NEW BUFFALO — In the wake of a brief Feb. 20 regular meeting of the New Buffalo City Council, it was learned that the city had decided to end the online livestreaming and video archiving of its public meetings.

City Clerk Lori Vander Clay said the video-system contractor, Granicus, provided the cameras and other components to make the livestreaming possible.

Asked why the city was discontinuing the service, Vander Clay replied, “Because it’s a cost to us, $4,000 a year. It was a staff decision; we didn’t renew the contract.”

Regarding why the City Council didn’t make this decision in an open meeting, she said, “We weren’t required to,” while noting that the service had been in place about four years.

Granicus, with offices in Denver, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and the UK, with some additional operations in Atlanta, “provides technology that empowers government organizations to create better lives for the people they serve” by “offering the industry’s leading cloud-based solutions for communications, meeting and agenda management, and digital services to more than 3,000 public sector organizations,” according to its website, Granicus.com.

In regular business at the Feb. 20 meeting, the City Council voted to approve the final reading or Ordinance 225. All council votes were unanimous.

In so doing, the council created a “default ordinance,” according to City Manager David Richards, which is designed “to centralize the mayor’s appointment authority to the (city’s) various boards including, but not limited to: Cemetery Board, Construction Board of Appeals, Downtown Development Authority, Galien River Sanitary District, Harbor Commission, Pokagon Fund, and the Zoning Board of Appeals.”

The apparent problem had been that current Mayor Lou O’Donnell, and evidently his predecessors, had been “making appointments to city boards and ‘outside’ organizations based on specific authority found in the City Charter, individual ordinances and organizational by-laws requiring searches for that authority.”

To simplify the process and out it all in one place, this single default ordinance was proposed to centralize the Mayor’s appointment authority.

In another matter, the council announced that, as part of the next regular council meeting on March 20, an anticipated public hearing on the new DDA boundaries will take place.

It was reported that the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) at its February meeting approved the new boundary description and is recommending the council approve the proposed revisions. The scope of services with (Abonmarche, the city’s engineering firm) now prescribes the setting of a public hearing, notification requirements and mailing costs (of $750).

Abonmarche was hired by the city “to assist in the amending the boundaries of its DDA,” according to a Jan. 12 Abonmarche memo to the city.

The DDA conducts studies and makes improvements within the downtown by utilizing tax-increment financing and other funding sources.”

Accordingly, the council approved the unbudgeted $750 cost associated with the setting of the hearing. The boundary map is posted on the city’s website via this link.

Abonmarche’s memo and city documents note that public notice of the hearing “must be published twice in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality not less than 20 and not more than 40 days before the public hearing.” The city’s mailings to the affected taxpayers of record, to notify them of the hearing, must be mailed “not less than 20 days before the hearing.”

The council also approved a traffic control order, via Resolution 18.03, to have “no parking” signs installed on North Taylor Street between Merchant Street and Redmond Lane. The Police Department determined that the signs are needed.

Furthermore, the council approved Resolution 18.04 regarding property tax exemption guidelines, a decision based on the city assessor’s recommendation to set “poverty levels” for owners of homestead property in the city, based on federal poverty guidelines.

“Those owners who qualify with an asset level not to exceed $4,000 and income levels as noted in the federal guidelines can make a poverty application and, if approved, are exempt from property taxes,” Richards noted. “It is my understanding (that) in the past 20 years, only two applications have been received in any year.”

While the income guidelines are available at City Hall and in the city council’s full informational packet posted online along with the Feb. 20, 2018 meeting agenda, the allowable income for a family of one is $12,060, up the scale to $41,320 for a family of eight.

Richards also brought to the council the recommendation of applying for a Coastal Zone Management Grant to install a kayak launch at the city’s boat launch, compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The idea is to further establish the city as a tourism destination via “an accessible trailhead location for non-motorized watercraft.”

While the projected cost is $108,459, Richards noted there is no cost this fiscal year. The council approved Resolution 18.06 to get the wheels turning on the matter.

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