BENTON HARBOR — He’s not a micromanager, Benton Harbor City Manager Ellis Mitchell said during his first city commission meeting Monday.

“These staff people are here to do a job,” he said. “And they are ready to do that job, and I’m going to let them do the job. I’m not going to be talking for them.” 

He said it’s important for city commissioners to see city staff perform.

Most of the city commissioners welcomed Mitchell to the new position. Before being hired July 25, he was a mobility manager at Benton Harbor Dial-A-Ride. He previously served as the city’s manager 1983-87.

BH Dial-A-Ride

During the meeting, a new app that will help people track Benton Harbor Dial-A-Ride buses was announced by Assistant Director T.J. Taylor and Todd Shurn, a researcher from the University of Michigan.

They said the app, “Doublemap GPS,” is available for free download on smart phones at Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store. Shurn said all you need to do is select the city you are in and you’re good to go.

For people who have their GPS on, they will be given two locations to choose from – Benton Harbor and Notre Dame.

“We’re using the same system that Notre Dame is using,” Shurn said.

The app shows where all the stops are along the city’s two fixed routes – the Red and Blue routes.

“Then you can actually click on a stop and see when the bus will arrive at the stop real time, not according the schedule, but according to weather conditions ... according to traffic conditions and all these things are factored in,” he said.

He said people who use the on-demand service can track their bus based on its number.

“You can know when that bus is getting close to your pickup point and you can come outside your house when it’s coming close,” he said.

The app alert will inform riders about service disruptions due to weather, according to information they passed out. In addition, there is an announcements section for information such as new routes, bus stops and services.

“This is great progress for us,” Taylor said. 

He said they are always getting calls from people wanting to know where the bus is.

“Now you have a chance if you have a smart phone ... to actually track that bus,” he said.

Before the app was put in place, he said everything was done manually using pencil and paper.

“It’s a great step forward,” he said. “... When the calls come in now, they ... are dispatched from a computer system.”

The app is being paid for with a $1.4 million four-year grant from the National Science Foundation, which started in October 2018. 

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved the 2019 Annual Action Plan for the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant money that it receives through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

• Approved the subrecipient agreement with the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, which is helping the city spend its CDBG to help residents fix their homes.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege