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Bessemer City Council gets back to business in 2018


January 3, 2018


Bessemer — The city of Bessemer returned from the holiday break and got right back to business with its first city council meeting of the new year. Mayor Adam Zak read a correspondence from Senator Tom Casperson saying the Ojibway prison in Marinesco is not on the chopping block in the event a prison is closed in Michigan. The council agreed this was good news, but also counter to much of the rumors and they would stay cautiously optimistic.

The city received a request for a letter of support regarding the Western Gateway Trail Authority completing the Iron Belle Trail from Bessemer to Ramsay, which they agreed to 5-0. Councilman Rob Coleman said the trail is a “huge asset to our community,” before describing the many hundreds of people per day using the trail between Bessemer and Ironwood.

Under Old Business, the council discussed the Rules of Order again. Charly Loper, city manager, described the need to adjust the city’s methods for dealing with a vacant seat and what constitutes a conflict of interest. Councilman Terry Kryshak addressed the council by saying Michigan ranks last on ethics and transparency, after saying, “we live in an era where ethics are being challenged in interesting ways.” The council postponed accepting any new language until Loper could rewrite the rules in accordance with the council’s wishes. One element of contention is whether the council can force another member to abstain from a vote due to an apparent conflict.

The council passed 5-0 authorizing Loper to sign a memorandum of understanding to pursue becoming a full-fledged Redevelopment Ready Community. Loper said most of what is left to qualify requires man-hours, not dollars so the city should be able to complete the task in the next year. Zak asked if there was any risk or cost associated with not meeting the one year deadline and Loper said they would be able to get an extension, but should be able to make it.

The council votes 5-0 to authorize tax increment financing on a property in the industrial park being retrofitted into an office building by Gogebic Range Bank Brownfield. Using TIF, the city will not receive additional taxes until the debt used to remodel the structure is recouped by the company. The city will continue receiving the same amount of taxes, which allows the company to benefit from a lower tax burden as an incentive to buy and restore an old building into a functioning working one. Neil Beckman, president and CEO of Gogebic Range said they figure it will take about 15 years to pay off the debt. In the mean time at least eight new employees will work at the building in the industrial park.

The Fourth of July and Pumpkinfest Committee’s are going to move into the the former chamber garage. The locks are going to change and the insurance specifics must be worked out before a final vote can be taken to approve the move, but informally representatives from each committee were in attendance and agreed to the move.

The council also agreed 5-0 hold a public hearing regarding “undeveloping” the 300 block of North Case Street. The street is too steep it is deemed a hazard. Instead of repaving, the city will plant grass, while continuing to maintain the sewer utilities that run below the current road. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19, giving the city enough time to notify all the residents within 300 feet of the road of the new plan and time to voice their opinion.

The council discussed repealing some current ordinances to address people filling in ditches and running pavement from their driveways into the right of way. The city wants to ensure the right of way is returned to its normal condition after residents do home repairs through a fee schedule. The council also voted 5-0 to work with the Gogebic Range Water Authority to finance sewer and water line replacement under US 2 during 2021 when MDOT is repaving the highway. This will entail a tentative and subject to change $1 per month increase in sewer and a $5.50 per month increase in water by customers to pay for the repairs.

Under reports, Ray O’Dea addressed the council regarding the freedom of information act request by Richard Duncanson. O’Dea said members of the council’s personal email communications are safe from disclosure and that many of their communications would also be safe from disclosure based on Frank Communications Exceptions. O’Dea said people expect their government to communicate and work on things and in so doing, those exchanges are not admissible through the FOIA. This created a new issue during public comment, leaving multiple people in the audience displeased with the answers.


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