City, school district enter into intergovernmental agreement

Published 10:03 am Friday, November 30, 2018

DOWAGIAC — Changes are coming to the area around Dowagiac Union High School.

Over the past several years, the city and school district have been working together to develop a plan to reuse of the former ICG property located in the middle of the high school campus. Now, the two parties have settled on an agreement for the use of the land that will eliminate a blighted structure on the property, expand public parking near the football and soccer fields and develop a walkway system that connects all school facilities to parking and other community sidewalks.

During the school board’s Nov. 19 meeting, the board of education approved an agreement with the city under the condition that vacant parcels on Wolf and Wooden streets would be placed in ownership of the school district. On Monday evening, the city of Dowagiac accepted those terms and entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the school district for the improvement and use of the former ICG property.

Kevin Anderson

Per the agreement:

• The city will seek ownership of the property.

• The city will cause for a parking lot to be developed at the corner of Franklin and Paul streets.

• The city will remove the metal structure from the blighted building and the city will retain the right to use the former building site for appropriate uses.

• The city will design and construct a pedestrian walkway on Paul Street and W. Prairie Ronde from M-51 to the existing sidewalk on W. Prairie Ronde in front of the high school. The cost of the walkway will be shared equally with the school district and the city of Dowagiac.

• The school district will pay the city $200,000 to complete the first three items.

• The school district will lease the parking lot from the city for $2,000 per year, and will remove snow and provide basic maintenance during the term of a lease.

City Manager Kevin Anderson said the agreement was a “watershed moment.”

“The goal is [for the city] to obtain public ownership so that the property can be used consistent with school purposes, especially now that the community has voted to have major investment to upgrade the school, and we are staying put there,” Anderson said. “[This is] going to impact so much change on that side of the city for the next 15 to 20 years, maybe longer, because we have had an older, decrepit building there for many years. That will be gone. We will have safe pathways for people to walk and bike in that neighborhood for the first time ever.”

Both Anderson and Dowagiac Union Schools Superintendent Paul Hartsig said they were excited about the agreement. Anderson added that it made sense for the city to take underlying ownership of the property as the city has more resources to deal with a blighted building than the school district does.

“We are very grateful for the help and for the guidance the city will provide going forward with this,” Hartsig said. “This is important for us. The property is right between our elementary school, our high school, our football field, our track, our softball field. The parking is important to us, as is getting a walkway in for the safety of our students who walk along that road. … This is something we have really wanted to do since we started developing plans for the bond.”

Anderson said he cannot give a firm timeline for the project, but expects that by next summer the project will be into construction.

“I think everyone feels really good about this,” Anderson said. “It is exciting when a shared vision comes together. The school board unanimously approved this. The city council unanimously approved this. It just shows that after a lot of time working on something, we can come up with something everyone is really excited about.”