–Alderman Seip resigns due to moving out of ward
By Colleen Lehmann
Enjoying a relaxing fire on a cool summer evening is a great way to unwind, but at what point does it become intrusive to others around you, and to what lengths, if any, should a municipality go to mitigate potential problems?
This was a discussion topic at the Tuscola City Council meeting held Monday night, July 28, 2014. City Administrator Drew Hoel noted the current ordinance addressing recreational fires states that they are not allowed, except for the purposes of preparation and cooking of food.
Alderwoman Phyllis Truitt, one of and speaking on behalf of asthmatic residents, said she has “absolutely no problem” with fire pits “unless there’s choking smoke due to the materials that are being burned and it comes into my home, making it hard to breathe. At that point, shouldn’t there be some recourse?”
Truitt also reported having been at a TCHS track meet during which heavy smoke from a nearby resident’s large fire obscured the track and caused breathing difficulties for some attendees.
Hoel brought up ordinance language in another community “as a first stab for discussion purposes.” Said recommendations included using appropriate materials such as hardwoods rather than those that result in choking smoke, keeping the fire attended to at all times until it is properly extinguished, keeping the fire within the confines of the fire pit/ring, keeping the fire pit/ring a reasonable size and placing the fire pit/ring a reasonable distance from surrounding structures, and keeping the fire pit/ring away from combustible materials.
Garnering most debate was the issue of “reasonable” size of a fire pit and “reasonable” distance” from structures. Numbers bandied about included 4×4 for maximum size and 15 to 20 feet as reasonable distance from structures. Whether even to have specific numbers attached to an ordinance was also discussed.
Alderman Alan Shoemaker’s initial stance on having specific guidelines was that it would be clearer for community members to know what was allowed and would make enforcement of the ordinance easier for officials responding to complaints. Mayor Dan Kleiss advocated for leaving more up to the discretion of the responding officer.
“I think there’s a difference between a small fire ring and a large fire pit. With a small ring, it would most likely be very reasonable to have it 10 feet from your house, but if we have a 15-foot restriction that might mean someone with a small lot size technically would not be able to have one. Plus, my understanding is the main issue here is the nuisance smoke rather than recreational fires themselves. I agree there probably should be some guidelines in place, but I’m a fan of less government rather than more in people’s lives,” Kleiss said.
Hoel suggested fire safety guidelines and preventative measures on the city’s Web site and in other public places to help address the situation. City Attorney Andrew Bequette said he and Hoel would take into consideration the discussion topics and bring back something for council to consider at the next meeting.
Ward 2 city alderman Tim Seip tendered his resignation as a councilman, effective at the close of Monday night’s meeting. A move to the country, and out of his representative district, precipitated the resignation.
Mayor Dan Kleiss offered his appreciation for Seip’s service, noting, “I always believed and appreciated that Tim’s heart and mind were in the right place, for the betterment of Tuscola.”
Seip said of his tenure, “I’ve seen a lot of good changes in the 14 years I’ve been here, and I’ve really enjoyed being part of it.”
City Administrator Drew Hoel reported the city’s hail damage claims process continues to move forward, and is approaching the $500,000 mark. That said, he also noted it means the city has triggered the minimum/maximum provision that had allowed the city to self-insure a portion of its loss fund at a reduced premium rate.
“With the significant hail claim, we will have to pay an additional premium of about $54,000, but we are still ahead since we haven’t had a large claim in several years,” explained Hoel.
In other business the council:
•Approved payment of bills totaling $595,270.01 and minutes of the July 14, 2014 meeting.
•Approved Community Building lease with alcohol requests made by Jane Lewis for a Sept. 27 wedding reception, by Kirk Rogers for a Sept. 6 retirement party, and by Santiago Martinez for an Aug. 16 birthday party.
•Approved a request for a Cub Scout day camp June 15-19, 2015 at Ervin Park.
•Approved a request from the Tuscola Can Do For Classrooms committee for a 5K fun run fundraiser to be held Oct. 4 during Homecoming weekend.
•Learned the TIF delinquency list includes Jeannine Garrett, PMG Tuscola, Eddie Boutilier, and Bruce and Andrea Robinson.
•Adjourned at 8:10 p.m. until the next regularly scheduled city council meeting on Mon., Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall.