TAWAS CITY – Tawas City Council members addressed a number of topics at their Aug. 5 meeting, including the Fourth of July fireworks display.
The show was launched from a barge in Lake Huron, between East Tawas and Tawas City, by Wolverine Fireworks Display of Kawkawlin.
Tawas City contributed $1,500 to the show, but the Tawas Area Chamber of Commerce has since noted that Wolverine will not be charging for either the 2019 or 2020 displays in the community.
“As you know, this year’s fireworks show experienced major technical problems,” stated Penny Payea, managing director of the chamber, in a letter to Tawas City Manager Annge Horning.
“I was in communication with our pyrotechnic throughout the day and during the show and, to the best of his ability, he worked hard to try to remedy issues he encountered. Unfortunately, however, these technical issues did result in a significantly interrupted fireworks display,” Payea wrote.
She shared a copy of a letter from Wolverine Fireworks President James Lambert – that was also printed in the July 10 edition of this publication – in which he apologizes to the community for the inconvenience.
“Upon thorough review of the situation we narrowed the cause of the problem down to lack of experience of the pyrotechnic crew using a complicated firing system,” he stated in part.
“As a testament to our mission to achieve perfection, we are taking steps to ensure that this will never happen again,” Lambert vowed.
He referred to the incident as a “serious oversight,” adding that Wolverine will not be charging for the 2019 display, and will also provide the Tawas community with a free fireworks show in 2020.
In her letter, Payea states that many sponsors supported the chamber with financial contributions toward the 2019 fireworks fund. “With the cost of this year’s interrupted display now waived by Wolverine, we are left to identify what to do with those funds already provided.”
Horning said the council could ask that the money be returned to the city, in part or in whole, or they could allow the chamber to retain it for future fireworks shows.
Mayor Ken Cook questioned the portion of the letter in which Payea writes: “All funds retained for the 2019 and 2020 fireworks will go into an account to enhance the show for 2020 and ensure the quality of future shows.”
“So, is it for one year we’re going to have a bigger show, and then go back to the shows that we can afford?” Cook asked.
A similar concern was shared by Councilwoman Jackie Masich. If an elaborate show is put on in 2020, she said she wonders if more money will then be requested to maintain that same type of display in the future.
Councilman Jon Studley, initially, said his thought would be to let the chamber keep the $1,500 contribution from Tawas City.
“If they use it for the 2020 show, let them use it,” he said.
“I think we’ve had a few years where we’ve not had, in my opinion, a successful fireworks show. And I know there was a lot of talk about people not coming back,” he continued.
Considering tourism and other factors, Studley said he thinks that if organizers want to make the 2020 show bigger and regain people’s confidence, then maybe this is something worth exploring.
“For me, if I didn’t live here, something would have to be kind of big that next year to get me recommitted to coming back every year,” he added.
Despite the difference in opinions, officials ultimately cast a unanimous vote to request that the $1,500 contribution for this year be refunded to Tawas City.
In other action, the council accepted three bids for the purchase of a new heavy duty truck to be used by Department of Public Works (DPW) staff. The bids are summarized as follows:
Zubek Motor Sales, a 2019 Dodge Ram 3500, $34,300; Dean Arbour Ford of Tawas City, a 2019 Ford F-250, $32,307; and Richardson, for the same vehicle as presented by Dean Arbour, $31,628.
“The approved budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year includes $40,490 for the purchase of a new pickup truck and plow for the DPW,” Horning noted.
“With our fiscal policy, local bidders – local being in the City of Tawas City and/or Iosco County – have an ability to reduce their bid to match the lowest bid, if they’re within five percent of the City of Tawas City or within 2.5 percent for Iosco County,” she explained.
“Zubek’s is more than 2.5 percent higher than Richardson, so we did not give them that option. But we did ask Dean Arbour if they’d be willing to reduce their bid and they did; they matched the Richardson one,” she continued.
Therefore, officials voted 7-0 to award the alternative bid – in the amount of $31,628 – for the purchase of the truck to Dean Arbour.
In separate matters, Horning said she recently received a call from a resident who was upset about downed trees across the Tawas River. “We’ve been working with the property owners, trying to give them resources to get those taken care of.”
Horning said she did some research – which she also confirmed with the Department of Environmental Quality – and she reported that the trees along the bank of the river are the responsibility of the individual property owners.
“And according to state law, all the property owners who front the river, they own all of the bottomlands to the center of the river. They don’t own the water, they don’t own the fish; but everything else is their responsibility,” she added.
Horning said she also informed the resident who called her that she can’t spend public funds on private property. “And he was a little upset about all the money we’re spending in the parks, but those are public. This is all private property; we don’t own the river – that’s regulated by the state of Michigan.”
Horning said she wanted to make the council aware of this, should they hear similar concerns from others, and she reiterated that staff has been trying to get resources to the property owners who want the trees taken care of.
In other business, the council also addressed the following:
• Were advised that Tari Hackborn has shared her first concept sketch of a performing arts center, which officials have been discussing as a possible addition to Tawas City Shoreline Park. Also working on design options for consideration is architect Benjamin Glowiak, and Horning said the renderings will be showed to planning commission members for their viewing purposes, as well.
• Voted at the request of Studley to obtain a quote from Consumers Energy to replace all of the city’s high pressure sodium street lights that have not yet been converted to LED. While Horning pointed out that this would be very expensive, Studley said he would like to know exactly what the city is looking at, in terms of cost.
• Learned that Tawas Police Authority (TPA) Chief Mark Ferguson, during the Aug. 5 TPA Board meeting, said the new officer position has been re-posted.
“The applicant that we had entered into the conditional offer of employment with was not able to satisfy all of the required conditions,” he stated in his report to the board, in reference to an applicant who was expected to begin work with the TPA at the end of July.
• Were asked by Horning to start thinking of what should be done with the foot bridge near the former Tawas Area Middle School, which she said is in bad shape and has recently been blocked off by the DPW.