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Church, Allen step down after a collective 36 years on council

By Ralph Echtinaw

City council said goodbye Tuesday to council members Jerry Church, 81, and Melissa Allen, 49, who didn’t seek re-election this year.

“It’s been great being with this team for almost two decades,” said Councilman George Kubin. “I appreciate what you’ve done for us, (Jerry). Your knowledge of the electric department has been instrumental in helping me understand a bunch of things.”

Church was on the council for 20 years; Allen for 16 years.

Church Kelly hug

Jerry Church gets a hug from Mayor James Kelly at his last city council meeting.

Kubin praised Allen’s “eye for detail. We’re going to miss things like that. I’m sure these guys (Roger Collison and Bill Leonard) are going to do a good job. But your sincere concern for the city… especially the last few years I really noticed. I’m sitting over here quiet and you’re piping up and getting right into it. I really enjoyed that. We’ve learned a lot together. We’ve been through educational experiences. And your friendship has been important to me.”

Melissa and Eric Allen

Melissa Allen and husband Eric, who came to see her last council meeting.

Councilman Tom Reed, 76, got a laugh when he said, “I learned a lot working with you kids.”

Mayor James Kelly said “I feel the same way.”

Allen had this to say in a Facebook post: “What a difficult night it was, saying good bye to a chapter in my life. I have been blessed to work besides Jim Kelly ( Mayor), George Kubin, Jerry Church and Tom Reed! Our wonderful city might be small, but it’s a great place to live. We have the best employees taking care of the smallest detail to the largest. I could share a story book of the past 16 years but won’t. You’re welcome. Lol. What a great experience. I would suggest to everyone, get involved. It’s an amazing opportunity to serve!”

Newly elected councilmen Collison and Leonard officially take their seats at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6.

Water tower antenna

City council approved a lease agreement with Gratiot County Central Dispatch to host two antennas on the Giddings Street water tower. (That’s the one with a shark on it that you can see from the high school football field looking east.)

In her last act as a city council detail person, Allen caught an error in the lease agreement.

Part of the document says, “Any of Lessor’s unused cabling, equipment, or antennae shall be removed at the time of its replacement.”

Allen noted that it should say “Lessee,” which means Central Dispatch, not “Lessor,” which means the city. The document was amended on the spot.

“Good catch,” Kubin said. “What are we going to do without you?”

Central Dispatch needed the St. Louis location for its antennas because it was evicted from the tower its antennas are on in Alma.

Central Dispatch has antennas on five towers all together, the others being in Sumner, Ithaca, Breckenridge and Perrington.

The city will get $384 a year from Central Dispatch for hosting the antennas. That covers part of the five-year tower inspections, electrical usage, natural gas usage of the standby generator and depreciation of the generator.

City Manager Kurt Giles said the charge to Central Dispatch is low on account of the importance of public safety.

“Our goal is to at least break even but not much more than that,” he said.

Water testing

Giles told council of a letter from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy on lead and copper testing of St. Louis water. Recent tests showed zero to 4 parts per billion in the water. That’s “much lower than the action level of 15 parts per billion,” Giles said. “We began with the new water system a little over four years ago and had to increase the frequency of sampling to every year instead of every third year and also doubled the number of samples each year. So we’re doing six times the number of samples, and these are the lowest results we’ve had since the city began (testing) in 1996 or something.”

Police officer injured

Police Officer Ryan Bahlke is on medical leave after rolling his ankle while chasing suspects at Shepley Apartments on Wednesday, Nov. 27, said Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr.

While Bahlke is out, his shifts are being handled by officers Brandon Crowther and Paxton McCarty.

Ramereiz said he hopes to have Bahlke back next month.

Trashing Republic

During council comments time, Allen complained about the city’s trash hauler: Republic Services.

https://www.republicservices.com/

She said she has been soliciting residents’ views on the trash hauler and getting comments like “They’re the worst company we’ve had. And they pick it up half the time.”

Allen personally witnessed a Republic driver leave trash in her driveway and yard.

“They came to pick up ours Wednesday, which was a windy day. And they emptied their bin before putting ours in. And this trash flew into our driveway and yard. And they left it. I took a picture of it, thinking this is exactly what we’re talking about. But it was windy. I get that. I picked up some of it which was not very enjoyable. And I still have some stuck in my trees in the back yard because the wind took it so fast. But some of it was within reaching distance (of the driver). I watched from a window. And I’m like ‘argh.’ It’s just going to float around.”

Giles said “there’s been some progress made, but we’ll get that information to the manager as well and stay on it.”

The contract with Republic has two and a half years left on it.

Attendance

All council members were present.

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