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Escanaba City Council 4 year term {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

  • Candidate picture

    Patricia A Baribeau (Non) Retired School Administrator

  • Candidate picture

    Ralph B Blasier (Non) Surgeon, Attorney

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    Katherine Hardt (Non) Director Of Nursing, Tendercare Nursing Home

  • Peggy O'Connell Schumann (Non)

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    Marc D Tall (Non) Radio Sales

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Biographical Information

What are your three (3) top infrastructure issues that should be addressed by the city?

What are your ideas for filling some of our recently vacated stores, such as Kmart, Staples, Super One and the Delta Plaza?

Would you agree/disagree that the City Council has deferred too much authority or influence by the DDA regarding issues facing the city? Please explain.

Do you agree that a better procedure should be utilized to deal with over-flow waste water than dumping in Little Bay de Noc? Please explain.

How do you propose balanced usage of downtown sidewalks and roadways between pedestrians, bicyclists and merchants?

Campaign Phone (906) 786-0532
Age 68
Biography I was born and raised in Escanaba and returned here after my retirement from 20 years as Director of Baraga County’s Adult and Community Education programs. I then became involved with our City, first as a volunteer on the Planning Commission, and now, on City Council where I Have served 10 yrs.
Education Holy Name H.S. Bay College BA Western Mich. Univ. MA Central Mich. Univ.
1. Our streets. Public Works has prioritized the needs of all of our streets and done as much as possible as time, manpower and funds have allowed on those most in need of improvements. It has also been prepared should additional funds become available for "shovel-ready" projects as was the case of Stephenson Avenue. Our needs, however, remain great as many of our streets are in need of attention that we cannot now provide. The Department remains vigilant in addressing those areas most in need and in seeking alternative sources of funds whenever possible. We have also done an extensive assessment regarding the Lincoln Road corridor which, at times, is heavily traveled and congested and must be addressed in the near future.

2. Our aging water and wastewater systems. The Water Department has taken a pro-active stance in addressing these issues but it seems the need is always greater than the resources that are available. We are now in process of evaluating our entire system to better assess any issues and have taken advantage of funding (SAW Grant) available to assist. Issues that arise in this area are remedied as quickly as possible, but again, the issue is available resources including limited funding and man power.

3. Our electrical costs and emerging solar project. Thanks to the assistance of highly qualified volunteers Glendon Brown and the Electric Advisory Board, we have stabilized electric rates for the near term (five years) and are proceeding to greater independence through our developing of solar energy which can be tapped not only by the City as a whole, but also by individual citizens. Our electrical needs are looking sunnier these days!

All of these issues could be better addressed if the State of Michigan would restore the funding of municipalities which they have gutted over the past ten plus years. It is very difficult to address these issues when we must also be addressing the shortfall in funding presented each year by the State
Things appeared to be looking up for our City when Meier's and Aldi's announced plans to locate here. Now, with the vacating of the named buildings, those announcements seem bittersweet. It must be noted, though, that this is not just a local but a national issue. With the advent of the Internet, America has changed its shopping habits, and many of the large box stores have had to downsize in order to adapt. This is similar to what happened to many downtowns twenty years ago when shoppers were seeking out malls and the type of stores that are now closing. At that time, it was the downtowns such as ours that suffered and so begot the establishment of the DDA.

Escanaba's downtown has not died. It has come back and is again thriving. This is due in great part to the merchants themselves and dedicated volunteers who have promoted the downtown such as Peggy O'Connell's Downtown Partner's in Business and by the DDA's façade program. The DDA Board includes our Mayor and City Manager and it was these city officials who helped turn the DDA's focus from promotion to improved eye appeal. This is an example of city involvement that has improved our town and it can happen again with respect to these emptied buildings. Perhaps these facilities could somehow be used to enhance internet shopping in some way or, perhaps, one of the owners will exhibit the ingenuity necessary to repurpose them. In either case, the City should strongly support such efforts.

These vacated stores are privately owned and, as such, can only do what the property owners allow. The City can, however, be involved in a number of ways. First, we can do all that we can to prevent them from becoming "eye sores" by enforcing city codes. Secondly, we can provide tax incentives and assistance in their being developed as is currently happening with a firm interested in upgrading the Delta Plaza. Third, we can and do partner with the Economic Development Alliance and Delta County Chamber of Commerce in seeking businesses to occupy these spaces. We are also working on a marketing campaign that will "sell" our beautiful city to investors across the country as well as the State of Michigan.
The Downtown Development Authority is an entity that is separate from the City in many ways although it is still a major force within its own boundaries. It has specific areas of concern and boundaries within the City and separate funding sources as well. It is overseen by a Board of Directors and its executive director. Included on its board are the Mayor and City Manager, and its executive director keeps City Council aware of its activities. City Council has not deferred too much authority or influence by the DDA regarding issues that face the City although it certainly welcomes its input on a variety of issues. By statute the DDA oversees what it is permitted to oversee and has welcomed input by way of its board from the City. Likewise, the City oversees what it is legally bound to, although it certainly welcomes any input from the DDA just as it does other city entities.
I absolutely agree! Despite my objection, however, I approved our doing this recently. The reasons were appropriately expressed by Jeff Laampi who oversees that Department. We had a rare set of circumstance in that record-breaking rainfall amounts in the spring/early summer had exceeded our capacity for filtering the amount of water flowing from the storm sewer lines. We needed to address this overload and, after consulting all necessary regulatory agencies, this was the route that was recommended to Council. We agreed to follow that route because it appeared to be the only available.

That being said, I also think that this issue deserves further discussion and would hope that the Department of Water/Wastewater can make recommendations on what, if anything, can be done to avoid such situations in the future.
I made my feelings about this clear at a recent meeting of Council. I recommended that bicycles be banned on downtown sidewalks for a distance of four feet from the buildings within the retail district and that appropriate signage be placed where necessary to make this policy clear. Since it would be the DDA that would bear the cost of this signage, it has now been referred to that board for discussion. Following that, it would then go through the same hearings and public process as any other revision of city codes/ordinances would, giving citizens a chance for their input as well.
Campaign Phone (906) 553-5688
Age 67
Biography Surgeon, Attorney, ex-Navy Commander, ex-University Professor (Univ Mich and Wayne State) 13 years a surgeon at the Ann Arbor VA and the Detroit VA, 7 years surgeon at OSF Escanaba, NRA Life Member.
Education Medical Doctorate, 1979. Juris Doctorate 2007. Bachelor of Science, 1972.
A. Streets. The freeze-thaw cycle that occurs in Escanaba is very hard on our streets. Escanaba conducts an ongoing program of street repair and maintenance.

Resurfacing and Curb Repair $80k. Ludington Resurfacing, Ramps, and Curbs $475k. N 30th @ 3rd Ave N $70k. N 26th St @ 3rd Ave N $1.2M.

Escanaba’s resources have been diminishing. Much of our tax goes to the State. In the distant past, the State engaged in generous “revenue sharing.” Those days are gone. Revenue sharing from the state has dropped a lot. If the citizens of Escanaba really want far better roads, then there will have to be a groundswell of voters who want to pass a bond-issue or a millage to get it. I have not yet seen such a discussion.

B. Sewerage, waste and storm.

I will go into detail on this issue in the answer to question four.

C. Water supply.

When I first sat on City Council about four or five years ago, Escanaba was losing more than half of the water that it manufactured for drinking. We knew exactly how much drinking water we were making, but our customer meters could only account for less than half of it.

First, the water meters are very old, so they may be inaccurate. The City is currently replacing all the water meters in Escanaba.

Second, the water supply pipes are very old and are leaking. We have iron pipes that corrode. We have ceramic / clay pipes that collapse. We have concrete pipes that leak at the pipe-to-pipe junction. Since I began sitting on City Council, Escanaba has been contracting with companies whose specialty is finding supply water leaks, such as the company named, “C2AE.” Anyway, when our contractors find a leak, our Public Works or Water Department crews go out and fix the leak. “Fix” has several meanings.

1. Dig down, find the broken pipe, and replace it.

2. Locate the leak to deploy a “ratchet” device. This type of repair has a life of years, but not decades, and the pipe will need to be re-fixed later.

3. Formed-in-place rigid “plastic” liners. The result is a new plastic pipe inside the leaky old pipe, which fixes the leak. These liners are warrantied for decades. Escanaba has recently contracted to fix certain waste and storm sewers with expanded rigid plastic liners in the amount of $800k.

Having a 40% loss of manufactured drinking water is bad. But in the last four years, the reduction in losses from “more than half,” to the present 40% loss is an improvement of better than 20%, and we are continuing the effort.

Every city has this problem, and there is no “magic bullet.” Under our new federal administration, almost all of the national economic indicators have been improving. I do not know if this will affect Escanaba, but I hope it will.

The State of Michigan offers “Obsolete Property Rehabilitation” grants (named “OPRA”). I believe that the owner of the Delta Plaza has already applied, or is planning to apply, for an OPRA grant to rehabilitate the Mall.

The best thing that Escanaba can do to promote development is: 1. Avoid impeding businesspersons’ plans; and 2. When possible, expedite such plans. I will offer an illustrative case.

Example Case: Roughly two years ago, Escanaba-area businessman Ken Gartland came before the City Council, and he had come across about a half dozen custom knife manufacturers who wanted to relocate to Escanaba. He built two shops for these knife-makers. Gartland’s view was that, at every turn, the City imposed delays upon his project. One example: The City wanted a plan / map of the utilities on the site. Gartland went to the City to get the map that he had to submit to the City. So, the City required Gartland to go to the City to get the map to give to the City. This process took weeks. During the delays, and many similar delays, his future-tenants went elsewhere. I think one opened a shop in Gladstone.

Right now, of the two shops Gartland built, one is partially occupied, and one is empty and is for sale / lease. The City could have done much better.
I believe that if the City doesn’t pay for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the City should not try to control the DDA. The taxpayers barely directly fund the activities of the DDA. There was a year; I forgot what year, but we will call it the “Base Year.” In the Base Year (in the late 1970s?), the City placed a cap on the property tax that City could collect from property owners of the downtown businesses. Michigan Public Act, Section 125.1664, established a scheme whereby DDAs would collect the “incremental tax.” Incremental tax is the increase above what the City takes, due to improvements to the property (and inflation).

The City did loan money to the DDA for the new Market Place. But this was a win-win situation. The City got a higher interest rate than the City could have gotten from any bank, and the DDA got a lower interest rate than they could have gotten from any bank. The loan amount was around $680k.

The DDA does a lot of good with minimal direct cost to the taxpayers. Escanaba was the first community in the U. P. to become certified by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) as a “Redevelopment Ready Community.” This should allow Escanaba to be eligible for certain State grants. The DDA did most of the legwork on this effort.

I believe that the benefit/cost ratio of the DDA activities is very favorable. What follows is a partial list of activities that the DDA funds in part.

1. Ribfest as part of the Fun Run. 2. “Rock the Dock.” 3. Community Christmas Tree Lighting. 4. Marinafest. 5. Christmas Parade. 6. Pasty Drop & Fireworks on New Year’s Eve. 7. Sidewalk Sales Days. 8. “Black Friday on Tuesday” Christmas Shopping Kickoff. 9. Annual Downtown Clean-up. 10. Maintenance & snow removal for 8 DDA parking lots. 11. Plants large floral arrangements at the entrance to downtown 12. Downtown banners promoting seasonal views of Escanaba. 13. The DDA provides plowing of the sidewalks on Ludington from Second Street to Stevenson Avenue. 14. The DDA sponsors (up to $10,000) the purchase, installation, and removal of the Christmas garlands and lights downtown. 15. The DDA has a large role in administering the Downtown Building Façade Improvement Program. The program in 2015 totaled $1.4M. The MEDC provided $960,648. The property owners made up the difference. The program is administered through the MEDC utilizing funds received from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
No one wants to dump untreated sewage, human-waste-and-more, into Lake Michigan. But the very rainy 2017 summer overwhelmed our system, and the cure will be expensive.

The problem that necessitated dumping untreated sewage into Lake Michigan (a mile south of Escanaba and beyond the mouth of Little Bay de Noc) was that a very large volume of rainwater from the storm sewers, ground water, and other sources, increased the volume of water entering the Escanaba Wastewater Treatment Plant to a volume that the plant could not process.

1. There are places where sanitary sewers run close to and parallel to storm sewers. With leaks, rainwater can get into the sanitary system. 2. There are places where sanitary sewers cross over or under storm sewers. With leaks, rainwater can get into the sanitary system. 3. Ground water is everywhere. With leaks, ground water will enter the sanitary sewer. 4. Some rainwater gets into the sanitary sewer via leaky manhole covers. 5. On Ludington Street, most of the businesses have flat roofs, and the flat-roof rainwater is drained into the sanitary sewers. 6. Many residences have sump pumps that drain into the sanitary sewers.

For as long as I have been on City Council, the City has been fixing leaks in the sanitary sewers (and the storms sewers), and this should help reduce the intrusions of rain water into the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Escanaba has received a Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) Program grant for, $1,000,000 over 3 years. This grant does not actually pay to fix leaks, but it does pay to identify and catalog problems to be fixed. This should help a lot in the long run.

The City did have to let untreated waste water release a mile out into Lake Michigan for about 14 days. No one wants this to happen again, but if we have another summer as rainy as this one was, it might happen.

Re-building the Escanaba Wastewater Treatment Plant to increase its capacity so as to accept sewage and rainwater together would be frightfully expensive. Requiring Ludington Street businesses and residences with sump pumps to re-direct their rainwater to the storm sewer system would be very expensive.

There is a small bright side. The water we dumped into Lake Michigan was not pure sewage, but was sewage diluted with a lot of rainwater.
This question brings up an interesting issue. As of the date of this writing (9/26/17), it is already a violation of City Ordnance to ride a bicycle on sidewalks in the “business district.” This ordnance is apparently not being strictly enforced. City Council will study this issue, soon. At a recent City Council meeting, Head of Public Safety, Rob LaMarsh, testified that in his 19 years in Escanaba Public Safety, there has been only one reported bicycle-pedestrian collision. I assume that there have been many more than one such collision, but that the severity of such collisions has been too little to justify a report. I do not favor eliminating bicycles from the sidewalks in the business district and pushing those bicycles out onto Ludington Street. If we did that, with our present diagonal parking, there would be many incidents of cars backing into bicycles. If we changed to parallel parking, which Escanaba has had in the past, there would be many incidents of bicycles running into opening car doors.

I would favor using signage to ameliorate the perceived problem of mixing bicycles and pedestrians on the business district sidewalks. I would recommend, at the beginning and end of the business district, and every few blocks in between, signs reading, “Bicyclists: If possible, please use First Avenue South for westbound travel and First Avenue North for eastbound travel.” Then, I would recommend, at the beginning and end of every block in the b usiness district, signs reading, “Bicyclists: Proceed slowly and avoid pedestrians. Pedestrians have the right-of-way.” Finally, I would recommend a poster inside of the exit of each store-front, reading, “Shoppers: When exiting by this door, please look right and left for bicyclists.” I favor repealing the present ordnance (Section 27-400(a)) that makes riding a bicycle on the sidewalk in a business district a violation. I think that bicycling to and from our businesses is a very desirable form of transportation. I would retain Section 27-400(c) that requires bicyclists to give right-of-way to pedestrians. There has been some discussion of dividing the sidewalks. From the curb, four feet inbound, could be reserved for shop-owner displays of merchandise. The next 4 feet inbound from that would be for shared useage of bicycles and pedestrians. The remaining width to the store-front wall would be for pedestrians only. This could be implemented by custom;by signage; by paint-striping; and/or by ordnance.
Campaign Phone (906) 280-5642
Age 44
Biography I am a third generation Escanaban, granddaughter of Mary of Forrest Henslee - my absolute heroes. I moved back here eight years ago to help care for my grandparents in their later years and found I couldn't leave after they passed. Now I hope to serve my community, following in their footsteps.
Education Registered Nurse - Bay College BA English - Sonoma State University
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I would like to see a long term plan for Escanaba’s aging infrastructure. Many rural areas across the nation are creating local Master Plans throughout, say, 2025. As a small community, we will not be able to afford mass renovations to our infrastructure on an annual basis. Being proactive and developing long term goals to attain small achievements over time will be more cost effective to our current population, while also investing in Escanaba for future generations. With great advancements in sustainability, Escanaba can explore more than the traditional grey models and see where green infrastructure models may be applied in energy, sewage systems, and waste management/recycling programs. Nationwide, some of these local systems generate income for their city by selling services to other cities.
Where the skeletal remains of big box stores can seem to present an air of doom and gloom for any community, I am excited by the idea of repurposing these facilities based on the needs and growth of our community. Again with planning and strategic zoning, we can look at anything from using those spaces for community based health programs, possible satellite locations for Michigan four year colleges such as NMU, Michigan Tech, and/or Michigan State, to indoor areas for year round youth activities or even local small businesses who want to share space. This is our opportunity to think “outside the box”.
As a newcomer to the local political arena, admittedly I do not have enough experience or thus well informed knowledge to have a strong opinion on this topic. I will say I strongly believe in the development of our downtown as a vital component of Escanaba’s culture, so I am in support of having a DDA. That said, I am also in support of checks and balances, terms limits on any community council for greater community involvement and diversity in ideas, and strong input from the community at large on issues presented to the DDA by means of surveys, online questionnaires, and town hall meetings.
I am very passionate about developing better wastewater management systems after this year’s overflow leading to dumping in the bay. Again, we will need to explore ideas that go beyond the traditional and seek both small and large scale approaches that are cost effective to our city. On a small scale, we need to create a culture of wastewater awareness and reuse or catchment systems that everyday citizens can employ. From working with local utility to encourage water saving appliances to city wide barrel programs to catch and reuse rainwater for gardens, there are many simple and cost effective methods to research. On a larger scale, we need to work with planning on any large developments and see what can be negotiated in large, paved areas for better wastewater management – be it permeable paving, green walls, green roofs and more.
We are fortunate to have such wide streets and wide sidewalks – not just in our downtown. For downtown purposes, however, we need to make sure we make room for everyone. This issue would need input from the citizens, the planning department, and public safety. Considerable options are a bike path or several bike rack stations along Main Street to store bikes when accessing downtown. I would also like to adopt a Bike Friendly Program to create safety awareness and educate on mixed road use, including helmet safety programs. Many cities designate “bicycle only” days, times, or areas, as well. I do feel this issue should be looked at and applied city-wide, however, not just limited to downtown.
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Campaign Phone 786-4798
Age 70
Biography Maggie and I live on South 9th Street, where we raised our two daughters, Kathy who now resides in Rockford Illinois, and Amity who lives downstate with her husband and two children. In our 40 years here I have been in the radio business, then in computer sales, and now back in radio.
Education High School, the University of Minnesota, and Brown Institute.
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A. Road repairs. Many of our city streets are in poor shape, and more resources need to be found. B. Sanitary Sewer plant improvements. C. Fixing Water line leaks
Working with the Delta County EDA, the City responds to all inquiries by business and industry seeking information about local sites and conditions. The City also is working with the owners of the Delta Plaza, assisting them in marketing their available space.
No. As a member of both the Council and the DDA, I do not believe they have too much authority or influence on the Council.
Yes. We had no choice but to do as we did when the plant had to deal with more sewage than it could handle. We must address the issue and work to make sure we are not faced with this problem again.
We need to encourage people to use the downtown area, whether they walk, ride cars or bicycles. As I don’t want to see kids on bikes on Ludington street, we’ll all have to share the sidewalks. Signs posted on Ludington Street saying “Bicyclists must yield to Pedestrians” may help. logo


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