Special assessment on Gladstone meeting agenda

GLADSTONE — A special meeting for the Gladstone City Commission has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 28, the day after Memorial Day. One of the topics that will be discussed then was also looked at during the commission’s regular meeting on Monday, May 13 — the tentative pursuit of a special assessment to establish a millage to fund Gladstone’s Public Safety Department and Volunteer Fire Department. This endeavor would be in alignment with Michigan Public Act 33, which enables communities with populations under 15,500 to levy taxes, based on property values, specifically for the purpose of funding police and fire services.

Gladstone City Manager Eric Buckman delivered a presentation at Monday’s meeting highlighting how taxes in Gladstone currently work, comparing the rates to other cities in the Upper Peninsula. Right now, of taxes charged on primary residence homesteads, 41.1% (17.4 mills) goes to the schools, 36.5% (15.5 mills) goes to the city, and 22.4% (9.5 mills) goes to the county. Compared to all other cities in the U.P., Gladstone’s millage rates are in the bottom third. The City of Escanaba charges its residents 17.4 compared to Gladstone’s 15.5; the average for all U.P. cities is 19.2. Considering the average income of Gladstone residents is substantially higher than in neighboring communities, city staff, commissioners and treasurer believe a tax hike specifically geared at maintaining Gladstone’s safety is reasonable.

A presentation by Public Safety Director Ron Robinson followed Buckman’s. One main goal of the fund accumulation is to provide for a new fire truck. Currently, the city has a primary truck, a 2016 model, and a secondary one from 1996. According to Robinson’s presentation, refurbishment is not recommended on trucks 20 years old and they should be replaced at 30. Gladstone’s secondary is 28 years old, and this week is on its way to get seals replaced — a roughly $6,000 job — because it started leaking.

The special assessment, said Robinson, will allow the department to replace that secondary truck a few years from now.

“I’m not looking to buy a new fire truck today,” Robinson said. “This is for the future.”

In neighboring Escanaba Township, Fire Chief Zach DeNome said that it takes about three to five years from the time a fully-specced fire truck order is placed for it to be built.

Escanaba Township and Gladstone city have an agreement for automatic mutual aid between the two fire departments — if a structure fire or other serious fire occurs in either the township or the city, both departments respond to the call automatically. Other departments in the county may sometimes be sent if need be.

The fire truck isn’t the only item on the shopping list. Firefighter turnout gear needs to be replaced every ten years, and currently, the going rate is $4,235 per set. Gladstone’s suits were replaced in 2018 and 2019, so in another four years, another 30 sets of gear will be needed. With inflation, there’s little doubt that by then they would cost more than the $127,050 they would today.

Other needs include self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) air cylinders, a new roof for the public safety building, a new patrol cruiser, ballistic vests, body cams, tasers, and more staff — including a school resource officer.

Robinson said that since he took over as director in 2017, he’s tried to budget $20,000 per year to be put away for a new fire truck and $10,000 per year for new police car. Because of budget shortfalls in the last few years, it’s been $0 — and will again without the special assessment, Robinson said.

The slide shows used in both Robinson’s and Buckman’s presentations should be up on the city’s website (gladstonemi.gov) this week under “news updates” and will will appear in the next agenda packet prior to the meeting of the 28th. The entire meeting from this week is online in the form of video — towards the bottom of the city’s website is a tab for “recorded meetings.”

In other business:

– Commissioners heard a proposal on a digital marketing plan, presented primarily by Gladstone DDA Coordinator Patricia West, who also is leading the development of the city’s new Master Plan. The suggestion was to partner with Orange Cat Media, a new local company that had provided a loose idea of how they would help the city by creating content to help market Gladstone to outsiders. The matter was tabled following a motion by Commissioner Robert Pontius, who wanted to obtain a proposal from at least one more party — namely, Visit Escanaba — make sure funds could be secured and ensure there would still be money left over to advertise the industrial park to businesses.

– Delta County Commissioner Steve Viau, who represents Gladstone at the county level, spoke to remind the board that as both commissions serve the same citizens, collaboration could be beneficial.

“I’d like to see some public and private partnerships — with the county, with the cities, with townships — to kind of share resources and services any way we can,” said Viau. “Collaborating I think would help save on the expenses of our taxpayers. We all have certain things that we can work together with, to share, and I just don’t see it at this level right now.” He said that other communities have found ways to successfully share resources: “Muskegon’s a great example… it’s working real good to get cities and counties back into the black.”

– The ordinance to appropriate the general fund for the 2024-2025 fiscal year was approved unanimously.

– Draw #22 of the wastewater upgrade project was approved; disbursement of funds will be $266,454 for Staab Construction.

– To replace 21 electrical poles, the city decided to go with B & B Electric, who had submitted a bid of $67,860 (the lowest of three companies).

– The commission moved to hire Dombrowski Tree Service to clear branches from around the electrical lines, an annual practice as of five years ago that has reportedly helped cut down on outages. Dombrowski’s bid of $13,250 was a fraction of the other proposals.

– A policy outlining federal financial administration procedures was adopted.

– A permit was approved for Spielbauer Fireworks of Green Bay to set up the Fourth of July fireworks from VanCleve Park. Their display, at a cost of $9,000, will be covered by the Dr. Mary Cretens fund.

– The commission agreed to issue a special event permit for the Music Co-op of Delta County to hold an open mic night at the Gladstone Beach House on Saturday, June 15, from 5 to 7 p.m.

– Plans on how to go about filling the seat on the commission recently vacated by Greg Styczynski were discussed. Commissioners decided to advertise the position in the Daily Press, U.P. Action, and social media soon, with an application deadline of June 17.

– Buckman announced that Wendy Taavola, whose background includes civil engineering and grant writing, had been offered the position of Parks and Recreation Director, which for last nine months had been temporarily filled by Robert Brown in an acting capacity. Taavola was formerly the public works director for the city of Escanaba.

– Buckman mentioned that the Parks and Recreation Department, specifically the sail school, received a $10,000 grant from the Superior Health Foundation for upgrades and equipment that will make the school safer and more accessible.

“We did just purchase a handicap-accessible sailboat that we purchased from a sailing club down in Traverse City, got a really good deal on it,” Buckman said, adding that the sailing school’s new building is in the works.



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