By Ralph Echtinaw
St. Louis Finance Director Bobbie Marr received high marks Tuesday from Ken Berthiaume, a certified public accountant who just completed an audit of the city’s books.
“We encountered no difficulties, no differences and no problems,” Berthiaume said at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “Bookkeeping is in very good shape, as usual. A very good job has been done.”
Councilman Tom Reed praised Marr for her good work. “Bobbie, you’ve done a great job,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have you.”
The audit of city finances is conducted annually and cost $15,900 this year, said City Manager Kurt Giles. Berthiaume & Company has performed the audit every year since 2011. This was the last year of the most recent five-year contract with Berthiaume, and requests for proposals will be sent out for future annual audits.
State Street Reconstruction
Council approved $375,000 as the local match for the reconstruction of State Street from Michigan Avenue to South Main Street.
“That road sure needs it,” said Councilman George Kubin.
The Michigan Department of Transportation will kick in another $375,000, bringing the total cost of the road work to $750,000.
The project will replace existing asphalt pavement and concrete curb and gutter with a new 5-inch asphalt section and concrete curb and gutter. The existing narrow sidewalk along south side of State Street will be replaced with a 5-foot-wide sidewalk.
Improvements will be made to sanitary sewers and water mains before the new pavement goes down. The grant doesn’t cover that work, however, so the ultimate cost of the project will be higher than $375,000.
However, the start date of the project is undetermined, said DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott. “It is entirely dependent on how the projects fall in MDOT’s funding schedule,” he said via email. “I have seen them on time, a year or two later than hoped or even moved up a year. Our estimate of (fiscal year) 2021 is the best estimate we have currently. MDOT has issued their ‘call for projects’ and we are responding.”
Giles told council that the $5,000/year the city pays the Alma Transportation Center so St. Louis residents have access to Dial-a-Ride bus service will likely increase because rides originating in St. Louis have risen dramatically over the last two years.
The number of trips where riders were picked up in St. Louis in fiscal year 2015-16 was 1.7 percent of the total number of trips. In the second half of 2018 pick-ups in St. Louis were 10.4 percent of the total.
“It was suggested that, proportional to the contribution from Alma, a fair share from St. Louis might be on the order of $18,300/year,” Giles said via email.
Giles believes that Alma would like to resolve this matter “in the near future,” although no time frame was mentioned. “St. Louis does not have to increase compensation, but very likely will not be able to receive the same level of service in the future without doing so,” Giles said.
Council established an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act district encompassing a building just north of Main Street Pizza so that developer Ryan Smith of Gemini Capital Management can build five apartments on the second floor.
The next step is for Smith to apply for an OPRA certificate, which would freeze the taxable value of the property for up to 12 years. That will involve a subsequent public hearing and proposed resolution, Giles said.
The five apartments are expected to be a mix of one-bedroom and studio units and cost upwards of $400,000.
Smith plans to retain as many original architectural features as possible, while tearing down some interior walls.
Proposed improvements include new heat and air conditioning systems, new plumbing and plumbing fixtures, new major appliances and new cable-ready services.
Smith’s goal is to begin construction next summer and finish by the fall.
Council appointed Donald A. Dean to the Cemetery Committee. Dean, 70, wrote to the city after seeing in the latest city newsletter that there are vacancies on a few committees and volunteered for the cemetery committee. Dean apprenticed to a funeral director in the early 1980s, followed by many years in retail and owning his own massage therapy business. “After being totally bored in retirement after one year,” he went back to work for Hallmark Cards as a supervisor overseeing operations from mid-Michigan to the Soo in retail stores. After five years of that he quit to become a paraprofessional on Alma school buses and a cook in the middle school kitchen. Dean bought and renovated a house on S. East Street and likes the small town atmosphere of St. Louis.
The city also has vacancies to fill on the Housing Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Library Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.