The city of DeWitt is starting to become a cultural hub and a go-to destination. A lot of money is being put into the development of their downtown. Maricela Vargas is a preschool teacher in Lansing who is looking for a job in DeWitt and she is interested in DeWitt because of the small city feel. When Vargas visited DeWitt, she felt the family connection with the residents. Vargas said: “I was attracted to DeWitt because it’s a cute city and it’s going to be a great place to live.
The City of DeWitt held a city council meeting on Oct. 25 to discuss the upcoming Bridge Street extension as well as reviewing the planning services contract with Beckett & Raeder and review the assessing reports.
A new project is in the planning stages for the construction of a new commercial building at 110 Bridge Street in downtown DeWitt, and the city council discussed extending the construction start from Dec. 17 to May 17, 2018.
“The request for the extension is to make sure we don’t have to come back and do it again,” said Vesta Building Contractor Scott Schmidt.
Every fall, the community of DeWitt partake in the Fall Leaf Pick Up Program. The Fall Leaf Pick Up Program is a citywide program that begins each year with a city wide sweep in early October and will continue until the final week of November. Even though it is not a mandatory program, however it’s encouraged for community members to get involved. If residents are looking to burn their leaves instead of leaving them on the curb of your house, it’s prohibited. The City’s Fire Prevention Code prohibits the open burning of grass clippings and leaves.
The City of Dewitt, Dewitt Township and the Clinton County Road Commission have come together to provide walking and biking paths throughout Dewitt Township. Dewitt Township is calling it the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, which will be making walking and biking much more desired modes of transportation.
“The township adopted a non-motorized transportation plan in 2013, so this is one of the projects that was identified on that plan,” said Rod Taylor, Dewitt Township manager. We started working on it in a concentrated fashion in 2015.”
“The Non-Motorized Transportation Plan identified 60 different projects where we ranked those projects based upon a weighted system that looked at safety issues, connection with commercial areas, schools, and neighborhoods,” said Taylor. “In addition, this project was a joint venture with the City of Dewitt as well as the Clinton County Road Commission.
What comes to mind when you think of a city hall? More than likely, you will picture a big white building with pillars at the front entrance, and a domed roof at the center of the structure. However, for many small towns such as DeWitt, that is simply not the case. DeWitt’s city hall was built in 1957 and was added on to in 1986 according to the July 2017 edition of the DeWitt city newsletter. Nowadays, the city council, led by mayor Sue Leeming, are looking for a new town hall to call home.
Trick-or-treating wasn’t the only Halloween activity on DeWitt’s to-do list for the holiday. DeWitt takes Halloween to the next level by incorporating a weekend-long house decoration contest into the festivities. “It’s to really thank the people in the community for going all out and decorating at holiday time,” said Loretta Spinrad, from the DeWitt Area Chamber of Commerce. “So, we have a contest to get other residents to go out and look at the decorations. We award winners basically to say thank you.”
“Some of those houses that are decorated are phenomenal,” said Spinrad. “Some of these people go all out, and it’s just unbelievable where are this stuff comes from and how much they’ve invested in this. Some of them have smoke, lights, moving objects, and sound.”
This year only 10 houses were entered into the contest. This number is a decrease from the previous year, which was 18. However, the lower number of houses in the contest didn’t take away from homeowners showing their Halloween spirit and taking part in the festivities. DeWitt Residents, Arlyn and Stuart King, have fully embraced the contest and are intending on taking home the prize this year. “We love Halloween,” said Stuart King. “Halloween brings the community together, and I was hoping the contest would help bring people through.”
The Kings’ yard is one of the most creative, with everything being built by hand. The props and characters in the haunted house move via electric motors and tell a creative story to go along with it to make it even more unique. “I think a really fun part of Stuart’s creations is that they are unique,” said Arlyn King. “You can’t purchase them anywhere because they come out of his imagination. A lot of the items are found items, and we find things that people threw out and we incorporate it.”
“We chose the theme haunted house,” said Stuart King. “Once that was selected, then it was a matter of making it all happen. Every year is something brand new.”
Across town, another home is showing the Halloween spirit by going with a pirate theme this year. Jack and Pat Crick have incorporated a coffin, a jail cell, and even gallows in their creation.
At the city council meeting on Oct. 25, council members stated that this is the first time since 1987 that the planning services contract was bid out. Planning firm Beckett & Raeder, Inc. has been contracted by the city of DeWitt to aid its growth. They offer a range of services for clients for developing and managing community growth. Some of the services are: Community master plans, strategic planning, and small town design.
When brothers Andrew and Billy McElfresh made the decision to live in DeWitt, proximity to work was a primary motivator. Politics were not. “It’s like a hit-or-miss, depends on the subject,” Billy McElfresh said. “Healthcare, stuff that affects me. I know, sounds very arrogant or ignorant, but I don’t pay attention to the big stuff, just stuff that directly affects me.”
Neither brother voted in the 2016 presidential election, and though they had strong opinions on healthcare, gun laws and education funding, time hasn’t convinced them to lean one way or another.
The DeWitt Dog Park is a new attraction for dog owners in the DeWitt Township area who are looking to remove the leash and let the dog run freely. The dog park is a new gated park that is located at 3577 West Herbison Road, directly next to Padgett Park.
“The project took about 12 months to put together, with the construction taking place this previous summer,” said DeWitt City administrator Daniel Coss. “The fences were installed in May of 2017 and we started planning it in May of 2016. It was a group effort by the city and the township.”
Coss said the City of DeWitt and DeWitt Township worked together to select a location.
If there is a vacancy in an elected position, the DeWitt City Charter requires it to be filled within 30 days. DeWitt City Council has needed to fill a vacancy more than a few times since the early 2000s. Six out of the seven current members of DeWitt City Council originally got there via appointment, including Mayor Sue Leeming and Mayor Pro Tem Dave Hunsaker. However, this is not a hindrance or a sign of turnover issues, but instead an opportunity to ensure council has a variety of experience and get lower-level city employees to take the next step, Leeming said. “Since I was appointed to council 14 years ago, there seems to have been a pattern for about the last 14-16 years of vacancies on council being filled with appointments and then the people who were appointed to fill those vacancies running for office and being elected,” Hunsaker said.