City To Vote On Ukrainian Resettlement Resolution, Budget, Parks Projects
By Beth Milligan | June 6, 2022
Traverse City commissioners will vote tonight (Monday) on a resolution to support Bethany Christian Services’ application to the U.S. Department of State to resettle Ukrainian refugees in Traverse City. Commissioners will also vote to approve the city budget – with $360,000 now included for three firefighters requested by the Traverse City Fire Department – and approve contracts/agreements for improvements at the West End Beach parking lot, Indian Woods Park, and Kids Creek.
Ukrainian Resettlement Resolution
Mayor Richard Lewis has requested city commissioners approve a resolution of support backing local nonprofit Bethany Christian Services’ application to the U.S. Department of State to bring Ukrainian refugees to Traverse City. According to the resolution language, there are currently 700 Ukrainians already living in the community, “many of whom are the grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins of those seeking refuge.” Resettling refugees near family members makes meeting “basic human needs like housing, employment, and education easier,” the resolution states.
Bethany Christian Services has assisted refugees from Ukraine settle in the Traverse City area since the 1970s, and therefore has “built strong relationships with the local Ukrainian community,” according to the resolution. The organization has been approached by Church World Services to expand refugee programming through the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement program. If Bethany Christian Services’ application is accepted, the group plans to help resettle 50 Ukrainian refugees locally in the first year, 40 of whom have family members living in Traverse City.
According to the U.S. Department of State website, refugees in the Reception and Placement program are met by either a representative from an organization like Bethany Christian Services or a friend or family member upon their arrival in the country. “They are taken to their initial housing, which has essential furnishings, appropriate food, and other basic necessities,” the website states. “The resettlement agencies assist refugees during their initial resettlement in the United States, including enrolling in employment services, registering youth for school, applying for Social Security cards, and connecting them with necessary social or language services. In coordination with publicly supported refugee service and assistance programs, resettlement agencies focus on assisting refugees to achieve economic self-sufficiency through employment as soon as possible after their arrival in the United States.”
In a memo to commissioners, City Manager Marty Colburn noted that Traverse City “has long been home to a large population of Ukrainian-born citizens.” In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “the need to resettle more Ukrainian refugees has grown,” Colburn said.
After several weeks of discussion, city commissioners will vote tonight to approve the 2022-23 budgets for the city, Traverse City Light & Power, and the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority.
Notable among the adjustments Colburn has made to the budget after receiving feedback from commissioners is the inclusion of $360,000 for three firefighter positions requested by the Traverse City Fire Department (TCFD). Colburn originally recommended not including those positions due to budgetary restraints, but commissioners expressed support for funding them. The actual hiring of those positions, however – as well as two new positions of a second assistant city manager and a utilities engineer – will be contingent on future city commission approval. In the case of TCFD, commissioners will consider going into closed session tonight to discuss collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the TC Firefighters Union. The commission is also set to the discuss the future of the fire department and whether it will become the city’s primary ambulance provider at a June 13 study session.
The final draft budget also includes funds for a new social worker and community police officer at the Traverse City Police Department, plus a full-time administrative assistant for Oakwood Cemetery; $20,000 for enhancing the city’s volleyball courts; funds to fill and mill East Front Street until it can be reconstructed in the future; funds to design a possible reconstruction of the TART Trail along Grandview Parkway; $57,000 in additional contingency funds to implement the city’s Mobility and Bike plan; and $60,000 in additional contingency funds for possible future employee wage increases.
Also at tonight’s city commission meeting…
> Commissioners will consider approving contracts for several improvement projects on city properties. Among those is a nearly $79,000 contract with Team Elmer’s to repair the damaged parking lot at West End Beach, a portion of which has been closed for several years due to high water damage. According to City Director of Public Services Frank Dituri, the city delayed work until “water levels subsided to be able to proceed with the repairs.” Team Elmer’s will stabilize the shoreline with heavy riprap and reconstruct the damaged areas of the parking lot. Smaller stone will be layered on top and in between the larger riprap “to improve the durability during high water and create a more uniform surface,” according to Dituri.
Commissioners will also vote to approve a contract for just over $140,000 with Team Elmer’s for site work and nearly $59,000 with Sinclair Recreation for playground equipment at Indian Woods Park. The project “consists of replacing most of the existing play equipment with a small new structure that would meet current safety and ADA accessibility standards,” according to City Engineer Tim Lodge. “The existing swingset will remain. Additionally, the neighborhood identified needing a connection between the upper and lower tiers of the park, which is included as a trail with steps. An improved picnic area is also included.” The commission will also vote tonight on an authorization agreement with The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay granting permission for the nonprofit to access city properties along Kids Creek for work as part of a corridor restoration project. The agreement will allow Watershed staff to remove invasive vegetation, “creating viable space for the riparian buffer plantings which will follow,” Dituri says.
> Tonight’s meeting will begin with two mayoral presentations. Lewis will present the Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award to Courtney Wiggins, co-founder of Northern Michigan E3 – a local nonprofit devoted to celebrating and welcoming diversity and equity for all residents and visitors to northern Michigan. Northern Michigan E3 advocated for body cameras for Traverse City and Grand Traverse County law enforcement officers and led anti-racism discussions in local public schools and the Open Space. “Courtney's work in our community is critically important and embodies the spirit and purpose of the Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award,” says Human Rights Commission Chair Jessica Forster. Lewis will also present a mayoral proclamation honoring “30 years of exceptional service of the schooner Madeline to representatives of the Maritime Heritage Alliance,” according to the meeting agenda.
Pictured (clockwise from top left): West End Beach parking lot, Kids Creek, Indian Woods ParkComment