Buchanan commissioners talk infrastructure projects

Published 4:45 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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BUCHANAN — Buchanan City Commissioners heard updates on two infrastructure projects at their meeting Monday. In action, they approved a home repair program for the city’s Northside Neighborhood and an ordinance amendment to help a local senior citizen facility.

City Manager Tim Lynch reported on the Front Street retaining wall project and the sink hole that has developed on the Days Avenue/McCoy’s Creek culvert. The retaining wall on a section of East Front Street near the Hoven Funeral Home is in disrepair, while the sink hole on Days Avenue has forced the removal of the Bucky deer sculpture there.

With the retaining wall, city commissioners ended up hiring an Indiana engineering firm for the Front Street project. The Jones Petrie Rafinski company will be paid $17,500 to do a topological survey, soil investigation, computer drawings and a cost estimate for the entire project. They will also manage the bidding phase of the project.

Lynch said the engineering work should start within six weeks but gave no timetable as to when the actual construction might start and be completed. The retaining wall to be replaced is 450 feet long.

He said after the meeting that the funds for both the Front Street retaining wall and the Days Avenue projects will come from city funds. He noted that the city has approximately $8 million in investment funds that the city is exploring the availability of using those funds.

As for the Days Avenue project, he said that the Abonmarche engineering firm presented the city with three options ranging in costs from $900,000 to $1.1 million and agreed on the least expensive option. That option calls for putting in steel sheet piles to stabilize the culvert which is near the Buchanan Common and the Buchanan District Library.

Lynch told commissioners that construction could potentially start in July pending the receipt of permits from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for the work. He said he will be forming a committee to see what impact the work will have on various entities including the library, the Common and other nearby entities.

“Something needs to be done, it’s sinking by the library,” Mayor Sean Denison said. “We have to take it apart and figure out how much has to be replaced. It’s open ended.”

As for the whereabouts of “Bucky”, the deer sculpture that had been located just off Days Avenue near the edges of the library parking lot and the Common area, Denison and City Clerk Kalla Langston said the sculpture had been removed to a safe location before last week’s heavy rains.

Commissioners approved two items that should help the Northside Neighborhood. They approved seeking proposals from third party administrators to help the city administer the $300,000 community development block grant it has received to fund homeowner improvements in that part of the city.

Community Development Director Rich Murphy said the grant requires significant reporting and the city wants assistance since this is the first time it has handled this type of grant. He said the cost should be $50,000 or less.

Commissioner Dan Vigansky voted no on getting a third party administrator for the grant. “We’re paying someone with tax dollars to spend tax dollars to give away tax dollars,” he said.

Commissioners did accept $50,000 from the Niles-based Hunter Foundation and the Buchanan-based Michigan Gateway Community Foundation to fund both home repairs and demolitions. The program is a forgivable loan program designed to help homeowners in the Northside Neighborhood.

Lynch said after the meeting that the Northside Neighborhood was targeted for this help since it has the most dire need at this time. He said the city intends to secure more grant funds to expand the program to other parts of the city.

Commissioners approved a second reading of an amendment to the section of the city’s zoning ordinance governing group homes and adult foster care facilities.

Murphy told commissioners that the Buchanan Meadows facility on the city’s southeast side is hoping to expand its offerings to the community. He said the amendment was recommended by the city’s planning commission after receiving positive feedback.

He said Buchanan Meadows wants to add 20 beds and develop more of its land in the future. “Over a period of years, they want to develop the land they own to the east,” he said. “It would be a significant investment of several million dollars.”

The city commission’s next meeting will be Tuesday, May 28 due to the Memorial Day holiday. That meeting will feature a public hearing on the city’s proposed 2024-25 budget that begins July 1. Lynch said he expects the city to end this year with a budget surplus and have a balanced budget next year.

Lynch said after the meeting that the city has saved money this year by not filling vacant positions, increased oversight and the implementation of cost controls and purchasing practices.