HOUGHTON - Local preparations for FinnFest USA 2013 continue, and the Houghton City Council took a step toward finalizing some of those preparations during its regular meeting Wednesday night.
The council approved for FinnFest to use the Ray Kestner Waterfront Park June 19-23 in much the same way as during Bridgefest, which will take place June 14-16.
"FinnFest wants the same kind of venue that Seafood Fest has, where they would have music and vendors on the beach, very similar to what the Rotary Club does the week before," City Manager Scott MacInnes said.
With the two big events, Houghton will have a very busy June, and MacInnes put FinnFest into perspective.
"I believe we have confirmed three charter flights coming in from Finland already with over 400 people coming from Finland alone, and to give you a magnitude of how big this event is, I believe the total budget for Winter Carnival, which is our biggest event, is about $50,000. The budget for this one is over $600,000," he said.
There are still many hotel and motel vacancies, but they're filling fast, MacInnes added.
Considering the number of people who will be exploring the area, the council also approved $7,000 to be put toward museum improvements at Dee Stadium, taking it from the $82,000 available in the TV Franchise fund.
"If there are three charter flights coming in here and 400 from Finland, can you imagine how many of those people are interested in the local history and local whatever you have to offer?" Mayor Bob Backon said. "I think it's going to be a real boon for the area."
In other business, the council:
approved a resolution for the city to opt out of Public Act 152 of 2011 and the cost-sharing obligations for public employee health insurance premiums and costs. Section 8 of the act permits governing bodies from exempting themselves.
"We have a union contract going at least two more years," MacInnes said. "... As far as our insurance goes, we're in good shape for at least this year and ... before we have to start looking at other options."
approved the payment of invoices and expenses for the City of Houghton Water and Wastewater Improvements Project from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development through the 2012 Water Supply Project Construction ($167,758.13) and 2012 Sewage Disposal Project Construction ($91,140.29) funds. U.P. Engineers & Architects will receive $15,632, while Bacco Construction will receive $243,010.42.
UPEA Engineer Eric Waara cited challenges of the fluid situations of working in residential neighborhoods being more complicated than the Shelden Avenue project, which involved simply closing the street for several months.
approved a Portage Lake Water & Sewage Authority agreement with Franklin Township to allow the Ripley area addition to connect to the collection and wastewater treatment system.
"Our policy has been that we're willing to hook in existing homes and businesses to our sewer system, but ... we don't want people taking our utilities and competing with us for new development," MacInnes said.
heard a report from Police Chief John Donnelly saying the department in the last month had responded to 176 calls for service, 29 misdemeanor arrests, three felony arrests and issued 29 tickets. He also informed the council about new bullet-proof vests from Armor Express that can be worn on the outside of police uniforms.
heard a report from Department of Public Works Director Mark Zenner that the city's grader, which they've had since 1999, may need major repairs, and if those repairs exceed $40,000, the council may need to look into replacing it.
"We're looking at all options," he said.
heard from MacInnes about a proposal from relocate.org to add videos to the city's website, cityofhoughton.com.