Houghton City Council re-thinks ‘let run’ policy

HOUGHTON – In response to the worst winter in two decades, the city will look at revamping its let-run policy to recognize the amount of water residents are needing to run.

For the months of March and April, the city will charge residents with a let-run order the average of their bills for the three months prior to going on let-run.

Four-hundred-six customers – representing a third of the city’s population – are letting their water run to avoid frozen pipes, up from 375 two weeks ago. There have also been 144 freeze-ups.

Some people have been advised to let their water run with an even stronger flow after the traditional pencil-wide stream still froze their pipes, City Manager Eric Waara said.

“The current policy the city has, as far as I’m concerned, was not designed for the type of winter we’re having right now,” he said.

The change only applies to people who have formally obtained approval from the city to run their water.

Waara said the council should also revisit the issue during the summer to create a more comprehensive policy “which will protect both the city and users in the future.”

In the meantime, he advised residents on let-run orders to continue doing so even as temperatures rise until the city says the risk has passed.

In other action, the board:

approved submitting a grant application for Portage Lake Properties to the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority for a rental rehabilitation grant to construct two apartments at the Roy’s Pasties building at 305 W. Lakeshore Drive.

approved the MSHDA Section 3 implementation plan. Section 3 is designed to increase employment opportunities for residents of public housing and/or low- and very low-income living in the county.

approved obtaining an appraisal of two city-owned lots as a prelude to selling them to Mark Kemppainen, who owns apartment buildings on Sandpiper Drive. Uses for the lots will include relocating the apartments’ tennis court, which will be relocated to allow for the construction of additional units.

heard a report from Waara on the Department of Public Works. Crews finished cold patching. Two grant applications have been released for the Carnegie Museum.

approved up to $5,000 from the equipment fund for purchase of a crew-cab truck at auction.

heard a report from Police Chief John Donnelly. Since the previous meeting, there were 75 complaints, five misdemeanor arrests, 10 civil infractions and one city infraction. Officers took a “Below 100” training class; the safety initiative has the goal of keeping officer line-of-duty deaths to below 100 per year. Officer Jeremy Hill took “street survival” training in Marquette. There will be bridge closures for maintenance starting in December.

heard a downtown report from Susie Landers. There was a soft opening for the Yummy Bar Wednesday. Sales for the first day had “well exceeded” owners’ expectations, Landers said. Landers had also met with a business owner interested in moving to Houghton, as well as two people interested in purchasing the Suomi Restaurant. Things are also moving on the Kirkish building.

designated Waara as the street administrator for the city in all transactions with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

approved bringing a street in Bresnan Estates into the Houghton street system.

approved renewing Joe Daavettila’s contract as auditor for three years.