Portland’s monthly Legislative Luncheon on Monday, September 10th, hosted by the Wagon Wheel, featured presentations by Representative Julie Calley, City Manager Tutt Gorman, Ionia County Great Start Collaboration Coordinator Sally Kapteyn, a representative from Sen. Nof’s office, and Portland Downtown Development Authority Director Tina Conner Wellman.
The Portland Chamber reported that next year Portland will celebrate its Sesquicentennial (150 Year) Anniversary. More details will be available in the future. Planning is also underway for the annual Breakfast with Santa.
Tina Conner Wellman reported on the success of Beerfest on the Bridge. Over 800 people participated. She recognized Chopper Schrauben of the Wagon Wheel, with a plaque, for his contribution to the success of Beerfest. Lamppost painting is continuing and will be placed on a seven-year repainting schedule. Tina also introduced Dana Hengesbach a VISTA volunteer who will be working with the DDA over the next year.
Sally Kapteyn, Great Start Collaboration Coordinator informed attendees that the Collaborative is working on community-wide Trauma Informed Care initiatives and recently sponsored a training in Ionia that had over 500 attendees. Sally also requested that attendees support renovations at The Relief After Violent Encounter (RAVE) Domestic Violence Shelter in Ionia. For more information about how to support RAVE please visit their website @ www.raveim.org/donate.
City Manager Tutt Gorman provided enthusiastic updates on what is happening with quality of life initiatives, new buildings, and city infrastructure. Specifically, he reported on the pending construction of a new salt barn which will be funded from the City’s General Fund dollars at a cost of $420,000. The City has also applied for a $712,000 grant to complete GIS Mapping of all underground utilities in the city. Gorman reported on work being done for safer and expanded sidewalk structures being planned in collaboration with Portland Public Schools and St. Patrick School. City streetlights are in the process of being updated and converted to LED lighting. Finally, Mr. Gorman discussed the intent to investigate, as a matter of fiscal diligence, the possibility of privatizing management of Portland’s Waste Water Treatment Plant upon the retirement of its current manager in January 2019. Gorman assured attendees that this is not a plan to privatize, nor to find the cheapest solution as the current high quality will be maintained. It is simply an opportunity to consider all options moving forward.
A staff member from Senator Mike Nof’s (R-Battle Creek) office reported on the Senators work to increase solid waste tipping fees in Michigan from 36 cents to $4.44. Comparisons with other states indicate that Michigan’s fees are incredibly low. A discussion about recycling occurred and the fact that due to new tariff’s the market for recycled goods has been reduced.
Representative Julie Calley addressed several issues for the attendees including the fact that Michigan schools will be receiving a $240 per student increase. She also noted how important it is to address trauma as it has a significant impact on a student’s ability to learn. Rep. Calley reported that a Proposal to approve Recreational Marijuana will be on the November Ballot for voters to consider. However, the Legislature has passed bills to increase the minimum wage and paid sick time off. This resulted in a lively discussion with some attendees about the impact these Bills will have on local employers. Rep. Calley responded that by passing these Bills the Legislature will be able to monitor and adjust them as necessary. She noted that there has been great Michigan job growth over the past eight years of about 550,000 new jobs and that the Legislature does not want to do anything to impede continued growth.
The next Legislative Luncheon will be held on October 8th at Noon at the Wagon Wheel Banquet Room. Community Members interested in what is happening with local and state government are welcome and encouraged to attend.