By Charles Sercombe
The City Council met on March 8 in a special meeting. Councilmembers Catrina Stackpoole and Shahab Ahmed were absent. The meeting ran for over two hours, which included a closed session.
In the spirit of Paczki Day and Mardi Gras, Councilmember Cathie Gordon wore a multi-colored headdress of some sort.
But despite the day’s festive mood, it was all business during this meeting. In a review of expenses, Councilmember Cathie Gordon questioned a $5,000 bill submitted from the city’s street repair contractor, CPI. The director of Public Works, Martin Ladd, explained the repair was for a broken waterline that was next to previous repairs done to the same line.
He said that because the city’s water system is so old, when a break occurs at one point, it’s not uncommon for breaks to occur on the same line but in different locations.
Gordon said that since there are so many repairs to city’s water line system, she wondered how close the city is to having a system that’s in “tip top shape.”
Ladd said “you couldn’t fathom” the cost of a new system. With 36 miles of water lines running under the city, Ladd said it would take “hundreds of millions of dollars” to bring it up to new.
He added that the water system was built during the 1920s and ’30s. He said city’s infrastructure “has outlived its life by decades.”
The subject of fixing potholes also came up. Ladd said he has to wait for warmer weather in order for patches to adhere to the street.
A discussion was held on a proposed budget for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) fund.
Jason Friedmann, the director of the city’s Community & Economic Development Department, said the total budget is $394,000. The budget’s appropriations include:
Two loans totaling $170,000 for housing development
A county housing rehabilitation program for $30,000
A $59,100 contribution for the purchase of an aerial ladder truck for the Fire Department
Some $53,000 for code enforcement
A fee of $34,400 for administration of the fund
The ongoing project to create a bikeway in Veterans Memorial Park for $42,770
Councilmember Gordon took issue with funding the bikeway project, saying the park and city have greater needs.
Friedmann pointed out that the bikeway project can be used to “leverage” other grants for further improvements to the park. He also noted that the original budget for the bike path was $800,000, which has since been scaled down to $250,000.
Still, Gordon called the bike path a “luxury” item.
Councilmember Tom Jankowski disagreed, saying the bike path is needed to connect Hamtramck to downtown and the Wayne State area where development “has really taken off.”
Mayor Karen Majewski said park improvements have to begin somewhere and in a “step-by-step” method.
“This bike path connects us to other communities. … It’s a new system,” Majewski said.
Gordon said it’s not that she has a “problem” with a bike path, it’s that the city is financially strapped and that there might be better uses for the money. She suggested the money could be used to renovate the baseball grandstand in Veterans Park, which recent research has shown that it may have been part of the historic Negro League.
In the vote to approve the budget, only Gordon opposed it.
The council then went into a closed session to discuss a settlement agreement between Hamtramck and Detroit over tax revenue collected from GM’s Poletown plant.
The council spent 45 minutes in closed session, and when it came out, all members voted to accept the settlement.
No details of the deal could be made public until after the proposal is reviewed by the Detroit City Council.
Hamtramck councilmembers unanimously agreed to release $2.6 million owed to Detroit for water and sewerage service. Hamtramck was holding back payment until the Poletown issue was settled.
The council added one condition to releasing the money, and that is it won’t be released until Detroit agrees to the Poletown deal.
And with business all done, it was time for everyone, or those inclined, to get back to celebrating Paczki Day.