N3 asked the Mayors of our local cities to provide us with a bit of a review of the past year as well as a little preview for what might be coming down the pike for 2020.
Our first offering featured the city of Grant.
Our next piece visited the county seat of White Cloud
Then we headed west to get the skinny on Fremont
And now we hear from Newaygo the city where a river definitely runs through it.
The basic purpose of city government is to maintain city facilities, address zoning and building regulations, and promote that city’s economic development, in addition to providing law enforcement and fire protection. The City of Newaygo entered 2019 prepared to focus on proactive projects and creative solutions to challenges in these areas.
In March the City Council approved a 5-year Master Plan which was the culmination of two years of work among community stakeholders, local citizens, and city employees. Among other things, the Master Plan provides a framework for land use development and will guide zoning decisions to make sure that the desires of the community are converted into action. The next step is for the various city committees to approve the zoning ordinances necessary to support this Plan, which is anticipated to take up to two years.
Adequate housing remains a challenge, and city officials remain committed to providing affordable housing options to city residents and newcomers. Several new homes have been built in the last few years, with plans in place for more construction projects, including multi-family dwellings.
2019 was year two of the “I Am Newaygo” initiative intended to encourage stakeholders like city residents and employees to work closely with elected and appointed community leaders. “I Am Newaygo” actively solicits input and community engagement through a series of meetings. Residents are encouraged to provide their input via these meetings and on the “I Am Newaygo” facebook page.
Upgrading the city sewage and lift stations and wastewater facility continued, and this project is expected to be completed by year-end of 2020. This is one of the silent, but extremely necessary, projects that the city proactively addresses.
Thanks to Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) grants there are some very visible projects taking place. The Community Development Block Grant, or “Façade Grant” has made it possible for Northwoods General Store and Market 41/Muskegon River Inn to embark on major renovation projects. Brickwork, new windows, and interior refurbishing are just some of the things taking place at these two businesses.
Developing and maintaining an attractive and accessible Riverfront is an underlying goal for the City of Newaygo. With that in mind, the Michigan Land Bank Authority Grant paid for the demolition of three deteriorated buildings behind The Stream. This was a proactive move in preparation for future development.
“Walkability” is a relatively new concept to Newaygo, and it simply means working together to facilitate the continuous flow of traffic while providing for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. To that end, the bridge over the Muskegon River was restriped to convert traffic to one lane in each direction with left-turn lanes at the M-82 intersection and Wood and Water streets. This has reduced traffic speed and limited blind left turns at the intersections, making it safer for walkers and bikers and should reduce traffic accidents.
In October, the City Council approved an expenditure of $123,500 to hire U.P. Engineers & Architects Inc. as the engineering firm for the Newaygo Crossing Pedestrian Bridge Project. The proposed bridge will be a pedestrian structure to connect Henning Park and the end of Wood Street and allow safe travels between downtown Newaygo and the park. This initial expenditure will cover survey and soil boring work on the bridge. The City is also researching various grant opportunities to help finance this venture.
The City of Newaygo is not exempt from the current opioid epidemic and in January the City Council approved a request to locate “Randy’s House” in the city limits. This residence is considered a prevention (not treatment) facility and is annually inspected by the State of Michigan. It offers recovery coaching, peer support and a direct connection to community resources; and it does not accept violent criminal or sex offenders as residents.
Throughout 2019 Newaygo saw two major employer expansions. Both GM Wood Products and Magna International expanded their facilities and increased their number of employees with support from the City of Newaygo. A growing employment base is a sign of a healthy community and underscores the necessity of providing adequate housing which is all addressed in the new Master Plan.
The Newaygo Police Department works very proactively with the schools and community to prevent crimes before they happen. Over the summer they introduced a Cop Card program similar to baseball trading cards. Each officer has their own Cop Card to hand out to youngsters in an attempt to familiarize children with the officers of the community as well as build relationships between the officers and young people.
During the spring of 2019, the NPD received a grant to purchase a TruNarc hand-held narcotics device that tests drugs through packaging without having to open the package. This will aid Newaygo and other county officers in their fight against drug abuse.
After the resignation of Fire Chief Jason Wolford due to job conflicts, Travis Kroll was named as Newaygo Fire Chief mid-way through 2019. Through various fund-raising projects the NFD purchased an Auto Plus automated CPR system which frees up first responders to attend to other critical issues and alleviates stress and fatigue on those persons performing CPR.
City infrastructure is being maintained and improved, the economy continues to grow, challenges like housing are being addressed, and law enforcement and fire protection continue looking for proactive ways to keep citizens safe. The City ended 2019 poised to continue finding creative solutions that will ensure Newaygo remains a great place to live, work and recreate in the years to come.
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