Fate of dam divides Allegan City Council candidates at forum
View the entire candidate forum at this link, an archived video on The Allegan County News Facebook page. Note: Technical difficulties distorted and obscured the livestream until approximately the 4:18 mark (or, 1:53:20 remaining). We thought we'd made the proper adjustments to record in landscape mode, but they did not work. We apologize for the disruption!
Candidates for Allegan City Council disagreed at a forum Tuesday, Oct. 15, about the fate of the city-owned dam while focusing on the city’s economic future.
Candidates for the four, four-year terms include Roger Bird, Peter Hanse and Teresa Galloway along with incumbents Delora Andrus, Nancy Ingalsbee and Mike Manning.
David Redding also participated though he is running unopposed for the remainder of the partial term to which Andrus was appointed last August after former Mayor Stacie Stotmeister resigned. The full terms expire in 2023; the partial term expires in 2021.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 5
The forum at the Allegan District Library Carnegie Room was sponsored the library, Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce and Allegan County News.
Fate of dam
The candidates were split on the fate of the Allegan dam, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site. The state is retesting sediments for PCB contamination; the report is expected this winter.
“The best way to get the poison out is to remove the dam,” said Bird, who said he needs to learn more about the issue.
Galloway and Andrus supported removal of the structure.
Galloway was concerned about taxpayers having to continue funding repairs and upkeep of the structure. Maintenance costs about $26,000 annually, according to city officials.
Andrus said, “We’re stewards of that river and can make it better for the next generation.”
Manning, Ingalsbee and Hanse said they want the dam to remain. Redding had questions about the site.
Ingalsbee wants an independent review from an engineer on what can be done with the dam. Hanse said the issue should be studied and Manning said he will “go with the majority” of residents who want to save the dam.
All candidates agreed the city council needs to promote the town and welcome new businesses.
“We should stop being our own worst enemy,” said Andrus, noting local residents often say a new business won’t survive. “We should be supportive.”
Bird said, “Economic development is a cornerstone responsibility of the council.”
Some candidates supported a possible hotel or similar development on city-owned land at 101 Brady St. along the riverfront.
CL Real Estate of Peru, Ill., is considering the development of a multi-story boutique hotel with 40 to 60 rooms at the site with views of the river and historic Second Street Bridge, a single-span iron truss structure.
“Having a hotel there would be amazing,” said Redding, because it would bring people downtown.
Andrus and Bird supported a hotel on the site.
Galloway wasn’t sure a hotel would be the best use of the land, adding that a restaurant might be a better option.
Ingalsbee said the city needs to be careful what goes on the high-visibility spot.
“I’m really torn on the Brady Street lot,” she said.
Hanse said the city should sell the land at fair market value.
“We shouldn’t be choosing winners or losers,” he said.
Manning did not answer the question about the property, saying that his position on a city committee has given him knowledge other council members and the public doesn’t have.
The almost 2-hour forum attended by about 50 people accepted two questions from the audience, including if the candidates supported a single waste hauler for city residents.
Galloway, Ingalsbee, Hanse, Andrus and Manning opposed the idea of a single trash service.
Redding said he was not opposed to studying the idea.
“I really want to understand it before we dive into it,” he said.
Bird also wants to study the issue, adding, “Competition is good.”
Moderators for the forum were library executive director Ryan Deery and library board president Michael Kiella.
The entire forum was live-streamed on the Allegan County News Facebook page, where as many as about 40 were tuned in at one point. View the forum at this link.