Ludington's West End Project Get's Cool Reception at Public Hearing

The March 10, 2014 Ludington City Council Meeting had with in it a public hearing on the West End Project.  The local media had the obligatory notice that such a hearing entails, but little else, the City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) didn't even bother with a diagram of the plan this year, the Mason County Press came out with some diagrams-- after the public hearing.  The MCP article also featured the concerns of three of the four people who spoke critically of the project, and left out any mention of the fourth, who brought out the best points to the table and did the majority of the speaking.  The same thing happened at the COLDNews, whose article said almost the exact same thing.  No bias in our local coverage of the news, is there?  The actual words of all four speakers are featured below, along with the recording of that hearing; you can choose your own bias.

 

 

 

Last year, it was learned that Ludington City Manager fudged some facts in trying to defraud the DNR Trust Fund.  Last year they did make the toilets at the Stearn's northern concession stand handicapped compliant for about $100,000, so he doesn't have to lie about that anymore.  Yet, the DNR Trust Fund did deny them once again last year, so maybe they are paying attention to the public opinion about their indifference or hostility to the project.  The public hearing begins at (11:00 in) just after John Shay gives a summary of it that mirrors the news release.

 

 

Don Miller:  "804 W. Ludington, down where all the action is.  I'm concerned about the parking.  During the summertime the park is full and people are parked on the side streets for parking.  And we're taking away a lot of parking.  Also, the exit out of G Park is... there is one there, but it is a narrower road.  I'd like to see that stay as wide as it is.  I guess that's my main concern.".

 

Deb Del Zoppo:  "I too am worried about the lack of parking.  I'm worried about the expense, $130,000 you're looking at the city having to spend on this.  It reminds me very much of that digital sign that's out near the hospital, that I think was a total waste of money also.  Also, I'm concerned that if this does pass, or this does go forward, that many of these structures wouldn't last any significant amount of time, and they would be of some vertical height that would block the view of the lake that you actually get as you pull out near the courthouse and look to the west."

 

Tom Rotta:  "The west end project was envisioned back in 2004 as a multiphase project scheduled to cost a little over two million dollars.  In its tenth anniversary year, there is still a lot of ignorance about the project among the people of this city, even among those that want to know about it and are thwarted from doing so by the City. 

The magnitude of the costs involved, which would likely crest the $3,000,000 mark with the advent of ten years of inflation and adjustments factored in, is very significant.  The city has raided the state DNR trust fund repeatedly over the last few years to add amenities and expand their facilities at the city marina, so that the DNR's financial involvement in this venture is dubious at best, as witnessed by their refusal over the years to fund any of this project. 

So if this ambitious project gets started, the local citizens will be expected to foot around a couple million or more of the overall bill to achieve the desired results.  And what are the desired results?  Well, I did an informal, random, unscientific poll last year before and after the city conducted that years public hearing, and no one I polled could tell me very much about it.  More than half didn't even know what the "west end project" for Ludington was.  The City and its newspaper haven't done anything to further educate the public since.

That's pretty telling for a ten year old plan that's meant to affect one of the area's biggest tourist attractions and serves as a hangout for our own citizens.  For the third year in a row, I ask this council, "Why are you keeping this so secret?  If it's so good and worth over two million of our dollars, let us in on it?"  Could it be that it just doesn't test well with the local community?

Let's not kid ourselves, this plan has very few inputs from local citizens on it.  The blueprints for it were made by an outside firm, many of the fingerprints on those blueprints were put on there by Tom Coleman, John Shay, Heather Tykoski, and other people with good, bad, or ugly intentions that have moved here from downstate, and have decided that the west end of Ludington Avenue as it is now is not a desirable thing for them.  That is a debatable issue, but it is also an issue that should be decided by the people that would have to pay for the project and would have to live with the results of that project, many for the rest of their lives.  And this is precisely what the Ludington City Charter says should happen.

Section 14.3 says:  "The Council shall not... divert to other public use any public park grounds without first securing the approval of a majority of the electors of the City voting thereon in any election."

The plan entails using over two million dollars in diverting portions of our most treasured park to other public uses, and minimally should have a review by the people at the voting booth to show that there is a public demand for the changes once they find out the extent of the changes and the cost for those changes. 

This project has been around for 10 years and in that time, the city has not put it in front of the financiers and the owners of the property (aka the people) to be affected for an up or down vote, in accordance with the laws of Ludington.  This is the elitism that is infused in our city leadership, that they are somehow above the laws that the people enact in their charter, and I will petition directly to the state DNR to demand that they keep denying these unpopular requests for state aid until the city clerk puts it on the local ballot.  Seriously, we have up to four elections each and every year, is it that difficult to add approval for this project to the ballot and actually get this full plan and estimated costs-- whatever it is-- out in the open?

Lastly, I sincerely believe that the vast majority of the so-called improvements would be detrimental to the overall character of Stearn's Park, and cost the city even more than they figure in the future for its maintenance.  I believe that the safety of pedestrians in the proposed area has been overlooked.  I believe the shoreline's natural beauty between Ludington Avenue and the lighthouse will necessarily be compromised by efforts to protect the sidewalk that parallels it.  

I believe the natural windbreak the sand dune provides for the prevailing southwest winds will be lost along with a lot of sand, I believe that there are many more pressing problems in Ludington that need to be addressed for the good of all with our limited amount of local funds, such as sidewalks in school zones and basic street repairs, too long in neglect.  I believe that using a transient handicap walkway donated to the City in 2012 as part of the funding for a 2015 project is very unethical.  Please, take this to heart, councilors.  Thank you." 

 

 

 

Penny Miller (Also of 804 W Ludington):  "Hello.  First of all I want to compliment all of you for all the work and energy that you put in all the time.  But I do want to say that I am concerned, and I think it's about that lavender area especially... that is just before you get to the very end.  I'm concerned about the traffic as my husband said, and I'm also concerned about the parking, and I imagine a lot of you have found out as you go to the west end of Ludington Avenue, all the cars that are parked there.  Not only in the summer when they use it as a parking space, but (also) in the winter when people want to look at the beautiful lake and all that sort of thing.  I don't mind the handicapped walkway, but I just hope that you don't go overboard on it.  It's part of the view, and the parking, and the traffic patterns we have there."

 

The actual councilor discussion doesn't take place until about the 57:00 mark.  Waste-of-money Hospital electronic signmaker and City Councilor Nick Tykoski leads the discussion as head of the appropriate committee.  City Manager John Shay tries to explain away the deficiencies pointed out by three of the four public commenters, and explains that the costs of this multi-million dollar project is going to be paid for by selling paver stones with people's names on them, and similar means.  He doesn't mention increased taxes and fees and plenty of prayers for more grants.

Councilor Kathy Winczewski asks him about the area this grant was to be for, follows up with a question about the other phases, to which Shay replies (1:02:22 in) "There are probably actually seven or eight phases, and the phase numbers were not written in stone.  It was depending on what type of funding we get through grants and donations... If this phase goes through, we would take a look and see what's the next phase to do."

Councilor Wanda Marrison then has some interesting banter between her and Shay concerning the proper placement of the walkway.  She wonders if the walkway might be moved back to accommodate those who wish to oversee their kids playing in the playground, while still being able to look upon the shoreline.  Her idea is a better idea, but the way they reconfigure the dune doesn't appear to allow that. 

 

It is voted unanimously to send in this grant application for $300,000, even though there was no public support for it at the hearing, still no transparency as to what the eight phases of projects are exactly, even though we have spent a lot of tax money on architects/engineers to draft them.  We even have our local paper saying that there has been two public hearings this year in the last paragraph of this article, even though there wasn't any public hearing on February 18, 2014 or any other day other than March 10. 

 

Please help the cause in saving Stearn's Park by contacting the Michigan DNR Trust Fund with your concerns.  And by all means let Councilor Gary Castonia know that he and his six fellow councilors are not the ultimate authority about what happens in Ludington.  Its citizens are.

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Nice work X. I am pleased that you reminded the Council that they have neglected to provide the proper conditions, namely sidewalks, for children to walk to school in safety for at least the last umpteen years while promoting an  expensive, tax eating, totally unnecessary renovation to Ludingtons beach area for the last 10 years. There's really not much anyone can add to the irresponsible actions and inaction of the City Council. Also, I can now put The Mason County Press in the same trash pile in which the Ludington Daily News resides. The only speaker at the meeting who did their homework and again voiced the truth about what is going on at City Hall was silenced, in print, by the Mason County Press. I expect it from the LDN but I thought Alway was above being a petty journalist who is more concerned with being a mouthpiece for local Government than a genuine reporter. I'll bet that the businesses and Government entities approached Alway and threatened to withhold advertising if he reports the truth about what's going on. Sorry Alway but the "respect-o meter's" pointer is showing a big goose egg when your name is connected to it.

How stupid can the City of Ludington be? They plan on destroying a beach by adding cement to it. As I said before that in order to build this sidewalk it will be necessary to remove a large portion of the dunes. The walkway will need to be over sized to accommodate vehicles such as ambulances in case of an emergency. Then the walkway will have to be protected with a break-wall so it does not wash away. The City is going to lose a beach in order to please a few officials. I hope the citizens of Ludington will finally get out of their easy chairs and let the Council know how they feel. I definitely will be contacting the DNR,

Aquaman

You were so right about down staters invading the area and shoving their crappy ideas down everyone's throats. I bet all of them are Democrat liberals.

Thanks, Willy, be sure to tell others about the effort.  If these guys keep going back to the DNR they just might succeed one of these days in starting us down the slippery slope of funding millions of more improvements that the people have no say in.  If you look in this link, you can get some of the E-mail addresses of individuals at the MI DNR who have some say in the matter of the grant.

At a cost, I have gotten the previous public hearings that dealt with this project, and a couple of the references John Shay mentioned in his narrative and attributed to public input were never part of any minutes.  One would think that he's trying to show that they have taken all of the well-founded points brought up by Councilor Marrison and the three other citizens under advisement previously, when there is no evidence to speak of as part of the public record. 

And as regards the sidewalk issue, nearly $500,000 would likely be able to make a serious dent in the sidewalk problem for school zones.  We now have a teacher on the council and another teacher as the mayor and they're just fine with putting a half-million dollar sidewalk in down at the beach, when they can look out their classroom window and see streets without sidewalks and other hazards that have no business being near our schools. 

No matter what the ideas, the DNR would Never let a private citizen knock down a sand dune to achieve some cement walkway, but as we witness again, it's okay for the government!! I think the Stearns local attorney must have some input from them in Kentucky, who is he? I think Wanda made some significant input, and was trying her best to offset the vote that night, but she failed. She believed the perjur Shay, whom lied over and over to achieve the goal. At this late date, the only way to get the DNR's attention, will be to flood their emails and phones with objections. We also did that last year though, in attempts to have the COL Municipal marina oust the charter boats per their own state charter, and were promised they would. Then they voted to allow them anyhow at the critical meeting later, betraying their own chairman's words, and nullifying any belief that they are trustworthy.

One could hope that after the MI DNR did that unconscionable act of not living up to their leader's (Ron Olson) written declaration last year regarding charter boats at the City Marina, that they will be more receptive to the public's will in this endeavor.  After all, the DNR doesn't appear as of yet to benefit directly from the West End Project's constructions like it did in the marina issue (via its Waterways Commission).

Those jug heads can easily fill the charterboat spaces, and not compromise a darn thing, if they chose to, over the COL's objections. And that my friends, is in the State charter that they agreed to so long ago, like 1980! But, that isn't going to happen! These guys afterall, are blood brothers, by having them all be civil servants. You know, the guys that are supposed to serve the public's needs, over their own. Does anyone see that happening now? And just for the record, can anyone at city hall tell us exactly what the total west end project is going to cost us taxpayers in the very final phases? I'll just bet the number will be $5-7Million or more! And after all the window dressing of grants, Ludington will have to pay at least 40% of it, and that's called progress for the town? That could add up to be over $2-3 Million that could be spent on fixing infrastructure, and much more!

I just wish locals would wake up and revolt against these abusive wastes of our hard earned monies. Locals aren't going to see anything positive from this west end project at all! Fact of the matter is, we are again wasting more monies and time than ever before to make the tourists happy, while we stand by and watch our roads, sewers, and water utilities go under the boardwalk of plain good maintenance and good conditions. That afterall, is supposed to be the main purpose of local government to start with. And look where they are always going, the opposite way! If things were not so warped, we'd be recalling some council members, and firing the CM and CA to get the mess cleaned up. Are we so absorbed with ourselves and family to care and act anymore?

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