Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ironwood looks toward downtown improvements


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IronwoodIronwood moved closer to adopting a new Downtown Development Plan and the creation of a related Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) Plan on Monday as the city commission acknowledged the introduction of an ordinance which would set it all in motion.

The commission then called a special meeting that was to be held Wednesday evening (after deadline) for the purpose of adopting the ordinance.

The Downtown Ironwood Development Authority has been working on the Downtown Development Plan and TIF plan for some time, but the potential of a new 45-unit apartment building being constructed downtown has created a bit of urgency.

The apartment developer, Cinnaire Solutions of Lansing, plans to apply for funding through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to support its project and the grants call for the existence of a TIF. The city’s Planning Commission approved the site plan earlier this month. At that meeting, the city’s community development director Tom Bergman said they had been in discussions with Cinnaire for roughly a year and a half.

Plans call for a $13 million, 15,000 square foot, three-story building on the corner for Aurora and Lawrence streets that will include 31 one-bedroom and 14 two-bedroom apartments, as well as 1,000 square feet of commercial space on the main floor at the corner, and an adjoining parking lot to the south to McLeod Avenue.

In a related move on Monday, the commission approved the sale of the property at 205 W. Aurora St. — the site of the former Wells Fargo Bank building — to Cinnaire for $115,500, which according to a memo from city manager Paul Anderson would cover the city’s costs to date and projected future costs. The city bought the property on tax sale.

Anderson’s memo points out that the sale of the property would be contingent on Cinnaire getting funding for the project.

Bergman explained the TIF to the commission in a memo by quoting the text of the TIF Plan: “Tax increment financing is the process of expending new property tax dollars for improvements that generally benefit the parcels that pay the taxes. Tax dollars generated from new private property developments and from improvements to existing private property within a designated Development Area are ‘captured’ and utilized by the DIDA to finance public improvements within that Development Area, which supports and encourages continued private investments.”

The Development Area related to a TIF is often called a TIF district. The plan also outlines the district that includes all of the downtown area, extending up the Douglas Boulevard corridor to the corner with U.S. 2.

According to Bergman’s memo, “The Downtown Development Plan outlines the projects that the TIF dollars can be utilized for. These projects are described over multiple phases over the next 20 years. ... The plan is purposely flexible to allow the opportunity to utilize dollars to match grants when they become available or create an incentive for larger development.”

The plan has a list of 37 projects over three phases lasting to the year 2043, all under broad goals of creating spaces, building businesses, promoting partnerships and establishing presence with marketing.

In other action, the commission:

—Approved pay package No. 1 to Jake’s Excavating for $74,590 for the lead service line replacement project. Anderson said the contractor has completed 57 addresses in the $3 million project and plans to perform 1 to 2 per day until winter snow conditions set in.

—Approved an agreement with Fahrner Excavating for use of the city’s compost site as a commercial snow dump, requiring a $500 deposit for the 2023-2024 winter season.

—Approved a five-year agreement with Axon for body cameras for the Public Safety Department for $8,990 per year, a decrease of more than $3,000 a year from the former contract.

—Discussed a proposed sale of city property at 238 E. Ayer St. to Up-N Smoke BBQ, which has been leasing the property from the city for its food truck. According to information provided by the business owners to the commission, they’d like to own the property before making improvements to create a food truck park which would allow multiple vendors. The commissioners asked for an appraisal and other details before moving forward.

—Approved the sale of surplus equipment from the Department of Public Works and authorized calling for bids.

—Approved the re-appointment of Bob Tervonen and Anderson to the Gogebic Iron Wastewater Treatment Facility Authority and Board until June 2025; and the appointment of Steve Lundy to the Ironwood Housing Commission for a five-year term until June 2028.

In his manager’s report, Anderson said:

—The city deer hunt continues through Dec. 31 with nine hunters participating and three does have been harvested thus far.

—With Christmas falling on the fourth Monday of December, the commission’s the second meeting in December will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

—A large snowmobile sno-cross race is planned at Mt. Zion on Dec. 15-17. “I understand that Mt. Zion started making snow last Friday and now that Mother Nature is helping out with some natural snow, organizers are planning on the event as expected. This three-day event is slated to bring in thousands of people to the area, so everyone is excited for a great event.”

—Riverside Cemetery is closed for burials for the season.

—Republic Services, who does the city’s garbage pickup, is asking the public to place carts in a cleared driveway with accessible cart spacing. “Do not have them buried in the snowbank or on top of the snowbank, too far into your driveway, or too far out into the road, or your garbage will not be picked up. The schedules throughout the holidays are planned to remain the same as normal.”

—The Jack Frost Festival continues this weekend with the Frost Friday offering a vendor crawl downtown and the Jack Frost Parade on Saturday night at 6 p.m.

—Santa’s Headquarters is in its 18th year of providing support to those in need of gifts for their children at Christmas. Deadline to return gifts is Dec. 1. The Memorial Building has tags and is a drop point for gifts.

—Sisu Ski Race registration is closed. Congratulations to all who are registered and best of luck with an abbreviated training schedule over the next five weeks.

—”The city staff would like to congratulate and thank Sheryl Norman from her retirement from IPSD after 21 years of dedicated service. Her last day was last week.”

—Thursday, Nov. 30, is Tim Pertile’s last day of work for the city of Ironwood as he retires after 17 years of service. “Tim has most recently served as the city’s water plant operator and has done an excellent job in running the plant, cleaning things up at the pump station and keeping the plant running until this new plant can get brought online in a few more years. Tim has been training in Bill Tregembo for the past several months to take over his role in operating the water plant.”

—Phase 1 of the water plant project continues with CD Smith Construction. Concrete pours continued almost daily the last couple weeks.

—Progress is being made on the Curry Park electrical project. “The CT cabinet is a long lead time item that I am ordering now so it will be here mid-summer next year. We will be bidding the rest of the project out once the DNR approves the bid specs. That should happen in December and January.”

—There was a design meeting with HDR last week about Phase 2 of the water plant project, with hopes of having a contract to approve in December. “Design will occur from January through March, bidding April and May. Then construction will have to wait until Phase 1 construction wraps up by June 2025. Phase 2 construction would be June 2025 through Fall 2026.”

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