Lowell city council had their latest regular meeting at city hall on Monday, Dec. 2. The meeting lasted 30 minutes and was attended by 12 area residents.
Three citizens spoke during public comment. Lowell Light & Power board chairman Perry Beachum suggested the council try going for a city income tax again but next time explaining it to voters more clearly. Jake Davenport speculated that the income tax failed because the council presented the public with “information overload” and suggested suggested broadcasting relevant meetings live over the Internet for those unable to attend in person. Eric Bartkus thanked the Lowell public works department for their fast response to a gas leak.
The council voted not to solicit bids to have a company other than Suez manage the city's wastewater treatment facility. The company's contract to manage the plant will expire on June 30, 2020.
"The city has not bid the service since the plant was privatized in the mid-1980s," said Lowell city manager Michael Burns. "We have had consistency in personnel at the plant, and I believe our staff from Suez do an excellent job for the city. If you were to bid this out, it would only be to see if there was a cost savings. [...] We may receive a significantly lower bid, but we would have new personnel who may not be as equipped to manage the facility. I am not sure the cost would be significantly lower, and it might lower the quality of services if we change providers."
The council voted to spend $19,894.92 to have Peerless Midwest of Ionia overhaul a well and pump at the municipal water plant. "Well # 4" was first installed in Feb. 1990 and has not been repaired since.
"The project would consist of pulling the pump and inspecting the whole unit, with replacement of bearings and couplings and shafts," said Lowell public works director Daniel Czarnecki. "The motor [will be] disassembled and cleaned and bearings replaced, and then the unit tested. The well will be video-inspected and cleaned."
City manager Burns unveiled a new, vastly expanded employee handbook for city employees, and the council voted 4-0 to approve it (councilor Gregory Canfield was absent).
"Our previous policy was 12 pages and very open to interpretation, in my opinion," Burns said. "Our revised handbook is now 40 pages, very thorough, and meets federal and state legal requirements. Policies can be revised or added, depending on the need. The upgraded policy includes guidelines for anti-harassment, workplace violence, social media and many other items of necessity not in the current handbook. I must clarify that in situations where there is conflicting language between an employee's employment agreement and the handbook, we will defer to the language in the employee's labor agreement to resolve the conflict."
The Lowell police department donated an old police car to the Kent Career Tech Center Junior Police Academy. Lowell police chief Steve Bukala said the 2010 Chevrolet Impala LTZ will be used by the school's auto mechanics program and as a police training vehicle. The vehicle is in fair condition, has 155,000 miles on the body and is worth about $1,500. Many Lowell High School students currently attend or have attended the criminal justice and automobile mechanics programs at KCTC.
"By the time we get rid of our vehicles, they're pretty much worn out," Bukala said.
Burns updated the council about a recreational marijuana business that is in the works at 1965 W. Main, until very recently the location of a Family Video store.
"Myself, [city clerk] Sue Ullery and Andy Moore [an urban planner with Williams and Works] did meet with them this past week," Burns said. "They have not submitted their formal application as of yet. I anticipate them submitting their regulatory application and their special land use application very soon. We'd like them to submit both at the same time so we can start our process in one fell swoop. From there we go to the planning commission shortly thereafter, and hopefully we can get approvals, possibly in February or March."
Lowell city council's next regular meeting will be at 7 pm on Monday, Dec. 16. The council will also meet with the public during a "Coffee with the Council" at the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce building from 8 am until 10 am on Saturday, Dec. 7.
To watch various city council, board and commission meetings from the past, look for the "City of Lowell" or "Lowell Light and Power" channels on YouTube or visit archive.org.