Five-year improvement plan approved by city commissioners


City Commissioner Lori Gillis speaks to her fellow commissioners during a City Commission meeting on June 12 at Mount Pleasant City Hall.

The general schedule for the 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Plan was finalized by the Mount Pleasant City Commission. 

The plan includes a tentative list of construction and improvement plans that the city will undergo within the 2018-2022 time period, as well as how much each of these plans will cost, and where the money will come from. The city manager is responsible for presenting an updated plan every April, which begins the process of getting the plan approved over the following months. 

During Monday's meeting, special attention was given to the passing of the Fire Safety Grant Program, which required a separate motion to approve after Vice Mayor Allison Quast-Lents opted to recuse herself from voting, citing previous controversy surrounding the Fire Safety Grant Program.

Part of the CIP, the Fire Safety Grant Program is designed to fund the renovation of the fire-safety systems of historical buildings in Downtown Mount Pleasant by using funds taken the city's Tax Increment Finance Authorities (TIFA). Money taken from the TIFA is given to local businesses in increments of $25,000 to bring their buildings up to fire safety standards, which allows the buildings to develop second-story apartment space.

Commissioner Lori Gillis opposed the plan, saying the benefits were unclear and therefore called into question the cost of the project — $100,000 per year between 2018 and 2020 — totaling up to $300,000. Gillis believes the project unfairly allows the businesses affected to potentially make profit off of tax-payer money. Those businesses will receive money from the TIFA fund, which is tax-payer money collected by the city, to bring their buildings up to fire safety standards. 

"I don't think it's fair to the other business owners Downtown," Gillis said. "I also don't think it actually adds value to certain businesses downtown that someone is now allowed to have apartments in their second story building because they were given $25,000 in tax-payer money to do it." 

The approval of Fire Safety Grant Program was ultimately passed, along with all other items outlined in the CIP.

The meeting on Monday also saw an amendment to the contract between the city and Countyline Power for the purchase and development of pedestrian lighting on West Broadway Street. As listed in the CIP, the project originally would see addition lighting installed on West Broadway between the railroad tracks and Harris Street. After a donation of funds from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, the lighting will extend further, potentially from the railroad tracks to Adams Street. 

An amendment to the Downtown Development Authority's planned improvements to Mission and Pickard Streets was approved. The DDA is a tax-capture program affecting the district surrounding Mission and Pickard that relegates funds to be used for improvement projects within the district. 

The amendment extended the financial agenda within the program from 2017 until 2025, coinciding with the planned development projects for the program.

The amendment also added three projects to the development agenda: a transport corridor study to determine if the condition of the streets benefit local commerce, an alley maintenance time-table and a project to install decorative street lights along Pickard Street. 

Matt Weaver was introduced as the new street superintendent. Previously, Weaver had been the head of landscaping for Central Michigan University. 

Christopher Coucke, owner of Coucke Property Services LLC, was appointed the position of city assessor. In the position, Coucke will be responsible with establishing the value of all property within the Mount Pleasant for tax purposes.