Headlee override likely off November ballot

The City of Manistee has established a citizen committee to discuss the condition of the city's streets and possible funding sources to repair the network. (file photo)

The City of Manistee has established a citizen committee to discuss the condition of the city’s streets and possible funding sources to repair the network. (file photo)

MANISTEE — At the first City of Manistee Ad Hoc Street Committee meeting this week, more than three hours of discussion lead to the realization that it is not realistic to put a previously-discussed Headlee override to fund street repairs on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The committee, comprised of five citizens plus representatives of the City of Manistee, met on Monday for an initial conversation on the issue including a briefing on conditions of city streets and possible funding options for repairs.

The group is comprised of Manistee mayor Colleen Kenny, council member Bob Hornkohl, Lynda Beaton, Gerald Haw, Joseph Maxey, Jeremy Nowak, Roger Zielinski, Manistee city manager Mitch Deisch, finance director Ed Bradford, Department of Public Works director Jeff Mikula and city engineer Shawn Middleton.

“What we all walked away with was the fact that this is going to be ongoing forever,” Beaton said. “This is going to be a program that we make sure we always have funding for, whether it comes from an increase in taxes or some other sources.”

Member Joe Maxey said he thought the meeting established a direction for the group, and that much time was spent by city officials bringing the committee members up to speed on the complex issue. Maxey said the group discussed the possible use of a portion of Manistee’s Oil & Gas fund to pay for streets.

“I can’t say that that’s necessarily off the table at this point, but the city staff pointed out that there are some limitations and disadvantages to using that money,” Maxey said.

“What the city representatives (said), and at this point I tend to see it that way too, is that there aren’t really too many other options for funding the streets,” Maxey continued. “The city has limited funds coming in, so short of a millage proposal or using some of the Oil & Gas money, there’s not a lot of other funding options available.”

The group also discussed options for a millage, and committee member Jeremy Nowak said he was disappointed that much of the discussion centered around raising taxes.

“I was not very impressed,” Nowak said. “I was nominated by one of the council members, and when I agreed to do this, I thought we were going to have substantive discussions on how to repair, upgrade and maintain the city streets.

“It seemed like all I was hearing was ‘How much are we going to raise the taxes’ from everybody,” Nowak continued. “That was not the purpose of the committee being formed. It was the purpose of the committee to have meaningful discussion on where we can come up with some money and how do we make a plan to repair, upgrade and maintain the streets. Nobody had an idea on how to do that other than raise taxes.”

Nowak said he would like to see the group look at multiple funding options and an elimination of city services to pay for streets.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We have to have better discussion on other avenues of income. If it’s at all feasible, we’re going to have to look at (elimination) some services in my opinion. I don’t know what those would be.”

According to Deisch, one takeaway from the meeting is that there isn’t time to get a previously-discussed Headlee override millage proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot. He added that he will look at future election date options. The Headlee override would have asked for a 2.2388 mill increase in property taxes to raise about $395,000 a year for street repairs.

Both Beaton and Nowak expressed that they did not feel a Headlee override would pass, and Beaton said that many at the meeting agreed. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Manistee City Hall. The group’s meetings are open to the public.

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky