Two downtown business owners asked Swanton Village Council for support at its March 22 meeting. Cat Kania of CK Sweets and Julia Benfield of Benfield Wines spoke to Council about issues they face and the fact that many do not even know that Main Street exists.
“We’d like to reopen the conversation about what the village can do to support the businesses,” Benfield said. “We would like some ideas about how maybe some of the village ordinances can be changed to help new businesses coming in, similar to what Delta’s doing, similar to what Grand Rapids is doing.”
Benfield recently spoke with Councilman Craig Rose, and she said one of the topics was how hard she and other businesses have been working to bring visitors to Swanton.
Benfield said ultimately she has a goal of getting a DORA. “That brings a ton of businesses into town,” she said. “We need four people with the correct licenses and we have three.”
She added it would help all the businesses on Main Street to do better. It may also help with the visibility of the downtown area, which can be an issue.
“I can tell you from my own business, every weekend I have people that come in and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know Main Street was here. I thought Main Street was Airport Highway.’”
Kania brought up the possibility of way-finding signs on Airport Highway that would alert drivers to the presence of the downtown area and point them in that direction, saying they would be a huge help.
Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle said there has been some progress on the signs, including getting mock-ups from Toledo Sign, but COVID-19 slowed that progress, as other things needed to be prioritized.
The pandemic also had a major impact on small businesses; but, while it has been difficult, those in downtown Swanton have been able to weather the storm.
“That fact that we’re still here, this community is super supportive and they want to help us and they want us to stay open, but we need your support too,” Kania told Council.
Earlier, in the Committee of the Whole meeting, Council members agreed on a firm to use should future public relations assistance be needed.
Hoelzle said that if, or when, Council deems it necessary to utilize an outside communications team it will be Hennes Communications. “There is no retainer, and it will only be used on a case by case basis if/when needed,” she said.
Hennes Communications is focused exclusively on crisis management and crisis communications, according to its Facebook page.
During her report, Hoelzle gave an update on village projects.
The next sewer separation will not start until the fall and will include winter work. It will take place in the area of West Garfield Avenue and Mettabrook Drive.
Once work begins there will be road closures and times residents will not have access to their driveways.
“This is gonna be massive, and I’m not going to shy away from that,” Hoelzle said.
She also said that the seal and stripe of the upper parking lot at Memorial Park will take place when the weather stabilizes and asphalt plants open. Planning for drainage improvements at the park is also taking place.
• Council passed, by emergency, an ordinance approving the permanent appropriations for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2021.
• Councilman David Pilliod reported that planning work continues for the proposed Swanton Railroad Park. He said there is a lot of work to do, including a survey of the project, land lease discussions, and conducting an environmental site assessment.
• Council approved an emergency resolution to participate in the ODOT road salt contract for the 2021-22 winter season.
• Council approved the submission and support of an application to the Scotts Field Refurbishment Grant Program. If selected, the lower diamond at Memorial Park would be refurbished.
• Mayor Neil Toeppe read two proclamations. The first was to recognize National Library Week.
The second was to honor Marion Lehman, who turned 100 years old on March 27. Lehman is a World War II veteran who lived on West Garfield Avenue in Swanton until he was 10 and graduated from Fulton Centralized School in 1940.
He served in the U.S. Coast Guard from October 1943 to February 1946.
“The Village of Swanton wishes to honor Marion Lehman on the occasion of his 100th birthday for his service to our country and the Swanton area by his example, and his indelible impact on the community and its citizens, and the quality of life we enjoy,” Toeppe said.
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010