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.