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Northeast North Dakota residents embrace city beautification project

Over the summer, the city of Michigan held the Michigan City Beautification Project, where residents could get rebates to paint buildings, install siding and tear down old buildings.

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The Michigan Legion donated $5,000 to the Michigan City Beautification Project. Pictured are organizer Maria Vasichek, City Auditor Cassie Anderson, Legion Post Treasurer Rod Crommett and Mayor Lauri Rysavy.
Contributed / Maria Vasichek
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MICHIGAN, N.D. – Change is in the air in Michigan, North Dakota, and on the sides of buildings and in now empty lots.

Over the summer, the city of Michigan held the Michigan City Beautification Project, where residents could get rebates to paint buildings, install siding and tear down old buildings. In the town of around 270, 18 residents participated.

“It’s really gotten contagious,” said Maria Vasichek.

Vasichek, a driving force behind the project, brought her idea for a citywide beautification project to the City Council, and said the community’s response more than met her expectations.

The project started on June 1 and ends on Oct. 1. The city set aside $10,000 for the project from a revitalization fund generated from sales tax. Participants could get rebates up to $2,500 for half of paint purchase costs, up to $2,500 for half of siding purchase costs and up to $2,500 to tear down a house, $1,000 to tear down a garage and $500 to tear down a shed.

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The Michigan Legion contributed an additional $5,000 toward the project. Jay Vasichek, Maria’s husband and a city council member, says most of the total $15,000 will be used by Oct. 1.

“I think by the time this is done, this $15,000 will probably generate anywhere between $50 and $70,000 worth of updates that people are doing to their houses and tear-downs and different things,” he said.

And with people putting time and money into their house or shed, says Maria, they start paying attention to other aspects of their property that could be improved, like the front steps, windows or yards.

“I would say the majority in town have done some kind of change,” she said.

In downtown Michigan, Jennifer Barney used the beautification project as an opportunity to install siding on a building her late husband used to work out of. Today, her family uses it for storage and family gatherings. With a garden in the yard with marigolds and vegetables, she says she tries to keep it looking nice.

“It’s very visible, it’s been there for a long time and it really needed an update,” said Barney. “The building wouldn’t hold paint anymore, so we decided we needed to side it and this project really will help us.”

Michigan Mayor Lauri Rysavy also participated in the beautification project by painting her garage and the peaks on a neighbor’s house that had new siding installed. She says the difference the project has made in town is visible.

“When people drive through, they see how clean and nice it is,” she Rysavy. “I think they see that people take pride in their property and it just looks cleaner and neater.”

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By October, a house, two garages and two sheds will have been taken down. Newly painted houses and garages add a pop of color to the town’s streets. One young couple is painting a three-story Victorian home, which Maria called a “death defying feat.”

Over the summer, said Barney, the project also brought some movement to the small town.

“I’m outside a lot, so I like to hear the sounds of people working with saws and drills,” she said. “The activity that it brings to town is certainly nice. It’s a good feeling to keep things cleaned up and in good shape.”

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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