Photo via Zoom Teleconference - Three Rivers resident Ann Hermen shares a story from her collection of “Center of the Universe” stories during Tuesday’s Three Rivers City Commission meeting. Commissioners declared the city the Center of the Universe during the meeting, as part of both a friendly competition with a small town in Idaho and a collaboration between Hermen and Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Tricia Meyer.

Three Rivers declared Center of the Universe

THREE RIVERS — While some long-time residents have long believed the city of Three Rivers to be the Center of the Universe, it has not officially been declared to be so.

Until now.

On Tuesday, the Three Rivers City Commission passed a motion declaring the city as the Center of the Universe.

Of course, while Three Rivers isn’t physically the Center of the Universe, the proclamation is part of both a friendly competition with a small town in Idaho and a collaboration between local resident Ann Hermen and Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Tricia Meyer.

Mayor Tom Lowry said he was approached by Herman and Meyer about the idea of proclaiming the city as the Center of the Universe several weeks ago. At first glance, he said, it seemed “far-fetched,” but eventually he came to like the idea.

“There are 12 other cities in the United States and several on other continents that also claim to be the Center of the Universe, and some of those, I think, are for rather weak reasons,” Lowry said.

Lowry mentioned the town of Wallace, Idaho as having one of those “weak reasons.” According to a 2016 Atlas Obscura article about the town’s 2004 claim, it relied on the theory of probabilism: If you cannot prove that Wallace is not the Center of the Universe, then it must be the Center of the Universe. A specially-made manhole cover in Wallace marks its spot as the Center of the Universe. Wallace, Meyer said, is the only other city in the United States to have its mayor proclaim it to be the Center of the Universe.

The initial idea of Three Rivers being the Center of the Universe came from local resident Ann Hermen, who has been collecting stories over the past decades of people from Three Rivers finding other people in unexpected places with connections to the Three Rivers area while they travel.

“The idea is we follow what Wallace, Idaho, did and if this city commission is so inclined, that we declare Three Rivers, Michigan, as a Center of the Universe,” Lowry said. “Our basis would be because of storytelling, that everybody is linked to Three Rivers. If you go far enough, they’re linked to Three Rivers.”

Lowry said he hopes to get the town some publicity and tourism with the declaration.

Hermen talked about her Center of the Universe project during Tuesday’s meeting, which includes a private Facebook group called “Three Rivers is the Center of the Universe” she started two weeks ago. She relayed a couple of the stories she gathered over the years, including one from 2006 involving her son Chris, who moved to Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California.

Hermen said Chris was living in an apartment complex in the southern California town back in the 1990s, and would greet a woman living across the hall a number of times. During one of those conversations, the woman, Alison, asked where Chris was from, and he replied, “A small town in southwest Michigan.”

“She said, ‘Well, would you happen to know where Corey Lake is?’ and Chris said, ‘Of course I would, I’ve gone out there my whole life,’” Hermen said. “I don’t know if you know who Carolyn Krull is, but it was her niece he was talking to, and this was way out in southern California.”

Another story Hermen laid out in a sheet given to city commissioners was about an encounter she had at a restaurant in a small town north of Atlanta in the late 2000s. After having a meal there near the end of their day, the owner came over to their table and joined in the conversation Hermen and her family were having with their waitress. The owner asked them where they’re from, and while Hermen’s sister said Illinois, Hermen herself said Michigan.

“He tells us he used to live in Michigan as a child because his father worked for Eaton Corporation,” Hermen wrote. “I tell him we have an Eaton in our town. When he finds out we live in Three Rivers, you guessed it, that’s where he lived in the 1970s.”

Hermen told commissioners she met with Meyer, who she said came up with potential tourism-related ideas for both towns, such a passport where you could get a stamp for both Three Rivers and get one for Wallace, Idaho.

“I talked to [Wallace, Idaho’s] Chamber of Commerce guy, Dave Copelan, and he was all excited about it,” Hermen said. “He thought it would be great publicity if we had this fun contest. But first we have to announce we are the Center of the Universe.”

Meyer said there wouldn’t necessarily be any budgetary items related to any sort of declaration, as it’s more of a “lighthearted” sort of thing. In a conversation she had with Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce President Christy Trammell, Meyer said the Chamber would consider adopting the moniker with their strategic plan.

“We don’t have River Country Tourism promoting Three Rivers and the surrounding area anymore, so this could kind of tie-in with that and be something light-hearted,” Meyer said. “Who knows? Maybe Three Rivers could really potentially be the Center of the Universe.”

Fourth District Commissioner Carolyn McNary said the declaration would be a fun thing for the community.

“I think this is going to be a lot of fun, very interesting and I’m happy about it,” McNary said. “Just hearing about it is joyful, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun for all of us.”

“I think so. We might get a little ribbing, but it’s worth the price,” Lowry chuckled.

In other business…

  • Commissioners approved the special assessment roll for delinquent accounts receivable for both water/sewer accounts and general accounts. Delinquencies for water/sewer total $6,995.21, while delinquent general accounts totaled $14,515.09.
  • Commissioners approved a stipend structure for election inspectors. Inspectors will be paid $100 for a partial day and $200 for a full day, along with $35 for being an inspection chair and $25 for mandatory training.
  • Commissioners approved a draft ordinance to allow single-family dwellings in medium-density residential zoning districts. The ordinance is intended to provide flexibility in housing types in those types of districts.
  • Commissioners approved an application for a special exception use for Westview Capital, LLC for 23.4 acres west of Meadowbrook Farms and south of Armstrong Park.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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