Snowmelt, broadband tops Zeeland’s wishlist for $ 2.3 million surplus



ZELAND – The city of Zeeland was faced with a happy dilemma: how to spend $ 2.3 million of money it hadn’t planned to have.

City council members discussed the possibilities on Tuesday July 6.

The council gathered around recommendations from city staff to use the money for a snowmelt system on Main Avenue and a consultant to advise the city on broadband internet needs, between other projects.

The additional money comes from a surplus of $ 500,000 in the 2021 tax budget, personal property tax refund funds of approximately $ 1.3 million and $ 500,000 in relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of the United States Congress.

Last year’s budget surplus was the result of reduced spending for the Macatawa Area Express bus service, which failed to charge its member municipalities for the service while the route service did not operate for most of 2020 and into early 2021. There were also grants for first responder compensation. and other items that cost less than expected.

“We have significant funds available to fund some pretty interesting initiatives and there aren’t a lot of other places that can say that,” said Kevin Plockmeyer, Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer, “so I think it’s good to take a step back and say, ‘We’ We’re in a pretty good position, we’re lucky to be in this place and it’s exciting to see what we can do. ”

Zeeland City Council listens to a presentation on the city's 2021-22 budget before voting to approve it on Monday, May 3, 2021.

Frontline snowmelt project

Snowmelt has been the city’s agenda for years. Steady progress has been made towards a major expansion in recent years with the investment in a boiler at the Howard Miller Public Library with the power to heat a system downtown, a small-scale snowmelt project underway on Cherry Street and approval of rules for how landowners will be asked to pay for future snowmelt projects.

The plans in their current form call for the installation of melting snow under the sidewalks of Main Avenue from State Street to the community restaurant property line between Maple Street and Wall Street.

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The city has set aside $ 1.75 million for the project. With the excess money, the city could fully fund the project, which is expected to cost more than $ 2.5 million, with engineering and cost estimates still ongoing.

“Based on the time, effort and funds that we have already invested in this system, and seeing this also as a possible catalyst for the development of the city center, we see this as the first and the best use of these funds. right now, ”Plockmeyer says.

Staff proposed to use $ 400,000 from non-ARPA funds and $ 350,000 from ARPA funds for snowmelt. The ARPA money would reimburse landowners in the snowmelt district for the special assessment they would be charged.

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Staff said they still need to make sure this is an authorized use of ARPA money, which is limited to six main areas of spending: public health response, public health infrastructure. water and sewerage supply, replacement of lost public sector income, compensation of essential workers, combating COVID-19 economic impacts and broadband infrastructure.

Pro-Mayor Sally Gruppen supported full funding for the snowmelt.

“Rather than breaking the money into little buckets to help each individual (project), I think it would be really good if we focused on a few (projects) totally and get them done,” Gruppen said.

Broadband, downtown and fire trucks

The city is also proposing to spend $ 150,000 on a broadband initiative.

It would start with hiring a consultant to give advice on how to move forward with the infrastructure.

“I think it builds on how we’re going to take it to the next level in Zeeland,” manager Tim Klunder said.

After the snowmelt and broadband initiatives, approximately $ 1.4 million will be left.

The city proposes to use part of the money for infrastructure projects to support the new development of the city center.

“We’re seeing some pretty transformative projects happening downtown,” Plockmeyer said, “and we’re on the cusp of some pretty exciting projects, with the expansion of GL Rentals, 3 E. Main, the Sligh Building, but we see a possibility of having to make further improvements to our own infrastructure to eventually achieve some of these developments, whether it be road modifications, storm sewer improvements or beautification projects. ”

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The funds can also be used for park improvements, and some can be set aside for the purchase of a replacement fire truck for the Zeeland Fire Department, a use championed by Council Member Glenn Kass.

“Funding for this is really important to me. I’ve said it a thousand times, I’m going to invest in public safety over and over again,” Kass said. “It’s not new, it’s not exciting, it’s not sexy, but I think it’s an obligation we have to the staff.”

– Contact journalist Carolyn Muyskens at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cjmuyskens.



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