Bridgman City Council eyes billing for trash pickup

Bridgman City Hall is pictured March 17, 2018.

BRIDGMAN — Bridgman residents may be billed for trash pickup under a plan being studied by city staff.

City Council members this week instructed City Manager Juan Ganum and Treasurer Debbie Lambrix to prepare a proposal to begin charging property owners for trash collection through a special assessment district. The $100,000 yearly cost of trash removal has been covered in city’s general fund.

Village Attorney Sara Senica said the proposal will be the subject of a public hearing before it is brought to the council for approval.

During discussion Monday night, Ganum said the costs would be assessed on a per-address basis, allowing for homeowners with multiple vacant lots to avoid charges on the empty lots. He said businesses would likely be charged the cost of one roll cart, recognizing that most businesses already contract for private trash removal.

No date was set for the public hearing, but Lambrix said the earliest the assessment could be charged would be July 2019.

The council set Monday, Oct. 29, as the date of a public hearing on the first challenge to the city’s Tall Grass and Weed Ordinance, which was enacted in August limiting grass/weed height to 6 inches.

The appeal was filed by Ron Gelesko of Ad-Co Realty Group, one of the owners of the property at 4785 Rambo Road. The deadline for submission of written evidence was set for noon Friday, Oct. 26.

Gelesko’s appeal claims the property is vacant industrial land and thus exempt from the ordinance and does not fall under the ordinance’s purpose of controlling grass in higher population density and “unique” real estate areas. The appeal references compliance with an earlier agreement to install a fence to resolve complaints from Hidden Creek subdivision residents and refers to the “wooded” nature of some of the property.

At Councilman Robert Liskey’s request, the council will discuss the ordinance and complaint during a closed session of the council’s Oct. 15 meeting. Mayor Hannah Anderson suggested the council members schedule individual site visits prior to the hearing.

Ganum then set the stage for restructuring the city staff to create the new position of parks director to oversee a new parks department. This department would join a newly combined department of public services, which would include the existing water, sewer and streets departments.

He said he developed his recommendation after studying other municipalities with similar characteristics and responsibilities for a public beach, campground and park facilities. In addition, the Bridgman position would be responsible for the management of the year-round rental of the Weko Beach House as an event venue.

Ganum said his recommendation came from the desire to better manage one of the city’s most valuable assets and was based on his observatiions after three-and-a-half years on the job and the recommendations of consultant Joan Guilfoyle, a Bridgman resident and recent retiree from the National Parks Service.

No action was taken on the new parks department position, though initial reaction from the council appeared favorable, with Anderson saying, “I think it is way past due. We have talked about it in the past. I think it’s time.”

Liskey, however, questioned the fact it has not been foreseen during the budgeting process, saying, “I don’t like surprises.” Lambrix and Tim Kading, water and parks superintendent, told him the new position could be covered by the parks fund.

In other action, the council unanimously approved the request for the purchase of a new police SUV at what Chief Daniel Unruh said was a very good price of $31,000. It will replace a Ford Taurus with 90,000 miles.