2018-04-07 / News

Periodic Closures of Market Street Expected in April for Construction

By Jacob A. Ball

A crane being used to complete construction of a new bed and breakfast owned by Robert Benser and Andrew Doud will require the periodic closure of Market Street in April. The crane’s permit, issued Wednesday, March 14, allows it to remain on site from Monday, March 26, to Thursday, April 26. A street cut is also needed to connect the new building to utilities, including electric, and this closed the street for an entire week Monday, March 19, to Friday, March 23.

While in use, the crane outriggers and counterweights will stretch across the street, posing a safety risk to passing traffic. City Street Administrator Dennis Dombroski said someone will need to monitor traffic during these times to ensure public safety, and pedestrians will be directed around the construction. Depending on how much the crane overhangs the street, traffic might wait to pass by, or be sent on a detour around the construction. He added that construction zone signage should be put up to inform approaching traffic of the closure.

The crane is being used to place the walls and roof of the future Mackinac House Bed and Breakfast, which must be completed before the tourist season begins in May. Mr. Doud said the crew will work weekends. Completing the exterior will allow the crew to continue construction inside during the summer, but delays could mean the project might sit unfinished until the fall.

Access to city utilities must be expanded to accommodate the increased occupancy of the lot, which was previously a singlefamily residence. The hookup requires cutting through the street and sidewalk, as the closest available access point is across the street at the rear of the Murray Hotel. The street cut already received council’s approval Wednesday, January 17, and the application has been amended to include cutting the sidewalk, as well. The original application stated that the project would be done in two parts to maintain a lane for traffic, but with the summer fast approaching, council decided the entire street cut should be performed at once. While the actual street cutting and installation of new utility lines will only take one day, the street must be closed for a week so a system of tubes and pads can be laid down to thaw the earth beneath, as the equipment can thaw about one foot each day. During this time, the street would be impassable unless the cut was performed in halves, but while council appreciated this concept, the additional time required was of greater concern.

The need to keep the street open for emergency vehicles was of concern, but during the winter the fire truck would not go that way anyway, owing to ice on Fort Hill and Turkey Hill. Mr. Doud added that if an emergency vehi- cle needed to travel this direction to respond to an urgent situation, he would be willing to pay for replacing the resulting damaged tubes and padding on the street. There is no assurance that the other lane would actually be usable, because the crane, which will be on site at the time, might pose a danger to passing traffic, anyway. Mr. Dombroski suggested that it would be logical to close the street and complete the cut as quickly as possible, which the council approved.

The council also has permitted the removal of three lilac trees that are in the way of backfilling for the new building, but they must be replaced once construction is complete. Mr. Doud said he is willing to transplant the trees to a new location. The council asked that he spend some time looking for new homes for the trees, although Councilor Kay Hoppenrath, the former property owner, noted that one of the trees has been pruned badly, and might not be recoverable.

Other Business

The city sent a letter in support of the H-2B visa program to Michigan’s congressional delegation. Councilor Anneke Myers said she would help to write the letter to voice the city’s support for additional visas. The letter was in support of an effort to include more of the seasonal worker visas into a comprehensive bill that is being negotiated by the U.S. Congress. The H-2B visas are used by Mackinac Island businesses to fill seasonal positions that are otherwise difficult to staff. Mrs. Myers said unless legislation is passed, many of the businesses on the Island will not be able to get their needed workers. Congressman Jack Bergman has drafted language to be included in the bill that would expand the program, and Mrs. Myers hopes the city’s letter will encourage more of the state’s representatives to support this measure.

Changes in policy were made to the visa program this year owing to a large increase in the number of petitions submitted to the Department of Labor for foreign workers. In the past, the applications were granted on a first-come, first-served basis, but this year a lottery system was used to award the visas. This means that, regardless of when their petitions were submitted, each business has the same likelihood to receive the workers they requested. Workers returning to Mackinac Island have been exempt in previous years, but this condition was not renewed in 2017, or so far in 2018. Workers who were granted visas during the previous season, however, do not count against the cap because they were counted during the first six-month cycle of H-2B petitions.

The city has been completing its annual budget. A surplus of $10,978 exists for the 2017 fiscal year. The Mackinac Island Finance Committee recommended that this money be appropriated to a fund set aside for technology upgrades, including computer tablets to replace the large packets printed out before each council meeting. At a meeting earlier this year, Ms. Wightman provided a quote for Apple iPads, but the committee has directed her to look into more affordable devices. The quote provided prices for several quantities, which ranged from a tablet for each councilor, six total, to also providing one for the clerk, mayor, city attorney, and mayor’s assistant, for 10 total tablets. If purchased, paper agendas would still be printed out for the public, and other documents are available through the city clerk’s office.

This technology fund was created to eventually pay for upgrades following the review of a study commissioned by the city. The city received the completed study from Empiric Solutions of Petoskey Monday, March 12, and it is currently being reviewed by a work group created by the city council. No decisions have been made at this time, but the finance committee decided that $7,000 would be added to the funds available for these technology upgrades.

The Mackinac Island Fire and Police Departments received approval for several new pieces of equipment to be paid for using the remaining funds in each department’s budget. Police will receive three ballistic vests, three semiautomatic rifles, three patrol bicycles, a new computer for the chief’s desk, and a secure network copier required for transmitting certain legal documents. The total cost of these expenditures is almost $12,000, and several other small items, such as ammunition and bike fenders, are also to be purchased. New Police Chief Lawrence Horn, who began his duties Thursday, March 1, requested these items as he assesses the department’s needs. The Fire Department will purchase new masks and helmets, which will total $3,901.

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