Buchanan commissioners discuss reinstating DDA

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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BUCHANAN — Discussion about the make-up of citizen boards and committees and who they should report to in city government dominated Monday’s Buchanan City Commission meeting. Commissioners also voted to look at the pros and cons of reconstituting the city’s Downtown Development Authority.

The City Commission disbanded the DDA in 2020, citing changes in state laws governing DDA which would result in less tax revenue coming into it. Commissioners also had differences of opinion with DDA members over how money should be spent and which projects should be pursued.

Monday, City Commissioner Dan Vigansky advocated bringing back the DDA during a discussion of restructuring the organizational chart of boards and committees that report to the city commission. Vigansky was not on the commission when the DDA was dissolved.

“I want us to look at the pros and cons of reinstating the DDA, the financial benefits and liabilities,” he said. “We would have help in writing grants. The DDA was very active but past commissions didn’t want the DDA, they wanted the DDA’s money.”

Mayor Sean Denison pointed out that it would take some time to reconstitute the DDA and that the restructuring needs to be done now. He added that the city’s Live Buchanan group is working to get Michigan Main Street status which will give it access to grants. He noted that Live Buchanan does a lot of the work that the DDA did before.

Besides the DDA discussion, commissioners and audience members debated the membership of various committees and who they should report to in city government. Denison brought a proposal to the meeting that listed four boards and committees which would report directly to the city commission and then other boards that would report to the four committees.

“It’s important to have this conversation and to make sure these groups answer to someone and eventually to the city manager,” Denison said. “… What I’m trying to get at is to have people from the different groups be on the same page.”

The Common Committee is one of the four boards Denison had listed and that committee’s co-chairs Randy Hendrixson and Michael Rowland spoke about their experiences in working to coordinate all that goes on at the Common. Hendrixson noted that the DDA did some things well because it had a paid staff while the different boards and committees rely almost entirely on volunteers.

Commissioners decided to continue the discussion at a workshop session to be held within the next two months. All the committees that now report to the Common Committee such as the Fine Arts Council, the Farmers Market and One Buchanan will be invited to attend.

Also Monday, City Clerk Kalla Langston gave an election update, including the status of some pending legislation in Lansing as well as the filing deadline for the city commission and the dates for early voting in August and November. The deadline to file for the two seats up for election this November is July 23.

Langston said that some at the state are trying to pass a Michigan Voting Rights Act that has provisions of concern to the Michigan Clerks Association. She said one of the biggest concerns is that clerks and municipalities could be accused of violating people’s voting rights and not have the right to defend themselves.

She said the clerks association would like to see legislation pass that would mirror the U.S. Voting Rights Act. She said other organizations such as the Michigan Township Association and the Michigan Municipal League are also working to provide input to legislators on the proposed state legislation.

     Updates also came Monday from City Manager Tim Lynch on upcoming infrastructure projects. Lynch said work is progressing on repairing the Front Street retaining wall and that work could start later this summer on repairing the McCoy’s Creek culvert project. The retaining wall is crumbling and the culvert off of Days Avenue is in need of repairs.

     Commissioners on Lynch’s recommendation approved a contract with Abonmarche Engineering to provide engineering services at a cost of $54,900. That cost will cover the final design for the project, geotechnical investigation, bid document preparation, bid and ward assistance and construction administration.

     Lynch said the total amount being paid to Abonmarche will be under $77,000 and include the work the firm did for the city in applying for a permit to do the work from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. Once the permit is received and the bid awarded, he said the work will take six weeks.

     Work is also gearing up for the downtown infrastructure project with the city’s bond counsel coming to the commission in the next few weeks. Lynch said the commission will then be asked to take up the funding side of the project with U.S.D.A. financing.

     Lynch commented briefly on a situation that occurred last week with many city residents getting water and sewer bills saying their accounts were delinquent. He said the problem has been fixed and new correct bills sent out.