Additional topic discussion results in council member throwing water bottle at mayor

REED CITY — The Hersey River dam is set for removal, thanks to additional project funding from the Reed City Downtown Development Authority.

The Reed City Council has targeted the dam's removal for more than a year, as the structure, located behind the Moose Lodge on Roth Street, has been deteriorating and is now considered a hazard for trespassers and residents using the river for recreation. Members of the Reed City Area Recreation Authority presented the concern to members of the Reed City Council in 2013.

“They felt this was a hazard to the public, and that rang the bells,” said Reed City Manager Ron Howell last year. “At that point, we felt we had to do something.”

Although the city had no room for the project in its budget, city employees were asked by council members to remove pieces of the dam from the river and surrounding area. Still, reinforcing bar juts out from the concrete base, a large metal sheet is in the river itself and the location of the dam itself is dangerous for river users, as it sits around a bend in the river.

According to documents acquired by the city, it appears to have been used as a hydroelectric dam by Morris & Martin water power before the city purchased the dam and surrounding land through multiple transactions in 1921 and 1954 for $32,900. Through the decades, natural causes have taken its toll on the dam and caused decay.

Brian Rice, an environmental group manager for engineering firm Fleis and Vandenbrink in Grand Rapids, has been providing insight to the Reed City Council regarding the dam and advising them about grant opportunities that could help fund a removal project. The project has an estimated cost of about $256,000.

Rice expected $30,000 in local matches from the city and surrounding townships (if they townships were willing to participate), $20,000 from the city in in-kind services, $3,000 from in-kind services from Trout Unlimited and $3,000 from in-kind services from Fleis and Vandenbrink.

Last August, the Reed City Council allowed Rice to submit a pre-application for an Aquatic Habitat Grant and Dam Removal Grant through the state of Michigan. The pre-application included riverbank restoration, sediment transport and signage providing information of interest and the role dams play on aquatic ecosystems.

The city was denied the grant, however Howell received word from the Reed City DDA that it had picked up the projects and budgeted $165,000 toward the dam's removal, as it had previously asked Howell which projects the city needs help with.

Howell said the city is currently accepting bids and hopes to bring a selection of options before the council's next meeting on Monday, Aug. 17.

Also during the meeting,council members approved a motion to purchase a zero-turn mower from Bader and Sons in Big Rapids for about $7,900.

During discussion on the topic whether to award a $7,800 bid to Palmer's Outdoor Power Equipment in Reed City or Bader and Sons, Howell said council member Dave Scharlow "flipped" a water bottle at Reed City Mayor Karen McKinney.

Scharlow admitted to the action, stating he became upset after McKinney call him what he believed to be an offensive name.

"She referred to me as the 'big mouth at the end of the table,'" he said. "I didn't like being referred to that, so I had a water bottle — it wasn't full — and threw it at her."

He said McKinney called him the name after he protested awarding the bid to a Big Rapids company instead of supporting a local business, which supports the community with taxes. He added he is frustrated with the lack of relationship between the city and local businesses.

McKinney also spoke briefly about the incident.

"I don't want to say anything except a lot of people have talked to me since the incident and they feel I didn't do anything wrong," she said. "Dave is entitled to his own feelings."

McKinney added Scharlow did apologize to her after the meeting ended, and she believes the council's code of conduct will be discussed at the next meeting so all council members will have a better understanding on how to conduct themselves.

In other business, council members:

  • approved a motion to purchase a 2016 Ford Explorer police vehicle from Babb Ford in Reed City for about $26,500;
  • approved a motion to approve a fire contract and cost recovery agreement with Richmond, Chase and Pinora townships at three-quarters of a mil against the current taxable value;
  • approved a recommendation by Reed City Fire Chief Jeffery Stein to re-instate Jim Decker and Matt Decker to the Reed City Fire Department at the same hourly rate as when they left the department about five months ago;
  • approved a motion to give the Reed City Area District Library;
  • approved the property and reliability insurance policy through Michigan Underwriters in the amount of $38,000; and
  • approved a motion to allow fireworks during the Reed City Homecoming celebration, which will take place on Oct. 9.