City council approves trick or treating but will cancel if state government steps in

By Ralph Echtinaw

City council voted unanimously to permit Halloween trick or treating this year with the caveat that it will be cancelled if the governor or state health department put the kibosh on it.

Although there is concern that trick or treating could spread the coronavirus, it was noted that kids are back in school and riding buses; therefore the exposure of trick or treating can’t be much greater.

Trick or treaters line up for a photo outside Gratiot County Republican Party headquarters in Alma two years ago.

“At this point I think we should trust the parents whether or not their children should go trick or treating,” said Councilman Roger Collison.

“I’m 100 percent behind Roger,” said Councilman Bill Leonard. “The children are back in school and riding buses.” And on Halloween they’ll likely wear masks anyway. “If anybody has not gotten a fair shake here it’s the kids. I say we go with it.”

Councilman George Kubin said perhaps we should wait and see what neighboring cities do about Halloween. “If the other communities don’t do it I don’t think we should either,” he said, adding that kids and parents would flock to the only city in Gratiot County that permits trick or treating.

City Clerk Mari Anne Ryder, who normally says very little at meetings, opined that nearby cities will likely follow St. Louis’ lead. “Once someone makes a decision Ithaca and Alma will follow,” she said.

“I don’t see where we gain anything by stopping it,” Mayor James Kelly said.

Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. said that several police chiefs have reached out to the state health department on this issue and received no answer.

Finally, council agreed to permit trick or treating on Halloween, but the announcement of trick or treating hours in the October city newsletter will say that the activity will be cancelled if the governor or state health department prohibit it.

Asked how police would deal with trick or treaters if state government prohibits it, City Manager Kurt Giles said this via email: “If that situation occurs, I’m confident the chief will provide guidance to the officers. I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me to speculate on enforcement measures.”

Gazebo repair approved

After putting off a decision on hiring a contractor to refurbish the library gazebo two weeks ago, council voted 4-1 to hire Freed Construction to do the job for $15,000.

The controversy stemmed from the fact that only two contractors bid on the job, and Lott Builders was the low bidder at $9,000. However, DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott said Lott Builders’ bid is unrealistically low, given the amount of work to be done. Furthermore, Abbott doesn’t like this sentence from the Lott proposal: “Allowances are refundable if under the allowance is spent, if more than the allowance is spent it will be billed as an extra.”

Built in 1999, the gazebo “was created by master craftsman Dick Gibson based on historic photographs of the well house that functioned during the height of the popularity of St. Louis’ magnetic mineral springs,” said Library Director Jessica Little in a letter to city council.

But the cedar board roof has deteriorated badly, leaked and caused damage to other parts of the structure. So Freed will replace that roof with asphalt shingles.

Leonard was the lone council member to vote against awarding the job to Freed Construction. He wanted the city to solicit additional bids.“I really really think we need more bids,” he said.

“I think we need to vote up or down,” said Collison, who then made a motion to award the contract to Freed.

Michigan Avenue pump station

Council voted unanimously to hire Fisher Contracting of Midland to replace the sanitary sewer pump station at Michigan Avenue and Cheesman for $862,000.

The other bidders were Dunigan Brothers of Jackson ($1,165,474) and American Excavating of Saginaw ($1,422,034).

The Michigan Avenue at Cheesman pump station is the most troublesome pump station in the city.

“That one goes down pretty regularly,” Public Services Director Keith Risdon said in February. “This has been an ongoing problem for many years. Basically we’re on borrowed time. Every time you drive by there you see that little red light that means that someone’s getting called to come out and fix it. It’s an ongoing problem. It’s way past its life.”

“That pump station’s been a problem for as long as I can remember,” Councilman George Kubin said.

“The pumps are not operating properly,” said Spicer Project Manager Jean Inman in a letter to Risdon. “There is excessive plugging. The wet well is not accessible for proper cleaning and maintenance. There are level control issues where flows back up into the system regularly. The flow meter doesn’t work properly. And the building is in poor condition.”

Giles doesn’t know when work will begin on the pump station. “The notice of award was issued today, and it may be several weeks before we receive an initial proposed schedule,” he said via email.

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