Over the last few years, I've seen the downtown area in a constant flux of activity as far as the walkways go, particularly in the North James plaza area, whose active/inactive status has also been a source of controversy. This spring we have seen some widespread activity in that area:
The reworking also extends further up the street as seen here. Not too long ago, the 100 block of North James was used as a street, but since then it has been ripped up more times by the DPW than the Ludington Daily News has been by discerning local readers. Bricks are very historical, very aesthetically pleasing, and very prevalent throughout the downtown because of those facts. But bricks also have a drawback as you can see in the lower left of the above pictured and as mentioned in this December 2006 DOwntown Ludington Board (DDA) meeting by Ludington's road specialist Shawn McDonald.
McDonald stated that the bricks in the downtown area are settling and causing tripping hazards. He stated that the City has been involved in 3 to 4 lawsuits over the last 10 years. Maintenance to the brick areas in the past has required the bricks to be removed in order to add a new sand base to bring the level of the bricks up. McDonald is recommending removing the bricks and replacing them with a colored stamped concrete. Miller cautioned McDonald on the use of an experienced contractor based on his experience with Jackson’s sidewalks and the noticeable color variations.
McDonald stated that Manistee had successfully used stamped concrete in its downtown and stated that the same contractor, Carr Creek, would be used in Ludington. The cost of the concrete is $8/sq.ft. and would be paid for through the City’s sidewalk budget. McDonald stated that the worst area would be replaced first, including in front of the Stearns Motor Inn and Coles Antiques.
So since then about 17% ($10,000) of the beleaguered City of Ludington Sidewalk Funds have automatically went to replacing bricks in the downtown area with stamped concrete since then, as can be noted in the City's Capital Fund (2010-2012). This money is further supplemented by the Downtown Development Authority, whose 2008 Amended TIF says on page 21:
This $500,000 is spread over ten years, meaning that $50,000 is to be spent on average per year on the above projects. This could allow them to do quite a bit of redesigning and replacement over that period, which it seems they have taken to heart. It seems rather odd to me that we can spend about the same amount on replacing bricks with concrete in the downtown area, than we do on replacement, repair and installation of sidewalks in the rest of town. Particularly, when there are so many areas near schools without adequate footpaths alongside the roads in Ludington.
But this is how the City of Ludington works. How do you feel about the situation?
I know one thing, the (City of Ludington), COL, solicited the public to donate funds toward each brick placed in this Plaza, and it worked, many, including my own family, donated generously to getting bricks placed with their own names on them, so the pledges went generously all around. NOW, they want to remove those bricks, cause they weren't placed/installed right? WTH? Is this in keeping with ethics and law? I just ask? Should this alone now be considered fraud by the COL? If not then why NOT? The original contractor has some fessing up to do, and I aint the only one that should be asking either, or should I? This is close to some members like Snide, and I ask again, is this right? Thanks.
I'm with you on this one. Ludington citizens should be outraged about replacing these bricks instead of installing sidewalks near schools. How large will the lawsuit be when some children are hit by a car because they have to walk in the street to get to school. Sidewalks near schools should be a priority and I don't understand why parents and the schools aren't raising hell about this. My family also purchased bricks. That was money down the tubes.
It is likely that selling bricks on the beach is also how they are going to try and help fund the City's portion of the $750,000 West Ludington Avenue Project. But even if you don't buy posterity on a brick, you will pay for it if you pay taxes to the City of Ludington.
Ludington got their Safe Routes to School funding and used it up by having kids get transported by car to centralized areas, and then walking to school along predetermined routes that could avoid the shortcomings of the current sidewalk system.
Unsafe routes to school are the norm in Ludington, but the City sidewalk funds either stagnate or reduce each year, and the price of sidewalks increase, even without considering the monopoly Carr Creek enjoys in municipal sidewalk installation and repair. You'll notice they were to be used exclusively back in 2006 for replacing surfaces, and yet George West, LEO and court officer, brought forth the lack of any licensing of that company just last year and the City actually enforcing Carr Creek to do all projects in Ludington, even when this was brought to their attention.
Pave it with concrete and spend what's left over on lifeguards for a few seasons.
To me, and many other locals, this whole idea of closing the main artery street to the downtown shops was wrong from the get-go, James Street Plaza, what a joke. And there are some like Kaye Holman on city council that are still patting themselves on the back for this brainstorm and grant project; a project that included a $50K gazebo, now taken out to pasture on Lincoln Lake where no one uses it anymore, a set of $40K bathrooms, M&W, open in the summer months only, and closed the rest of the year to locals, a couple of $800 picnic tables and benches, then the famous Big Ben Clock, one that keeps time when it wants to, also costing about $50K, needing regular maintenance that is expensive too. All this my friends, for what, for the tourists again. You can still get a BBQ sandwich in the summer months, but the other deli-restaurant died, so did an insurance co., and several others over the years. I say abandon the whole eyesore, move what's there to waterfront park, and let the paving of N. James St. open the main avenue back up to the merchants down there. You can have that farmers market a few hours on Friday afternoons elsewhere too, like waterfront park too, plenty of room.
There's a fat chance of North James being re-opened in the near future. The City's DDA sinks tens of thousands into this money pit each year in some experiment to see what works out best.
Yet these are among the same people who want to spend $2.5 million to reconstruct the Washington Avenue Bridge, when that venue may be better served by blocking the avenue to motor traffic and converting that area to a plaza and park area.
Looks as if the Downtown committee has decided to make what it's doing on North James public finally. They are creating a green space. After all the money spent on clocks, bricks, stamped concrete, etc. in this area, they are going back to the old standby, dirt and grass.
I have searched all the public meetings held by the City, the Planning Commission, and the DDA and have seen nothing about this conversion. It looks as if the City of Ludington and its DDA are making decisions at the committee level and not bothering with telling the public what they want to do with public areas and thoroughfares.
I work adjacent to this area and have talked to a business owner there ,who told me he wasn't even asked what he thought. I then asked a city council member about it and he told me(god's honest truth) that a certain bank employee(NWbank) tripped fell in the plaza and broke their collarbone during the New Years bash. Since alcohol was involved they have not sued(yet anyway). But the City didn't want to be open to future lawsuits over future incidents. I ask who will maintain the grass area. and why hasn't it been planted yet?..... as high foot traffic will be on us soon. and why not go after the contactor that provided the initial faulty brick laying...?
And who made the decision to go back to nature, one of our City Attorneys? Or one of the City subcommittees, who don't have the power to do so? You're right Snide, they really need to get this planted soon if they don't want it to be a total disaster this summer, and they will have to care for it and expect it to be trampled pretty well during the summer
What's next horse-hitching posts in the plaza?
Good points as usual Snide, and worth of serious inquiry. I would assume they will have the same landscape contractor they also have a no-bid contract with, that of Schmock's. And to think, the City has spent 10's of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lawn maintenance equipment that mostly sits idle, while the Schmock business does most of the work now, and at three year intervals before renewing. Maybe their worthy contractor of past for bricklaying is now defunct, out of business. Wouldn't surprise me either. Either way, concrete, competent brickpavers, or some more permanent surface should be the way to go. Or are people supposed to jump and move every time lawn mowers enter the area to mow? With lawn shavings spilled into the doorways of businesses and sidewalks? Shameful at best these ideas.