May 10, 2021 City Commission Vote Explanations

Hi folks! Here are my vote explanations from the May 10, 2021 City Commission meeting – my apologies for getting these out a couple days late, I have been unable to edit my website this week. Please contact me at (906) 236-0247 or ebonsall@marquettemi.gov if you have any questions or concerns!

Select Karen Kovacs as Next Marquette City Manager: YES (Passed 7-0)

Our current City Manager Mike Angeli is retiring at the end of this month. After the City Commission received 40 applications for the City Manager position, narrowed this down to 11 qualified semifinalist candidates, conducted public interviews with 6 impressive finalists on May 1, and offered second interviews to Karen Kovacs and John Kramer at our May 4 special meeting, on May 5 Mr. Kramer unexpectedly withdrew his application. This left Ms. Kovacs as the last candidate standing, and on Monday night a motion was made to offer her a conditional offer of employment as the next Marquette City Manager, pending the successful negotiation of a contract. I voted Yes because I was extremely impressed with Ms. Kovacs’ resume, her interview, her deep understanding of local issues, her strong ability to think creatively and work well with others. She will bring a valuable fresh perspective to the City of Marquette, but also an understanding of the U.P. (her husband is from Grand Marais and they visit Marquette often) and a willingness to learn and build strong relationships in our community. I am incredibly excited to welcome Karen and her family to Marquette, and I’m looking forward to working with her in the coming years to better serve the people of Marquette and address the many challenges and opportunities that stand before our community.

Karen Kovacs, current City Administrator of Milan, MI (a city of 6,000 in Washtenaw and Monroe Counties), who was unanimously offered the job of City Manager of Marquette by the City Commission at our May 10 meeting, pending successful contract negotiations.

Schedule Public Hearing on Amdt. to UPHS-Marquette Brownfield Plan: YES (Passed 6-1)

This was a vote to schedule a public hearing at the May 24 City Commission meeting to consider an amendment to the Brownfield Plan for the UPHS-Marquette hospital site. Specifically, the proposed amendment would allow up to $455,000 of tax revenue from the new hospital to be captured as Brownfield Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and used to support the development of the Beacon House, which is a nonprofit entity that is not owned or operated by DLP. This proposed amendment is being sought by the Beacon House and has been recommended to the City Commission by the Marquette Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. The Beacon House claims that the opening of their new facility could be delayed by a year or more without this funding, and argues that they provide a vital service to U.P. residents and that this amendment would only result in the Brownfield Plan taking an additional 6 months to be paid off, which is minimal in the context of this 20+ year Brownfield Plan. However, myself and other Commissioners have expressed concerns that using Brownfield TIF to benefit a nonprofit could set a dangerous precedent, and that this process was not handled properly or transparently. This will be a very interesting and important discussion for the City Commission at our May 24 meeting.

Approve Notice of Intent to Issue Wastewater Treatment Bonds: YES (Passed 7-0)

This is just a notice of intent to issue up to $8.5 million in Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) bonds to fund improvements to the Marquette Wastewater Treatment Plant – before they can be issued, the actual bonds will need to be approved by the City Commission at a later meeting after a mandatory 45-day waiting period. The CWSRF bonds could qualify for principal forgiveness after a few years, and these upgrades are badly needed and would also allow the City to generate about $200,000/year in additional revenue from the Wastewater Treatment Plant. However, this is a lot of debt for the City to be taking on, and it is critical that we minimize any further utility rate increases in the coming years. I will need to see a specific debt service schedule and analysis of impact on utility rates before I can support issuing these bonds. However, I voted Yes to approve the Notice of Intent so we can continue having these conversations at future City Commission meetings.

Approve Williams Park Upgrades: YES (Passed 7-0)

This was a vote to approve a contract to replace the tennis courts and the basketball court and make much-needed accessibility upgrades at Williams Park. The accessibility requirements are necessary to bring the park (including the playground) into full compliance with ADA standards, and the tennis and basketball courts have been in poor shape for years. The Marquette Tennis Assn. also raised $40,000 in matching funds to assist the City in obtaining a grant for this project, which will cost $250,000 in total and will be completed this year. This will require a budget adjustment of $107,659 due to the recent increase in material costs, but I felt that this additional expense was worthwhile given the time-sensitive nature of the grant, the fact that the Tennis Assn.’s substantial contribution had already been sitting unused for several years, and the fact that we will be able to cover this expense by transferring funds from reserves, meaning that we will not have to cut or delay any other City projects to pay for this. I live just a couple blocks from Williams Park and occasionally walk and play tennis there with my fiancé Aubrie, and I can’t wait to see this project completed!

Design that was finally selected by the Marquette Public Art Commission for the Hurley Park basketball court in south Marquette. The City Commission approved the $15,000 expense by the Public Art Commission on May 10

Approve Hurley Park Basketball Court Public Art Project: YES (Passed 7-0)

This was a vote to approve the Marquette Public Art Commission’s request to fund the painting of a mural on the Hurley Park basketball court. This basketball court (and really the entire playground at Hurley Park) has been in terrible condition for years, to the point that it is actually closed to the public right now. This is the culmination of the Public Art Commission’s Queen City Courts Mural design competition, and it will only cost $15,000 to resurface the entire court and paint the mural on the new surface. Strong public support for this project was presented at the last Public Art Commission meeting, and I think this will benefit the surrounding neighborhood by attracting more children and families to Hurley Park and dramatically improving the condition of the basketball court. This was an enthusiastic Yes vote for me.

Rezone Vacant Land at 505 Lakeshore Blvd: YES (Passed 7-0)

This was a common-sense vote to rezone a tiny triangular parcel of City-owned land from Municipal to Mixed-Use. It is currently used as part of the commercial parking lot on the corner of Lakeshore Boulevard and E Ohio Street, which is owned by Mr. Mike Potts, and this rezoning will not result in any change in the current land use. The City also voted to transfer the property to Mr. Potts via a quit claim deed as part of the Consent Agenda, as a deed restriction does not allow the City to sell this parcel. I felt that it makes perfect sense for both Mr. Potts and the City that Mr. Potts should own this tiny parcel and be able to continue using it as part of his parking lot, so I voted Yes.

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