BRIDGMAN — A packed audience heard a pep talk on the upcoming census and then rallied to congratulate the new state champion Bridgman High School girls cross country team during the Monday, Nov. 4, city council meeting.

With $44 million in census-based government funding at risk annually, Berrien County nonprofit agencies are banding together with a “Be Counted Michigan 2020” campaign aimed at reaching the hard-to-count populations in the 2020 census.  Kathy Stady, census hub coordinator at the Berrien Community Foundation, reviewed the local push that will be underway from March 20 through April 30.  She said that based on the 2010 census response rate, organizers predict an 80.9 percent response rate, leaving 11,291 Berrien County households that will require follow-up to be sure they are counted.

The census-based funds that are at risk support programs for infrastructure, education, nutrition, child care, health, housing and transportation and others.  Census data also is used to make business location decisions and to determine federal and state government representation, electoral college votes and school district boundaries.   

Stady said that Bridgman had a 2010 population of 2,291 residents with a 15.3 percent or 350 person undercount risk.  At $1,800 per person in funding, this represents $630,000 per year or $6.3 million over the 10-year life of the census count.  She urged the council and residents to talk about the importance of the census and highlight related information on their website and newsletter.

Attention then turned to the Bridgman High School girls cross country team and coaching staff who won the Division 4 Station Championship title for the first time in school history.

“Holy cow! First ever,” said Mayor Vince Rose as he proclaimed Nov. 2, 2019 as Bridgman Girls Cross Country Team Day in recognition of the team’s “demonstrated character, talent and relentless determination on its road to capturing the State Championship, and in having achieved that goal, have brought recognition and pride to Bridgman High School’s athletic programs as well as to the Bridgman community.”

Varsity team members receiving a citation were Alexa Ackerman, Nina Babcock, Sophia Bomar, Summer Fast, Grace Fenech, Arie Hackett, Jane Kaspar, Mikaela Owen and Karsyn Stewart and coach Spencer Carr.

Although no action was taken, the city’s position on dogs at Weko Beach was further clarified by City Attorney Sara Senica and Rose repeated his assertion that Bridgman is dog friendly.  Senica introduced a draft ordinance that is “consistent and clear” and can be consistently enforced year round.  After passage, the ordinance will “prohibit dogs on the 900 feet of sand comprising Weko Beach, while allowing an access point for dog owners and their pets to the Warren Dunes dog beach via a wooden boardwalk over City property.”  Senica said the access path will be defined by signs and a handrail.

At the recommendation of City Manager Juan Ganum and Parks and Recreation Director Milo Root, the council approved a new schedule of campground rentals rates  that is more streamlined and less confusing.  The new rates eliminate multiple weekly and weekend rates and apply flat daily rates.  Discounted seasonal rates will be maintained through at least 2020 since reservations for the coming season have already been made and paid for.   

The new rates were approved after a lengthy discussion introduced by Council Member Rick Fuller with his motion to table the proposed rates until a business plan for the beach front, which he considers one of the city’s greatest assets, is presented to the council.  Fuller said he has been asking for such a plan for two years and feels the council needs to look closely at every revenue potential, particularly in light of expected water and sewer rate increases.  Fuller said he thinks the discounts given to seasonal renters are “too generous.”.

During discussion, Root explained that the new rates are for 2020 only and approval at this time will allow for the installation and training on new reservation software explained at a previous meeting.  He said that the department was already looking at ways to increase revenues in several areas at Weko Beach.  Council Member Stacy Stine said she believes the council needs to give some direction as to what they wanted included in a business plan and other members added suggestions or questions about individual rates.  Fuller’s motion died for lack of second.

During public comment at the end of the meeting, Bill Boyd suggested keeping the beach parking ticket booth open longer, charging admission for persons who walk to the beach and also charging for parking during the free Sunday night concerts.

Ganum announced that Monday, Dec. 2, will be the new date for a meeting that will include a presentation of the Sewer and Water Asset Management Plan and recommendations for new sewer and water charges for residents.  He said he plans to have a complete explanation of the new rate structure in the December issue of The Buzz.

In other business, Nicholas Schmidt, coordinator of the Bridgman Farmer’s Market, thanked the city and all who shopped at the market this summer.  He said the vendors, which started with five and grew to 17, agreed it was better than they could have expected and said he will return in the spring with plans for an even bigger and better market.

Council Member Georgie Gipson, who is bank officer and branch manager at Edgewater Bank, said the bank’s CEO Rick Dyer agreed to donate the its parking lot at Lake Street and Red Arrow Highway to the city for use by the farmer’s market and other city events.  The bank had made the space available to the farmers market in mid-summer after the market’s previous sited became unavailable.

Later in the meeting, Rose announced he would be raising funds for an electronic sign to announce community events and it was suggested the Edgewater site might be a good location.  The present manually lettered sign was damaged during recent high winds but is being repaired.  Community volunteer Connie Allee was commended for the work she puts into keeping the sign current.

In other business, the council:

-- approved the reappointment of John Murphy to the Corridor Improvement Authority and the appointment of Wayne Hall for terms ending in 2020;

-- appointed Marty Mason to the Greater Bridgman Area Chamber and Growth Alliance for a partial term ending December 2021, and

-- approved the two-year contract with Berrien County for tax processing services for $2,063 in the first year and the amount to be determined for the second year.

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