by Elizabeth Wehman, editor

Normal meeting times for Owosso City Council are the first and third Monday of each month. Due to a fifth Monday in January, council decided to invite the public to discuss two pertinent topics that include changes in the Medical Marijuana Law and an overview of the upcoming street improvement at their Monday, Jan. 30 special meeting.

The Michigan Legislature recently passed legislation amending the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. The amendments establish state licensing for marijuana facilities. Licenses will not be available until Dec. 15 of this year. Therefore, the city of Owosso has until that date to pass any ordinances and amend to zone for facilities. They may also ban facilities entirely.

There are five new licenses that the state will grant and they include grower, processor, provisioning center, safety compliance center, and secure transporter. Each licensee has to follow specific guidelines to earn a license.

Municipalities may also adopt an ordinance authorizing one or more types of marijuana facilities within its boundaries and limiting the number of each type of facility. A marijuana facility may not operate in a municipality unless that municipality has adopted an ordinance authorizing that type of facility. A municipality may also establish an annual nonrefundable fee of up to $5,000 for a licensee.

When council dealt with the marijuana issue previously, it established the following rules and regulations regarding the placement and/or location of dispensaries. No medical marijuana dispensary or clinic shall be located within 1,000 feet of another dispensary, any park identified and so signed by the city, or any public or private school, college, or university property, nor shall any dispensary be located within 500 feet of the following uses listed as any house of worship, any parcel zoned and used for residential purposes, any licensed day care facility and any public library. These boundaries mirror the Michigan Liquor Control Code of 1998 provision. “I’m getting inquiries on a daily basis,” said City Manager Don Crawford, “Will need to take some kind of action. You need to consider how fast you want to proceed.”

City Attorney Bill Brown told council at the Monday meeting, “You may select one or none or all five licensees, but I encourage you to study the new laws before you make your decisions.” Councilperson Lori Bailey added, “I think we want to go to training before making any decisions. Possibly look at how the state decides and then mirror them.” Other council members also agreed that making a decision right now isn’t necessary. “Let’s get a balance and more public input,” said Burton Fox and adding, “Let’s do it the right way,” commented Elaine Greenway.

Owosso Council wants citizens of Owosso to be an important part of the process and the Monday special meeting was to be a discovery phase to listen to citizen comment and input without making any decisions. Several concerned citizens did voice their opinions during the citizen comment portion of the meeting which was first on the agenda.

Next on the special meeting’s agenda was discussion of the upcoming city street project. The city of Owosso owns 72 miles of streets. The city utilizes its share of Michigan’s Public Act fifty one funds (commonly known as street funds) to maintain streets like snow plowing, crack sealing and patching as well as light maintenance treatments like chip seals. But there is not enough funds to do more expensive repairs such as resurfacings and reconstructions so the city depends upon grants and street bonds to fund these repairs.

It is reported that about one quarter of Owosso city streets are rated poor and need replacement (reconstruction). About half of Owosso streets are mid-life stage and need resurfacing or rehabilitation. Altogether about 75 percent of the street system is in need of major repair. Total repair cost stands at approximately $45 billion and that amount increases at a rate of about $2 million per year as streets continue to deteriorate.

Last November, Owosso citizens agreed to approve a $10 million street bond proposal to help fix many of the roads, but it will not satisfy the total need. Owosso has set up a legitimate street maintenance schedule, but the road system schedule has fallen behind and it will take several generations for it to get back on track.

On hand for the presentation were City Engineer Randy Chesney and Director of Public Services Glenn Chinavare. They told council, “It will take several repetitions of the program to get roads up to what they should be, spreading out the work as best as we can.” Council members discussed who would be in charge of the work and Chesney said he is looking to get consulting people on board and proposals with pricing will soon be sought and then brought back to Chinavare. Fox added, “Perhaps we should put someone on staff here as an overseer.” Chinavare also added that Justin Horvath from the Shiawassee Economic Development Program is also seeking to help the city with grant funding.

The street improvement plan being proposed is to select those street projects that best fit the program’s objectives and develop a strategic plan. Streets that are in their mid-life phase should receive higher priority while reserving sufficient room to include some of the street that require reconstruction. The plan also will blend those streets that should be improved under the bond program and used as a working document for scheduling individual projects. The budget will require periodic adjustment as the selected projects are completed. Changes, such as the ability to secure funds, pricing, and unforeseen circumstances will impact the program’s performance.

Once the plan is established, projects should move forward in the form of grouped lists in recommended three year increments. This will allow orderly communication to the public and stakeholders who have interests in each street project.

The next Owosso City Council meeting is slated for Monday, Feb. 6.

Special Meeting Held in Owosso was last modified: February 1st, 2017 by Karen Elford