Sharon Avenue reopens, PLLB work continues to snarl traffic, councilor comments on social media posts
Houghton City Council, Aug. 11, 2021
During public comment, the organizer of the Verna Mize Triathlon gave a wrap-up report and said that support was still growing for next year’s event.
During City Manager Eric Waara’s report, he updated the board on a variety of happenings in the city. Repaving activity is ramping up, and Sharon Avenue should be reopened as of today. The bridge in NARA park is all but open. However, the lift bridge maintenance work is dragging on and traffic continues to lag and snarl. Waara and Police Chief John Donnelly have been trying different things to keep traffic flowing through the city.
A Community Night Out event is now officially happening on Sept. 4 between Hancock and Houghton, which will include live music, fireworks, and more. Public works employees and some other residents have donated shrubs that are being placed around the city, too.
Chief Donnelly reported that they’re still fielding a lot of calls from people about traffic resulting from the bridge work. They’ve had some limited success limiting leisure vessel crossings under the lift bridge, but not enough to prevent long rush-hour backups.
After the payment of bills—including some change orders for ongoing and completed projects—and the approval of a bid for environmental engineering of an infrastructure grant paid for by the MEDC, Waara shared some thoughts on the parking deck redevelopment and public engagement. He recapped the situation before saying he would be happy to talk to individuals about realities, numbers, and possibilities, particularly for funding other than city tax dollars. He said despite all the commentary online he’s been shown, nobody has called him or visited his office to ask questions or offer ideas.
Following Waara’s comments, the council approved up to $10,000 toward hiring a consultant to begin the public engagement process. Waara said he hopes to start that process as soon as reasonably possible.
During closing comments, Councilor Mike Needham addressed some comments he’d seen on social media. He said he was particularly concerned because the people commenting were downtown business owners, and it didn’t seem like they were very well informed on the situation, and that their negativity was unreasonable. Commissioner Dan Salo added that they’re doing the best they can for the city.