In the fall of 2015, Becka Shipp applied for the street supervisor position in New Buffalo. Although well qualified with an engineering degree, Tony Ashbaugh was given the position after Downtown Development Authority (DDA) chairman, Robert Kemper gave him a strong recommendation. Knowing that Shipp was a qualified catch, then City Manager Rob Anderson convinced the city council to create a part-time engineering position to lure Shipp to stay. His proposal was that a staff engineer would save the city tons of money by not having to contract with expensive contractual engineers.
During a good part of 2016, Becka Shipp was charged with developing a detailed and well researched Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that included streets, water, and sewers. She prioritized projects for a five year budgeting process based on need and condition of the infrastructure item to be improved or replaced and then assigned a price tag to each project with projected annual increases for planning purposes. The five year plan was not overly ambitious, ensuring that budgeting could become part of the annual planning and budgeting process indefinitely. Shipp’s goal was for resurfacing streets to become a routine budget line item until all the streets were resurfaced. From there, annual resurfacing and repair would continue through routine annual budgeting so the city streets would never be in the condition they are today, with all of them needing replacement all at once. This type of long term planning and budgeting was lauded by the city council members and this appeared to be a new direction for a new council. In March 2017, the council approved the plan, giving the city manager and Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh time to obtain street resurfacing prices for the 2017 budget. It is unclear if the proposed expenditures ever made it into the budget because the Mayhew and Merchant resurfacing planned for 2017 never took place. Capital Improvement Project
Below is the Capital Improvement Program for 2017 – 2021 announcement that was posted on the city’s website in March 2017 (note that the plan is for five years with a number of streets to be resurfaced each year).
Below the 2017 – 2021 plan is another resurfacing plan currently posted on the city’s website, this one prepared by Abonmarche, one of the high price contractual engineering firms that was to be eliminated through the hiring of a staff engineer. The city council, city manager, and street supervisor apparently ignored the budget plan for street resurfacing by the staff engineer. In less than a year, they authorized a new resurfacing plan that lacked the planning and budgeting aspect of the first plan.
It would be interesting to know if the water and sewer projects in the five year Capital Improvement Plan are making it into the plans and budgeting by the city or if they too were ignored after being approved. It appears the city leadership might have reverted back to authorizing projects without the benefit of budgeting or long-term planning.
MARCH 2017 POSTING ON NEW BUFFALO CITY WEBSITE
Capital Improvement Program 2017-2021
On March 21, 2017 the City Council voted to proceed with obtaining prices for resurfacing various streets in New Buffalo.
The priority projects include:
East Clay Street (Kinzie to Bell) – Rehabilitation, 2018
North Eagle Street (Merchant to Water) – Resurfacing, 2019
East Indiana Street (Whittaker to Bronson) – Resurfacing, 2020
South Mayhew Street (Detroit to Michigan) – Resurfacing, 2017
West Merchant Street (Berrien to Willard) – Rehabilitation 2017
West Water Street (Berrien to Willard) – Resurfacing 2021
North Willard Street (Railroad to Water) – Resurfacing, 2021
MARCH 2018 POSTING ON NEW BUFFALO CITY WEBSITE
The City of New Buffalo will be completing street resurfacing as part of a Street Resurfacing Project for 2018.
- Water Street from Willard Street to west of Eagle Street
- Eagle Street from Water Street to US-12
- Willard Street from Water Street to Washington Street
- Oselka Drive from Willard Street to Whittaker Street
- Clay Street from Willard Street to Whittaker Street
- Merchant Street from Thompson Street to Wilson Road
- Norton Street from US-12 to Clay Street
FYI: Although it appears that City Manager Richards and Street Supervisor Ashbaugh are trying to follow the requirements for a Natural Trust Fund grant to build restrooms at the beach, they just don’t get it. The Fund’s requirement for a public hearing process is to elicit public input and support. This would require a posting of the public hearings, not just including the hearings as part of a council meeting agenda. The concept is that public participation adds to the development of public projects. When the residents are invited to a public hearing by the administration, it gives the administration an opportunity to articulate how the project fits within the Recreation Plan (another requirement by the Trust Fund) and provides the public an opportunity to provide valuable input. A win, win for both the administration and the residents. Perhaps this is yet another example of the city employees trying to shut out the public and their voices.