Three Rivers City Commission approves loan agreement with DDA for amphitheater

Becky Shank of Constantine speaks to the commission regarding the Hoffman Pond dam on Tuesday, March 5 at Three Rivers City Hall. (Deborah Haak-Frost|Watershed Voice)

As the next step in the building of an outdoor amphitheater in downtown Three Rivers, city commissioners approved a loan agreement with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Tuesday.

In April of 2023, the commission approved a resolution to apply for a Michigan Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for its Public Gathering Spaces Initiative (PGSI) to help pay for a downtown outdoor amphitheater on the Portage River.

The $1,953,445 grant stipulates that the DDA would be required to commit 10 percent of the project costs of $195,345. At an April 2023 city commission meeting, City Manager Joe Bippus said the DDA did not have the matched money for the grant, and the city could work out a loan with the DDA.

The money will come from the city’s general fund, and the DDA will pay back the loan via one initial payment of $13,345 in July, and 14 additional annual installments of $13,000. The city won’t charge the DDA an interest rate, and the expected payoff date of the loan is July 30, 2038.

“I think it’s a great project; I’m looking forward to it,” Mayor Tom Lowry said in support Tuesday.

Hoffman Pond Dam

The commission also set a public hearing regarding the Hoffman Pond Dam for March 19 at 6 p.m.

“The State of Michigan has concerns about the condition of the Hoffman Pond Dam,” a report from city staff states. “The State has been meeting with the owners of the Dam and the City to find a path forward to get the dam fixed or removed. City Administration would like to have a public discussion to discuss the current grant opportunity and the pros and cons of keeping or removing the dam.”

Becky Shank of Constantine spoke during the public comment section with concern for downstream impacts if the dam is removed.

“I know there’s been discussion for some time about that dam,” Shank said. “I’m more concerned about what’s behind it and what the effect will be on Portage Lake, Fisher Lake, the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy properties, and also the privately owned properties that face [Hoffman Pond], if for some reason it should disappear.

“And if it does, is all of that water just all of a sudden going to come down the hill to where the Portage [River] meets the St. [Joseph River] and bring with it all of the things that have been collected behind that dam for all of this time? […] I just hope and pray that whatever decision is made, we keep a close eye on our environment and not only our future, but the past that brought this to question.”

In other business, the commission…

  • Re-appointed several members to local boards, including the Historic District Commission and the Planning Commission. Both boards currently have one vacancy each.
  • Instructed city staff to look into a local leash law after a resident voiced concerns about her family’s safety due to a neighbor’s unleashed, “aggressive” dogs.