TAWAS CITY – An update on the pier rehabilitation project at Tawas City Shoreline Park was provided by City Manager Annge Horning, during the May 6 council meeting.
She shared that on April 23, Department of Public Works employees Gus Oliver and Joel Walton; planning commission member Butch Short; Brian Hinrichs of Foth Infrastructure & Environment; and Nichole Palumbo from the Boathouse Beer Co. & Boozery attended the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) board meeting in Lansing.
They met with representatives from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to introduce the pier project and request the funding.
“The board voted after the presentation and unanimously approved funding our project. This is great news for us and we’ll move forward with finalizing the documents to go out for bid this summer,” Horning advised.
“About a half hour before the meeting started, I received a message from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that Tawas City was not chosen for their Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG), which is the other grant we applied for to use toward the L-shaped addition before MEDC committed to that portion of the project,” she continued.
“The timing of the notification of denial was perfect because the MSF board had some concerns about the other grant, and that notification eliminated any of those concerns,” Horning stated.
Following the meeting, however, she said Hinrichs told Oliver that he is going to follow up on the BIG grant to find out why the city didn’t receive it, and inquire if they could get a reduced portion that will help offset the city’s match to the MEDC grant.
In related business, a letter was submitted to the Tawas City Council by those from the Iosco Conservation District (ICD).
They advised that they have been contacted by some citizens with concerns about environmental consequences involving the pier renovation.
“We are hoping that there will be some sort of an environmental consideration conducted before this project moves forward,” the correspondence reads.
According to the ICD, two areas of citizen concern involve the natural cleansing of waters at Shoreline Park by water currents, waves and wind.
They state that one concern is the sporadic accumulation of high levels of the pathogen E.coli, resulting in beach closures.
“How would the proposed extensions affect the frequency, duration or severity of the contamination?” the group asked. “Perhaps the modification would reduce the natural cleansing making the E.coli problem worse.”
Another worry expressed by the ICD relates to the toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances which have been present in foam events on water bodies north of the city, which they state are reported to be progressing down Lake Huron toward Tawas City.
“If this contamination enters Tawas Bay, will it be prone to ‘capture’ around the solid fill dock area or will there be enough natural water and wind action to cleanse the area or keep it from collecting in the first place?” the letter goes on.
Those from ICD add that a separate environmental issue is the presence of invasive phragmites plants. They state that these plants are known to spread by root propagation and root fragments, as well as by seeds.
According to ICD, it could be spread inadvertently by disrupting the plants during construction, and perhaps this could be avoided through prudent practices during the project.
The ICD asked that the council consider these potential risks and, if warranted, enact any remedial changes and/or actions.
As recently reported in this publication, Tawas City has been awarded $3,589,949 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the pier enhancement work, which will expand and enhance the current shoreline pier.
According to a press release issued by the MEDC, the project will rehabilitate the dilapidated existing pier adjacent to downtown Tawas City, allowing for safer fishing and viewing.
The expansion of the pier will create 10 new docking sites for boaters and will also make any future pier development easier. The stabilization and extension of the pier will make this site a safe, public access point for the community and will transform the existing shoreline into an asset for residents and visitors.
The project will extend the pier to a safer width of 45 feet and roughly 300 feet in length into Lake Huron, according to MEDC.
It was also noted that the project has received local support of $452,611 in funding from the Tawas City general fund.
Horning gave further clarification on the financial portion of the endeavor, saying that MEDC is allowing the city to use what it has already spent on the condition assessment and preliminary engineering for the project, toward a match.
“The MEDC grant amount is $3,589,949, which includes $37,500 for the Certified Grant Administrator we were required to hire,” she explained. “The City’s match is $452,611, which includes what we’ve already paid to Foth for the condition assessment they began in July 2017 and some of the preliminary engineering work. Because we can use those additional figures, that brings the project total to $4,042,560.”
As previously reported, those from Foth Infrastructure & Environment have said that the existing pier measures 450 feet long and was constructed in multiple phases in the mid-1900s. With the last major work completed on the pier in the 1970s, the structure has fallen into disrepair and is in need of significant restoration.
According to information included with one of the grant applications, the pier in its current state is unsafe for use and portions of it have had to be blocked off to public use until repairs were made. Additionally, without the necessary upgrades, the city may have to close access to the blighted pier completely, which would displace fisher persons and others who utilize the pier for viewing Lake Huron.
In addition, the work was identified as a priority by community members, the council and the planning commission, following a questionnaire which was distributed to taxpayers in 2017.
Respondents were to rank several different projects in order of priority, with one being most important and 18 being least important. Both community members and those from the planning commission ranked rehabilitation of the pier at number one, while the council gave it a priority number of three.
In separate matters, officials also acted on the following:
• Held a public hearing on the proposed 2019-20 budget for all city funds, with the final document expected to be approved at the May 20 council meeting.
The only comment received during the hearing was from former council member Carl Steinhurst, who said he thinks officials are doing a wonderful job with the budget.
• Approved a request from American Legion Audie Johnson Post and Auxiliary Unit No. 211 of East Tawas to distribute poppies for donations throughout Tawas City on May 16-18. President Jan Johnson stated that all proceeds are used for Veterans Affairs and rehabilitation work, the welfare of veterans and their families and active-duty military and their families when a financial or medical necessity exists.
• Approved an updated memorandum of agreement with East Tawas, which allows Tawas City Assessor Rhonda Sells to work in the East Tawas office two days a week.
“With the current two-year agreement, which expires on July 1, 2019, East Tawas paid Tawas City $38,160 a year for this arrangement. The updated agreement has a 10 percent increase to $41,976 per year, which should cover the anticipated increases in salary and health insurance for the next two years,” Horning explained, adding that the East Tawas City Council has already approved extending the contract.