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Tag Archive | "Mike Womack"

New basketball court at Riggle Park


New half court basketball court at Riggle Park. From City of Cedar Springs Facebook page.

If you haven’t been to Riggle Park on Beech Street recently, you’ve overlooked a hidden gem: a new half court basketball court put in by the City of Cedar Springs.

According to Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack, the new 30×50 court replaces the old 24×24 court that was removed when they put in the new dog park. 

“That old court was very broken up old concrete, and we also wanted to increase the size of the court so that it could be used for a half-court game instead of just shooting hoops,” explained Womack. “We also made sure to spend a little bit extra for the new backboard which is a higher quality material than the previous backboard.”

Womack said the new basketball court cost the City about $7,836. However, $6836 was from money that was left over from the dog park budget because the dog park was built entirely by volunteers, and the extra $1000 was taken out of fund balance.

“The City is working on a couple of big parks projects including pickle ball courts, walking paths, the natural playground, redeveloping play equipment at Riggle Park, safety improvements, new public bathrooms and either a new large play structure or a splashpad,” said Womack.

“Finding funding for these projects is always the hardest part but we’re also planning on tackling a new recreation plan for the City this year so that we can organize the future of the City’s parks system. A new recreation plan will be required for a DNR grant opportunity that should be available in April 2022; hence either a large play structure OR a splashpad, but the grant would only be enough money for one of those, not both,” he explained.

“The City Council and City staff are focused on making the City’s parks a place where our citizens want to spend time and we want the parks to have amenities that enhance the small-town feeling that we all love about Cedar Springs.”

Please feel free to contact the City with any thoughts, questions or concerns that you may have about existing parks or future park amenities.

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City investigates PFAS at lagoon and discharge sites


By Judy Reed

The City of Cedar Springs and EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy), are investigating why PFAS would be found at both the old lagoon site at the end of West Street, and the current wastewater discharge site south of Indian Lakes in Algoma Township.

According to Mike Womack, the Cedar Springs City Manager, the City of Cedar Springs undertook PFAS testing on its municipal water supply in 2017 and 2018 and testing found that the City’s water supply was “non-detect” for both PFOA and PFOS. “This testing helps City residents be sure that the City water that comes out of the tap in their homes has no PFOA or PFOS in the water,” he said. 

Subsequent to testing of the City’s municipal water supply, Womack said the City began working with EGLE (formerly known as MDEQ) to test the City’s current and former wastewater treatment locations for PFAS chemicals. Initial testing found that there were PFOA detections of between non-detection and 43 parts per trillion at those testing locations. At the time of that testing, all of those findings were below the 70 parts per trillion limitations imposed by both the Federal EPA and also the State MDEQ/EGLE. 

In August of 2020, the State of Michigan changed the permitted PFOA levels down to 8 parts per trillion, causing some of the City’s current and former wastewater treatment locations to potentially be in violation of the newly lowered limitations. Subsequent testing at some of those locations found their PFOA numbers to be reduced, including some reduced below the lowered State of Michigan limitations. 

The Lagoon site is the former location of the clean-water discharge from the City’s wastewater system. The Lagoon site was constructed in 1965 and was used to help clean and infiltrate wastewater before being released back into nature as clean water. The Lagoon system was removed from service in 1999 after all wastewater treatment was taken over by the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Womack said that the construction and operation of the Lagoon site, the monitoring and testing of the Lagoon site during operations, the closure of the Lagoon site and the monitoring and testing of the Lagoon site after closure has all been done in accordance with MDEQ/EGLE rules.

The “discharge site” is the current location that water from the City’s wastewater treatment plant is released back into nature after that water is cleaned, it is located approximately 1 mile south of the City. Womack said that the construction and opening of the wastewater treatment plant, the operations and testing of the wastewater treatment plant and the operations and testing of the wastewater plant’s discharge location have all been done in accordance with MDEQ/EGLE rules.

So why would PFAS chemicals be detected at these sites? “Both the Lagoon site and the discharge site have been used by dozens of businesses and hundreds of residential homes since 1965,” explained Womack. “Since these locations are the end location for the City’s wastewater/sewer system, the presence of any PFAS chemicals at these sites are potentially the result of one or more of the City’s sewer system’s users depositing PFAS chemicals into the sewer system at some point since 1965. It is also possible that PFAS chemicals were present at either or both of these locations prior to 1965 or that the PFAS chemicals have been transported to these sites from unknown off-site locations. Since testing is ongoing and the potential timeframe for contamination is so long, nobody is currently aware of the origination of the PFAS chemicals at these two locations.”

PFAS is widely found in things we use every day—personal care items, food wrappers, non-stick cookware, even in our blood. It can also be found in the biosolids that farmers use on their fields.

As the City of Cedar Springs and EGLE work to determine the nature, cause and potential extent of PFAS chemicals in and around these two locations, Womack said it is important to recognize that City water users are not in danger of any type of PFAS exposure from their water supply at this time. 

“There might be groundwater well users in or around the southwest part of the City that have the potential of being exposed to PFAS chemicals from their groundwater supply. The most recent testing available indicates that the discharge site location in Algoma Township is below current PFAS limitations. Property owners in both of those locations are encouraged to test their own ground water supply for PFAS chemicals on their own or if they receive a letter from the City of Cedar Springs, to participate in the City’s water testing program,” explained Womack.

He also explained that city residents may be responsible for current, future or ongoing cleanup and/or monitoring activities related to contamination found at those locations, because it is city property, even if they didn’t cause it. 

“Those potential cleanups and/or monitoring activities which EGLE may mandate, have the potential to be prohibitively expensive and might also require significant new ongoing costs indefinitely into the future,” said Womack. “There is no funding that the City is aware of to help pay for these mandates from EGLE or the State of Michigan. The lack of funding for these new EGLE and State of Michigan mandates means that the full cost of any cleanup or monitoring is likely to fall onto the shoulders of City of Cedar Springs citizens and property owners through increased utility rates or taxes.”

Womack noted that the City of Cedar Springs is concerned with the health and well-being of all citizens, both inside and outside of the City of Cedar Springs, and will continually work to protect the health and well-being of all citizens.

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City Hall Corner


By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

Citizens of Cedar Springs,

The last few months have been bizarre in the world, and we have felt the effects of it here locally too.   A horrible disease has sickened and killed many, civil rights protests have been marred by violence and both resulted in stay at home orders, closed businesses and curfews. Having to stay at home, not going to school or work, not being able to see friends or family and not being able to visit your favorite restaurants for a sit-down meal has been a very frustrating experience all around for everybody.

City Hall staff have continued to work throughout this whole ordeal as essential workers.  We have practiced social distancing, wear masks as required, lots of hand-washing and sanitizing to keep everybody at City Hall healthy and safe.  As we reopen City Hall this week, we will be implementing new safety guidelines such as asking non-essential business still be conducted by phone or e-mail, continued use of the payment drop boxes and please wear a mask if you enter City Hall. The Public Library will also be charting a course to safely reopening soon with their safety guidelines and we all look forward to serving the citizens of our community in-person again. 

Over the next several weeks we will be seeing a slow return to normal-ish with the business community as well.  Bars and restaurants will be able to start limited sit-down service in addition to their continued take-away options.  Most retail stores will be open with a limited capacity and other businesses will be reopened with new safety precautions as the COVID19 threat diminishes.  These new precautions that businesses will be implementing are for the safety of both the public and for the businesses own staff. Please help keep everybody safe by following the implemented safety precautions at our local businesses.  Please practice empathy and be slow to anger if things aren’t being done as quickly as they used to be or if small mistakes are made, this is all kind of new to all of us.  Also, please think twice before posting complaints to social media instead of addressing your concerns with the business itself, there was a time when that was the normal way of handling issues.  

Finally, this has been an odd time for planning beautification and entertainment activities in Cedar Springs.  Several events have been canceled and some delayed, including the City’s inaugural concert series at the new amphitheater and the painting of a mural in downtown.  The Sand Lake 4th of July celebration was canceled, the Red Flannel Festival is reviewing its options for October and the Public Library’s start of summer reading program celebration is likely to be toned down.  However, the American Flags are up on Main St., the DDA is planting flowers and volunteers are set to build an off-leash dog area at Riggle Park.

The problems that we have faced individually and as a community this year have been strong but we are much Cedar stronger; I believe that unity is our strength.  Please, support our local businesses as they reopen and please follow safety precautions for the health and safety of all persons.  I am eager to visit our hometown businesses and hope to see you there shopping, eating and drinking too.

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City Manager receives high marks in evaluation


 

City Manager Mike Womack

By Judy Reed

A two-year review of Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack by the City Council shows that they like what they see.

Womack scored an overall 4.4 average out of 5 possible points during his review last month, which covered personnel management; administrative skills; intergovernmental relations; long range planning; interpersonal skills; relationship with council; and personal and professional attributes.

“I love the direction the city is going,” said Councilmember Molly Nixon. “There is new, beautiful development throughout the city. There is art and green space. More development is planned for Main Street and I am excited to see what will come.”

Mayor pro-tem Pam Conley was also pleased with city improvements. “Over the last year there has been a lot of great work on the revitalization of the Downtown Development Authority, potential new fire station, and working to bring in new business,” she noted.

Councilmember Perry Hopkins did have one word of advice: “He can have his own expectations for a city, but remember what the community wants and needs,” he said.

Womack, a lawyer from the east side of the state, is enjoying his job here as City Manager. “The last two years have been really quite nice. I’ve learned a lot and I have really been able to use my legal and management skills to chart a good economic development direction here in the City. I have developed a lot of good working relationships and friendships with members of the community including the City Council and Planning Commission members.”

So what has Womack accomplished in his two years here?

“I’ve accomplished a ton of stuff but it never feels like I’ve accomplished enough,” he remarked. “The largest single accomplishment that I’ve completed over the last two years was the complete revamping of the Downtown Development District which will pump about $15,000 into improving the downtown this year. The DDA had been unfunded for 10 years previous to this work. I’ve also spent a lot of time and effort making the zoning laws work for citizens and for businesses and not against them. The boards and I have worked to extensively rewrite our zoning ordinances to not only be more business friendly but also to make them easier to understand for non-professional entrepreneurs who want to open a business here in the City.”

What does he think about our community? “I’m continually impressed by the amount of volunteerism that the community puts forward, from cleaning up the parks and roads in the spring to the countless hours invested by board members, citizens and business owners in planning out the community or donating money to community events like the library parties. I’m also thankful that businesses have started to take notice of the good work that the government and local business community is undertaking to bring them in for the citizens of the Cedar Springs area. I also feel very fortunate that my staff, elected officials, board members, business owners and local government officials have, almost entirely, been very easy to work with and all are focused on making the City and surrounding area better for the citizens.”

Womack’s contract is up on August 1, 2019. He said he has had informal discussion with council members about possibly extending it but nothing has been formalized yet. 

 

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City of Cedar Springs water and sewer rates explained


 

Part 2 of an article on the city water/sewer system

By Mike Womack, City Manager of Cedar Springs

The City’s water and sewer rates are set to reflect not only the costs to operate the ongoing water and sewer process but they also have to take in sufficient amounts to expand the system for economic development, replace old pipes before they break and also respond to emergency situations where the pipe has to be fixed immediately with few options regarding time and place.  

Unfortunately, over the last decade, the City’s water and sewer rates were not being appropriately adjusted each year to keep up with the costs of funding the system.  Between the years of 2008 and 2017, the City’s sewer fund lost $1,114,927 in value averaging a loss of $123,880 per year. These losses were a result of the City not slowly increasing water and sewer rates each year to keep up with inflation or to reflect changing levels of demand, as users increased or decreased demand each year.  In that period the sewer fund only posted one positive income and that was in 2016-2017, the year that the current rates were set. In 2016-2017, the sewer fund captured $159,947 or slightly more than this single sewer line emergency repair and replacement will cost. (The sewer line repair on West Muskegon between Fifth and Seventh Streets.) The water fund, thankfully, did not see the same type of losses that the sewer fund did. The water fund gained $321,161 in value from 2008-2017 or $35,684 per year. While at least positive numbers, the water fund is undersized and should have been increasing at a higher rate.  

Due to the years of neglect in accurately setting water and sewer rates, the City decided to raise those rates as part of the 2016-2017 budget. This was necessary to stabilize the water and sewer fund balances and to ensure that the City continues to be able to provide safe drinking water without PFAS or the lead that other cities have suffered. To that end, I truly am sorry for the price of water and sewer in the City of Cedar Springs. If the City could offer free water and sewer service for all it would. City staff understands the anger and frustration that citizens have expressed about the water and sewer rates. We appreciate every citizen who has approached city staff with calm questions, and we hope that we have been able to answer those questions and concerns to the best of our abilities and to your satisfaction.  Even though Cedar Springs’ water is more expensive than it used to be it is still a great bargain, at 6000 gallons used, each gallon of water costs the consumer just 1.6 cents to produce and clean after use.

Moving forward the City is working to increase the number of system users by bringing in new neighborhoods and businesses.  Those new homes and businesses then help reduce everybody’s costs by spreading the overall costs among more users. We also continue to modernize our systems and equipment, which reduces overall costs.  Our recent switch to estimated bills for two months followed by an actual read in the third month has led to savings of 15 man-hours per month with the goal of permanently reducing those meter reading hours to approximately 2 hours per month with an actual read every month. Those 15 extra hours are now used to replace old water meters with the new water meters enabling those quicker reads.

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The Post travels to Hawaii


The Cedar Springs Post recently left the chilly Michigan weather behind and traveled to warmer weather in our 50th state—Hawaii—with Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack.

He is shown here with the Post in front of the Duke Kahanamoku statue in front of Kuhio Beach in Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii. 

We are jealous, Mike! Please bring back some of that warm weather with you!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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City Manager gets high marks in first year


 

Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack recently completed his first year on the job here in Cedar Springs, and the City Council gave him high marks. The Council completed a one-year performance review of City Manager Mike Womack at their September 7 meeting.

“The worst thing they said was they think I work too much. I was surprised that was the worst thing, but I’ll take it,” he said.

Mayor Gerald Hall was the one who voiced concern about that. “I feel Mike is doing an excellent job as our Manager,” he said. “But he might get burned out if he continues to work as he does.”

Womack has been with the City since August 1, 2016 and has hired several new staff members in that time. The team at City Hall now includes a new Finance Director, Deputy Finance Director, City Clerk, DPW Director and Utility Billing Clerk. Womack has received high praise from City Council for recruiting multiple high-quality employees and building a strong team.

“I was both unlucky and fortunate to lose so many people over my first year,” Womack said. “I was given the opportunity to bring together the team I wanted in City Hall representing the direction that Council and I envision for the City.” Womack elaborated that, “It was important to bring in friendly people with fresh ideas who want to do good things for the City.”

City Hall has invested a lot of work and time in ongoing projects in the City over the last year. Womack stated, “The City is really coming alive with economic activity,” and “I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken towards being more business friendly here in the City.”

“Some of the sign and zoning ordinances are out of date and unnecessarily restrictive, and we’ve got blighted property that we’re trying to manage,” he explained.

He plans to continue City Hall’s efforts to update and streamline City ordinances and to address the blighted properties in the City. Womack said that having a good staff and an active Council is helping propel these many plans forward.  Womack also praised local businesses and philanthropic groups for their work. “From the Halloween Spooktacular event to the new Community Library Building we are very fortunate to have so many that donate their time and money to make this such a great place to live, work and play,” Womack said.

When asked about his goals over the next year Womack talked about all the businesses coming to town. He also specified that “I’m focusing on pedestrian safety, the new fire station and bringing more life to the downtown area, especially the pocket park in front of City Hall and working with the CBDT on the Heart of Cedar Springs amphitheater.”

For their part, City Council rated Womack an average of 4.66 out of 5 and noted that overall they were very satisfied with his work, his commitment and the professional environment he brought to City Hall. Councilor Powell stated that “This small city is growing so fast.  We need his knowledge and experience in all these new projects.” Councilor Nixon appreciated his “emphasis on best practices and planning for the future.” Councilors did note that Womack could come off as somewhat distant and unfriendly due to his direct communication style, dry sense of humor and naturally straight-faced demeanor.

“What can I say, people who get to know me like me. I’ll try to smile more!” he joked.

Womack has two more years in his current contract and said he was very happy working in Cedar Springs.  “The City has been so warm and welcoming to me over the last year,” Womack said. “It’s been a nice change of pace for my life.” He said he really enjoys living in the west side of the state and likes the slower pace and smaller cities in the area. Womack came to Cedar Springs from his legal practice in Macomb County and lives in the local area with his wife Glenna and their two dogs, Fitz and Leo.

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City to consider beekeeping ordinance


By Judy Reed

The City of Cedar Springs may soon join the ranks of other progressive cities that are helping to support the environment by allowing residents to keep bees. The City Council will consider the first reading of the ordinance at their monthly meeting this Thursday, September 7.

City resident Joe Frank asked the city to consider allowing beekeeping in the city earlier this summer. He has kept honeybees as a hobby for several years. He had several hives on property he owned in Hesperia, and when he decided to sell the property, he re-homed all of the hives, except one, with other beekeepers. He had previously asked a city official if he could keep a hive on his property here, and was told he could. He moved the hive to his property, but was later told that he couldn’t have it under the current ordinance. That ordinance, Sec. 8-1 Domestic Animals and Fowls reads: “No person shall keep or house any animal or domestic fowl within the city, except dogs, cats, canaries or animals commonly classified as pets which are customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets, or permit any animal or fowl to enter business places where food is sold for human consumption, except for leader, guide, hearing and service dogs as required by MCL 750.502c.”

“Bees are animals and no animals shall be kept except for the ones listed or are commonly classified as pets, which bees are not,” explained City Manager Mike Womack.

Womack gave the council a copy of the beekeeping ordinance in Traverse City, and a draft ordinance for the Planning Commission and City Council to consider.

This green box is Frank’s beehive, and the two white boxes are honey supers, which collect honey. Courtesy photo.

Frank’s hive is a green box inside a shed on his property. There are ports from the hive for the bees to travel through to get outside. They do not fly around inside the shed.

“They are not dangerous,” he explained. “There are already bees flying around outside. They have to live somewhere. Better in a hive than in the wall of your garage,” he noted.

At the August 10 council meeting, former Mayor Mark Fankhauser stated that he supports and recommends allowing bees in the city. He said he has seen a direct increase in the number of flowers as a result of Frank’s bees.

According to Ranger Steve Mueller, our resident wildlife and biology expert, bees are more important than butterflies as pollinators and are not dangerous. “Bees are experiencing population decline for a variety of reasons and can use human help. They are of great positive economic importance. People have an unreasonable fear of bees. Riding or driving in a car is a greater health threat than bees in the neighborhood. Why people develop unhealthy fear of bees and other insects makes little sense but many are taught unreasonable fear as a child and hold on to those fears throughout life,” he explained.

“[Bees] are a community-building, economic resource that benefits people, plants, and wildlife. I encourage people to maintain a portion of their yard for wildflowers and native species to help maintain and sustain biodiversity. Bees are an essential component if we want plants to reproduce,” he remarked.

Mueller said he has a friend that lives close to downtown Denver, Colorado and she has a small beehive in her backyard. “The bees fly about the city in nearby areas pollinating flowers, gathering nectar, and make honey. We eat at their picnic table in the backyard and are not disturbed by bees. We watch them at flowers in the garden that surround the picnic table. We sit on their deck to enjoy the day and have had not problems with the bees that are about 30 feet away. She suits up to open the hive to extract honey and uses normal bee keeping practices for safety,” he said.

Under the proposed ordinance, residents would need to apply for a permit. They could keep no more than a total of two hives on real property less than 10,890 square feet, no more than 4 hives on real property less than 21,780 square feet, no more than 6 hives on real property less than 43,560 square feet and no more than eight hives on real property more than 43,561 square feet. Honeybees must be housed in a properly designed and constructed hive, which may be located only in the “rear yard” of the property. They also cannot be any closer than 10 feet to any property line of an adjacent property.

Frank said he was happy with the draft ordinance the council is considering.

“The State of Michigan has guidelines for beekeeping and the proposal is in line with the State of Michigan Agriculture guidelines, which I think is a good way to go,” he said.

A few of the other cities that allow bees in West Michigan include Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland.

Please note that this article has been updated to refer to the specific ordinance under which bees are not currently allowed in the City of Cedar Springs. We also removed Rockford as a city that allows them. It should have read Muskegon. We apologize for the error.

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Sidewalk chalk event a hit with kids


Kids in Cedar Springs got their art on Saturday, July 8, when the City and the Library held their first Sidewalk Chalk Art event at the Cedar Springs Community Library.

City Manager Mike Womack said they had 39 artists participate in the event.

“We changed it from a contest to an event because I believe all the art was great and deserving of winning prizes,” explained Womack. He said that each artist got to keep their chalk, got to pick a prize out of the prize box (kites, yo-yo’s and sticker pads) and each artist received a gift card for a free meal from a local fast food establishment.

Supplies and prizes were donated by several different local businesses.

“I personally think it turned out really well,” remarked Womack. “The only thing that would have improved it would have been more participants.  We have enough chalk left over to do another similar event and would like to do it again in either the Fall or Spring,” he added.

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City to hold special meeting tonight (Thursday)


By Judy Reed

This City of Cedar Springs will hold a special meeting on Thursday, June 29, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, to take care of some last minute business before the new fiscal year starts on July 1.

Action items include voting on purchasing a new radar speed sign for the city; Morley Park pavilion rental and electricity at the pavilion; and a motion to approve the Library Services Agreement, Grant Area District revision.

According to City Manager Mike Womack, the radar sign would be portable and could be moved around the City, wherever there was a need.

“The reasoning behind the radar sign is that we have seen the Sheriff Department’s radar sign in action and it absolutely does result in slower traffic, which is safer for the public,” explained Womack. “By having our own sign, we could be quicker to respond to citizen complaints of speeding traffic and we would also have the benefit of the resulting data that the sign takes in while its measuring traffic speed. This data could then be used to help direct when/where Sheriff intervention might be needed but it could also be used for economic development reasons such as knowing how many cars go past a certain place during a day or week.”

He added that the radar sign is also part of his ongoing initiative to make the streets safer for pedestrians overall. “We are also considering pedestrian crossing signs in the downtown area and we will be repainting the crosswalk paint on the asphalt,” he explained.

The radar signs they will be looking at range from a low of $1,785 to $3,165.

There are also several discussion items on the agenda, including choices of several different logos to use on the Elm Street garage that people walking or riding on the White Pine Trail would see; pedestrian crosswalk signs; and whether they can inscribe “Red Flannel Town” on the new clocktower at the corner of Main and W. Maple, by the library.

 

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