Urban sustainability in Mason means more than expanding infrastructure

“Cooperation and planning forms a vibrant city,” said Robert Liberty, director of the Urban Sustainability Accelerator at Portland State University of Oregon. Liberty presented his urban sustainability plan at the Mason City Council Meeting on Nov. 2.

Mid-Michigan is participating in “Imagine Mid-Michigan,” the Urban Sustainability Accelerator program directed by Liberty. This plan includes downtown success, farmland preservation, and much more that affect long-term “fiscal health and sustainability of government,” said Liberty.

Robert Liberty converses with a community member prior to the meeting

“Why should you care when your responsibility is here in Mason?” Liberty asked the Council. Mason is part of the regional housing market as well as regional employment, so urban sustainability in even a small town such as Mason affects all of Michigan. However, Liberty did make it clear how beneficial a new urban zoning plan would be for citizens of Mason. “We want to maintain a quality of life here in Mason,” said Liberty, and sustainability helps to “maintain a sense of place.”

David Haywood, zoning and development director in Mason, said that urban planning is changing. “We just adopted an update in 2014. We call for at least three areas where we anticipate growing. We have room in the city to grow. We study those areas to determine how we want it to develop.”

For taxpayers of Mason, urban sustainability means a lot more than simply expanding the town’s development. “If you allow growth to happen without order, suburban sprawl or low density, you’ll have a lower value tax return to be able to pay for utilities and services,” said Haywood. The taxpayer’s cost will rise if the community can not handle all of its obligations. However, if the value of the city is higher after being expanded, Haywood said, “that development will help pay for itself and taxpayers will pay less.”

Effective urban planning has positive impacts besides the monetary perspective. Haywood explained how expansion and development has many environmental benefits as well, including an example as simple as making the city more walkable, so fewer pollutants will be emitted from vehicles.

“If there’s no cost or replacement planning, that’s bad. The community can’t afford itself and its infrastructure,” Haywood said. “When you can’t provide resources, you can’t provide amenities to the community.”

“Friends of Kean’s” lift the store back to its place in the community

The community of Mason came together to get Kean’s Store back on its feet after smoke damage had the store out of business for months. Volunteers ranging from Knights of Columbus to the high school football team will haul displays and merchandise onto the store’s main floor this week– even businessmen have taken time off of work to help.

The fire in Baja Grill in June caused smoke damage so severe that the entirety of the store’s interior had to be rebuilt. The merchandise was soiled by the stench of smoke. Although it was a frantic situation, the process has been supported by the community the entire way.

“It’s been great having so many volunteers, it takes an army,” said Laurie Reed, manager of Kean’s Store.

The volunteers lifted storage and displayed, stocked, cleaned and brought food.

“The energy is just amazing,” said Margaret Ross, owner of the jewelry design studio in Kean’s. “Our smile muscles are starting to hurt!”

Kean’s brought in the mass of volunteers throughout the week because of its “integral and beloved” role in the community, as Ross said. Stephanie Rawson, a resident of Mason, organized a Facebook page called “Friends of Kean’s” to keep the community updated on the progress, as well as let the community know when they could help. The page received over 3,000 hits and over 40 shares. Last week, Rawson sent out the call to action.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years, and been a part of the store in different ways,” said Rawson. “Everybody who came today worked, it wasn’t just out of curiosity. People came from all over.”

Since Kean’s is an 87-year-old family business, it was very important for the team to keep original elements. Still, change was inevitable in the renovation process, and many agreed that it was for the better.

“It’s starting to come alive, it’s brand new,” said Rawson. Certain elements, though, such as the candy counter Rawson remembered growing up, were salvaged and will remain in the store.

Reed said the store should be completely up and running by Dec. 3, but hopes it will be even before then. The pain of a store being closed during Thanksgiving is immense, she explained, even for the rest of the community. Until then, Mason’s determination and hard work to put Kean’s Store back together again is paying off.

New city administrator Deborah Stuart to start Jan. 1

By Jake Atnip
The Mason Times

Mason has been led by interim City Administrator Pat Price since June. However, a conditional offer has been accepted by the newly appointed Deborah Stuart.

Stuart is director of Community Incentive Programs for Michigan Economic Development Corporation in Lansing. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a master’s degree in public administration in 2005. She is also the representative on the Board of Directors for the Council of State Community Development Agencies for the Midwest region.

According to Mason Councilman James Mulvaney, “Mrs. Stuart has accepted terms of compensation and will start work on Jan. 1, 2016.”

The City Council has yet to formally announce Stuart’s hiring or comment on details of her contract.

Martin Colburn, former Mason City administrator, offered some advice for Stuart.
“Truly immerse yourself into the community,” he said, “Mason is a great place to enjoy.”

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Time capsule to be rediscovered in 25 years

Time capsule submissions can be made to the Mason Area Chamber of Commerce

By Layne Alfred
The Mason Times

As part of the sesquicentennial celebration, the Mason Area Historical Society and Mason City Hall are working to create a time capsule to be buried and viewed in 25 years.

“It gives people in the future a snapshot of the time when the time capsule was compiled,” said Alissa Day, vice president of the Mason Area Historical Society.

“The time capsule is an excellent way for people of all ages in Mason to put their own mark on this historic event, sharing in Mason’s official 150th anniversary,” said Jean Bement, member and head of the Newsletter Committee.

The time capsule will preserve history in a special way, due to its tactile nature. Day explained how much the Historical Society has been stressing the importance to people of printing photographs and hand-writing stories and letters in hopes that they will submit these for the capsule.

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Mason residents gather to discuss time capsule submissions

time capsuleBy Justin Sienkowski
The Mason Times

A public workshop to answer questions of Mason residents over the city’s time capsule project was held Nov. 2 at the Mason Area Historical Museum.

The meeting was led by Alissa Day, vice president of the Mason Area Historical Society, who covered general instructions and submission ideas for the time capsule. The project, which is a part of Mason’s sesquicentennial celebration put on by the Mason 150 Committee, is accepting submissions until Dec. 1.

Day said that the committee is hoping to include “things that kind of give you a snapshot of what it was like to live in 2015.” Residents are encouraged to include items that describe our world today, such as “prices of things, what’s popular and what is going on in the news.”

Requirements for the time capsule include that all submissions must be accompanied by a form detailing the life of the one submitting the item and that all documents, letters and items must fit into an envelope that is 4 inches by 9.5 inches. The submission form can be found on the City of Mason website.

Questions about whether digital technologies, such as flash drives, would still be relevant when the capsule is opened in 25 years were raised, but executive director of the Mason Area Chamber of Commerce and Mason 150 Committee Member Doug Klein assured residents that these technologies would still be usable in the future.

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Council makes conditional offer on city administrator

By Jake Atnip
The Mason Times

The Mason City Council selected a candidate for city administrator position on Nov. 10. If an acceptance is negotiated on the conditional offer, Mason will have a new manager.

City Councilman Jim Mulvaney wrote in an e-mail that a meeting took place between Acting City Administrator Pat Price and the candidate on Nov. 12. This was to negotiate a contract and compensation.

After almost eight hours of interviews and deliberations, the City Council chose Deborah Stuart. She is the Michigan Community Incentives Program Director for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. She has worked in government for 12 years and has headed many fundraising programs.

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Salon 130 to sponsor food drive

By Jake Atnip
The Mason TImes

With the holidays coming, employees of Salon 130 have decided to sponsor a food drive Nov. 11 to Dec. 11.


Organizers Meaghan McKouen (left) and Kimmy Schroeder.

The employees had a meeting in October and decided to sponsor a food drive and a raffle. With proceeds going directly to The Mason Food Bank.
Stylists Kimmy Schroeder and Meaghan McKouen are coordinating the drive.

“The food banks are hurting,” Schroeder said, “there are all of these big charities that people are donating to. You kind of think of the local food banks last. Most of their donations come through schools or churches and that’s just not enough.”

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Bad Brewing carves out place in Mason community

bad brewing 2By Justin Sienkowski
The Mason Times

Small, locally owned breweries, known as microbreweries, have become exceedingly popular across the nation, and Mason’s Bad Brewing is an example of that.

When Bad Brewing Co-Owner Brian Rasdale, who had brewed his own beer at home for years, was laid off as a Lansing police officer in 2010, he decided the time was right to pursue his passion.

 Bad Brewing co-owner Brian Rasdale stirs a batch of beer.

Co-owner Brian Rasdale stirs a batch of beer.

“This was always kind of a pipe dream,” Rasdale said, “and we finally got an opportunity and said screw it let’s do it.”

Four years after Rasdale and co-owner Danielle French opened the brewpub in July 2011, Bad Brewing has seen success in Mason.

“It has come so far in three years, and there’s so many people opening,” French said. “We just happened to hit the market at the right time.”

According to a study by the nation-wide Brewers Association, there were 159 breweries in Michigan, a 66 percent increase from 2011, with Michigan breweries providing 7,137 jobs, resulting in a total economic impact of more than $600 million. Although only a fraction of that can be attributed to the five-employee Bad Brewing, the industry growth has been a boon to Bad Brewing’s business.

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Kean’s Store undergoes renovations after fire causes smoke damage

By Layne Alfred
The Mason Times
Kean’s Store, a Mason classic that has remained unchanged in the downtown square for 87 years, is being renovated after severe smoke damage that wiped out all of the merchandise.

In June, an electrical fire at Baja Grill, a restaurant attached to Kean’s, caused smoke to seep into the store and caused major damage. “Everything had to come out. They gutted it. It was a long process,” said Laurie Reed, the store manager of Kean’s.

The store will be the same as before, including the building’s location and layout, but the floors, drywall, and ceiling tiles had to be replaced. “It’s going to be brand new, but everything will look the same,” said Teresa Wren, owner of the store.

Reed said that although it was a lengthy and unexpected process. “It’s really sharp! It will be better in the end.”

Currently, the store’s team is moving merchandise back into the store’s basement. This also includes sorting and marking all of the products. The process is happening quickly; the Hallmark section of the store has already been moved upstairs.

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4 to be interviewed Tuesday for city administrator

By Jason Kraft
The Mason Times

The City Council will interview four candidates Tuesday, Nov. 10, for city administrator. The interviews will be public.

Mason contracted with the Michigan Municipal League to find candidates. Kathie Grinzinger, lead search facilitator of the league, said “The City of Mason did a lot of work ahead of time to create an ideal profile for the candidate they were looking for. We received 26 resumes from across the country, and used Mason’s profile to choose the candidates to be interviewed.” The opening was created in May when Marty Colburn took a job as city manager in Traverse City.

Jonathan Greene is slated to interview first, at 9:30 a.m. “There is no timetable for the others,” said Grinzinger. “We assume each interview will take 90 minutes, and we will include a brief lunch break for the council.”

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