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North Bank communities differ in catwalk donations

Marie Havenga • Dec 21, 2017 at 11:00 AM

North Bank communities are making vastly different decisions when it comes to contributing to the Grand Haven catwalk restoration project.

Spring Lake Township contributed $10,000 this past July.

Earlier this week, Ferrysburg City Council approved $500 toward the project, even though the Save the Catwalk Committee had announced it had already eclipsed its $1 million goal. Extra contributions will go toward maintenance.

Spring Lake Village Council learned earlier this week that it can't contribute to the project, even if it wants to.

Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger first threw a figure of $2,500 out for discussion, because that level of donation comes with a commemorative plaque. Councilwoman Kathleen Kennedy made a motion and it was supported to contribute $2,500, but the motion failed.

“I'm opposed to this,” Councilman J. Patrick Twa said. “My family has supported this personally by buying a plaque. They've already reached and exceeded their goal. I would be opposed to sending any money for this, particularly because of the issues we are facing in the near future with our bridge and our streets.”

Ferrysburg is staring at the reality of a $12.5 million Smith's Bridge replacement project. In November, city voters turned down a millage request for the bridge, and this month, City Council learned it had not received a state grant that it applied for that would have paid for the bulk of a new bridge.

Councilman Mike DeWitt said he, too, was opposed to contributing $2,500 to the catwalk project.

“I would support like a $500 bill,” he said. “They've reached their goal. How much benefit does it actually give the residents of Ferrysburg? I appreciate the thing. With the situation and fiscal problem the City of Ferrysburg has, $2,500 is a bit more than generous.”

After Kennedy’s motion failed with a 6-0 vote, DeWitt came back with a motion for a $500 catwalk contribution, which was approved 6-0.

Bessinger said Ferrysburg's former city attorney told them they were allowed to contribute as long as the project is for a public benefit.

“I think it's something our residents enjoy looking at, going out there and walking the pier,” the city manager said. “It's a beautiful place to be on a Sunday afternoon.”

Spring Lake also had an agenda item this week to discuss contributing to the catwalk project, but the discussion never got off the ground after village attorney Bob Sullivan told Village Council that the Village Charter does not allow for such contributions.

“There's not a mechanism by which to allow us to donate,” Village Manager Chris Burns said, “so there was no discussion and no vote.”

Spring Lake Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said the Township Board determined that the catwalk brings tourism to the area and benefits many.

“Given the catwalk's iconic history in the area, maintaining the structure will advance the township's historical interests, as well as the city's,” he said.

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