The south end of John Street is shown where it meets Helen Avenue, next to an entrance to the former Rock Tenn mill in Otsego. Visible are the many patches done on the aging, deteriorating road. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)

City seeks to fix street near Rock Tenn

Ryan Lewis, Editor

John Street in Otsego has seen better days, but there’s hope in sight for next year.

The roughly 300 feet of deteriorating pavement runs south from West River Street to Helen Avenue.

City manager Thad Beard said it’s slated in next year’s budget for being rebuilt, and that’s being spurred along by both actual and potential development nearby.

On the east side of John Street is the newly constructed Otsego Storage. On the west is the former Rock Tenn industrial property. Allegan County owns it after the paper mill closed and taxes eventually went unpaid for several years.

It has lingered on the county books, as the dilapidated building of the former mill requires by some estimates several million dollars in remediation to properly clean up. The Allegan County Board of Commissioners has directed its staff to offload the property this year if possible.

To aid both the new storage business and make the industrial sites more accessible, Beard said the city hopes to not only repave the road but also widen it.

Currently, John Street is 33 feet wide. Beard said the city is in talks to gain space from the Rock Tenn property to widen the road to 50 feet.

“The idea was that it would benefit the storage facility, in terms of ease of getting into and out of there,” Beard said. “We also had some interest in the last six months or so for the 3-acre lot on the south side of Helen (where John ends).”

That would be the Co-Gen land, drawing its name from a plan in the 1980s from a company that had planned to build a co-generation facility; it would have been a coal-fired power plant which would also draw on stream power from Rock Tenn. Co-Gen backed out, and the city acquired the property and cleaned up previous contamination in the soil, leaving it ready to be redeveloped.

“All of the proposed uses of that land would’ve generated industrial traffic,” he said. “So, we’re hoping the county will be interested in giving us that space, as a wider road would benefit any buyer for the Rock Tenn property as well. We’re asking for a 20-foot section along the west side of the road.”

He said the city doesn’t yet have an estimate on the cost of that road work plus new curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

“We do expect to have to basically rebuild the road, which will require removing the current asphalt and concrete, putting down a base and then paving the area. We regularly budget somewhere from $150,000 to $300,00 in street improvements and this section would be included with other streets which need attention.

“We don’t have estimates of the cost yet, but since it is only about 250 feet in length, it shouldn’t be cost prohibitive.”

Beard said the county so far agrees the work would only increase the value of the property.

“Currently, it’s almost impassable for a semi trailer. Trucks would have to enter from Helen Avenue,” Beard said. “The potential developers of the Co-Gen property brought it up, and the storage place brought it up. It’s just in everyone’s best interest.

“It will help bring businesses in and it also protects the street that’s there already. Right now, drivers have to cut corners on the roads to maneuver there and that’s hard on it. It’s in sad shape.”

There are no buildings where the city wants to widen the road, just foliage.



The city and the county may end up sharing the costs of a survey of the Rock Tenn property. One is necessary if the city is going to widen the road. Likewise, the county needs one as part of its push to sell the land.

Beard said, “The idea came about as we were discussing the need to repair the street. That led to the discussion of the properties being developed in the area and the fact that they were all industrial.

“In order to acquire the property, a survey and new legal description would be necessary. We’d anticipate that work being done, in part, with the survey work necessary to complete the boundary survey of the Rock-Tenn property.”


Farmer Street

On Monday, Beard said crews put in new curbs along the section of South Farmer Street being completely rebuilt.

The project spans from Hammond Street south to and including the intersection at Washington/Dix streets.

Beard said paving work was expected to begin by Aug. 4 and last through Aug. 25.

“I’d be shocked if it’s not done before then, however,” Beard said, noting that the project had remained ahead of schedule despite some delays due to weather and other small delays.

This smaller section of work continues work completed last year up to Orleans Street. It replaced water mains, sanitary sewer lines and storm water drains along with replacing the pavement, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. The final block to M-89 was resurfaced.




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