Council OKs purchase of two Main St. properties

Photo by Deb Gau Members of the Marshall City Council were sworn into office Tuesday evening. From left to right, council member James Lozinski, Mayor Bob Byrnes, and council members Glenn Bayerkohler and Steven Meister were elected in November.

MARSHALL — The Marshall City Council had a pretty light agenda for its first meeting of the year, but council members still got some discussion in, regarding a motion to buy a pair of properties along Main Street.

The council went into closed session during part of its meeting Tuesday night for discussion related to purchasing real estate on block 11 of Marshall’s downtown. Block 11 is the block between East College Drive and North 1st Street, across from Memorial Park. Over the years, the city has bought properties on that block and demolished vacant buildings, with the intent to make it easier to redevelop the properties.

After reconvening the council meeting in open session, Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson said the council would need to act on whether to purchase two properties, at 100 Main Street and the current Car Toyz property at 102 Main Street.

Council member Glenn Bayerkohler said he had reservations about the proposed purchases. For one, he wasn’t in favor of the city being the one to buy the properties.

“I’d prefer a private developer come in and develop it,” he said. The city would also lose tax revenue if it tore down the buildings, he said.

Bayerkohler said he was also concerned about the asking price of the properties. In the case of 100 Main Street, he said the seller was asking for a sale price over 40 percent higher than the property’s assessed value.

Council member James Lozinski said the purchases were part of a bigger plan for the city. The end goal was to sell property on the block to a private developer, he said.

Council members voted 6-1 in favor of buying the properties. Bayerkohler cast the vote against.

The money spent city’s purchase of the block 11 properties will be reimbursed through pooled Tax Increment Financing funds. Earlier at Tuesday’s meeting, council members voted 6-1 to approve a resolution authorizing the use of TIF funds for that purpose, if the city bought the properties. Bayerkohler cast the vote against.

• A few items of business at Tuesday’s meeting were related to the start of new terms of office for three council seats and Marshall Mayor. Mayor Bob Byrnes and council members Lozinski, Bayerkohler, and Steven Meister were officially sworn in to their positions. Lozinski and Meister are new to the council this year after being elected in Marshall’s council Ward 1 and Ward 3, respectively.

Council member David Sturrock was unanimously elected city council president pro tem. If Mayor Byrnes is absent or unable to perform his duties, Sturrock will serve in his absence.

The council also approved the mayor’s appointment of council members to boards and commissions. City council members serve as liaisons on a variety of community boards like the Airport Commission, Library Board, Economic Development Authority and Public Housing Commission. Council members also make up five city council committees, including the Legislative and Ordinance Committee, Ways and Means Committee, Public Improvement and Transportation Committee and the Equipment Review and Personnel Committees.

• Council members approved a change to city ordinances that would make more Marshall residents eligible to serve on city boards and commissions. City Administrator Nicholas Johnson said the current ordinances did not allow any city employees to be appointed to a board or commission. However, this technically prevented people with very limited employment by the city — for example, election judges, community band members or volunteer firefighters — from serving on boards or commissions.

Johnson said a proposed amendment to the ordinances would specify that appointed board and commission members can’t be full-time, three-quarter time, or part-time employees of the city, as defined by the city’s personnel policy manual.

Meister asked if there wasn’t some way to re-word the new ordinance.

“It’s almost more difficult to understand than the original,” Meister said. Johnson’s explanation was more clear than the proposed ordinance, he said.

Johnson said the wording would not change the amendment’s meaning. Bayerkohler said the city will also provide more complete information on eligibility when it advertises for board and commission members.

• Council members said they’re hearing concerns from members of the public related to snow removal in Marshall. Council member Craig Schafer said he’s gotten comments about how inconsistently snow is cleared off residential sidewalks. The snow is a hazardous obstacle for people who use wheelchairs and scooters to get around, he said.

Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson said snow removal ordinances are enforced after the city receives complaints.

“What we need is addresses, generally,” Olson said.

Council member John DeCramer said some frequent offenders for not shoveling sidewalks are vacant homes. Council members asked if there was any way city employees could automatically check on snow removal for vacant properties, in the interest of public safety.

Olson said if he could review a list of proposed addresses to check on, he could discuss it with city staff.

Council member Lozinski said he has also been approached by people confused by the 48-hour tow tags the city put on their vehicles.

Olson said people with questions about city ordinances on parking and snow removal can read the ordinances on the city website, He said there are different types of snow and parking restrictions in Marshall, with different penalties. The most severe parking penalties are issued when the city has declared a snow emergency. Olson said some of the vehicles that get flagged are ones that remain on the street after they’ve already been plowed around.