Council directs city manager to seek livery lease
In a 6-1 vote following several minutes of discussion on Monday, May 20, Tecumseh City Council members authorized City Manager Kevin Welch to pursue a lease agreement with Tecumseh Paddling Company (TPC), owned by Mark and Jennifer Johnson, for rental of space for a canoe and kayak livery at the Tecumseh Community Center. The space would be in an unimproved section of the building’s lower level.
Mark Johnson, who currently serves as a river guide in West Virginia, initially approached the city several weeks ago regarding the possibility of operating a business from the community center. Welch said Johnson had spoken with Shelley Lim, Director of Cultural and Leisure Services and Paula Holtz, Economic Development Director, and Welch met him once and has been in contact via email.
“I asked him to submit a written proposal,” said Welch.
The proposal notes that “The waterways in Tecumseh provide some unique paddling choices which allow many different paddling trips to be offered,” and details a few possible water recreation ideas, including utilizing the river from Satterthwaite Park downstream to Sutton Road.
Tecumseh resident and water recreation enthusiast Chuck Gross recently asked council to consider leasing the community center space for the business, and shared his view that having a kayak/canoe business on the River Raisin would be a draw to the community.
On Monday evening, Welch said the city and staff are not opposed to having a canoe livery in Tecumseh.
“The issue is that I felt housing it in one of our buildings could just be a potential issue where we have residents [on Red Mill Pond] paying for the dam, along with the city, and I don’t know that this would be looked upon favorably, that somehow we’re generating revenue because of the existence of the dam.” He said he realizes that could be an issue even if Johnson operated in a private building. “We can’t control how people access water as long as they do it publicly,” he added. “My only issue was I was attempting to be sensitive to individuals that lived in that subdivision. Frankly, I just thought it was poor timing at this point.”
Council member Jack Baker, who voted “no” on the motion, said, “I think this is a good idea. But I also share the same concerns as the city manager, the impact on the residents of Red Mill Pond. If it was not for those residents paying for the repair and maintenance of that dam, there would not be a pond. It’s just something to consider. Back to the residents of Red Mill Pond, I’m just sensitive to their feelings and their thoughts. And if this had been prior to the dam assessment or later down the road this might be a good idea. We’re talking a small amount of people but they are still important.”
Council member Larry Van Alstine said, “One observation: there still would be a River Raisin,” pointing out the waterway would still exist even without the pond and dam.
“I do have sensitivity for the people on Red Mill Pond,” said council member Pat Housekeeper. “But I also see it as a public waterway. As highlighted under this proposal, we’re not even considering the canoes being used on that strip of the water at this point in time. The strips which were mentioned by Mr. Gross when he spoke here a couple of weeks ago were the loop and waterway from Globe Mill further south down to Sutton Road. I would like to see us compromise around that issue and be able to see us begin this project based on those uses.”
Questions also arose regarding the sale of the city’s canoe and kayak equipment to the company, as outlined in an earlier draft agreement. The city charter notes that bids must be taken for items with a value of more than $500. Collectively, the equipment is valued at an estimated $2,500.
“If we have to put out the canoes for bid, then maybe we need to do that,” said Housekeeper.
Welch said the community center space was previously used by the city as a workroom and “is not suitable for much.” A proposed agreement offered the space for $100 per month with the tenant responsible for any improvements.
The Johnson’s proposal also noted, “Not only is there room to expand on the river, there are other services we can offer as well which could include guided trips for fishing, bird watching, photography or physically challenged individuals.” The TPC also offered to provide the city complimentary rentals and shuttles for at least one event per year, and give city residents a discount on rentals.
The couple noted that they believed their plan would fit in with the city’s Parks and Recreation five year plan “by helping to connect local communities with non-motorized pathways,” and “Also in the plan is to continue to develop, improve and expand Tecumseh’s existing parks and facilities, along with the continuation of expanding and developing Tecumseh’s trail system.” They added that they understood the city’s concerns, but believed their business could be a positive addition to Tecumseh.