CASPIAN—City commissioners got some good news about the Michigan Works office here during their monthly meeting on Dec. 11.
A recent letter from the Western U.P. Alliance Board said it will continue to rent the building at 237 E. Caspian Ave. on a month-to-month basis at the current rate.
City Manager John Stokoski said the city responded right away several months ago when the alliance called for applications for building spaces. “This sounds positive to me,” he said about the letter, “and the checks keep coming in.”
At the same time, Stokoski said the alliance “won’t give me a positive answer” whether the office will stay in Caspian for the long run. The letter said the alliance’s fiscal agent will evaluate the procurement and selection process “as an initial step prior to negotiating a longer term lease.”
• Commissioners also got good news about a standby generator that Caspian got for its water system. After months of problems, it seems to be fixed.
When city attorney Steve Polich reported that, at least one commissioner rapped his knuckles on the commission’s wood table.
The generator is supposed switch on automatically and operate the well pump motor in case of a power outage. But it hadn’t been doing the job, and contractors and engineers tried for months to find out why.
They brought in larger and larger generators, but that didn’t have any effect—the system would work for a while and then stop.
All along, some suspected the soft start device in the motor was the real culprit, but others pooh-poohed that theory. But recently the soft start switch was replaced—and the generator has been working ever since.
“As of this morning, it appears that it works,” Polich said, “so hopefully it will continue to work.” He said city officials need to monitor the pump for the next few weeks. He also said the city should confirm that it has a long-term warranty on the motor.
Stokoski said he remembered hearing about a recall of a portion of the soft-start system. “I’m not an electrical engineer, but that sticks in my mind. And now it works.”
“I can’t imagine they’re not asking themselves that same question,” Polich said.
• The city reviewed increased health insurance costs. By renewing early, Stokoski said, the city saved some money.
The rate increased 6.37 percent, and it rises another 6.38 percent on Jan. 1 when municipalities have to start paying state and federal taxes
• Commissioner Mark Stauber reported on the Caspian-Gaastra Fire Department audit, which said the department is in good shape, with 11 months of operating revenue.
He also said the two cities should discuss whether to ask for millage to help purchase a used fire truck. The cities would hold their millage votes at the same time.
The problem, said Stauber, is with Gaastra’s truck. “You can’t get parts for it,” he said. “There are mechanical issues with the drivetrain, but the big thing is, at a fire that pump won’t work.”
• The commission approved revamping the city’s parking ordinance. The main effect would be to increase all parking fines to $25—as of now, only violations of the winter parking ban cost $25.
“It appears to be outdated,” Police Chief Post said. “We want to take it and make it all one fee.” Some fees, he said, are as low as $2.
Polich said he sees the rationale of make the fees uniform. “I’d probably park in the wrong place for $2.” But he also wants to look at the entire ordinance—he noted references to the Twin City Police Department (Caspian and Stambaugh), which went out of business long ago.
A public hearing can be held at next month’s meeting, and the revised ordinance needs to be adopted and published before any changes take effect. The Gaastra City Commission will also be notified.
• Commissioner Tony Dallavalle proposed an increase in the speed limit on County Road 424 between M-189 and Spring Valley Road (just north of the downtown area) from 30 to 35 mph.
Polich said the city has to request the State Police to conduct a speed survey in that area, checking how fast drivers are going in that area. The commission agreed to make the request.
• Polich reported on a recent meeting about updating the city’s recreation plan. It was held at the Community Center and had “a wonderful turnout” with many ideas discussed.
Several more meetings will be held. Once finished, the plan will be submitted to the DNR by March.
• City Manager Stokoski said there haven’t been any applications—or even inquiries--for the chief operator position at the West Iron County Sewer Authority plant.
Polich said the plant is operating “very well” and is saving money with the current management plan. But, he said, the Department of Environmental Quality wants the plant to have a full-time manager. “It’s not an effective way.”
• The city approved the county’s hazard mitigation plan for five years, through 2018. “If there ever is an emergency,” Stokoski said, “it allows the city to apply for FEMA funding.”
• Stauber praised how the city truck was decorated for the Holiday in Lights parade in Iron River recently.