Bessemer holds joint session of council, other groups
February 23, 2023
By P.J. GLISSON
Bessemer — A meeting of the minds took place last week as the city of Bessemer held a joint meeting with representatives from its City Council, Planning Commission, Downtown Development Authority, and Parks and Recreation Commission.
City Secretary Samantha Dorr, who coordinates the DDA, set up the Feb. 13 session in the auditorium of the Bessemer City Hall.
The idea was to discuss recent successes, to acknowledge challenges and to suggest goals for the near future.
Mayor Adam Zak, who represented the City Council, noted the success of the water and sewer project, which is expected to end its third year in the fall.
He said the city also is continuing an ongoing goal of replacing its Department of Public Works equipment. In fact, he took time from the meeting to accept the delivery of a new pick-up truck.
Melissa Lupino, librarian at the Bessemer Public Library, also reported good news, by way of grant funds that are facilitating library renovations.
“We had to have everything rewired,” she said of the 1937 building, but added that there have been and will be aesthetic and structural changes as well, including a reorganization of the staffing area.
“It’ll be really beautiful,” she assured.
Lupino, who was accompanied by Library Board Member Denise Bromley, said that the library has been working with Bessemer school students. The library also offers “a little pantry” in its lobby area, where people in need can benefit from donations by other “really generous people who have been keeping it stocked.”
Lupino said she would like to create a more focused area for the pantry and also would like to have a little library outside of the library “so something is available when the library is closed.”
Among overall city challenges noted were blight and the need for funds to address it, along with insufficient downtown parking and the vacant Gambles Building on the main street. Attention to improving streets was mentioned as another ongoing, general goal.
Dorr said some parking may result once the city acquires land on the corner of S. Sophie and E. Sellar streets. “We don’t really want to do that, but we do need downtown parking,” she said of the lot across from Abelman Clothing.
Dorr said she’d gone through Bessemer’s master plan to note possible goals for this year. Among items she mentioned were creating a downtown walking tour, installing murals and ramping up marketing.
She said the goal should be for tourists to return home and say, “Wow — Bessemer is such a cool place. I went there, and everyone was so friendly. and I want to go back.”
“One thing that we worked on and talked about a lot was the short-term rental,” said George Beninghaus, who was the sole representative for the Planning Commission. He added that members could not resolve the issue because a lack of quorum in recent months has made it impossible for them to meet.
The commission currently has two vacancies, as does the DDA. The Parks and Recreation Commission also has an open seat.
In addition to Zak, who is a council representative on the DDA, other authority members at last week’s meeting were Stephanie Matonich, Harry Swanson and Brandon Bromley.
“The trailhead is going to be the big thing this year,” said City Manager Jennifer Adams, regarding plans to create a trailhead south of Bessemer City Hall, where it could act as a resting point for people using the adjacent Iron Belle Trail.
“That’s our main goal,” said Trevor Jackovich, who was representing the Parks and Recreation Commission with Eric Longhini.