Sturgis City Commission: New firefighter sworn in, waste water treatment plant honored, shelter for unhoused stuck on pause 

Firefighter Margit (Maggie) Bolthouse is sworn in by Sturgis City Clerk Kenneth Rhodes during a Sturgis City Commission meeting on Wednesday, January 25. (Beca Welty|Watershed Voice)

At a Sturgis City Commission meeting Wednesday proceedings included an award for the city’s wastewater treatment plant, an update on the needs of the unhoused in the community, and new developments with the Sturges-Young Center for the Arts, among others.

Bolthouse sworn in

In the first order of business Public Safety Director Ryan Banaszak swore in new Sturgis Firefighter Margit (Maggie) Bolthouse. Bolthouse grew up in Illinois, attended Northern Michigan University, and graduated with a degree in entertainment and marketing. In 2011, she and her husband moved to Sturgis where she attended the fire academy in 2021, and then EMT school. After obtaining her EMT license, Bolthouse was employed with the Parkview Hospital Ambulance Service, prior to joining the Sturgis Fire Department full-time in October 2022. Bolthouse’s husband Craig Bolthouse was present to pin her badge, after which she was officially sworn in. 

Maple Towers Apartments

A Sturgis Housing Commission (SHC) update was provided by Executive Director Timothy Hill, who spoke to the many issues SHC is facing with Maple Towers Apartments, a 71-unit facility, including the need to upgrade the security system. Having a new security, camera, and intercom system will now let SHC know if anyone is gaining access to the complex who is not a resident. Hill said the commission has applied for four grants, two of which they believe they’ll almost certainly be awarded, and hopes the addition of those funds will help Maple Towers come into code by late summer of 2023. Hill added, “We have gone through and effectively cleaned out the majority of the crime in the facility by using the lengthy court system, but we have used it and it’s done wonders because these people are now not allowed back into not only our facility, but any other public housing facility in the state.” 

Sturgis Wastewater Treatment Plant 

The Sturgis Wastewater Treatment Plant was honored recently at a reception on January 19 with a 2023 Premier Utility Management Performance award. Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Brandon Schrader and Deputy Director of Public Services Tom Sikorski spoke about the state-level award to the city commission Wednesday. Sikorski reported Sturgis was one of four winners of the PUMP Award this year, and they will more than likely submit an application for the national award, the Effective Utility Management System award. “We have a lot of good things going on within the city and within the wastewater plant.”

Sturges-Young Center for the Arts

Two new business items for the evening were regarding the Sturges-Young Center for the Arts, beginning with plans to make the building more accessible. Daniel Root, facilities manager for the center, said the building was constructed in 1954-1955 with little consideration to accessibility for those with physical limitations. While improvements were made in the late 1980s to install a ramp to the main entrance, and an elevator in the building, staff have become more aware of the need to further improve the accessibility of the facility. 

At the May 25, 2022 commission meeting, a proposal from BYCE & Associates to provide Civil and Design Engineering services for the project was approved by the commission, and soon after staff from BYCE visited the site and began the design phase. With drawings for the bidding complete, the project was opened for bids on December 19, 2022, of which there were two. With the bids forwarded to BYCE for review and vetting, BYCE provided a recommendation to award letter for the lowest bidder, Kalleward Group. The low bid is in the amount of $182,900, which includes the base bid on the project of $153,000. Root said staff is also recommending a 10 percent contingency on the project of $18,290. The city commission approved the bid from Kalleward Group, as well as the contingency budget requested by SYCA.

Sheila Bolda, Director of SYCA, spoke next asking the commission to approve a new, proposed logo and font to be incorporated on all SYCA branding and publications. As part of the ongoing efforts to improve outreach, the SYCA board and city staff have been working with the city’s contracted marketing firm, FocalPoint, to update the logo and font design for the Center for the Arts. The proposed logo rebranding was presented to the full SYCA Board at their January meeting, where they approved the choice and recommended it to the city commission for consideration. SYCA plans to incorporate the design into all elements of branding at the facility, including placement in a new front marquee sign as well as the SYCA website, social media platforms, print materials, correspondence, staff uniforms, and name badges.  

Bolda revealed the proposed logo to commissioners while explaining that the design is meant to emphasize the importance of bringing people together and celebrating shared experiences, while also highlighting the kind of community inclusion that is fostered by an appreciation of the arts. 

“The idea behind the design seems to be kind of incorporating what we’ve been utilizing for the last four years, while moving in a more modern and streamlined design that hopefully will match the mid-century modern aesthetic of the space,” Bolda said.

Fourth Precinct Commissioner Frank Perez asked whether the logo should be trademarked. Brian Richmond from FocalPoint, who was also in attendance, said, “It is in creation right now, so we can register it as a trademark, that’s not a problem. There would be some cost to do that, but it’s just a legal process.” 

Richmond offered a potential quote from Legal Zoom of $599 to trademark the logo, after which City Attorney TJ Reed offered to get in touch with a local attorney that does patent and trademark work. The city commission unanimously approved the proposed logo and font. 

Shelter for Sturgis’ unhoused

In the portion of the meeting designated for commissioner and staff comments, Second Precinct Commissioner Brandon Kinsey mentioned an email he and other board members received from Shelly Render, a concerned community member and advocate for those without housing. In her email, Render made a call-to-action for City of Sturgis to work with the community in order to provide emergency shelter for the unhoused. Render pointed out the new Emergency Weather Shelter at the St. Joseph Community Co-Op (located at 307 W. Chicago Rd.), and asked the city to make this issue a priority. 

Interim City Manager Andrew Kuk said he recently had contact with Krysti Boughton of the St Joseph Community Co-Op, and that city staff was in attendance at their meeting on January 10. Kuk said the meeting had a large community turnout, and he has a meeting scheduled on February 1 with Boughton to talk about both near-term and long-term items concerning the shelter. “We also plan to be back at the city commission meeting next week to kind of talk about that direction, what we’re thinking, and get your feedback on that, too. I think we will have more information for you next week,” Kuk said.

Perez spoke passionately to his fellow commissioners Wednesday concerning the unhoused, saying it is a venture that will need involvement from people both in the county and in the townships. “If we as a municipality are holding red tape to accommodate some of these folks, that stuff’s gotta go. It’s gotta go, and we have to work with individuals who are not as fortunate as us to get rid of the red tape.” Perez ended his statement by saying he hoped the commission could agree to put the issue as an agenda item to discuss further “because it’s due.”

Mayor Jeff Mullins responded, “Mr. Perez, before you came onto the commission, we did have quite a lengthy discussion here in the city commission with all the appropriate county agencies all together in the room. It’s just a really, really tough issue to tackle.” Mullins went on to list the difficult issues that came to surface when making decisions about providing shelter such as substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and mental illness. As far as this particular concern regarding an Emergency Warming Center, Mullins said, “I can assure you that staff is going to do everything they can to accommodate this warming center.”

“I appreciate that, Mr. Mayor,” Perez said, “but if we’ve had discussions and we still don’t have anything in place, then shame on us. We need something in place now.”

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.