BRIDGMAN – During its annual year-in-review meeting Monday, Jan. 6, the Bridgman City Council went over two programs that will probably hit the headlines during the coming year.

The council approved plans for the first annual Polar Party on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7-8, planned as a family-focused fundraiser for the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence. The inaugural event is the result of cooperation among the city, Bridgman Area School District, the Community Growth Alliance and the Foundation, according to Council Member Linda Gedeon-Kuhn, also a Foundation board member.

Beginning with a school-sponsored fun night with games on Friday, the Polar Party, centered in a large igloo tent, will continue on Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m. with a disc jockey, band, local breweries and wineries, food vendors and a mix of children’s games and entertainment. Staged in the municipal parking lot, the igloo will be surrounding by fire pits and heaters to keep guests warm.

The council also heard Public Services Director Tim Kading’s plan to fix the three “gushers” identified during the assessment of the city’s sewer system done by Wightman & Associates. 

Kading said he had received an estimate of $13,000 to fix the three worst spots where groundwater is leaking into the city sanitary sewer system at the rate of three to four gallons per minute, amounting to “money down the drain.” Kading said he will redirect money he had budgeted for manhole rehabilitation and work will begin shortly.

With the full year-in-review reports available on the city’s web site under “City Council Packets,” department supervisors gave brief summaries of their written reports with Police Chief Daniel Unruh leading the way.

Overall police department complaints/calls for service totaled 1,930 during 2019, up from 1,864 in 2018. He said arrests were up slightly to 244 from 231. Unruh noted that narcotics activity was drastically down due to the legalization of marijuana, but he said the drugs they were finding were the more harmful ones. This year, the unwanted meds collection box in the city hall lobby took in 83 pounds and a total of 198 pounds since it started in 2017.

Unruh said he “strongly recommended” continuing the assignment of an officer to Weko Beach, which last season resulted in 107 parking tickets, aided in the enforcement of the new dog ordinance and generated many favorable comments from the public and the staff.

Fire Chief Joel Buist presented a breakdown of the causes of its 185 incident calls, with 65 percent of them for rescue and emergency service, 11 percent for hazardous conditions and 5 percent for fires, the same number as false alarms. He called attention to the “pretty impressive” total of 1,143 volunteer hours put in by the force, as well as attaining an ISO rating of 3, one of only two in the Berrien County.   

Buist also updated the council on the progress of the training facility being developed jointly with Lake Township and the D. C. Cook Fire Brigade. Located at the city’s sewer ponds property, portable shipping containers on concrete footings will be used for training in search and rescue, forcible entry, roof ventilation and many more types of simulations.  A school bus, donated by Bridgman Area Schools, also will be used for school bus evacuation training.

City Manager Juan Ganum summarized the Building Activity Report submitted by new Building Official/Zoning Administrator Brad Mattner which showed a 23 percent increase in permit fees over last year, with the actual number of permits remaining fairly steady over the past few years. Ganum predicted more building activity, both commercial and residential, based on inquiries he has received and comments he has heard.  

Ganum also said Mattner, who joined the staff in September, has demonstrated a strong sense of duty and was not timid as demonstrated by his issuance of a stop-work order on a project being done without proper permits on a critical dune site.

Ganum ended the year-in-review by giving his report that listed monthly highlights. He said he was proud of what had been accomplished during the year, ending with the major water and sewer rate increase in November, and thought the staff was off to a good start for 2020. To lay the groundwork for strategic planning, he asked council members to return the questionnaire he distributed dealing with the city’s focus for the future.

During discussion, Council Member Rick Fuller was the only member who reported receiving negative comments regarding the city’s recent sewer and water increase. Others members said the few comments they received were not negative and mostly were understanding in nature. They noted that full details are included on the city’s website and will be included in the upcoming issues of The Buzz newsletter.

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