Economic development and police matters topped the agenda at last week’s regular meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council.
Community Development Director Rob Mattei kicked off the discussion with an overview of building activity in the city. Building activity in 2015 was the second highest in over a decade, with about $21 million worth of commercial construction, $3.8 million in residential construction and $9.22 million in government construction. Some of the highlights from the 2015 construction season included: 13 new single family dwellings ($1.7 million), the Pine Ridge Apartments ($2.9 million), Blandin Foundation remodeling ($1.8 million), the addition of a second building at River Hills ($2 million), the Beacon Hill project ($7 million) and renovations at the Reif Center ($7.2 million).
Mattei also touched briefly on the commercial building improvement loan program. Since the program’s rejuvenation in 2006, the city has loaned more than $500,000 to 19 different businesses. Mattei added that Swan Machinery was interested in moving from its current leased facility to its own permanent facility in the south industrial park. The company expects to create 10 to 16 new positions once they relocate.
Assistant Police Chief Steve Schaar delivered the report for the police department, summarizing activity from 2015 as well as looking forward to 2016 goals. Schaar opened his remarks by noting that the city police department had handled 12,574 calls during 2015, down 218 calls from 2014 and continuing a downward trend in incoming calls over the past few years. He attributes the decrease in calls to a change in policy whereby the department does not respond to ICRs or calls for traffic stop warnings. Drug-related calls have gone up over the past five years as well as thefts and burglaries. The assistant chief said that the two were related, stating that those who are hooked on drugs then steal to pay for the drugs.
Schaar said that accomplishments for 2015 included the implementation of a new dispatch center and records management system at the airport, a new career development plan for all officers, revision of supervisory areas of responsibility and training in the area of crisis intervention for the mentally ill.
The department intends to add some new programs to compliment existing programs in 2016. The new programs include a special police academy for high school students, coffee with a cop and a locally produced cable television program entitled GRPD Chronicles. Schaar said that other goals for 2016 included kicking off the Police Community Advisory Board, Anishinaabe Cultural Awareness training, continuing the teens academy and filling a slot in the college student intern program.
In other business, the council:
• Voted to purchase playground equipment at a cost of $22,567.64 from Gametime and Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground for installation at Crystal Lake Park.
• Voted to purchase 15 replacement laptops for squad cars at a cost of $42,744.90 with $20,706.98 coming from a grant, $17,500 coming from the CIP, and $4,537.93 coming from the police forfeiture fund.
• Increased the number of participants on the Police Community Advisory Board from seven to nine in order to achieve a majority of Grand Rapids residents on the committee.
• Voted to add Charles Burress and John Nalan to the Police Community Advisory Board.
• Accepted the retirement of Mary Corwin from the position of administrative assistant at the police department, effective June 30 and hired Kathy Lawson for same on a temporary basis.