2/20/2023: Air quality better than expected

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For those who live, work, and play in Kalamazoo County

Monday, February 20, 2023

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A preliminary report on air quality in Kalamazoo comes with an unexpected result: the air is better than some expected. Also: Kalamazoo city leaders held a retreat over the weekend to discuss priorities for the coming year. And local drivers and pedestrians have mixed opinions on a plan to switch some downtown streets from one way to two way.

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Report: Kzoo air quality better than expected

A preliminary air quality report on parts of the City of Kalamazoo show results that are better than expected. The state’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) hired an independent lab to test for harmful compounds in the air in four strategic locations in November. Samples were collected around the city’s wastewater treatment plant and, for a control sample, around the county fairgrounds. What they found is that levels of chemicals such as formaldehyde were either too low to detect or low enough to not be hazardous. “They’re well below what they considered health risk,” said Public Services Director James Baker. The sampling also shows that Kalamazoo has similar air quality as other communities.

That’s potentially good news for Kalamazoo, but also confounding as the state continues to zero in on the causes of bad odors in the city’s Northside Neighborhood. City officials and residents are still waiting on a much more comprehensive report from the state on air quality, especially as it relates to a Northside factory run by Graphic Packaging International. That factory has been the source of toxic emissions in the past and may be one of the causes of the Northside’s air quality woes. The report was originally due to be released a year ago but has been delayed repeatedly. Officials say they expect it sometime soon. The preliminary report can be found online.

Kzoo city retreat focuses on guns, housing

Kalamazoo city commissioners and staff gathered for the most of the day Saturday to discuss the city’s most daunting issues and how to address them. Many of those issues have been identified by surveys of city residents, and at the top of the list is public safety. Specifically, the public wants the city to address gun violence that has increased over the course of the pandemic. City officials have set a goal of reducing teen gun violence by 50%. Mayor David Anderson said doing that would have an effect on other pressing issues such as the need for more housing. “People are not going to be developing housing in Kalamazoo if it’s not perceived as being safe and they’re worried tenants are going to want to live there or a homeowner’s going to want to own housing,” he said.

Other major issues discussed include infrastructure, poverty, discrimination, environmental issues, and the economy. The retreat was an opportunity to work toward concrete, achievable goals. Laura Lam, the city’s chief operating officer, said these early discussions will ultimately lead to spending priorities next year. “The great thing about starting the conversation in February for a budget that won’t go before the commission until January of ’24, is that we’ve got time,” she said. “Good ideas need time.” The next step will come at a follow-up meeting with commissioners next month.

More News You Need To Know

Opinions mixed on downtown streets plan

The City of Kalamazoo is preparing to make big changes to two downtown city thoroughfares, but public opinion is mixed on the issue. Engineers plan to switch traffic on Kalamazoo Avenue from one-way to two-way in the next couple years, after which they will do the same to Michigan Avenue. The aim is to slow traffic through the city center, improving safety for drivers and pedestrians. But some people aren’t sold on the idea. Ann Fontaine told MLive she finds the current array of one-way streets to be intuitive. “I like the synchronized lights for moving through efficiently by car, and for helping me, as an extremely slow-moving, cane-using pedestrian to have long openings between packs of cars to get across the streets safely,” she said.

Downtown Kalamazoo’s streets weren’t always one-way. The two main roads, Michigan and Kalamazoo avenues, were switched to one-ways in 1965 as a means to move drivers through the city more quickly. Kelly Haase told MLive she thinks switching them back to two-way streets will make the downtown safer and more pleasant to visit. “It seems the one ways are so fast paced that people are reckless, plus they miss half of what this city has to offer,” she said. Two other streets are also slated for traffic changes. West South Street and West Lovell Street will also be converted to two-ways. [MLive]

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo Restaurant Week – Downtown Kalamazoo

Electronics Forum: Discuss and learn about electronics – Kzoo Makers
6:30PM 2/20

Reifying Black Geographies: The Tropical Performances of Maya Angelou and Josephine Baker (virtual) – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
12:00PM 2/21

Meet TJ Klune, 2023 Portage CommuniTeen Read Author – Portage Zhang Senior Center
6:00PM 2/21

Black History Month Bingo – Kalamazoo Public Library, Oshtemo
6:00PM 2/21

Romantic Melodies – Kalamazoo Male Chorus
7:30PM 2/21

From Chinatown to Every Town: How Chinese Immigrant Entrepreneurs Have Expanded Restaurant Business in the United States – WMU
3:30PM 2/22

Board Game Night – Main Street Pub, West Main
6:00PM 2/22

Designing Native Plant Gardens: Minimizing the Error in Trial and Error – Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones
7:00PM 2/22

3 of a Kind – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 2/22

Whiskey Myers – Wings Event Center
7:00PM 2/22

Gaelic Storm – Bell’s Eccentric Café
8:00PM 2/22

Mardi Gras Bash – Crafted Copper
8:30PM 2/22

See more upcoming events here.

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