By Ralph Echtinaw
A transit authority that could keep Dial-a-Ride bus service in St. Louis was created this week.
City councils in St. Louis and Ithaca and the Pine River Township board of trustees voted unanimously to adopt articles of incorporation for the “St. Louis, Ithaca, Pine River Transit Authority.”
The next step is for the authority to have a millage placed on the November ballot.
The millage would support the Alma Transit Center, which runs the Dial-a-Ride buses.
If all goes according to plan, voters in St. Louis, Ithaca and Pine River Township will be asked to approve a 1-mill, five-year property tax levy on Nov. 3 to support the transit authority. The transit authority would begin collecting the tax in the summer of 2021.
Oddly enough, the millage request need not pass in all three municipalities to take effect. “With the transit authority arrangement, it would pass or fail based on the combined vote of all the electorate voting on the issue rather than within individual units of government,” Giles said via email.
Theoretically, St. Louis voters could reject the millage request but still have to pay it if it passes in all three municipalities combined.
The effort to enact a millage came in response to the Alma City Commission saying that Dial-a-Ride service in St. Louis, Ithaca and Pine River Township will be terminated if a millage isn’t passed. Although Dial-a-Ride was created to serve Alma alone, service was extended to other areas of the county over the last few years. And now the ATC needs more money to continue to provide that service.
Dial-a-Ride buses picked up 8,302 passengers in St. Louis last year, 8,037 in Pine River Township and 539 in Ithaca (in addition to 44,286 in Alma).
The transit authority will be governed by one representative from each municipality (chairman, secretary and treasurer). They would serve two-year terms and not be paid. St. Louis’ representative will be City Manager Kurt Giles.
Currently, St. Louis contributes cash to the ATC annually; $10,000 the last time. But the millage would generate $53,600 a year in St. Louis alone.
Maple Street reconstruction
Malley Construction continues to work on Maple Street. They expect to lay down a “base paving” June 26 and a “top course” on July 15.
New backhoe ordered
City council approved the acquisition of a 2020 Caterpillar backhoe (model No. 420F2IT) to replace the 2015 backhoe that has been in use for five years.
Michigan CAT of Novi is charging $109,519 for the new backhoe and giving $51,000 trade-in credit for the used unit.
The net cost to the city is $58,519.
The city’s backhoe is used frequently for water main breaks, sewer excavation and digging graves in the cemetery.
It’s “our only tool for mechanical trenching or excavation,” Giles said.
City council approved new rates for the electric department, but the impact on residents and businesses will be minimal. Giles characterized the changes as “revenue neutral,” adding that an increase in the readiness to serve fee (the one you pay no matter how little electricity you use) is offset by a decrease in the charge per kilowatt.
City council approved a modification to the roofing permit fee schedule to account for the fact that some roofs are more complicated and expensive than others.
Until now every roof permit was $45 regardless of the value of the roofing and the extent of the work being performed.
The new roofing permit prices are $51 for construction value up to $2,500, $102 for construction values between $10,000 and $20,000, and $140 for over $20,000 construction value.
Council also adopted a $25 fee to extend a roofing permit beyond 180 days.
COVID-19 wind down
City hall reopens to public on Monday, June 22, though the facility has been equipped with hand sanitizer and rope lines to keep residents from bunching.
Utility shutoffs for nonpayment of bills were suspended when the pandemic hit but will resume in July. If you are hit with a shutoff notice you can still make payment arrangements with the city to avoid shutoff.
Giles told the council that the storm of June 11 took down a tree in Clapp Park. The tree turned out to be partly hollowed out so was likely on its last legs anyway.
Too many cars
During council comments time Mayor James Kelly turned everyone’s attention to a house in the 500 block of W. Center Street where eight or nine vehicles are parked in the yard.
“The poor people across the street,” Kelly said. “They take a lot of pride in their property and take a look across the street… Every time they see me they gripe about it.”
Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. said “That’s one of the residences that people complain about constantly.”
However, Ramereiz added that the vehicles have been checked out and are running and registered with the exception of one that was recently struck by a drunk driver. In other words, the homeowner is not in violation of any city ordinance relative to the vehicles on his property.
Kelly wondered if city ordinances should be amended to limit the number of vehicles a homeowner can keep on his property.
Giles said he will conduct research to see how other cities have addressed similar situations.