Mike Bauerschmidt, owner of Galaxy Office Machines, 107 N. State St., Caro, stands in front of the neighboring building that was proposed to house a $1.2 million rum microdistillery-based project. Bauerschmidt resigned as chairman of the Caro Downtown Development Authority, calling Caro’s current city council “toxic.” (Photo by John Cook)

Caro DDA chair quits, calls city council ‘toxic’

Mike Bauerschmidt, owner of Galaxy Office Machines, 107 N. State St., Caro, stands in front of the neighboring building that was proposed to house a $1.2 million rum microdistillery-based project. Bauerschmidt resigned as chairman of the Caro Downtown Development Authority, calling Caro’s current city council “toxic.” (Photo by John Cook)
Mike Bauerschmidt, owner of Galaxy Office Machines, 107 N. State St., Caro, stands in front of the neighboring building that was proposed to house a $1.2 million rum microdistillery-based project. Bauerschmidt resigned as chairman of the Caro Downtown Development Authority, calling Caro’s current city council “toxic.” (Photo by John Cook)

The longtime chairman of the Caro Downtown Development Authority resigned as a result of Caro City Council members essentially running a major investment out of the area – the latest manifestation of frustration on the part of downtown Caro business owner/operators.
Michael Bauerschmidt resigned from the position after more than 20 years on the board.
He said the final straw was Caro City Council voting 5-2 against recommending to the state that a developer receive liquor licenses for a project valued at more than $1 million in downtown Caro. The reason given to the state was that it was too close to a church.
Bauerschmidt, 55, was instrumental in helping the developer, Scott Romain, identify and acquire the building for the project at 119 N. State St., most recently a flea market.
His departure follows that of former Caro City Manager Jared Olson, who resigned Oct. 3, and Bauerschmidt said he wouldn’t be surprised if more departures are on the way.
“You can’t get anything done,” Bauerschmidt told The Advertiser. “The city council’s turned toxic, and I feel I can’t do my job.”
Caro City Council members are Mayor Dick Pouliout, Pro Tem Mike Henry and trustees Gordon Taggett, Joe Greene, Rick Lipan, Charlotte Kish, and Brian Rickwalt.
As The Advertiser reported Oct. 19, Greene accused his fellow elected officials of discrimination, overstepping its bounds, and colluding to effectively run Romain out of town.
Specifically, Greene said at a council meeting Monday that Pouliot and Henry discussed the project in-depth at the Michigan Municipal League Convention that took place Sept. 14-16, just days before the 5-2 vote. Pouliot told The Advertiser he gave church officials a head’s up that Romain would be on the agenda almost a week in advance of the Sept. 19 vote.
Romain officially pulled out of the project Wednesday. (See story, A2).
Bauerschmidt (owner of downtown Caro’s Galaxy Office Machines, 107 N. State St.) said the rum microdistillery debacle shows that there is a need for change if Caro is going to have a chance at success.
“(Caro city council members) are working against business rather than trying to bring them in,” he said. “It’s hard to recommend anyone come to this city so I said I feel I’m the wrong person for the job.”
The DDA formed in 1984 to serve as a “think tank” for city council, according to the Caro DDA’s website.
Original members were Rex Ellsworth, Richard Ransford, Mike Sinchak, Donald Hutchinson, Harry Schubel, Douglas Campbell, Mike Rowe, Rudy Petzold and Shelia Everts.
In 1985, the board agreed to let a student from Texas A&M University use Caro’s Master Plan for his master’s thesis, which “would come to be a very valuable tool for the DDA,” according to its website.
At the time, the student said downtown Caro “manifests itself as an economically healthy center of the community. This strength is the direct result of its commercial and service availability, its role as a county seat, and the concerns, displayed by the community, to improve the downtown district. Caro has an untapped potential to grow stronger as a vital downtown center, rich in image and community focus.”
Today, the DDA board consists of Henry (now chairman), Lipan, Rick Farris, Richard Ransford, Evan Osentoski, Tuscola County Board of Commissioners Chairman Thom Bardwell, and Dr. Shawn Spillane.
Bauerschmidt said he believes the Caro DDA board functions well, and has had some success, such as facilitating $3 million in downtown Caro parking lot renovations.
In the early 1990s, there was a streetscape project intended to renovate the downtown area. The project included improved street lighting and more than 1,300 lettered bricks being sold and placed in new sidewalks. Hanging flower baskets in downtown Caro were added by 2000.
Today, however, the DDA is faced with the challenge presented by more than 30 empty storefronts, Greene told the Tuscola County Economic Development Corp. Tuesday.
“Nobody that’s sitting there on the council wants to see empty stores and empty buildings in town,” Pouliot said. “It ultimately reflects on the community. None of us want to see that.”
In addition to the microdistillery project, there are other things that Bauerschmidt said have been frustrating, but he didn’t want to disclose details.
“By the time you train another city manager it’ll be a year or two before anything happens,” Bauerschmidt said. “I’ll move onto other things.”
He said it still makes sense for Caro to maintain a DDA – which is funded by tax dollars – but that the organization’s hands are now largely tied to Caro not having a permanent city manager and “no cohesion” between the city council and DDA.
“People need to wake up and take back their government,” he said, adding he’s hopeful write-in candidates will pursue being elected to the Caro City Council.
Caro City Council members serve four-year terms, though the mayor’s seat is for only two years.
Pouliot, Taggett, and Rickwalt seek re-election on the November ballot. The only challenger is Herb Sheardy, though potential candidates can run as write-ins.
In 2013, Pouliot ran unopposed and was elected with 138 votes while Greene was elected with 129 votes, Henry, 128, and Lipan, 124.
The current terms of Greene, Lipan and Henry (all elected in 2013) end in 2017.
Bauerschmidt isn’t the only one frustrated the current board.
Al Michel, owner of The Pub at the Elbow Room, 133 S. State St., Caro, has shown up at all city council and committee meetings since Sept. 19.
He has spoken in favor of the rum microdistillery project because of the foot traffic it would bring to downtown Caro.
Among other things, he has begun calling for a recall of Pouliot, claiming the mayor allows too many personal feelings and beliefs to affect his ability to serve the community as a whole, and ignoring what citizens want. Pouliot said earlier this week that he doesn’t impose his own personal beliefs on anyone else.
“Anything that wants to come to this town, you blow it out,” Michel said at Monday’s council meeting. “How can you sit on that mayor’s seat there and tell people what they can do and what they can’t do?
“That vote…when you guys voted that distillery down…the next morning, you talked to Mike Bauerschmidt and he was upset cause it got thrown out. And you said to him ‘I didn’t think it was gonna make it anyway.’
“That’s not your decision,” Michel said. “If someone wants to put $1.2 million into this town, and employ people, it’s not you to be judge and jury.”
Pouliot denied having the discussion with Bauerschmidt.
“Listen, Mr. Bauerschmidt, everyone knows in town is a great gentleman and an honest person, ok?” Michel said. “He wouldn’t make up something like that.”
As far as what happens next, Pouliot told The Advertiser Tuesday that “everyone is frustrated” and that it’s time to start building bridges for the benefit of Caro.”
“I would believe everyone sitting there (on the council board) learns from experiences, whether they’re good or bad,” Pouliot said. “They’re all reasonable, logical individuals who want what’s best for the community so this is a learning experience, know what I mean?”
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at andrew@tcadvertiser.com

2 thoughts on “Caro DDA chair quits, calls city council ‘toxic’

  1. How much “learning experience” does someone need Mr. Pouliot is necessary for a town official to know that there are numerous empty store fronts in town & someone with over a million dollars wants to do business in Caro are you daft man. Another thing where do you get off informing church officials they aren’t running the town/city & have no more say than any other person. I just don’t get how you think this is the way to help the community & it’s being too close to a prayer room is just plain odd it isn’t a church but bet your bottom dollar the people in town will benefit from the business brought into town regardless of if they are members of this prayer room or not & since when does a minority run things that benefit the entire community. I just wish Akron had been given a chance to have the micro-distillery there

  2. Since when is a prayer room considered a church?? I was under the impression that the prayer room was a temporary thing to be replaced when the building it’s in was sold to someone who wants to run a legitimate business there. In my opinion, this city has enough churches to hold prayer meetings in; why have a business zoned building be used for praying?? I look at all of the empty store fronts and shake my head, hoping that somewhere down the line that a good business will come along and start bring consumers to the downtown area once again! However, that does not seem to be the case with this city counsel. Why does a pastor hold sway over the counsel’s decisions?? I’m a christian myself but I agree that Caro needs more commerce–not more churches!! Is this prayer room going to bring business to downtown?? I don’t think so!! The only thing the prayer room is good for is to take up valuable space that could be used for a good business acumen!! What a shame that a possibly profitable business is now going to go somewhere else and the citizens of this city are the ultimate losers!! I think I hear “recall” of city counsel members in the very near future!! Just saying.

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