McCoy Creek Trail extension delayed

BUCHANAN – An expected vote by the Buchanan City Commission on a trail application to extend the McCoy’s Creek Trail has been delayed, but city officials still appear to be supportive of future trail plans. Meanwhile, commissioners agreed to sell the snow machine purchased nearly a decade ago when the city hosted the winter Thrill on the Hill tubing event.

Commissioners had been expected to approve the Michigan Department of Transportation grant application after a joint work session with the city’s planning commission last week. Officials had talked then of applying for the grant which would extend the trail across the River Street bridge and then on Walton Road to the River St. Joe brewery.

Those plans changed Monday after Suzannah Deneau of the Wightman engineering firm reported that some last-minute questions had come up. The commission had planned to approve the application Monday ahead of a soft grant application deadline of Feb. 24, but will now likely not apply until this summer which is the actual deadline.

Deneau again outlined the city’s options for the project. They include increasing the sidewalk width on one or both sides of the River Street bridge and leaving the bridge as is while extending the trail on both sides of the bridge. Berrien County has scheduled that bridge for repairs in 2022 separate from the trail grant application.

Monday, commissioners talked not only about the proposed trail project around the River Street bridge on the northeast side of the city but also plans to extend the trail on the city’s south side at some point in the future.

Jerry Flenar of the Friends of McCoy’s Creek Trail committee reported that the trail extension on the south side of the city is still a long-term goal. He said the idea is to take the trail where it currently ends at an observation towner near the ball fields across a fen and marshy area to get to Post Road the Bakertown area.

“That would get us out to Bakertown and eventually to Three Oaks and New Buffalo and complete the trail loop there,” he said.  “We have been working on that part of the project for six years until COVID kind of put a halt on everything.”

With the current proposed project, commissioners plan to approach Buchanan Township about forming a joint recreation board. Deneau noted that state officials generally look more favorably on projects where municipalities are collaborating together.

She added that both extending the trail out to the brewery and mentioning the plans for the trail on the south side of the city would also likely make it a more attractive project for the state to fund.

“It would show the bigger picture of what the trail will look like,” she said.

Also Monday, commissioners agreed to sell the snow machine the city had bought in 2014 for $14,500 to provide snow for the now discontinued winter Thrill on the Hill tubing event. Department of Public Works Director J.T. Adkerson said the city is warehousing a machine that’s no longer used any more. The city rented it in 2013 and bought it a year later.

He said he has a buyback offer of $7,000 from the company that sold the machine to the city originally. Commissioners gave him the authority to sell the machine for that amount or more if he can find an area ski resort interested in purchasing it. Adkerson noted that revenue from past Thrill events did cover the costs of the initial purchase.

“We need to get rid of it, it’s sat idle all these years, we have done the Thrill since 2016 or 2017,” commissioner Larry Money said. “This is an expenditure that has sat around and not done anything for us. We’ve held on to it long enough, it’s time to unload it.”

In other action, commissioners approved the renewal of two leases of city-owned properties. The renewals were for the Fine Arts Council to lease the Tin Shop Theatre and for the Guys and Dolls beauty shop to lease space in the Ross-Sanders house. Both are for one year.

Action was tabled on the request from Edgewater Bank to be released early from their lease agreement with the city for a building on East Front Street. That building is currently occupied by both the bank and the city’s police department.

City commissioners have debated in recent weeks what to do with the building, including getting another tenant to replace the bank, putting other city offices there or moving the police department out and selling the entire building. Police officials have said the building suits their needs and moving the department out could be problematic.

Commissioners approved a new sewer use surcharge schedule for large polluters, a move that currently will only affect the Southeast Berrien County Landfill.

“It’s being put in place to make sure sewer users are paying their fair share of sewer costs,” wastewater treatment plant manager Bill Housand said.

Commissioner Patrick Swem said landfill officials are fine with the new charges.

“They want to make sure they’re fair to the city with what they’re putting into the city for us to treat,” he said. “They want to make sure that individual citizens are not impacted and surcharges only apply to them and not residents.”

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