accomplishments, it appears that local officials won’t be halting the momentum heading into the New Year.

2016 is already shaping up to another major year for the Grand Old City, with several projects and initiatives either kicking off or wrapping up over the next 12 months, said City Manager Kevin Anderson.

One of the goals city hall looks to accomplish in coming weeks is rounding out a list of tenants for the first floor of the James E. Snow Professional building, located at the corner of Front and Main streets.

Last year, city council approved lease agreements with Advanced Dermatology and the May, Oberbell, Lorber law office for space inside the two story office complex, both of which are still in the process of moving into their new offices. Within the next few weeks, the city is looking to come to an agreement with the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department, which operates the dental clinic on the second floor, for additional space on the ground level.

Besides bringing additional services into the community, the new occupants will be making regular rent payments to the city, which will help offset the costs of operating the structure, Anderson said.

“That was the intent all along, that it wouldn’t be something that would be a burden on taxpayers,” he said.

A few blocks away, the seeds planted by the city last year through property acquisition on Commercial Street will also begin to bear fruit.

The city manager expects for engineers with Wightman & Associates to finish preliminary design for the redevelopment of the downtown street by mid- to late January, he said. While details are still be hammered out, these improvements will include the construction of additional parking and green space, Anderson added.

“The parking that is being built there will be a huge improvement that will support the library, post office and theater, which are pretty cramped for parking at the moment,” Anderson said. “The green space will also make the area feel more welcoming.”

The added parking spaces will also benefit people renting apartments downtown, especially in winter months when late night parking is restricted on streets, Anderson said.

While less visible than other recent city projects, the ongoing improvements to the local wastewater treatment plant will continue through 2016 as well, with work estimated to wrap up by September or October, Anderson said. The changes to the plant’s aeration and filtration system will help improve capacity and efficiency of the station, which treats sewage of not just the city but several surrounding communities. The upgraded power efficiency will also save the city $45,000 annually on electricity costs.

In the spring, the city plans on applying for grant funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to help pay for the development of city property on Cass Avenue, Rudy Park and other waterfront property, furthering leader’s desires to create additional recreational opportunities for residents, Anderson said.

In spite of the numerous tasks on their plate, city leaders plan to continue serving the public of Dowagiac to their best of their abilities throughout the new year, working to further increase quality of life for residents while remaining respond stewards of their tax dollars, Anderson said.

“There’s a very strong and committed staff here, which continually look to make improvements to the city, be it to our streets, utilities or parks,” he said. “ We very much look forward to continuing to help city council fulfill the direction the community wants to go in.”