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New Baltimore DDA Opts for 'Plan B' in Streetscape Project

The city may move forward with downtown improvement plans without grant assistance.

New Baltimore's Downtown Development Authority wants to forge ahead with the highly anticipated streetscape project.

DDA Chairman Michael Wojciechowski told city council Monday consensus among the board was to pursue the project itself.

"They don't want to spend any more money or time to pursue the MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) grant," he said.

Councilwoman Florence Hayman said fact-finding meetings in the city have explored the cost savings for the city handling the bid process, as opposed to resubmitting to MDOT.

The project's future has been uncertain in recent months. Judy Sproat, director of planning and economic development, was closely tied to it before her controversial termination. Sproat also worked with the DDA on a regular basis.

Earlier this month, Mayor Larry Smith said community officials were looking at ways to scale back the project's expenses because the lowest bids for the work came in approximately $200,000 over budget.

The DDA hopes to finish upgrades in the historic downtown, including adding greenery and possibly an irrigation system, Wojciechowski said.

"We want to start tomorrow; we wanted to start a month ago," he said. "What we have is a vision and we want to make this happen."

He wrote in a letter to council that, "We are exploring all scenarios, including the possibility that the DDA may not be able to afford to submit for the MDOT grant.

"The DDA at best will have roughly $80,000 to spend on an alternative plan. In preparation for this possibility, we would like to know if the $140,000 (that was intended to be a 10-year loan at 3.25% interest to support the DDA portion of the streetscape project) will be available to the DDA to invest in an alternative plan to complete the project." 

Following council's approval of the request, the DDA is slated to make a final decision during its board meeting Feb. 13 regarding the grant, according to the letter.

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