Council says no to snowmelt expansion

Alex Doty • Feb 6, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Grand Haven City Council has decided against expanding the downtown snowmelt system to Harbor Drive during that street’s upcoming reconstruction project.

Monday night’s 4-0 vote against the project followed a public hearing in which all of the attendees spoke out against the proposal.

"It sounds good, but I'm going to have to go with what a majority of the people said to us," said Councilman Mike Fritz, who presided over the meeting as mayor pro tem in Mayor Geri McCaleb’s absence. 

The estimated $155,000 project would have been expanded into the sidewalks along Harbor, from Franklin to Washington avenues, as a part of the upcoming Harbor Drive infrastructure work.

The Harbor Drive project — slated to begin later this year — is made possible by a $1.15 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, which was awarded last year. The project will include the reconstruction of the road between Franklin and Columbus avenues, and replacement of sanitary and storm sewer, and water lines.

The public's objections to expanding the snowmelt project ranged from the demand not being there, and others noting that it was not sensible to do the sidewalk and not the street.

Gino Peters, who works in an office at 1 S. Harbor Ave., was one of those who voiced opposition to the plan.

"We don't see the benefit for us," he said. "We don't see it for us or the general public."

Peters noted that people who work at the building use the 1 S. Harbor parking lot and the building’s lower entrance, and don't enter from the street side of the building, negating the need for snowmelt.

Rose Dunlap, representing radio station WGHN, shared similar sentiments.

"The project's high cost is not something we’re willing to absorb for little or no benefit," she said.

The city also hosted a public hearing for the proposed burial of utility lines along Harbor Drive, from Columbus to Howard, coinciding with the fall infrastructure project.

The estimated cost of the project is $844,588, and it’s been suggested by the city that the Board of Light & Power cover 50 percent of the projected cost. However, no commitment has been made by the local utility, City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

The remaining 50 percent of the cost ($422,294) would be assessed to the properties between Columbus and Howard.

While the public in attendance spoke in favor of the project, City Council voted to postpone any action until March 5 in order to obtain more information from the BLP and its commitment for the work.

"There are too many things not answered yet, especially with the BLP," Fritz said. "I think it is the most opportune time, but we don't have enough information to move forward."

While waiting to hear from the BLP, City Council asked the city administration to begin the process by engineering the installation of the conduit that would allow for the utility lines to be placed underground. City officials say they want the conduit in place in the event the lines are installed in the future.

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