Commission discusses SmartZone progress

Joe Thiel, Innovation Marquette’s chief executive officer, and Leslie Hartman, Local Development Financial Authority’s interim chair, standing near the podium at far left, present on Innovation Marquette SmartZone’s Digital Economy Initiative to the City Commission. (Journal photo by Brennan White)

MARQUETTE –The main topic of discussion at Monday’s Marquette City Commission meeting was Innovation Marquette SmartZone’s Digital Economy Initiative.

The meeting was about the progress of Innovation Marquette’s SmartZone and questioned the funding that the city provides. Funding makes up approximately 20-22% of the business’ overall budget according to its Chief Executive Officer Joe Thiel.

During public comments, several entrepreneurs spoke on behalf of both Innovation Marquette and Thiel.

After a presentation, Thiel and the Local Development Financial Authority’s interim Chair Leslie Hartman answered questions from the commission. By far the most consistent issue was in regard to the data provided — Thiel provided a majority of his data from over a period of six months instead of an entire year.

Commissioner Jenn Hill was the first to bring up her concerns before being supported by Commissioner Sally Davis and Mayor Pro Tem Cody Mayer. The reason most often cited for needing these numbers was to “help us tell a story” Hill said.

The recent increase in the property tax rate was addressed by the commission, and was particularly relevant to in the case of Thiel’s presentation.

Issues of housing and job creation were also addressed.

The hope of the commission is that Innovation Marquette will not only bring in jobs to help aid unemployment, but also assist with the issue of housing. Thiel responded to the commission by citing the Make It Marquette initiative, which brings prospective workers from other regions into Marquette and assists them as they try to find a place in the area.

The commission inquired about homes for people who are already living in Marquette, and Thiel responded to the commission by reporting the potentially larger companies that have come close to selecting Marquette as a place for a larger scale operation.

These companies in particular would bring in a large amount of tax-paying citizens, whose money could be used by the city to help with housing.

They would also potentially bring in jobs that would not require four-year degrees and as Commissioner Evan Bonsall pointed out, there is a need for these jobs, as mining will not always be a viable option for employment in the area.

At the end of Innovation Marquette’s update and presentation, the commission once again restated the need for a full year’s numbers to which Thiel assured them he could get them soon, citing an upcoming meeting on Thursday regarding the topic.

Up next was the Public hearings concerning the conditional rezoning of land on the Forestville Basin Trail. The first roll call vote resulted in a pass of 6-1 with Mayor Jenna Smith being the only objector.

It was “not consistent with the community plan,” Smith said.

The mayor also mentioned concerns about the street system not being good enough for more homes.

The passing of this rezoning will see eight homes built on a private road that was set aside for conservation purposes. When asked about the case, Planning Commission Chair Joy Cardillo said it was “clearly not spot-zoning” and “subjective” in nature.

Commissioner Fred Stonehouse initiated the motion to conditionally rezone this Parcel 0510156.

The second rezoning of property concern the 500 block of Forestville Basin. However, since the land already has development on it the case was straightforward and ended quickly with a vote of 7-0.

In other agenda items, the promoters for Camp Cannabis asked for a special-event permit for their upcoming event in Tourist Park. The commission asked a few questions regarding safety and ultimately decided to delay the decision until the event is insured.

≤ The commission ruled in favor of purchusing a used fire truck. The 1999 Pierce Saber will not exceed $39,000 and should last five years at the minimum.

Stonehouse suggested the vehicle should be named after the mayor, as it is a tradition for new fire trucks to be named after the sitting mayor who was in office upon their purchase.

≤ Madeline Arquette was approved as a member of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee.

≤ Amy Manning was approved as a member of the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority.

≤ The consent agenda was quickly passed with a result of 7-0.

Brennan White can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is bwhite@miningjournal.net.


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