Keeping the grass roots growing!!
LAPEER — In an extremely light turnout, 12.8-percent of Lapeer’s 5,890 registered voters turned out Tuesday to narrowly defeat a road millage proposal and elected a new city commissioner, Dan Osentoski, to office.
By a 24-vote margin, voters rejected a six-year, two-mill road millage proposal 383 to 359 that would have gone to maintain and repair city streets and sidewalks — long a complaint aired by residents and area drivers alike of generally being in poor shape. A similar proposal floated in November 2015 was defeated by 17 votes, 527-510.
“People have seen that we’ve been fortunate with grants and have worked so hard to get additional money for roads, but that pot is almost empty,” said City Manager Dale Kerbyson, disappointed at the results. “There will definitely be a slowdown in the amount of work getting done on roads, because for the foreseeabale future we don’t see too many other grant opportunities out there.”
The city’s Dept. of Public Works will continue to do crack and seal work as well as some road slurry projects — a thin roadway application of an asphalt, filler mix designed to buy the street surface additional years should money in the future become available for a more comprehensive fix such as a rebuild.
Next summer the only major project in Lapeer will be a complete rebuild of Baldwin Road from M-24 to the city limits in the area of the Taco Bell driveway. This “major street project” is partially funded by the Michigan Dept. of Transportation that awarded the City of Lapeer a grant of approximately $375,000 while the city will pick up the balance of the project cost — approximately $794,000.
“We will continue with the status quo as we have been doing as far as the crack sealing and other preventative maintenance, but we won’t have the money to do major construction elsewhere,” Kerbyson said.
New commissioner elected
Dan Osentoski, 52, will join the Lapeer City Commission on Nov. 20 when he’s sworn into office, to help the administration find more money for road funding as the result of winning a three-way race for a commission seat.
Osentoski won the majority vote, 310, to defeat challengers Andrew Kluck (254) and incumbent commissioner Elaine Gates who finished last with 139 votes. Gates was elected to the commission in November 2013.
Osentoski owns Osentoski Insurance Agency in downtown Lapeer. He has served on the city’s Downtown Development Authority since 2015, and is currently on three committee assignments with the DDA’s Main Street Initiative Program designed to help Lapeer officials and residents enhance and grow downtown Lapeer. Osentoski is on committees to market downtown, a restructuring committee tasked to identify and exploit economic incentives to help downtown as well as an organization committee.
Osentoski credits his victory on going heavy to get the absentee vote which was a significant percentage of the overall turnout. Three hundred and forty-four absentee ballots were mailed out, and 303 were returned in Tuesday’s election.
Osentoski obtained the absentee ballot register by filing a Freedom of Information Act form for the public information with the city clerk’s office. “I mailed out 450 post cards that included a photo of myself and some of my background, including my education which I think is important to some people,” said Osentoski. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in business administration and a master’s degree in finance from Wayne State University.
Osentoski also knocked on a lot of doors and visited with local senior citizen groups several times.
“I’m excited and looking forward to get to work,” said Osentoski who noted he wants to see the city’s building department controversy resolved, and is eager to get and study the fees charged in other communities for permit applications and inspections.
Osentoski will be seated on the city commission at a time when the city’s planning department is concluding its work to draft ordinances that will identify where and how medical marijuana businesses will be allowed to operate in the city.
“I have no problem with medical marijuana. I believe there are some folks who really need it,” said Osentoski. “I don’t think there should be a marijuana dispensary downtown, but I think there are other locations that would be suitable.”
Mayor Bill Sprague will also be sworn into office on Nov. 22. He ran uncontested Tuesday and earned 591 votes. Sprague has been mayor since 2006. Prior to being appointed to mayor (re-elected in November 2013), Sprague served as a city commissioner from April 2001 to September 2006.
The Lapeer City Commission meets the first and third Monday of the month, at 6:30 p.m., in the second floor commission chamber at city hall.