BRIDGMAN — The resolution of access to the Warren Dunes State Park’s dog beach from Bridgman’s Weko Beach is still being worked out with the state, but Bridgman Mayor Vince Rose made it clear that the city’s leash law will be strictly enforced, no matter what.

“Enforcement has been too lax for too long. That’s going to change,” Rose said during comments he made at Monday’s council meeting, adding that signage outlining the rules will be increased.

According to Police Chief Daniel Unruh, the leash law at Weko Beach says any animal at Weko Beach and surrounding park area must be on a 6-foot leash. The fine is $50 for the first violation.

The subject did not come up until the end of a quiet meeting, in comparison to a packed meeting two weeks ago during which the council heard comments from both sides of the issue. The issue arose after the city discussed changing its long-standing practice of allowing dogs on a leash to use a path at the end of the Weko Beach boardwalk to access the dog beach at adjoining Warren Dunes State Park. The proposed changes were in response to possible changes in the boundaries of the state’s dog beach.

Rose said the city is in the process of ironing out the details with the state and any changes will be jointly announced. He suggested giving all visitors a pamphlet outlining the rules governing the use of Weko Beach and its surrounding campgrounds, parking lot and park lands so no one will be surprised when the rules are enforced.

“We heard you. We will reach a nice compromise and it will work out well,” said Councilmember Rick Fuller after two residents thanked the council for listening to the citizens’ concerns the during the previous meeting.

During discussion of the written city manager’s report (Manager Juan Ganum was not present), Rose referred to the 3 percent increase in the city’s sanitary sewer rates charged by the Galien River Sanitary District, in part to cover the GRSD’s 25-year capital improvement plan. Ganum plans to present a review of the city’s sewer fund financial position during its May 6 budget workshop meeting.

“Sewer and water rate increases are a hardship but we have to keep up. We all hate to raise rates but down the road I don’t see any other solution. The city fell so far behind after years and years of neglect by previous councils we have to keep raising the rates until we break even. It is what it is,” Rose said.

Fuller then pointed out that the council is facing three possible increases for residents: charging for trash pickup, which was previously covered by the city; increasing sewer and water rates to cover the costs of maintaining its system; and the addition of the higher prices from the GRSD.

“We have to sit on our hands until we get the whole picture and see how severe it will be,” Fuller said.

In other business, the council voted to support the application for a change in liquor license for Lazy Ballerina, 4209 Lake St. Owners Melanie Owen and Lauren Kniebes said the change, which wouldn’t be noticed by customers, is actually a downgrade to off-premise tasting room license since they are expanding their production facility in Benton Harbor and will no longer produce any wine at the Bridgman location. The owners said they are still considering outside service in the area adjacent to Sandpiper for which they already have the license but are they no longer pursuing outside service behind their store.

The council approved the second annual Maker’s Trail Festival at Weko Beach on June 8, sponsored by the Greater Bridgman Area Chamber of Commerce and Growth Alliance. 

The council also approved a contract with Roggow Construction for $55,000 for HVAC improvements at the Weko Beach Community Room. Rose said the project is largely being paid by a $35,000 contribution from former Councilmember Jim Catania. Rose said the added revenue from increased rental of the room during the hot summer months will also help pay for the air conditioning. The project is expected to be completed within six months.