Vicksburg council eyes Social District changes

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg’s Social District may undergo changes in hopes of fostering greater patronage.

Village council members were advised at an August meeting that further discussion about the downtown area designated as Vicksburg’s Social District can be expected at a Sept. 19 meeting.

Village Manager Jim Mallery said the situation is based primarily on recent conversations he has had with patrons of the Social District and businesses within its boundaries. He said feedback on the village’s Social District has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

In addition, Mallery said he has taken part in forums with his counterparts across the state. Discussions about social districts confirm Vicksburg is not alone in having what could be considered a successful district.

“It’s quite consistent what communities are seeing, first and foremost, that this is truly a positive economic tool for communities that have been engaged and put this in place,” Mallery said, hinting he may suggest the council consider extend the hours of Vicksburg’s Social District.

“It is a council item (and) if the council felt the need or desire, we would certainly recommend that we … put together local data and the impact it’s had on our community, and with that some options in front of the council.”

Michigan law permits local governments to create a defined district including liquor-licensed bars and restaurants and permits patrons to carry their beverages among the businesses. It includes Oswalt Park at the intersection of Prairie and Main streets.

Council President Tim Frisbie said he has been approached at various times about the Social District’s hours and limitations.

“We have a pretty good understanding of what everybody wants to do going forward,” he said.

Council member Ryan Wagner said he agrees it may be time to revisit the district and consider changes to benefit its patrons.

“A lot of folks on the chamber of commerce have approached me and echoed those same things,” Wagner said. “So, I think it’s time we do take a good look at it and task staff with bringing back a recommendation. I’d definitely like to see some proposed changes and recommendations.”

With that, Wagner made a motion for village staff to compile data and information, so the village council can consider updates and recommendations. Mallery will provide a summary of the information and likely make a recommendation.

The Social District’s hours are 4 to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

In other action, Mallery said work on improvements at Sunset Lake Park and Clark Park have been progressing. Sunset Lake Park is close to completion, while the Clark Park work will continue.

Also, Mallery said the village’s Aug. 9 Food Truck Rally drew more than 2,000 people.

“I think people are understanding we can pull these events off,” he said. “They’re family events. People are coming down, families, pets … Main Street and Prairie Street were designed for these events.”

Meanwhile, the village is preparing to host its 150th anniversary celebration Oct. 15. More information will be available in next month’s South County News.

Vicksburg considers parade candy pickup

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg officials recently considered asking for a deposit from parade organizers to ensure the procession route is cleared of candy and litter afterwards.

After discussion, council members took no action on the matter.

Village Manager Jim Mallery later noted that the council already has a “no candy” rule in place and that policy will be stated to parade organizers prior to each parade.

“Tough to enforce, though,” he conceded.

The matter was raised at a recent village council meeting, where a resident said the aftermath of candy and wrappers following the Vicksburg Little League parade left a mess in village streets.

“When I moved to Vicksburg in 2014, I had never seen a community parade in which candy was tossed on the street, whether there was anyone to pick it up or eat it or whatever,” Robert Ball said.

Ball said he and his wife walk daily on a route including Washington, Prairie, and Main streets. He said the day after the Little League parade saw an impressive amount of candy left in Prairie Street and elsewhere. Ball said he and his wife filled two plastic shopping bags with overlooked candy.

“It seems to me that if we make this a fun thing for the children, to throw candy … who picks it up? Do the kids ever pick it up? Should they? Should they have consequences for what they do?” He added, “I don’t know whether elected representatives want to get into this with Little League or whoever they’re approving this for. But it seems like you should give that some thought. I don’t think that’s a good idea for kids to throw candy and gleefully forget about it.”

Council members conceded a public outcry could result if a no-candy-thrown policy is enforced, though they did acknowledge Ball’s concerns.

Council member Carl Keller, in fact, said he was part of a board that a few years ago, banned candy thrown during Little League parades.

“They wanted to lynch me, so that’s a third rail,” he said. “I think we can try to work something out to try to make sure that the kids can have their fun.”

Village Manager Jim Mallery confirmed that the council a few years ago voted to ban thrown candy at parades. He said compliance has gone largely unheeded.

“This is what we face in this town — people are told this is the rule and they don’t follow the rule, so I think we may have to strengthen that with a financial penalty of the cost of picking it up,” he said.

Councilman Rick Holmes said he is not in favor of banning candy at parades, though the village could seek a $200 deposit imposed on parade organizers. If the route is cleaned after the parade, they would receive their full deposit.

“Just as we do at the pavilion,” he said. “(But) go to a Little League parade, go to a homecoming parade, it’s part of the festivities, folks. We live in a small town, let’s let people enjoy the moment. I understand (Ball’s concern), I totally get it, but by the same token, I didn’t vote to not allow candy to be thrown because I think it’s part of a parade.”

Vicksburg sets improvements at gazebo, 2 parks

By Jef Rietsma

Improvements to a gazebo on West Prairie Street and two village parks are underway in Vicksburg.

Village Council members July 18 voted to authorize Frederick Construction to conduct extensive repairs at the gazebo on an overlook along the north side of the street. In addition, the council authorized necessary maintenance at Clark Park, where deck and boardwalk repairs are needed, and Sunset Lake Park, where boardwalk and fishing pier repairs are needed.

Work related to the three projects will cost about $60,000.

Mike Frederick of the construction firm said short-term repairs at Sunset Lake would center on both the north and south boardwalks. They are more than 20 years old and their current condition are considered poor to fair.

Frederick said the structures have weathered significantly and immediate repairs would extend their useful lives by about five years. Specifically, Frederick said the existing wood walkway and handrail system are in need of repairs, as well.

The fishing pier, meanwhile, should be deemed unsafe and access should be prohibited.

“When we’re done with (the work), they’ll be structurally sound, they’ll be usable. They will not be new, but our intentions are to clear some of the vegetation carefully, do the structural corrective measures necessary to make them safe, power-wash them and seal them with two coats of sealers, replace various deck boards and try to breathe a little more life into them,” he said. He noted about 40 deck boards between the two walkways need replacement.

Cost of the Sunset Lake improvements, according to Village Manager Jim Mallery, is $25,150. Frederick said work should be completed by the end of August.

Council members recalled when Sunset Lake Park was an attractive place to swim. Within the past generation, however, they acknowledged the lake’s poor health has been a detriment to such an activity. Mallery said the village has tried to better the area, including two years ago when it brought in more beach sand, added sidewalks and bathroom facilities, and re-stained and re-shingled the park’s pavilion.

Frederick Construction has started work on the deck and boardwalk at the northeast corner of Clark Park. Mike Frederick said the deck is in poor to fair condition, a condition that worsens as a result of heavy rainfall due to drainage from an adjacent parking lot.

“Do we salvage what’s there for a period of time until we get through a master plan to determine what our needs are and what should happen, or short of preventing anybody from using it or tearing it down? We’re right there at that crossroads, is what I’m saying.”

Frederick had offered a number of remedies to improve the deck. The proposal includes reinforcing the upper deck and railing system, installing a new catch basin to collect stormwater runoff, replacing the wood deck, power washing 800 square feet of existing wooden deck boards and 220 lineal feet of wooden handrail system, and applying two coats of sealer. Frederick said the task also includes securing eight midline rail posts, among other minor needs.

The Clark Park work, not to exceed $30,000, should also be completed by the end of summer.

Frederick said a variety of structural improvements to the Prairie Street gazebo as well as a thorough power washing will be completed at a cost of $3,850. That project, too, will be done in August.

In other action, the village is sponsoring a food truck rally in the village’s downtown district on Aug. 9.