Engineering expenditure approved
ISHPEMING — With funding in place, the proposed pavilion at Lake Bancroft Park is just months away from being a reality.
The Ishpeming City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $71,000 expenditure for design work on the structure and surrounding area.
The project was recommended in December for a $300,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. Those proceeds will be added to a $250,000 grant awarded to the Ishpeming Downtown Development Authority in 2015 by the Cliffs and Eagle Mine Marquette County Community Fund and a $50,000 pledge from the DDA, GEI Consultants project manager Mark Stoor said.
The project will make improvements to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, add a new picnic pavilion, as well as install landscaping and outdoor plaza areas. New signage, to identify the park and trailhead, will also be included, according to the trust fund project description.
“The new park improvements provide a unique opportunity to utilize both the natural resources within the city, including the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and Lake Bancroft, as well as easy access to the adjacent Cliffs Shaft Mining Museum and downtown Ishpeming,” the description states.
Several council members wanted assurances that the trust fund grant proceeds would be awarded before going forward with the design plan.
“What are the outside odds that this thing falls short, the governor doesn’t sign, the DNR doesn’t release the money?” Councilman Karl Lehmann asked Stoor. “In your experience, what risk are we taking?”
Stoor said to his knowledge, while funding has been delayed in years past, a recommendation from the trust fund board has never been rescinded.
“I don’t think it’s happened in the history that they have recommended and they’ve ended up having to withdraw their recommendation,” Stoor said.
Councilman Mike Tonkin, who also serves on the Lake Bancroft Area Development Committee, said while he was in full support of completing the project in 2018, he was concerned that rushing the design phase could lead to a generic result.
“If we are spending $600,000, that’s half the taxpayers’ money, that is something that we have to be aware of, and I want the maximum bang for our buck, of course,” Tonkin said. “I will put this out there, I don’t want to see a cookie cutter building put out there with the $600,000 because I look at it as, this should be a landmark built. Whether you make it look like one of the pyramids, or whatever it takes.”
City Manager Mark Slown agreed that the project could be an important asset to the city.
“It needs to be well thought-out and it needs be something that celebrates the mining heritage. I believe that these guys understand that,” Slown said. “Nothing is carved in stone at this point, other than we want to build it this year, and that is what really drove this to be on the agenda tonight. They have no money right now to work on that project without your permission.”
Lehmann said he felt strongly that the LBADC should have the final say on the design of the project.
“I would like that group to be the ones that makes the final recommendation,” Lehmann said. “I am willing to settle for whatever that group comes up with. I am sure it will be fine.”
Stoor said GEI intends to provide information to the LBADC at its next meeting on Jan. 30.
“We won’t progress too far prior to meeting with the committee to make sure we are all on the same page, (besides) preliminary setup work that we want to complete before going to the meeting,” Stoor said.
Stoor said starting the process early will enable the city to secure a contractor for the project once all the funding is in place.
“The basic reason for all of this is that if we waited until March to start that process, and by then you are not getting a good lead time in getting the contractors,” he said. “By starting now, or even at the end of January is buying us some time.”
Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.