The following is the recently released State of the City Address by Big Rapids Mayor, Fred Guenther.
The City of Big Rapids has had a great 2022-2023 year. The finances are strong, the projects are many, and people seem to be enjoying getting back to regular life after COVID-19.
The Hemlock Park project is nearing completion; our basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts along with the kayak launch are finished and operating. We are waiting for final approval so we can put the Splash Pad out for bids and Playscape Park is being actively studied.
Our new City Attorney is Brad Fowler from the Mika Meyers Law Firm in Grand Rapids and he has hit the road ready to go. Carla Staffen has become our City Treasurer. Both are great additions along with Michelle Stenger of Neighborhood Services and Steve Gove who has been hired for Communications and Public Relations.
Big Rapids housing issues remain a concern, but Rust Avenue lots are available and the Mechanic Street infrastructure is complete with home building scheduled to start soon. The H Jing Commission has done a great job. Director Mark Sochocki retired in June; he will be greatly missed but We wish him the best in his future endeavors. Linda Miller has replaced him as Director. Many developers are interested in Big Rapids if the battery plant becomes a reality.
Gotions' battery component plant is still in the works. The City will be asked for water, sewer, and fire assistance if needed. We understand the community is greatly divided on this issue.
The huge issue of the 2020 Census and Revenue Sharing problem we had has come to a positive ending. The City filed for an adjustment for our "Group Quarter" facilities (our college dorm students), which were not included because of COVID-19. We won the appeal so our revenue should go back up in July. Thank you to all involved in making this happen.
We have been approved by the FAA and MDOT to expand our airport runway. An environmental study is underway and engineering is proceeding for start-up next spring.
The Ives Drain project has started and is being carried out with safety measures in our neighborhoods being employed by the contractor. MDOT has paved most of our major roads. After some additional work on issues on North State Street, we hope to have the rest of the paving done soon. Our city is looking more welcoming and safe.
Last fall our outstanding Veteran's Day Parade was honored to have a flyover by a Coast Guard helicopter. Winter brought our holiday celebrations downtown that were amazing as usual.
This spring we celebrated Ferris State's two National Football Championships with a snowy parade. Our 2nd Annual Pride Festival in June was even better than the first. Our streets have been busy this summer with a great car show, AirFest, and Farmer's Markets every Tuesday and Friday, with many more events scheduled.
Keep your eyes on the "City of Big Rapids" Facebook page to see what else is happening in our beautiful city.
In closing, I'm hopeful that we can all pull together to make Big Rapids an even better place to live, work and play.