EagleHerald staff writer
MARINETTE—A facelift, of sorts, churns the prospects of growth and aesthetics in areas along Main Street in the City of Marinette. And for the multitude of employees funneling through the narrow and traffic-brimmed corridor over their final four- or five-block slog through a wet spring day from a parked car to work, it also stirs the promise of convenience.
The facelift comes not at the tip of a scalpel, but at the broad iron teeth of an excavator’s bucket (i.e. shovel). It comes under the moniker of infrastructure and with the close coordination between area businesses, industry and the city.
More specifically, with Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s (FMM) more than $200 million capital expansion projects currently underway in Wisconsin, to help ready its Marinette shipyard for the fabrication of the U.S. Navy’s new line of advanced Constellation class frigates, FMM expects to gradually ramp up its employee base by approximately 1,000 workers to meet production needs.
Those new bodies also bring the expectation of an increase in vehicles and pedestrian traffic. Consequently, whether it be among city officials, business leaders, or between coworkers still drying off after a rainy-day jaunt from their vehicle to the front gate, discussions consistently turn to the need for additional parking. Additionally, the need to provide for vehicle security and the safety of those employees and residents as they crisscross to and from their vehicles during shift changes plays an integral part in those discussions.
To those points, two new developments—each along separate but coordinated lines of implementation—in the quest for additional parking infrastructure came to much closer to fruition in the past week
First, FMM confirmed to the EagleHerald the establishment of a long-term lease agreement with KK Integrated Logistics Inc. (KKIL), that promises to significantly expand the parking potential along that corridor. Secondly, the City of Marinette commissioned engineering consultant firm Ayres Associates to conduct a pedestrian traffic safety study in the area of Stanton and Ludington streets, adjacent to the proposed parking lot locations.
However, the city still needs to approve the shipyards lot proposals before work can commence.
According to Bethany Skorik, Senior Manager, Public Affairs and Government Relations, the agreement between FMM and KKIL accommodates the development of parking lots on the property adjacent to FMM (formerly JCI property).
“(If the city approves, the lots) would be ready in the next few months and add hundreds of parking spots,” Skorik said. “FMM and KKIL are working closely with the city through the approval process.”
For FMM employees like Adam Schwantes, who lives in the Menakaunee area of Marinette and who usually rides his bicycle to work, expanded parking would add a welcome propinquity to the job site, particularly on days when soggy spring mornings or frigid winter winds preclude biking.
Friday served one such day. As gray skies drizzled over Marinette, the EagleHerald caught up to Schwantes, on his trek to the shipyard from his vehicle parked on Main Street.
“Usually I bike to (work) because of the parking situation,” he said. “But today, since it is raining, I decided to drive … I don’t even try to park (at the shipyard) because … by the time I get there, it’s pretty much taken up.”
Expanding industry also requires close coordination with the city and other contractors to maintain and alleviate any safety issues that may arise due to increased traffic. And that means expanding infrastructure.
During a special meeting of the Marinette Common Council, alderpersons approved a proposal for a pedestrian safety study along Stanton and Ludington streets, in areas adjacent to FMM’s proposed parking lots.
“This (study) is part of the ongoing work to find parking solutions near Marinette Marine,” said Mayor Steve Genisot.
According to the Ayres proposal, the study seeks to analyze current pedestrian patterns to acquire an estimate of foot traffic across Stanton Street that would result in the addition of the proposed lot. The study will examine peak shift-change patterns and the ways in which those patterns influence traffic movement through the area. With the data Ayres aims to develop a projected model of impact on pedestrian traffic through the area then provide a recommendations report to the city to ensure that mechanisms of traffic and pedestrian safety are maintained. The report will also offer budget-level cost estimates to the city should those additions be made.
The cost of the pedestrian safety study will not exceed $6,000 without prior approval by the city and the analysis is slated to begin this week with the recommendation report by the first week of May.
“It is a limited study,” Genisot said. “But it will allow us to determine if we need to put in certain crosswalks or (traffic) lights.”
Other parking solutions already addressed by Fincantieri have brought some improvement. According to Skorik, the 2020 reconfiguration of an existing lot at the shipyard now accommodates 200 FMM employees. Furthermore, to better the convenience and safety for employees who commute from beyond Marinette’s borders, Skorik pointed out the parking annex located in the lot that served the former Younkers store in Pine Tree Mall. A shuttle runs from that location to the shipyard every 15 minutes from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 and then again, from 2 p.m. to 5.
As for Schwantes, on those days when the rain pours down or impending blizzards sharpen the wind’s bit, and he leaves his bike at home, the satisfaction of pulling into an open slot closer to work and with the added security of off-street parking awaits in the not too distant future.
“I’m looking forward to when they finally do get the parking,” he said.
EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—The Brownfield Authority is now ready to get into the “nitty gritty” of the work ahead and possibly hire a consultant to help.
A Brownfield, as defined by United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”
This can mean many things, especially by different standards imposed by individual states. In Michigan, a brownfield includes both environmental activities and non-environmental activities.
Tuesday, the Menominee County Brownfield Authority met with consultant Mac McClelland, who specializes in brownfield projects. McClelland owns his own consulting firm, Mac Consulting.
McClelland said projects need prior investments before they qualify as brownfield projects. “A key component of a brownfield project is private investment,” he said. “It also must be eligible to be a ‘brownfield property.’
There are several factors that can make a property brownfield-eligible, including being contaminated, blighted or in a historical district. McClelland said Michigan only recently added historical districts to the list of brownfield-eligible properties.
“If you have a clean site with no issues with it, then you really don’t have any brownfield activities,” he said.
McClelland explained that a private investor must first fund to fix the eligible activities and then they may be reimbursed, up to the investment cost, from tax revenue generated from the project. A portion of tax revenue that the project generates is taken early on to reimburse the project.
McClelland also explained the process of conducting brownfield projects. He said once a brownfield-eligible property is established, there are several documents to complete: The brownfield plan; the Act 381 Work Plan and a reimbursement agreement.
“The brownfield authority’s job is to ensure the project and eligible activities can be done,” he said. The authority must look at the details and ensure everything is accurate.
The brownfield plan “identifies the eligible property, details the eligible activities and estimates the tax capture,” a PowerPoint put together by McClelland explains.
This plan needs to be approved by the Menominee County Brownfield Authority and a public hearing needs to be held before it can be approved by the Menominee County Board of Commissioners.
The Act 381 Work Plan is prepared and then submitted to state agencies for approval for state tax capture. This plan requires “extensive financial and other project information,” the PowerPoint states.
The final document that must be prepared is the reimbursement agreement. “If the developer conducts eligible activities and completes the project, the brownfield authority will capture and reimburse the developer for documented eligible activities only with Brownfield TIF generated from the project.”
This document protects the brownfield authority from liability and documents the eligible activities and reimbursement process, the PowerPoint states.
Currently, Menominee County does not have a finalized brownfield project planned. The Brownfield Authority plan to meet today vote on a contract to hire McClelland officially as a consultant on future brownfield projects. If approved, Menominee County Board will discuss the contract Tuesday.
PESHTIGO—Elementary students at the Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center (PELC) recently enjoyed a Scholastic Book Fair, completing five weeks of celebrating reading. Read Across America week was in the beginning of March and it extended through the month.
“Students read voraciously for two straight weeks,” according to Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) president Laura Finger, who explained that students seek out supporters to help reach reading and fundraising goals.
She said 535 people donated a total of $17,509.99 this spring.
“We were beyond thrilled by the turnout and generosity of our PELC families,” Finger said. “Friends and family from all over the world were able to contribute to our school.”
Reading more results in better school performance, higher grades and better test scores. According to a study promoted by Scholastic Books, there is a direct correlation between time spent reading each day and test scores.
Statistics show that reading 20 minutes per day results in exposing students to 1,800,000 words per year, making them more likely to score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests; reading 5 minutes per day exposes children to 282,000 words per year, making students likely to score in the 50th percentile on tests; and students who barely read, reading only one minute per day will expose them to 8,000 words per year, which makes such a student likely to score in the bottom 10th percentile.
“We’re trying really hard to get books into kids’ hands” reading specialist Kari Fendrick said, emphasizing that “reading opens doors for people.”
Read-a-thon activities continued throughout the month of March leading into a schoolwide Scholastic Book Fair during the first week of April.
When asked what students like about the Book Fair, first-grade student Kenzie Nault said, “Everything!”
Ryker Nelson, also in first grade, said “It has a lot of books!” while second-grade student Cole Schultz responded saying, “There are funny
books. There are a lot of good books.” And third-grade student Lincoln Bjorkman said, “I like that we get to buy new books.”
“There is a buzz of excitement in the air,” said Fendrick, who helped organize the book fair.
She said an online feature this spring is the use of the e-wallet. In advance of the book fair, families could pre-load money into accounts for students to purchase books. Last fall, because of the COVID-19 worry, the Book Fair was fully virtual. This spring, books were set out and displayed like usual and kids find that much more appetizing.
With the e-wallet system parents can support their children’s love of reading and prepay for books, while staying safely at home. Our book fair has already made twice as much as last fall using the e-wallet system.
“We’re really appreciative of our PTSO and the generosity of our families,” Fendrick said. Money generated from the Read-a-thon helps supply the hundreds of books needed for the book vending machine which is used to reward students for reaching reading goals by letting them pick out a brand new book to keep. It also pays for a book for each PELC student to take home during the summer.
In addition, some of the Read-a-thon and Book Fair money helps to pay for new books for classroom libraries, too.
Finger explains that money from the Read-a-thon also helps to pay for field trips and special events at the school like “the winter dance, bounce house reward day and author visits.” She adds that “we are always looking for more parents to help us organize and lead events. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in helping!”
EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—Joe Sbar, a school psychologist for the Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District in Sault Ste. Marie and a native of Menominee, was awarded the 2021 Michigan School Psychologist of the Year Wednesday.
The Michigan Association of School Psychologists uses this award to recognize individual school psychologists who have demonstrated dedication and effectiveness in improving the well-being of children, families and schools and in advancing the profession of school psychology.
Sbar has been a school psychologist since 2011. “The skills required to be a school psychologist are a good combination of some of the things that I’m good at naturally. I thought that I’d be effective in this role and thought it would be fulfilling in the ways that I could provide a unique service to kids,” he said.
Some of the highlights from his career so far include his work developing a regional crisis response process to support schools in the aftermath of a tragedy, leadership in the Youth Mental Health Committee in Luce, Chippewa and Mackinac counties, and his work developing a system for baseline concussion assessment.
Sbar was on the front end of developing the crisis response process and was also largely responsible for developing a virtual sister process for it when COVID hit. “We do that through tele-therapy when we don’t want to have exposure to potentially infecting people, so I designed the original process for responding to in-person tragedies and also the virtual process,” he said.
Sbar is currently the leader of the Building Resilient Communities sub-committee of the Youth Mental Health Committee. This is a group that promotes free or low-cost mental health resources to people in his area.
“For concussion baseline assessment, I designed a system for assessing student athletes in the beginning of the year during the pre-season,” Sbar said. “We go in with the team and do a baseline concussion assessment screener to get their baseline level of mental functioning. That way, if they’re suspected of having a concussion at some point during the season, we test them again after they’ve gone through a rehabilitation period to see if their functions return to normal.”
Sbar said this award is the highest honor a school psychologist can receive in Michigan. “It is a huge, life-time accomplishment that I’m absolutely thrilled that I was selected for. Especially only 10 years into my career, to be acknowledged in this way is an incredible honor,” he said.