NEW BUFFALO — Members of the New Buffalo City Council were given updates on moves to protect the public beach and an oft-flooded portion of North Whittaker Street, along with plans to replace the Dune Walk near the lakeshore during their Aug. 17 meeting.
Tony McGhee of Abonmarche Consultants talked about the following three problem areas near the Lake Michigan shore in New Buffalo:
1. Erosion along the Galien River.
2. Flooding on North Whittaker Street (between the bridge and the beach).
3. Flooding in the boat launch parking lot (where standing water has allowed “new wetlands” to appear).
In the last year McGhee said many areas near the beach, riverfront and boat launch have been overcome by rising waters.
Along the river between the bridge and the harbor breakwater he said a temporary sea wall has been installed to prevent further erosion of areas such as the beach parking lot.
“This will serve until a more permanent solution can be put in place,” McGhee said.
The flooding and erosion on North Whittaker Street has resulted in moves such as sealing up and concreting drains that were allowing groundwater to pour into the street and temporary (three-year) paving effort to improve the ride on the road.
McGhee said several areas where the flooding has been a problem will be built up to curb level so water can run over into swales on both sides of the road.
“It’s not the forever solution but it is a temporary solution. Bids went out on that on the fifth of this month … we sent it to 10 different contractors … those bids are due this Friday.”
As for the flooded corner of the boat launch parking lot, McGhee said the water level in the river is currently so high that other than constantly pumping water from the lot at an estimated cost of more than $100,000, the best options are to either take out the flooded portion of the lot and make it a more attractive wetland, or let it stay the way it is until the waters recede (probably about a year) and then repair the pavement.
Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV said the city is planning to re-do the whole beach area in the near future so the current boat launch parking lot will likely be reconfigured to improve drainage.
The council also voted 3-0 in favor of a $57,300 contract for planning and engineering services with Abonmarche for the Dune Walk Renovation and Expansion Project.
City Manager David Richards said that as the Dune Walk was reaching the end of its functional life, the city requested that Abonmarche develop a plan to replace and expand the structure as well as a financing strategy to undertake the estimated $440,000 project.
Working with City staff, he said they were able to secure a $220,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Following the grant award for 50 percent of the project cost, the project team developed a letter of intent and grant application to The Pokagon Fund for an additional $110,000 expected to be voted on at the
Fund’s Aug. 19 Board of Directors meeting.
Richards said the process is well underway to close on the federal grant which is anticipated to be completed in the late fall
or early winter. In the interim, city staff would like to begin design work for the project so it can be bid as soon as the LWCF grant is approved, adding that the financing structure for the project will then be completed as the city has already budgeted $110,000 as the final funding component.
“This approach will allow for the design of the project in the fall of 2020, bidding in the winter of 2020, and construction in the spring of 2021” to ensure the project is completed before the 2021 summer tourism starts making it difficult to work in the beach area.
Also on Aug. 17, the City Council adopted Ordinance 247 to Amend Section 15-7 and 15-9 of the New Buffalo Code to Regulate the Preparation and Collection of Solid Waste following a second reading.
Richards said the ordinance addresses issues related to the placement of refuse bins, size limitations of bulk and yard waste, and the separation of refuse and recyclables. He said the ordinance prohibits the placement of bins prior to 8 a.m. preceding the day of collection (Tuesday) and requires removal of the bins from the curb on the day after collection (Thursday) by 8 p.m., requiring placement of them in the side or rear yard. He noted that the removal and placement of receptacles has become a bigger problem because of short-term rentals leaving them out “24-7.”
Richards said downed trees and limbs exceeding four feet in length are not eligible for curbside pickup — property owners and occupants are responsible for disposing of them.
He said the ordinance makes it unlawful to scatter any raw refuse, garbage or rubbish in any sewer, ravine, drainage ditch or catch basin in the city, harbor, the Galien River or Lake Michigan. The new law also makes it unlawful to allow refuse, garbage, rubbish, yard waste, recyclables, or downed trees or branches to accumulate on any public or private parcel except to prepare it for pickup or removal (meaning refuse cannot be put at the curb once bins have been removed).
He said Section 15.9 of the ordinance allows the city to remove unauthorized items from the street right-of-way after 24 hours and recover costs from the property owner in accordance with the procedure noted and requiring payment within 30 days. Failure to pay will result in a property tax lien. In addition, the City may remove items from the right-of-way at its expense without notice and empty a bin placed at the street on a day other than the scheduled collection day at the owner’s expense for a fee set by the council. He added that the city manager or his designees upon observing an unauthorized item in the right-of-way can notify in writing the owner of the adjoining premises that the city intends to remove the items at their expense.
The ordinance will be effective 20 days after enactment or upon publication, whichever is later.
In other Aug. 17 business, the New Buffalo City Council:
• Agreed to vacate and abandon the city’s interest in a portion of Detroit Street near its northern boundary line to facilitate New Buffalo Township’s plans to construct a Veteran’s Memorial Park. The resolution passed 3-0 by the council following a public hearing will allow the township to incorporate an undeveloped portion of platted Detroit Street that runs between two parcels into the park.
• OK’d a proposal for professional services with Abonmarche related to developing a new pocket park in the Smith Street right-of-way adjacent the railroad tracks at a cost of $19,500.
Richards said working with city staff, Abonmarche was able to secure $112,500 from the Michigan Recreation Passport Grant program for the project (expected to require a $37,500 match from the city).
The project is set to include the following: Nine new public parking spots to serve the new park, downtown area and surrounding neighborhood; A rain garden for stormwater management; Picnic tables, benches, trash/recycling receptacles and landscaping; A bicycle rack and sign/kiosk for the park to serve as a trailhead for the Marquette
Greenway should it be constructed in the future.
The expected project is: Design Phase — September and November 2020; Bidding Phase — December 2020; Construction Phase — January 2021 through May 2021.
North Whittaker Sewer and Parking
• Agreed to execute a contract in the amount of $3,700 to complete a MDOT required inspection of the Whittaker Street Bridge over the Galien River.
• Approved professional service fees of $4,900 related to North Whittaker Street sewer and potential parking Improvements to extend sewer lines to three buildings southeast of the Whittaker Street Bridge. The three buildings located at 317, 309 and 303 North Whittaker Street are currently not connected to the municipal sanitary system and presumably have individual septic systems. Richards said the City of New Buffalo along with the two property owners wish to (and are required to be) connected into the municipal sanitary system. There also is a proposal to replace the parking area.
• Approved Grand River Construction’s pay request No. 4, the final pay request after
2019 construction and completion of the punch list related to Whittaker Street Bridge repairs
for work completed through August 7, 2020. The original contract amount was $469,972, and with a change order of $9,400 to remove hillside brush the new contract amount is $479,372. The project was funded primarily with LRSB money. T
• Approved two requests from Water Superintendent Ken Anderson — for an Updated Reliability Study and General Plan including Hydraulic Network Analysis by NIES Engineering for an amount not to exceed $45,000 (required to be completed and submitted to EGLE by Dec. 31, 2020); and the issuance of a blanket purchase order for fiscal year 2020-2021 to Alexander Chemical Corporation for an amount not to exceed $18,000.
A report from Parks Director Kristen D’Amico included in the consent agenda portion of the agenda included the following: This summer by far has been one of the busiest and most challenging that I have seen. The beach remains incredibly busy, both on weekdays and weekends. There have been 3 occasions so far in which we have had to close off the parking lot and tell people the beach was at capacity. We have been doing our best to keep everyone safe during this time. The bathrooms are cleaned and disinfected every hour, the kiosks get wiped down every hour, picnic tables get disinfected, and we have even begun disinfecting the playground. The marina docks were finally installed on July 17th, and we have been running at full capacity
ever since. The docks received a new paint job, new bumper posts, new ladders, new front reflectors, and new slip numbers. I have to say, I think they look great!
O’Donnell IV concluded the meeting by talking about the short-term rental situation in the city, stating that during recent meetings with officials from South Haven (which he said has a similar policy to New Buffalo) he was told that city has had an almost completely positive response from property owners after sending them letters or issuing fines related to violations of city laws.
“That’s not the case in New Buffalo. We’ve sent out letters and fines, nobody’s paying the fines and nobody’s correcting anything,” he said, adding that a joint meeting with the Planning Commission will likely take place around the end of September to strengthen the ordinance.
O’Donnell also said there will be a “major announcement” made during the September City Council meeting.