NEW BUFFALO — Money that was originally intended to celebrate Independence Day may instead go toward helping local businesses get through the coronavirus pandemic.

During an April 7 special meeting of the New Buffalo Township Board (conducted remotely using the Zoom app).

Board member Judy Zabicki (also a member of The Pokagon Fund Board) suggested using grant money that traditionally funds a symphony concert in Lions Park on July 3 for a more pressing concern.

“Chances are there’s not going to be a Fourth of July celebration — they’re not going to bring a thousand people together,” she said, not in that even if the situation were to improve dramatically before early July, reserving the symphony, organizing a fireworks show and making the other necessary preparations would have to happen now with no guarantee the event will take place.

Zabicki said The Pokagon Fund grant to the city and township normally covers the cost of the symphony concert, adding that during a recent New Buffalo Business Association meeting the subject of the extreme difficulty in applying for payroll and other business grants from the federal government came up and the idea of having the two municipalities (the city and township) divert the $10,000 normally used for the concert to instead allow the NBBA hire a consultant who would help local businesses apply for such government assistance.

“We just want to help and save the businesses because there are a lot of them that will go under,” Zabicki said.

The Township Board voted 5-0 to ask The Pokagon Fund Board to concede using the symphony concert grant money for that purpose instead.

Due to the high level of Lake Michigan, Zabicki said any fireworks show at the lakefront in New Buffalo would have to be fired off of a barge brought in from Indiana or Chicago in the lake, “and that’s another $12,000.” She said if it’s determined a celebration can take place in August, “we’ll still talk then about doing the fireworks.”

The New Buffalo Township Board also agreed on April 7 to apply for a USDA Rural Business Development Grant for the I-94 Exit 1 Corridor Improvement Plans.

Township Supervisor Michelle Heit said the grant would be used to connect the business area near Exit 1 (Shell Station, McDonald’s, etc.) with the city via some wayfinding and hopefully sidewalks/non-motorized trails.

The board also approved a Union Pier Road Project  agreement with the Berrien County Road Department by a 4-0 vote. Heit said the Road Department is managing the project, so any bills the township receives will come through that department (for more, seearticles in News section of this website).

And board members agreed to seek a USDA RBDG grant for the Marquette Greenway trail project.

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