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Houghton clears way to begin parking deck replacement planning

Following action at the last Houghton City Council meeting, the group is already making plans to start the process that will decide what replaces the downtown parking deck. The goal is to have public input, and to ensure that happens, the body is turning to a familiar face. Pat Coleman from North of 45 LLC is a specialist in urban and town planning. Manager Eric Waara says he has helped Houghton in the past.

Pat has worked in our area for 40+ years. He’s an expert on winter cities, he’s worked on various plans for the city since the early-80’s, maybe late-70’s-early-80’s type of thing.

The council approved a measure allowing Waara to spend $10,000 for up to three public sessions guided by Coleman. Those could take the form of town halls, or a similar format, to keep the replacement discussion on track parallel to the city, which will begin to actively plan for how the structure is to be taken down. The hope is to have the first session take place in September. The goal is to be able to quickly turn the page when the parking deck’s chapter is over.

The culvert replacement on Sharon Avenue is finished. Lines were striped yesterday evening and MDOT crews will be retiming the lights Thursday, so the intersection can open to traffic again. In its place, a local paving project will begin soon. Waara says Bacco Construction crews plan to work in two stages.

They’ll mill all the streets first while the mill is in town, because it is a very specialized piece of equipment. Those roads will be graded and passable for everyone. Then within the span of the next two to three weeks they’ll come back and probably pave all of them in two to three days.

In other business, the council approved measures related to the sewer and water system. Both were aided by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. The final drawdown will total just over $300,000 combined.

The council heard about the results related to putting out requests for quote for a Michigan Economic Development Corporation water related infrastructure grant. The city asked for both an engineering and an environmental assessment. UP Engineers and Architects was the only firm of three approached to return the former. Five firms sent back bids for the environmental portion, with a wide disparity in pricing. Waara said it is city policy in that instance to throw out the high bid and low bid. Of the two closest to the median, one was from a downstate firm that only planned to do it remotely. The council opted for UP Engineers and Architects which could be on location.

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