Building Sold

The former hardware store building at 435 South Whittaker St. in New Buffalo.

NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo City Council approved the sale of a property known as “the old hardware store” at 435 South Whittaker Street to Firas Naji during a special meeting on July 28.

During the meeting Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV and Naji (who made the $139,000 offer that was ultimately accepted by a 5-0 council vote) discussed details of the sale agreement including:

• Having the city clean up the area around the building (which reportedly has been done).

• Giving the city a buy-back option at the original price (O’Donnell said he believes council would OK extending deadline under extenuating circumstances).

• a prohibition on the buyer “flipping” the property to someone else for five years.

• The certificate of occupancy be obtained by December 31 of 2021 (with the closing date set in November of 2020).

“We can’t wait to see something going in over at that location,” O’Donnell said after the sale was approved.

Other details of the sale agreement as listed in the City Council meeting packet include:

• The City would be required to maintain replacement cost or all-risk insurance on the property until closing.

• The City would have to order a title commitment immediately upon signing, and deliver a title commitment to the buyer within 14 days of the effective date of the agreement.

• The agreement is contingent on the buyer being able to obtain

financing. The buyer will get its deposit back if he can’t obtain financing.

According to the meeting packet information, the property was purchased from Berrien County just prior to a tax sale and any proceeds over the purchase price and the city’s investment of $68,128 must go to the County. That number represents the purchase of the store, repair of the roof and the demolition of the materials building behind the store and is an agreement we have with the County Treasurer. Both the pole barn and the empty material lot have some utility for the city and staff would like to retain them both for future projects.

Also on July 28, the City Council approved submitting language to the county for the following two millage requests on the November general election ballot:

• The following millage proposal is requested for the November 3, 2020 ballot: Shall the City of New Buffalo impose an additional millage of up to 0.25 mills ($0.25 per thousand dollars of taxable value) for a period of 20 years (2021 through 2025 inclusive) for the purpose of constructing, improving, repairing, and maintaining public roads, and shall the city be authorized to levy this millage on all taxable property in the city raising an estimated $61,161in the first year of the levy? (To the extent required by law, a portion of the tax levy will be captured by the Downtown Development Authority of the City of New Buffalo).

• The following millage proposal is requested for the November 3, 2020 ballot: Shall the previously-voted millage to fund park improvements in the City of New Buffalo, as reduced by the required millage rollback, be renewed at 0.4599 mills ($0.4599 per thousand dollars of taxable value) for a period of 5 years (2021 through 2025 inclusive) and shall the city be authorized to levy this millage on all taxable property in the city raising an estimated $112,512 in the first year of the levy? (To the extent required by law, a portion of the tax levy will be captured by the Downtown Development Authority of the City of New Buffalo).

During council discussion near the end of the special meeting, member Bob Spirito suggested having a Bobcat and a pile of stones ready to go in the morning to fill potholes on North Whittaker Street between the bridge and the beach.

City Manager David Richards said city staff will do their best to monitor the area better. He said major potholes can develop after hours especially with rain, later adding that there’s enough gravel on the street to be moved around to re-fill the holes.

O’Donnell asked Tony McGhee of Abonmarche consultants about the progress of plans already approved by the council to pave the area in question.

McGhee said a survey has been completed and final design and plans were reviewed earlier in the day. He said bids from contractors were slated to be sought later in the week (and due back in two weeks).

“I’m planning on having some pricing to you guys in two weeks,”McGhee said.

O’Donnell asked if it was possible to cut out the problem areas where waters from the Galien River have repeatedly flooded the road and fill them in with concrete as an interim solution,

McGhee said that is possible and talked of coordinating the project.

Council member Mark Robertson noted that he saw an extension of concrete barriers designed to cut down on erosion being installed from the beach lot to the harbor break wall earlier that day.

Spirito asked why the public beach parking lot sign says the lot is full when there are still spots open.

Richards said on busy days it’s an attempt to keep the beach from becoming overcrowded because “there are so many people there.”

“It’s pretty chaotic. It’s wall-to-wall people, and so they close they close the parking lot to discourage people from using the beach.”

It was suggested that the sign be changed to read “Beach Full.”

In other July 28 business, the New Buffalo City Council:

• Approved Change Order No. 2 for the 2019 Street Resurfacing Project after being told by Richards that Rieth Riley Construction has submitted a change order request of negative $16,411.90 to balance contract items, materials and labor associated with the project.

“The end of each project results in the need to balance cost overruns or as in this case a negative balance … The original contract amount is $619,986.25 and this second change order of -$16,411.90 brings the contract to $547,850.72.”

• OK’d Rieth Riley’s fourth and final pay request for the 2019 Street Resurfacing Project. Richards said the amount due the contractor is $39,166.90, which includes the retainage. The initial contract was $619,986.25 with two change orders that reduced the contract to $547,850.72.

• Agreed to seek the following Public Safety Grants from the Michigan Department of Treasury:

• Grant 1: Public Safety and Public Health Payroll Reimbursement Program. If the city is successful in securing this grant, all payroll costs for the Police Department for the months of April and May would be reimbursed by

the state.

• Grant 2: First Responder Hazard Pay Premiums Program. This program reimburses municipalities the cost of hazard pay that was or will be paid to their first responders that had to work during the pandemic up to $1,000 per eligible employee. The council agreed to a one-time, salary adjustment of $1,000 for full-time workers and $500 for part-time employees from the grant if it is received.

• Conducted the first reading of Ordinance No. 247 to Amend Section 15-7 and 15-9 of the New Buffalo Code to Regulate the Preparation and Collection of Solid Waste.

Earlier during the public comment portion of the meeting, Jeff Geer (a self-described part-time citizen) said he doesn’t understand how a part-time resident who’s here on weekends would be able to comply with the proposed waste ordinance without a penalty.

Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Ennis suggested having the school build waste holders that could sit in front of houses that are rented or belong to weekend residents that would look better than just the trash receptacles. Ennis also said she doesn’t want to penalize those who come for the weekend and don’t have a proper place to store trash receptacles.

O’Donnell said rental firms should be able to contract taking the garbage out and putting the receptacles away, but he expressed concerns about how second homeowners who are only up for the weekend would handle that, suggesting maybe hiring someone to help out.

Robertson said the proposed ordinance is an attempt to handle an issue the city has been dealing with for a long time, with cans out for days, and animals getting into them and making a big mess.

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