Escanaba City Council Considers Budget Cuts | News, Sports, Jobs


ESCANABA — Thursday’s Escanaba City Council meeting promises to be well attended as residents raise concerns about proposed cuts to library funding and the future of the former Delta County Jail. The meeting agenda includes:

BUDGET CUTS — The agenda includes the fourth of five scheduled public hearings on the city’s proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year — a touchy subject as the city faces what could be years of budget deficits . Some of the city’s budget concerns are already a reality. While the budget remains somewhat in flux until final changes can be made towards the end of the fiscal year and actual numbers are not available until an audit is completed in the fall, the city ​​is considering a possible deficit of $316,415 in the general budget. funds for the current fiscal year, which ends July 1. The potential deficit continues in the 2022-23 budget, which currently shows a projected general fund deficit of approximately $1.02 million. If no changes were made to the proposed budget for 2022-23 moving to 2023-24, with some adjustments due to inflation projections, next year’s deficit would be approximately $1.4 million.

To address concerns, council member Ronald Beauchamp requested a list of potential cuts, which was presented to council members on April 21. None of the cuts have been voted on or approved, but the list will be discussed on Thursday. The list includes cutting a $10,000 pay raise for Comptroller’s Office staff, $44,000 from the Public Safety Department for body cameras and new fire station doors, eliminating a full-time position in community preservation, $15,000 for property line identification in the engineering department, $60,000 for a complete overhaul of city zoning, $22,000 for a new mower and resurfacing of the veterans park tennis court, $15,000 for a new four-wheeled vehicle for trail maintenance and $15,000 for new flooring and a generator at the Center Civique Catherine Bonifas.

In total, the cuts would eliminate $224,342 of the general fund deficit. However, eliminating two transfers from the general fund – $174,342 for the Escanaba Public Library and $50,000 in matching funds for the new wading pool at the site of the former Webster Wadding Pool – would reduce the deficit by 405 $342 to $616,889.

The library cut, which would represent a roughly 40% cut in library funding, sparked anger shortly after the list was distributed to the council. A series of widely shared social media posts encourage residents to attend the meeting to voice their opposition to the cuts or contact council members directly.

Other potential money cuts mentioned by City Manager Patrick Jordan at the April 21 meeting were to cut city staff or consider selling some city park land to developers. Due to the way the city charter is written, park land can only be sold if residents approve it through a citywide vote.

JAIL SITE – The board will also discuss the future of the former Delta County Jail and Chamber of Commerce construction sites. City attorney Lisa Vogler of LJ Vogler Law, PLC — whose contract was approved at the April 21 city council meeting — is expected to be present to discuss the matter. Volger’s firm is based in Beulah, in the Lower Peninsula. Initially, Jordan had recommended the city strike a deal with the development team of Red Deer Lodge, a lower peninsula development group that aims to put an upper-middle-range hotel for extended stays on the site. from the prison and a mixed-use development consisting of condos and commercial space on the site of the Chamber of Commerce.

Three local developers also threw their hats in the ring to redevelop the venues: Terrace Bay Hotel, LLC; Côte-Nord maritime and logistics terminal; and Swanee, Inc., which is behind the Lofts on Ludington. The three developers then decided to join forces, dividing the properties into separate areas to allow each of the developers to focus on specific aspects of their projects.

“The North Shore Marine Terminal, the North Shore Flats and the Terrace Bay Hotel have reached an agreement that allows each of us to accomplish the most important parts of our individual proposals and keep this downtown development project local”, said Jarred Drown, of the Terrace Bay Hotel, who spoke in public comments with representatives of the other development groups who stood alongside him at the March 17 council meeting.

The Terrace Bay Hotel abandoned plans for a second hotel on the site of the House, but kept plans for a dinner cruise ship and a Hampton Inn on the site of the old prison. The Chamber property was claimed by Swanee, Inc., for the creation of a mixed-use and condominium development. North Shore Marine claimed the shoreline, in accordance with its original plan to expand its ship repair operations, and guaranteed a public access road that would cross part of its existing property. Whether or not the city can legally authorize the joint development, which does not meet the requirements of the original request for proposals, has delayed the awarding of sites to any developer. Hiring Vogler may clarify the issue and allow the board to move forward.

UTV ORDINANCE — Also on Thursday will be the second public hearing and eventual passage of an ordinance allowing UTVs to be operated on city streets. Concerns raised at the April 21 meeting sent the ordinance back for review, but the version being discussed Thursday would allow people with valid driver’s licenses to use UTVs on the majority of streets in Escanaba, with certain prohibited areas, such as the majority of Ludington Park and all of US-2, US-41, and M-35.

OTHER OPEN BUSINESS – Council will also hold a second public hearing and possibly pass the city’s newly revamped zoning ordinance, hold public hearings for two special assessments for paving asphalt driveways, and consider donating old public safety radios at the Escanaba School District.

CLOSED SESSIONS – Two closed sessions are scheduled for Thursday: one to consider an op-ed from the city’s tax court attorney and one to discuss an ongoing fraud case with the new city attorney and Escanaba Public Safety.



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