On the radio: Fennville mayor talks purchase of former bank building, new owners for Su Casa site

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The former Chemical Bank building at 125 S. Maple St.

The City of Fennville is still considering purchasing the former Chemical Bank building for a new city hall, Mayor Tom Pantelleria said on The Morning Grind radio show on Saturday morning, Jan. 19.

The former bank, 125 S. Maple St., is a block closer to downtown than the current city hall, 222 S. Maple St., and would give “a little more prestige for city government,” the mayor said during the radio broadcast on WYVN 92.7 FM.

The city commission toured the former bank building during a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Commissioners Shawn Machan, Jim Suerth and the mayor were led through the one-story building by Realtor Peter Termaat, according to city records. Commissioners Erik Almquist, Danielle Brien, Scott Hageman and Jim Hayden were not present for the tour.

“Afterwards, the commission discussed the possible purchase of the site for the relocation of city hall,” the unapproved minutes said. The tour and discussion lasted about 50 minutes, records show.

No decisions were made.

Chemical Bank closed in December 2017. The 4,716-square-foot building on 0.71 acre is for sale for $175,000. A developer approached the city commission to change the zoning so he could put four apartments at the site, but he has not returned to the city to formally seek that rezoning. The property also comes with significant parking spaces used by downtown businesses. The current city hall would then be used by the department of public works for offices and storage, the mayor said at the Jan. 7 city commission meeting.

The commission will discuss at its Tuesday, Jan. 22 meeting at 7 p.m. the possible purchase of the property.

 

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The former Su Casa restaurant at 310 W. Main St. in Fennville.

Su Casa site

Pantelleria also announced that the former Su Casa Restaurant building, 310 W. Main St., has been purchased and will become a Mexican restaurant, market and banquet hall.

“We’re very excited,” he told radio host Mike Johnson on Saturday. “I wanted to see that filled.”

The 8,361-square-foot facility was built in 2004, replacing a former structure at the same site where the restaurant operated for many years. It closed in 2013.

Pantelleria did not have the name of the new owner.

Realtor Michael Deem of Coldwell Banker Schmidt announced on Facebook that the building has been sold, though included no further details. The company’s website said the property was sold for $250,000.

Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.

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In other business: The little things matter – Parking tickets, planner and pension

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Fennville City Hall, 222 S. Maple St.

Fennville City Commission on Monday, Jan. 7:

Parking tickets: Approved a new ordinance that allows the city to collect parking fines. Currently, tickets for certain parking violations are written under state code and sent to the county for collection, meaning the city receives about a third of the revenue. The new rules mean the city gets more money from fines such as parking in front of a fire hydrant, blocking sidewalks or unapproved parking in a handicapped spot. The ordinance goes into effect once it is published in a newspaper.

New planner: Approved the appointment of Chuck Pappalardo to the planning commission.

Pension contributions: Approved a 5 percent contribution to employee wages for the 2018 Simplified Employee Pension fund totaling $16,830.98. Eight employees received the contributions ranging from $102 to about $2,700.

Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.

Fennville investigating possible purchase of former bank for new city hall

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The former Chemical Bank building at 125 S. Maple St.

Fennville’s mayor will get more details on a former bank property for sale that the city could purchase for a new city hall.

The idea to buy the building is preliminary and several city commission members on Monday, Jan. 7, were hesitant about spending any money for the building.

“I just suggest we get more information,” said Commissioner Jim Suerth.

Chemical Bank, 125 S. Maple St., closed in December 2017. The 4,716-square-foot building on 0.71 acre is for sale for $175,000. A developer approached the city commission to change the zoning so he could put four apartments at the site, but has not returned to the city to formally seek that rezoning.

Mayor Tom Pantelleria said the former bank building is centrally located, about a block closer to downtown than the current city hall, 222 S. Maple St., and comes with significant parking spaces used by downtown businesses. The current city hall would then be used by the department of public works for offices and storage.

“In 10 to 20 years from now, the citizens will thank us for moving there,” Pantelleria said.

Some commissioners, though, were cautious about a possible property purchase.

The city recently raised water rates and will need to do so again to fund $7 million in infrastructure repairs over the next 10 years, according to Commissioner Shawn Machan.

“I don’t want the wrong message to get out,” he said.

Commissioner Danielle Brien agreed.

“I don’t know if right now is the right time,” she said.

The city recently received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a $1.25 million loan for the water and sewer work.

The current city hall is structurally sound and recently had a new roof put on, Pantelleria said.

He will meet with the Realtor and report back to the commission.

Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.

Snow took a holiday in December; lake levels continue to fall

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Downtown Saugatuck in December. What’s missing? Snow!

Winter took a break in December after jumping off to a snowy start the month before.

The Fennville area received 1.5 inches of snow in December, 20.5 inches below the 22-inch long-term average.

In 2017, December had 53.5 inches of snow. In 2016, 31.5 inches fell in the month and in 2015, 4 inches of snow was recorded in December.

November 2018 had 13.75 inches of snow, almost a foot above the 2-inch average.

December 2018 was above the previous year in rain, according to the Michigan State University Trevor Nichols Research Complex on M-89 about 2 miles west of the City of Fennville.

The station recorded 1.51 inches of rain, above the 0.43 inch received in 2017, according to records.

For 2018, the area received 39.14 inches of rain. In 2017, it saw 38.16 inches of rain.

The coldest December temperature for 2018 at the site was 14.5 degrees on Dec. 9. The highest was 54 degrees on Dec. 28.

In 2017, the lowest temperature was minus 9.3 degrees on Dec. 30. The highest was 59.8 degrees on Dec. 5.

Average December highs are 37 degrees and the average low is 23 degrees at the West Michigan Regional Airport in Holland, according to the National Weather Service. The airport is in the Allegan County portion of the city.

Lake levels

Water levels on Lake Michigan continued their seasonal drop, falling 1.2 inches to 580.15 feet above sea level in December, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the group that oversees lake levels.

Lakes Michigan-Huron water levels remain above average. The December level is 1.68  inches above last year’s mark and 19.68 inches above the long-term average, according to records.

The agency considers Michigan and Huron as one because they are linked by the Straits of Mackinac.

“In the coming month, seasonal declines are forecasted to continue for all of the lakes except Lake Ontario. Lake Superior is expected to decline by 3 inches, while Lakes Michigan-Huron, St. Clair, and Erie are all forecasted to drop 2 inches in the next month,” the Corps said on its website.

Fennville 2018: Welcoming new credit union, getting a bad road fixed, facing fire department challenges

The Fennville City Commission dealt with several important community issues throughout 2018, most notably the completion of a study of the city’s water and sewer infrastructure and the means to pay for the $7 million in repairs and replacements over the next decade. City Administrator Amanda Morgan listed that as a top accomplishment this year and a priority for 2019.

Here are a few other topics the commission handled in 2018:

 

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The private road to a Fennville neighborhood looking north in May.  It has been repaired.

Bad road: Residents in the Heritage Homes and Lexington Square developments had been complaining since 2014 about the condition of the private road at the south end of South Street that is the only entrance to their neighborhood.

Heritage Homes, managed by HHI Management Company, owns the road, and has 11 units. Lexington Square, which has access through the road, has 49 units.

Residents, their family members and delivery drivers had to deal with 13 pot holes, some as deep as 3 inches.

The city gave HHI until May 31 to fix the pavement or face legal action. Morgan contacted the Michigan State Housing Development Authority that granted Heritage Homes a low-interest loan to develop the site for the disabled and elderly for assistance.

The road was repaired May 29.

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The new Allegan Credit Union branch in Fennville.

Credit union and bank property: The city welcomed Allegan Credit Union over the summer to the former Huntington Bank building at 432 W. Main St. The opening of the credit union brought a financial institution back to the city which had no bank or credit union after Chemical Bank closed in 2017.

Th Chemical Bank building, 125 S. Maple St., remains empty though a developer from Byron Center spoke to the city commission over the summer about turning it into a multi-family dwelling. The 0.7-acre site a block off Main Street is zoned “Parking,” which limits what can be done with the property. The developer wanted to make the 4,716-square-foot building a four-unit apartment.

The city needs to change the zoning or grant special approval for any residential project at the site. No formal proposal has come before planners or the commission.

The city commission has discussed purchasing the building and converting it to a new city hall.

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Fennville Mayor Tom Pantelleria, left, and Commissioner Danielle Brien, right, welcome new Fennville Area Fire Department Chief Mike Andry, center, to his new position during the Fennville City Commission meeting Monday, April 2, at city hall. 

Fire department: The Fennville Area Fire Department hired Mike Andry as its new chief in April, replacing Sarah Bushee who announced her resignation earlier in the year after 5 years as chief.

In December, the city hired the department’s full-time employee to its department of public works, creating a vacancy at the fire department. Manlius Township, a partner in the fire department, is considering not funding its half of the position, meaning the slot could go unfilled and put the department’s first responder program in jeopardy.

In 2017, the fire board created a $44,000, full-time daytime firefighter position to staff the station on West Fennville Street. The cost is split equally between the two municipalities. City voters passed a millage last year to help fund the position.

Mayor Tom Pantelleria attended the Manlius Township board meeting in December to say the city commission wants the full-time dayside position filled because it helps response time to first-responder and fire incidents and allows the department to complete administrative work and building and equipment maintenance.

Manlius Township will fund the position through June 30, the end of the fire department’s fiscal year, but will study other options for fire protection in the future.

If Manlius Township decides not to pay its $22,000 for the position after June 30, one option for the city is to pick up the township’s half of the cost.

Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.

Fennville says farewell to longtime DPW leader

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Fennville City Department of Public Works Superintendent Gary Tuhacek poses at his retirement party on Thursday, Dec. 27, at city hall.

The City of Fennville said farewell to its longtime Department of Public Works superintendent on Thursday, Dec. 27, with a ceremony at city hall.

Gary Tuhacek retires effective Dec. 31 after 37 years with the city, though he won’t be completely gone from city hall.

He will stay on as an independent contractor consultant from Jan. 1 to March 31 at $576 per month for up to 16 hours a month. He will assist with the first stages of a nearly $7 million infrastructure repair and replacement projects that will be completed over the next decade.

Shannon VanOss was promoted to DPW foreman to oversee day-to-day operations while City Administrator Amanda Morgan becomes the new DPW head.

Andy Cook was hired earlier this month as a DPW worker to bring the department to full staffing.

Planning for Tuhacek’s departure was a top concern for the city, according to Morgan.

The city presented Tuhacek with a clock at the Thursday luncheon attended by city commissioners, staff and community members.

 

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Fennville City Department of Public Works Superintendent Gary Tuhacek opens a card at his retirement party on Thursday, Dec. 27, at city hall.

Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.

Fennville administrator marks first year, lists infrastructure, personnel, Goose Fest as top items

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Amanda Morgan

City Administrator Amanda Morgan marked her one-year anniversary with Fennville earlier this month. She is the city’s first full-time administrator and has been involved in numerous projects. She answered a few questions and ranked some top projects for the year:

Q: How have you liked your first year in Fennville?

A: I have been honored to be a part of such an amazing city. The community dedication, pride and support is unbelievable. I have learned and grown a great deal over the last year and look forward to continuing to work on the many new and exciting projects planned for 2019.

Q: What do you consider your top three accomplishments this year and why?

A: This is honestly a hard question to answer. There has been so much going on this year as I have been learning the operations of the city and have been able to work on a lot of small projects, most of which are leading up to bigger projects for 2019. With that said, I think that the top three accomplishments this year include:

1. Finishing the SAW Grant Process — The city commission and city staff have been working with Prien & Newhof for 3 years on the Water, Wastewater and Storm Water Asset Management Plans and developing the city’s Capitol Improvement Plan. The city has worked to put the rate structure in place and begun the loan process to fund the first round of improvements scheduled to start in 2019. It is extremely exciting and rewarding to see so many years of planning come to fruition.

2. DPW Succession Planning — I was hired last year and tasked with developing the succession plan for the long time DPW Superintendent Gary Tuhacek who will be ending his tenure with the City of Fennville after 37 years of service. Over the last year I have worked with Mr. Tuhacek to learn DPW operations and then worked with staff and the personnel committee to put in place a succession plan which involves the city administrator becoming responsible for the overall managerial operation of the department, promoting Shannon VanOss to serve as the DPW foreman, and hiring an equipment operator. While Mr. Tuhacek will not be officially retired until Dec. 31, 2018, all the staffing and hiring changes have been made to allow for adequate training time to ensure the smoothest transition possible.

3. Working with the DDA to organize the Goose Festival — For many years, most of the planning of the City of Fennville Goose Festival had been led by one individual member of the community who worked under the direction of the Goose Festival Board. That individual stepped back this year and the DDA Board stepped up to organize the event. We spent a great deal of time learning about the different aspects of the event and putting the proper volunteers in place to coordinate those activities. We have worked to make descriptions for each volunteer position so that we know who is responsible for which aspects of the event to make sure that the coming years can run as smoothly as possible. Along with that, the committee implemented some changes to the layout, vendor fair and food and beverage area which were all extremely well received by the event patrons and culminated in a very successful event weekend.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the city next year and why?

A: The biggest challenge facing the city over the next year will be the implementation of the Capital Improvement Plan. We have identified $7 million worth of projects that need to be completed over the next 10 years. The city will have to work diligently to identify funding sources, finding possible grant opportunities and planning and coordinating the projects to ensure that we are providing the best possible services to our community.

Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.