City Hall COLLEGIAN | (Photo: Wiki­media)

Hillsdale res­i­dents are con­cerned about the state of con­struction projects with winter just around the corner.

Mon­day’s City Council meeting caused heated debate sur­rounding hot-button topics such as sign ordi­nances, street con­struction, and the potential effects of mar­i­juana legal­ization.

During the meeting, some Hillsdale res­i­dents expressed concern that the roads under con­struction around the city are not ready for winter.

Erica Cleveland, a res­ident of Rippon Street, spoke about the roads during public comment. She noted huge cement slabs, massive tree trunks that have been left since May, and lack of working water, all in front of her house. Cleveland said her children aren’t safe on Rippon and Bacon streets.

“My biggest concern is the safety of the street,” Cleveland said. “We have a lot of kids. At least 10 kids play there daily.”

As the street replacement and repair project began in the spring and remains incom­plete, the council received largely neg­ative feedback. Cleveland said everyone was excited for the project to begin in the spring but now, as of November, people are worried. Although she doesn’t expect the project to finish before the winter, she demanded that it at least get cleaned up before it’s too cold.

“It’s worse than a war zone out there,” she said. “And the city is ulti­mately respon­sible for making it better here on out.”

Several coun­cilmen echoed her com­ments and added to her state­ments by sym­pa­thizing with other cit­izens who have come forward to talk about their issues with the con­struction.

“It’s an embar­rassment,” Mayor Adam Stockford said. “I get calls from people in town. I even went all the way to Jackson the other day and people were asking me about it.”

Wayne Scott, however, had dif­ferent thoughts on the con­struction.

“To point a finger at someone and say it’s their fault, it’s nobody’s fault. Are we in kinder­garten anymore?” asked Scott, a Hillsdale res­ident. “How many of the council members have ever gone down there and said good job and offered them water?”

Director of Public Ser­vices Jake Hammel said there are plans to start cleaning up equipment and making water work again as early as Nov. 8, starting on Bacon Street and working north. He noted that “no amount of com­plaining gets us closer.”

Ush­ering in the topic of sign ordi­nances, res­ident Ted Jansen pointed out Hillsdale’s so-called flawed system of sign ordi­nances. He argued against the lack of full enforcement of rules such as sign placement 8 feet back from the property line and the amount of signs busi­nesses can have.

“Ordi­nances are OK when they’re evenly applied but it’s prob­lematic with selective enforcement,” he said.

To help back up his com­plaints with visual aids, he listed more than eight loca­tions around town of places where signs that break the code vio­la­tions have gone unno­ticed, pro­viding photos of each spot.

The council also spec­u­lated on whether Pro­posal 1 would pass in Tuesday’s election. The measure, which passed, makes Michigan the 10th state in the country to legalize mar­i­juana for recre­ational use.

The pro­posal expressly states that munic­i­pal­ities may choose to opt out. If the council chooses to opt out, 5 percent of Hillsdale res­i­dents can sign a petition to put it back on the ballot to opt-in.

“We may have to get new laws based on whether or not it passes,” Police and Fire Chief Scott Hephner said. “With recre­ational, it’s, I don’t want to say dif­ficult, it’s going to be very time-con­suming. We can antic­ipate a lot more drunk driving, that’s how they term it.”

Hephner explained that, knowing youth overdose rates have gone up in other states, there’s a lot of pre­ven­tative work to do. The pro­posal would affect several ordi­nances, par­tic­u­larly mar­i­juana use in public spaces. Either way, he said, it will be a big change for the state.