BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad said it is historic that city commissioners approved $1 million in street repairs using revenue from the first year the city income tax was collected.

“It was a collective effort and ultimately for the people and residents,” he said during Monday’s City Commission meeting. “... This is an example of when we work together the good that can come to the residents of the city of Benton Harbor.”

City Commissioner Duane Seats said he liked the plan better than the first one presented to city commissioners. That plan spent most of the money on major streets.

“We need to hurry up and let residents see the work being done on the potholes,” he said.

City Commissioner Ron Singleton said the intent of the first year is to make the roads safe.  

City Manager Darwin Watson said the RFPs will go out this week, with work starting by the end of the month. He said all of the work should be done by the end of the year.

He stressed that there’s not enough money to get everything done.

“But this is the start that we need to get started ... so we can show that we’re doing something with the money,” he said.

In addition city commissioners approved starting the process of selling 200 Paw Paw Ave. to Justice Grow, a medical marijuana company based in Chicago. Officials with the company told city officials in May that they want to cultivate and process medical marijuana in the former Carl L. Brown Business Growth Center, which hasn’t been regularly used since 2013.

City commissioners rejected 5-4 approving an agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents nine employees.

The tentative agreement calls for a 2 percent wage increase and the reinstatement of six paid holidays. Watson said the agreement would cost the city less than $2,000 yearly.

Commissioner Juanita Henry, who voted against the pay raise, said she was concerned about the city’s budget.

“We really should not be extending ourselves out financially until we know exactly where we’re going to be (financially),” she said.

Henry said city commissioners haven’t approved pay raises for other employees. 

“We’re just making sure that the city stays solid,” she said.

Singleton, who voted for the pay raise, disagreed, saying it wasn’t that much money and that it would cost more to pay the attorney fees for the contract to be renegotiated.

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