Buchanan commissioners address Third Street repairs

BUCHANAN – Buchanan City Commissioners discussed a variety of topics at their meeting Monday night, from a marijuana consumption event and what to do about trees along Days Avenue to possible new regulations on food trucks and addressing downtown parking concerns.

Commissioners also heard an update on Third Street repairs. The storm sewer on a 300-foot long section of Third Street off of Red Bud Trail collapsed in late June after heavy rains and is yet to be repaired. The street has remained close for nearly two months.

The latest delay came after commissioners had questions about the two bids the city has received for the work. Commissioners said they wanted to see the work get started but questioned the seemingly wide disparity between the two bids. They also wanted to make sure the bids were pricing the same items and met the city’s specifications.

Representatives of the two companies, Green Construction and Selge Construction, were not at the meeting. City Manager Heather Grace said she would set up a special city commission meeting to handle just the Third Street repairs as soon as possible so repair work can start.

The meeting began with presentations by Pinnacle Emporium and Buchanan Tree Friends representatives. Pinnacle Emporium is one of the city’s adult-use marijuana businesses and wants to host a marijuana consumption event in the city next spring which representatives said will bring visitors to the city and help other local businesses.

Pinnacle Emporium owner Dr. Jodie Silver reported that her company has already had a successful marijuana festival at their Addison, Michigan location and wants to have something similar here. She said the Addison event did not have any problems and pointed to a recent event in Niles that also went off without problems.

She said they would like to have two consumption events a year in Buchanan. She added that they will apply for state permits once the city signs off on the event. She noted that proper security and fencing will be in place and that no alcohol will be served.

Richard Martin, of the Buchanan Tree Friends, presented his group’s report on Days Avenue trees. The city has been dealing with complaints from Days Avenue property owners over the last several months due to safety concerns from tree branches falling, tree roots getting into sewer lines and roots causing sidewalks to buckle.

While some city officials have recommended removing many of the trees, Martin suggested there are other solutions. He suggested heavy trimming or removal of a few trees, light trimming of others and rerouting sidewalks. If trees are removed, he said new trees should be planted.

In action related to the Tree Friends, commissioners approved moving both the Tree Friends and Friends of the Trail subcommittees from the purview of the Buchanan Area Recreation Board to that of the Planning Commission.

Grace said that both groups are mentioned in the city’s master plan which the planning commission wrote and it makes sense to have the subcommittees take advantage of the planning commission’s expertise.

Grace introduced the food truck registration issue to the commission. She said a pilot program has been in place this summer allowing food trucks and asked the commission to think about what they would like to see. Restaurant owner Dan Benak said food trucks have an unfair advantage with less regulations and allowing them will hurt downtown restaurants.

Public Safety Director Tim Ganus addressed downtown parking issues. He said parking has changed in recent years with more businesses opening and more apartments rented above them. He said that three-hour parking is allowed but enforcement has been hampered by pending court rulings.

Enforcement is currently complaint-driven, he said, although there are some cameras downtown to monitor the situation. The police department is close to hiring a new officer whose primary focus would be on parking and traffic downtown. 160 tickets were issued in the first six months of 2021.

Commissioners and Ganus discussed ways to improve the situation, including adding more cameras and increasing the number of permitted parking spaces downtown. He said new spaces could be added in the alley behind the post office, in the City Center parking lot and even on the city-owned Nelson Transfer lot on the west side of Oak Street.

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