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Elizabeth Nelson's City Council Blog

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I write a City Council newsletter with my summary of agenda items coming before City Council. Sign up to receive it first via email, or read it here later on this blog.

City Council Newsletter (Oct 16, 2021)

Hello neighbors!

Welcome to everyone who is new to this newsletter! Before every Council meeting, I write up my own summary of each agenda item and try to pull details that I think are most relevant to understanding them. My hope is that these summaries can help residents keep track of what City Council is doing. For issues that matter to you, I encourage you to follow links (next to each agenda item) to the City's Legistar website, where you can find all the background information.


This week, Council considers final approval for two ordinances (B-1, revised zoning for indoor storage; B-2, energy benchmarking requirements), new city Ward maps, a site plan for a development on Earhart Road (DB-1), and a final recommendation for spending American Rescue Package (ARP) funds from the federal government (DC-2). For more on the ARP fund recommendations, see my "Additional Thoughts" section below. Our agenda also includes decisions about two locations in Ward 4: C-1 will zone a recently annexed parcel on Scio Church Road and CA-11 will buy an easement to fill a sidewalk gap on Stimson.


Also this week: on Monday, October 18th, Milton Dohoney, Jr. officially begins serving as our Interim City Administrator. I look forward to working with him! For more about the leadership and administrative expertise Mr, Dohoney brings to Ann Arbor, see:

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/10/ann-arbor-officials-hope-for-stability-as-new-city-hall-leaders-contract-is-finalized.html


Yesterday, I spent some time with City staff at my job outside of Council: several firefighters visited my preschool class to share fire safety tips and show off a fire truck. In recent years, I’ve seen the Ann Arbor Fire Department offer consistently wonderful presentations to this age group at both my preschool and at Safety Town. We are lucky to have such committed first responders in our local community!




Eberwhite Playground Build - Sunday Volunteers Needed

This past week, I participated in the Eberwhite playground building project. Eberwhite Elementary school is technically in Ward 5, but it's attendance boundaries include parts of Ward 4 and my own children went there. The build continues tomorrow (Sunday, October 17th) and they are still looking for help. Below is a signup form to volunteer— both skilled and unskilled helpers are welcome!

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70a094babab28a3ff2-playground7



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COVID Emergency Rental Assistance

Anyone who is behind on rent or concerned they will be behind on rent should apply for COVID Emergency Rental assistance through Washtenaw County - this post has more information and a link to the County's website.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/covid-emergency-rental-assistance


Barrier Busters

Residents in need of financial help during this crisis (e.g. to avoid eviction, pay utility bills, cover emergency medical expenses) can find resources at this link:

https://www.washtenaw.org/2818/Barrier-Buster-Agency-Provider-List


Housing Access for Washtenaw County

Housing Access for Washtenaw County (HAWC) is Washtenaw County’s central intake for individuals and families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. If you are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis, please call HAWC at (734) 961-1999

http://www.housingaccess.net/


Coffee Hours

Sunday Oct 17th 3:00pm

I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. I have returned to RoosRoast at 1155 Rosewood, meeting outdoors on the lawn,


If you can, please bring a chair - RoosRoast has very limited outdoor seating for customers and they prefer that our meeting not occupy it.


City Council Regular Meeting

Monday Oct 18th 7:00pm

My summary of the meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829781&GUID=B3C44E00-3AC2-45AD-B17B-D4F250BF9234

A2ELNEL.com Website Updates

In addition to writing this newsletter, I post updates to my website with my perspectives on how issues were resolved at City Council and details on how Council voted at each meeting. I also post information about meetings and issues that affect Ward 4 residents, along with news that affects all city residents.

You can see a listing of all my posts here: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/

City Council Voting Chart for Oct 4, 2021

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-oct-4-2021


City Council Voting Chart for Oct 12, 2021

This was a special session to authorize a contract for Interim City Administrator Milton Dohoney, Jr.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-oct-12-2021


Publicly Owned Sustainable Energy Unit zoom meeting Oct 28, 2021 6pm

There will be a public Zoom meeting to discuss recently proposed plans for a Sustainable Energy Unit (SEU).

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/publicly-owned-sustainable-energy-unit-zoom-meeting-oct-28-2021-6pm


Directing an Independent Investigation of the Acting City Administrator

At our October 4th meeting, City Council discussed a serious issue involving high level City staff. I co-sponsored a late addition to our agenda, based on a formal written complaint which was sent to all of Council.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/directing-an-independent-investigation-of-the-acting-city-administrator


Thoughts on the November 2021 Ballot

I wrote about the four charter amendment proposals on the November 2, 2021 ballot.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/thoughts-on-the-november-2021-ballot


Absentee Ballot Information for November 2021 Election Information about voting absentee for the election this November. https://www.a2elnel.com/post/absentee-ballot-information-for-november-2021-election

A2COUNCIL Updates (A2COUNCIL.com)

For anyone interested in understanding and analyzing the recent work of Council, I have created a resource at A2COUNCIL.com with summaries of issues and direct links to City documents. For each City Council meeting since November 2018, you can find links to the City's Legistar website, CTN's YouTube video, and links to my newsletters and voting charts. I have listed agenda items of interest from each meeting, along with articles I've written and articles published on MLive.

https://www.a2elnel.com/a2council

http://a2council.com

Council Meeting Agenda 10/18/21

Below is my summary of some issues on the City Council Agenda this week, with links to more information about each of them. If you have comments about any of these issues, feel free to email me at my official City email: ENelson@A2gov.org

The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda) can be found on the A2Gov Legistar website:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829781&GUID=B3C44E00-3AC2-45AD-B17B-D4F250BF9234

Ann Arbor City Council Monday Oct 18th (7:00pm) Electronic Meeting


City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99). They are also streamed live on YouTube and Viebit: https://www.youtube.com/user/ctnannarbor

Questions to the Agenda

In preparation for a Council meeting, Council members can ask questions of staff about scheduled agenda items. Questions must be submitted by noon on the Wednesday before a Council Meeting, and answers are returned the next day (Thursday) by 5pm.

AC-3 (21-1837) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - October 18, 2021

This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.

Communications from the Mayor


There are no Board or Commission nominations from the Mayor on the Agenda at the time this newsletter was written.

Consent Agenda

Below is the list of items included on the Consent Agenda. If no one on Council specifically requests that an item be pulled for discussion, the whole of this list will be approved in a single vote. I encourage you to look at this list and offer suggestions to me about anything you would like to see pulled for discussion.

CA-1 (21-1592) Resolution to Award a Construction Contract to Hoffman Brothers, Inc. in the amount of $339,886.46 (ITB 4689) for the Schoolgirls Glen Culvert Replacement Project and to Appropriate $200,000.00 from the Stormwater Sewer System Fund Balance (8 Votes Required)


CA-2 (21-1657) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of 75 Streetlight Luminaires from Graybar Electric Company, Inc. through the Michigan Delivering Extended Agreements Locally (MIDEAL) ($37,500.00)


CA-3 (21-1656) Resolution to Authorize a Professional Service Agreement with Sam Schwartz Consultants, LLC., for the Moving Together Towards Vision Zero Action Plan and Associated Engineering Services (RFP 21-25) ($362,739.30) (8 Votes Required)


CA-4 (21-1616) Resolution to Approve a Change Order with Toter LLC for Solid Waste Containers ($50,000.00, total Purchase Order of $148,000.00) and Appropriate $50,000.00 from fund balance (8 Votes Required)


CA-5 (21-1602) Resolution to Approve a Second Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with CalAmp, Inc. for Tracking Fees and Annual Maintenance and Support of the Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) Units for FY2022 - FY2024 ($43,680, Annually)


CA-6 (21-1619) Resolution to Approve Purchase of VMware Licensing and Support from CDW Government LLC ($31,844.45)


CA-7 (21-1695) Resolution to Approve a Purchase Order to Bellefeuil, Szur and Associates, Inc. (“BS&A”) for Annual Software Maintenance and Support for FY2022 ($28,201.00)


CA-8 (21-1704) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate Emergency Management Performance Grant Funds and Approve FY 2021 Emergency Management Performance Grant Agreement for Ann Arbor Emergency Management Program ($42,976.00) (8 Votes Required)


CA-9 (21-1631) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with Washtenaw County for Case Management Services (Revenue up to $45,000.00)


CA-10 (21-1579) A Resolution to Apply for a Grant for $45,000 for a Reconnaissance Level Historic Resource Survey of the Old Fourth Ward Historic District


CA-11 (21-1739) Resolution to Accept an Easement for Public Right-of-Way at 725 Stimson Street from H&B Enterprises (8 Votes Required)

Public Hearings

Anyone wanting to comment on these issues may speak for 3 minutes, without having specifically reserved time. Issues subject to public hearing will also be up for a vote by Council later in the meeting.

PH-1 /B-1 (21-1496) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.15.2 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of Code of The City of Ann Arbor - (Remove Warehousing and Indoor Storage in C2B Districts) (ORD-21-29)

Amendment to use tables in the Unified Development Code (UDC) will remove “warehousing and indoor storage” as a permitted use in the C2B Business Service District. The majority of other permitted uses in the district are suitable to be accessed by either automobiles or pedestrians, but Warehousing and Indoor Storage are most likely to be primarily automobile oriented.


PH-2/B-2 (21-1651) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 104 (Energy and Water Benchmarking) to Title VIII of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (ORD-21-30)

A new ordinance will require owners of large properties to collect and report Whole-Building Data for energy and water use, so that potential or current tenants can access consistent and relevant information about the cost of their utilities. Property owners will use a benchmarking tool such as Energy Star to create and submit reports (annually) to the City’s Office of Sustainability and Innovations (OSI). The OSI will make these benchmarking reports available on a publicly accessible website with summaries of energy and water consumption statistics, compliance rates, trends observed, etc. Properties subject to this ordinance: greater than 10,000 gross square feet (total floor area) that are owned, leased or managed by the City, and other properties greater than 20,000 gross square feet (total floor area). Exemptions: owner occupied properties, under occupied (<50% over 10 months), in foreclosure, and permitted for demolition.


PH-3/DB-1 (21-1650) Resolution to Approve Concord Pines Site Plan, Wetland Use Permit and Development Agreement, 660 Earhart Road (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)

A site plan will permit the construction of 57 single-family homes on a 34-acre vacant lot with access off Earhart Road. The plan will remove 311 landmark trees (the parcel includes a total of 447) and will lay sanitary sewer lines across a wetland. The developer will pay $265,500 in mitigation for natural features tree mitigation and make an off-site Parks contribution of $35,625. Solar panels and Accessory Dwelling Units will not be restricted in the development.

Ordinances - Second Reading

In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances were approved at a previous Council meeting, and are also subject to a public hearing as listed above.

B-1 (21-1496) is the same as PH-1 above.

B-2 (21-1651) is the same as PH-2 above.

Ordinances - First Reading

In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances are being introduced for "first reading". If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting ("second reading"), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.


C-1 (21-1545) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Zoning), Rezoning of 1.24 Acres from TWP (Township District) to R2A (Two-Family District), Issa Property, 201 Scio Church (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 9 Yeas and 0 Nays)

A 1.24 acre property at 201 Scio Church Road will be re-zoned from township to R2A (two-family) district . This parcel was recently annexed into the city and this zoning is consistent with the adjacent zoning, the surrounding land uses, and the City's Master Plan.


C-2 (21-1813) An Ordinance to Add Chapter 74 to Title VI of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor Which Shall Be Entitled “General Health” and to Add Sections 6:650 - 6:653 (Sanitation Supplies in Public Restrooms)

A new ordinance will require all toilet facilities that are open to customers, patrons, visitors, employees, licensees, invitees, students, or other members of the public to provide soap, toilet paper and menstrual products (both pads and tampons) at no cost, within the restroom, and openly accessible to users of the restroom. Violation of this ordinance will be a civil infraction, subject to a fine of no more than $100. Community Standards officers shall be responsible for enforcement.


C-3 (21-1825) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 1:451 to 1:455 of Chapter 17, Reapportionment of Wards, of Title I of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor

A new Ward map will adjust boundaries to equalize the five local City wards, in response to the 2020 Census. As stated in the resolution: "The proposed changes were made with the goal of minimizing impacts; however, all five wards have some modifications, with Wards Four and Five moving more into the downtown area." The legistar link for this item has several attachments, including this report showing the old and new boundaries:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9884495&GUID=AC3B840A-EEFB-4459-B6FB-25F78C20C836

Motions and Resolutions

The following agenda items are motions and resolutions, which are approved or rejected in a single meeting. Agenda items marked "DC" are proposed by Council members, items marked "DB" are proposed by City boards and commissions, items marked "DS" are proposed by City staff.


DB-1 (21-1650) is the same as PH-3 above.


DC-1 (21-1442) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with DLZ Michigan, Inc. for Engineering Design Services for the E. Medical Center Drive Bridge Rehabilitation and Widening Project ($1,011,319.29) (RFP 21-20)

(Postponed from the 9/20/21 meeting)

A $1,011,319.29 contract for engineering services related to rehabilitation and widening of the East Medical Center Drive. The University of Michigan and the City of Ann Arbor have been collaborating on this project for over two years, to address deterioration of the bridge as well as anticipated growth at the Michigan Medical Center. (It is part of the City’s capital improvement plan.) The University will be assuming 50% of the cost of rehabilitating the bridge and 100% of the cost of widening it.


DC-2 (21-1769) Resolution to Direct Public Engagement and Final Recommendation for the Use of Federal ARP Funds

City Council would officially accept the recommendations of Acting City Administrator, John Fournier, regarding how to spend the $24,182,630 expected from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Memo of recommendations can be found here:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9861463&GUID=DE3FB842-7FA6-40A6-9315-C3D2DC4B54C5

Council directs the City Administrator to carry out a public engagement strategy and provide a final report on prioritization and spending plan for the ARP dollars no later than December 6, 2021. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


DC-3 (21-1829) Resolution to Support COVID Vaccination Among Ann Arbor City Council

City Council declares that all City Council members will be vaccinated by November 19, 2021, to show support and endorsement for the City’s vaccine mandate.

Additional thoughts…

I also published this on my website:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/prioritizing-american-rescue-plan-funds



Prioritizing American Rescue Plan Funds

On June 7, 2021, City Council unanimously approved a resolution, directing the then City Administrator, Tom Crawford, to “recommend and prioritize the allocation of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds” and report to Council before October 1, 2021.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4970459&GUID=030FC7C4-355F-46EA-A7DE-E5F4F25AB589


I cosponsored this resolution with Council Member Ramlawi and it included the following language:


Whereas, The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds are eligible to:

* Support public health expenditures;

* Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency;

* Replace lost public sector revenue;

* Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure; and

* Other activities as identified in the Act.


In response to that resolution, a memo of recommendations (dated October 1, 2021) was prepared by Acting City Administrator John Fournier, and included as a communication on the agenda of our October 4, 2021 meeting:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5158268&GUID=86E594B0-B3AA-4F8C-BF98-F84C6800DE73


TIMELINE


June 7, 2021

  • City Council asks then City Administrator Tom Crawford to recommend and prioritize the allocation of federal recovery funds.


October 1, 2021

  • Acting City Administrator John Fournier emails a memo of recommendations to City Council.

  • Council receives a formal written complaint against John Fournier, alleging harassment, hostile work environment, blatant discrimination, retaliation and illegal directives.


October 4, 2021

  • Fournier’s memo of spending recommendations is included as a communication on the Council meeting agenda. It includes a proposed resolution and deadline for final decisions: December 6, 2021.

  • Council receives over forty pages of documentation related to the formal complaint filed against Acting City Administrator John Fournier. Council votes unanimously to direct an independent investigation of Fournier. (NOTE: a majority of Council rejects any paid administrative leave for Fournier.)


October 18, 2021 (anticipated)

  • Interim City Administrator, Milton Dohoney, Jr. will officially begin work for the City.

  • Council will consider resolution DC-2 to move forward with recommendations from Acting City Administrator John Fournier and direct “public engagement strategy to aid in the prioritization of the ARP funds.”


December 6, 2021 (anticipated)

  • Final approval of spending recommendations for federal recovery funds.


RECOMMENDATIONS

This week’s agenda item DC-2 refers to recommendations for spending $24,182,630 federal recovery funds, but the memo of specific recommendations is not included in the Legistar listing. As noted above, these recommendations were communicated to Council in a memo dated October 1, 2021.


Link to DC-2:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5160594&GUID=AFA44345-7B18-41F6-B1BE-EBA065EF64C2


Link to memo of recommendations:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9861463&GUID=DE3FB842-7FA6-40A6-9315-C3D2DC4B54C5



Below is a summary of the recommendations:


$5,806,173

Galvanized pipe replacement to accelerate total removal of lead pipe in the City of Ann Arbor.


$4,000,000

Bike facility at Miller and Catherine, including a $2.5 million bike lane and $1.5 million in traffic calming.


$3,000,000

Funding to make Fire Station 4 carbon-neutral with geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and architectural design, as well as make it ‘gender neutral.”


$7,000,000

Installing solar arrays on City facilities. (Estimated total savings of $380,000 per year.)


$9,500,000

Implementation of the Vision Zero Plan including:

improvements to Eisenhower Park Path

Border-to-to-Border trail linkages at Fuller Road

City-wide speed study

Lane reconfigurations at S. Main, Packard, Earhart, and Green road

Curb bump outs at five locations

Public education and enforcement

Protected bike lanes

Bike boulevards on Washington and Elmwood

Green pavement at intersections

Expanded bike parking

ADA accessible call buttons at pedestrian signals

Bicycle detecting traffic signals

Safety street lights at three planned corridors

Crosswalk upgrades


$2,000,000

Community policing, unarmed response. Funding for new data systems and outside training and resources, and funding to build officer capacity and engage with third party service providers and non-profits.


$1,000,000

Homeless transitional housing. This would fund and manage a 4+ unit rental property in partnership with Housing Access of Washtenaw County and Avalon Housing.


$3,500,000

Acquisition and development of city-owned properties for affordable housing, including 2000 S. Industrial.


$2,000,000

Acquisition/renovation of a city owned property for use as a new election center, to accommodate to store, process, and count absentee ballots and house voting equipment.


$2,300.000

Pilot program for Universal Basic Income (UBI) to provide one hundred (100) selected families with $500 per month for three years. It would also fund a program administrator and administrative costs.


$1,000,000

Coordinated funding support for local social services programs.


Note that the memo explains: The total dollar amount of recommended projects is $41,106,173, or $16.9 million more than what we have been allocated by the federal government.



ANOTHER EXAMPLE - PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP

As a point of comparison, Pittsfield Township recently released their own plan for use of their (much smaller) amount of ARP funds. Pittsfield Township anticipates receiving $4,073,805 and in 2021/2022, they plan to budget it in this way:

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/10/pittsfield-township-leaders-have-4m-in-federal-covid-stimulus-heres-how-theyll-spend-it.html


$294,500

Mast arm infrastructure project


$210,000

Streetlight projects


$2,500,000

US12 Sewer project


$1,000,000

Buildings infrastructure project


$69,506

Parks infrastructure project


In anticipation of receiving $4,073,805 in ARP funds, Pittsfield Township has designated spending of $4,074,006 (a difference of $201).



DC-2: THE PLAN

Agenda item DC-2 explains that "a robust public engagement process is essential to finally prioritize these funds"


Also from DC-2, the City Administrator is directed "to carry out a public engagement strategy to aid in the prioritization of the ARP funds"


In questions to the agenda, I asked about the origins of the Ann Arbor recommendations, whether they were reviewed by our Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and what is anticipated in terms of “public engagement.” In answer to my question about public engagement, I received this response:

Final plans have not yet been determined. Preliminary planning discussions with our Public Engagement experts include completing the Public Engagement Toolkit, Community Conversations, and the use of various survey tools. If City Council has specific requests for the public engagement plan, those recommendations can be incorporated into the final plan.

Also from DC-2: "City Council directs the City Administrator to provide a final report on the prioritization and spending plan for the ARP dollars to the City Council not later than December 6, 2021."



MOVING FORWARD

I do not envy the task presented to our new Interim City Administrator, Mr. Dohoney, on what will be his very first official day working for our City. He is asked to carry out an as-yet-undetermined "robust" public engagement strategy on spending recommendations that exceed available funds by nearly $17 million. We ask him to accomplish this in the seven weeks between now and December 6th, with help from Assistant City Administrator Fournier: the person who drafted these recommendations and is currently under investigation for alleged harassment, hostile work environment, blatant discrimination, retaliation, and illegal directives.


A hurried timeline for public engagement, prioritization, and allocation is remarkable, given the relatively long timeline permitted by federal guidelines. The much longer federal timeline requirement was communicated to all of Council on October 1st: These funds must be ‘encumbered’ by December 31, 2024, and totally spent by December 31, 2026.


A point of comparison: Washtenaw County expects to receive just over $71 million in federal rescue funds. For public engagement regarding allocation of those funds, the Board of Commissioners conducted a total of ten meetings, starting the end of July. To read more about the County’s plan and process, see:

https://www.washtenaw.org/3427/Washtenaw-Rescue-Plan


I have the opportunity to ask more questions at our public meeting on Monday. If you have any questions that you would like answered, I encourage you to send them to me, your own Council representatives, or all of Council at CityCouncil@a2gov.org


Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson


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