DeWitt sets weekend of Aug. 18 for 77th annual ox roast  

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Chief of Police Bruce Ferguson discusses crisis intervention training with the DeWitt City Council.

The DeWitt City Council met March 13 to discuss the annual ox roast festival and grants for improvements to McGuire Park and the sewer system. The council passed four items at the meeting.

Approval of ox roast applications

Council discussed the DeWitt Memorial Association’s application for the 77th annual ox roast. The association also requested road closures and consumption of alcohol in designated locations. 

The event is scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 18 in downtown DeWitt. At the meeting, DeWitt Memorial Association President Loretta Spinrad asked that the street closure extend until 11 a.m. the following Monday to ensure that there would be ample time to take down the tents. 

According to City Administrator Daniel Coss, thousands of people attend the event to enjoy art, food, live music and carnival attractions. 

Council unanimously approved the application, as well as the road closure and consumption of alcohol requests. 

Improvements to McGuire Park 

Council discussed the upcoming Land and Water Conservation Fund grant application for $157,800 from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to match the city’s funding for improvements to McGuire Park. 

The improvements include the installation of four pickleball courts, new playground equipment and a universally accessible pedestrian access path to the Looking Glass River. Coss said the application is part of a larger project to update parks across the city. 

The city is requesting these changes because seven out of eight DeWitt parks have playground equipment, most of which is old and run-down. When it breaks, there are no replacement parts. Furthermore, a recent community survey found that many residents want pickleball courts, which currently do not exist in DeWitt. 

Coss said the city wants parks to be accessible to all residents, which can be made possible with a new pathway. 

“We have a bike path that goes around the perimeter of the park, and the Looking Glass River is adjacent to that path,” Coss said. “One of the missing components that we felt was important was a universally accessible pedestrian path from the bike path down to the bank of the river… We are very committed to providing access to the Looking Glass River to people of all abilities.”

DeWitt applied unsuccessfully for the same grant last year. By increasing the percentage the city will pay, council hopes  chances may improve. Council unanimously approved the resolution to support the grant and will wait until the fall to hear whether the money is awarded.  

DARA appointment and planning commission report

There were two other action items on the agenda. First, the council unanimously confirmed the appointment of Council Member Jennifer Whitman to the DeWitt Area Recreation Authority. Second, the council unanimously received the 2022 Planning Commission Annual Report, presented by Council Member Trevor VanDyke. 

Discussion of East Dill Sanitary Sewer Extension project 

In his presentation to the council, Coss stated that the city had submitted a proposal for $1.9 million for the East Dill Sanitary Sewer Extension project. The proposal was submitted to U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s Community Project Funding program, which allows Slotkin’s constituent districts to apply for funding. 

The proposed project would affect approximately 20 homes on the Looking Glass River which currently have septic and drain field sewage systems. If the city receives the money, it will extend a sanitary sewer line to the houses and reroute a sewer line that currently lies under the river. 

Coss said that this line would prevent wastewater from getting into the river, helping residents as well as the ecosystem, especially the endangered mussels that live in the river. In 2021, the city did a survey of the river bottom and found one endangered and several threatened species of freshwater mussels in the river. The city included this detail in its application to improve its chances of receiving funding. 

“We have endangered and threatened mussels in the river, so this project would help ensure that we could maintain the clear and clean water and the suitable habitat, and not have to worry about wastewater leaking into the river,” Coss said. 

The application has moved past the first round, along with 19 other projects. It must be approved for a second time by the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations to be considered for funding. 

Police crisis intervention training 

Chief of Police Bruce Ferguson reported that six out of seven of the department’s paid officers are now trained in crisis intervention. The officers were trained as part of the Tri-County Crisis Intervention Team, a 40-hour class that teaches police how to handle situations involving people with mental illness or other special needs.

Ferguson said the training can give officers tools to identify a mental health crisis. They can also learn how to handle those instances, providing alternatives to prevent unnecessary physical restraints and escalation. 

“We don’t ever want to be in a situation where we don’t understand what’s going on, and we don’t know how to get [those in need] home,” Ferguson said. “My goal is to make sure that we get them the help that they need, if we can.” 

Introduction of new library director

Finally, the new DeWitt District Library Director Glenn Fischer introduced himself to the council. Fischer left his previous job in Fenton and arrived in DeWitt in December. 

“It’s been a wonderful experience so far,” Fischer said. “I’m looking forward to closing on my house and being a member of the city of DeWitt. It’s lovely meeting you all. I hope to see you in my library.”

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