4/5/23: Arena on pause

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

High 75°/Low 35° Rainy

Kalamazoo County is holding off on selling land needed to build a downtown arena. Also: Kalamazoo Township leaders rejected hiring a new fire chief. And Kalamazoo has had its first gun homicide of the year.

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County pauses arena land sale

Kalamazoo County’s board of commissioners is delaying the approval of a deal to sell a plot of land for a proposed arena in downtown Kalamazoo. The goal may be to hold out for a better deal. Catalyst Development needs the land the county owns in order to construct the $300 million project. Before agreeing to the sale, the county board wants more details on proposals that would benefit economically disadvantaged people in the area. One of those benefits would be a discount on commercial space in the new arena for people of color. Commissioner Jen Strebs balked at the proposed 30% discount. “A 30% discount is not going to get a low income startup business into that arena. Agreeing to anything less than 50% would be a mistake,” she said.

Meanwhile, other commissioners were ready last night to go forward with the sale. Chair John Taylor said the project would be a “huge, huge economic boost. And I don’t want to be the board that limits our potential for the economic growth that could be.” Taylor technically already has board approval to sign off on the deal, but a vote on whether to reconsider the approval failed in a 4-4 vote. Despite that, Taylor decided to hold off on final approval until new terms could be pitched to developers. The commission plans to schedule a special meeting later this week to settle the issue once and for all.

Portage reveals annual budget

The Portage City Council last night received their proposed budget for fiscal year 2023-24. City Manager Patrick McGinnis says he thinks it’s a good budget. “It maintains and improves on the delivery of city services with no increase in the proposed tax millage, with a very ambitious capital program as well,” he said. The council will discuss the budget in detail during a special work session on April 18. In the meantime, the city plans to put the proposed budget online so residents can review it and prepare questions ahead of the work session.

Editor’s Note: On April 4, we published a story regarding the Kalamazoo city commission’s vote to hire a new city attorney. We stated the vote was 5-2 in favor of offering the job to Aaron Leal. Mayor David Anderson contacted NowKalamazoo to say the board voted unanimously to offer the job to Leal. An earlier poll on the candidates resulted in the 5-2 vote.

More News You Need To Know

K Twp board votes against hiring new fire chief

Nearly seven months after the former fire chief was fired, Kalamazoo Township trustees voted against offering the job to a new candidate. But it’s not because the candidate isn’t good enough – it’s because trustees don’t like how the township has handled the hiring process. Current Battalion Chief Jairus Baird is being considered to lead the fire department. He’s already gone through about a month of contract negotiations. But several trustees say they’d like the opportunity to hear his ideas for the department before they make a final decision on his hiring.

Ultimately, the board voted 4-3 against approving a contract with Baird. Trustee Clara Robinson was one of three trustees involved in contract negotiations. She said she liked what Baird had to say, but knows other trustees may have different opinions. Some trustees also balked at the fact the job opening was never posted publicly and that details of the proposed contract would give Baird an 18 month severance package. Meanwhile, Trustee Mark Miller said they don’t have another option and the department has been without a permanent leader for too long. [MLive]

One dead in Kzoo shooting

A 24-year-old man is dead after a shooting in Kalamazoo Tuesday morning. The man’s name isn’t being released yet, but the shooting happened at Westchester Woods Apartments down the road from Western Michigan University. A spokesperson for the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said the victim’s car was stolen during the shooting.

This is the first fatal shooting in Kalamazoo this year. It follows three years when homicides and gun violence rose dramatically in Kalamazoo and across the country. Last year, the first fatal shooting in Kalamazoo occurred within the first month of the year. The first fatal shooting of 2021 was on New Year’s Day. [MLive]

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

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Our Planet Live in Concert – Miller Auditorium
7:00PM 4/5

Craft Music – Spring – Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
7:00PM 4/5

3 of a Kind – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 4/5

NYC Pianist David Berkman – WMU, Dalton Center
7:30PM 4/5

The Kettle Belles – Louie’s Trophy House
9:00PM 4/5

Playworks Michigan Playshop – Woods Lake Elementary School
9:00AM 4/6

Intro to Henna Design – Coffee Rescue
6:00PM 4/6

Adult African Diasporic Dance – Rootead
6:30PM 4/6

Garcia Peoples & Chris Forsyth – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
8:00PM 4/6

Board Game Night – this is a bookstore | Bookbug
5:00PM 4/7

Elemental Press Presents: Recreation Collective Hard Boiled Opening Event – Park Trades Center
5:00PM 4/7

Music with Steve Kamerling – Brick + Brine
6:00PM 4/7

Pitch Night – Startup Zoo
6:00PM 4/7

Pre-Party with Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
6:20PM 4/7

Ultra Reflection Fashion Show – Kalamazoo County Expo Center
7:00PM 4/7

Live Music with Bear Tracks Music – Green Door Distilling Co.
7:00PM 4/7

The Play That Goes Wrong – WMU, Shaw Theatre
7:30pm 4/7-8, 4/13-15; 2pm 4/16

Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers w/ Parker Ryan – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
8:00PM 4/7

5th Anniversary Twerk Werk Fest – The Xperience By Luxury Escapes
8:00PM 4/7

The Missing Generation – Old Dog Tavern
8:00PM 4/7

See more upcoming events here.

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