City Council Approves Girl Scout Project, Maplewood Farms Construction, Budget and More

 06/16/2016 - 01:05

Girl Scout Liralyn Smith discusses her proposal for a rain garden at the Saline City Council meeting.

Saline City Council met Monday night to discuss a variety of issues including the budget for fiscal year 2017, a Girl Scout project in Mill Pond Park, planned road construction for 2017, and more. Many Saline High School students were in attendance, to fulfill a requirement for their class.

There was a public hearing for the General Appropriations Act for FY 2017. Council discussed the matter, but no citizens came forward for comment.

Taxation will be 14.1 mills for the general operating millage. With the addition of millages for fire protection, road repair debt and trash pickup the total city millage levy will be 16.3 mills, unchanged from last year.

“The budget is a deficit this year,” said Treasurer Mickie Jo Bennett. “Taking into consideration and using some moneys we have set aside for the personal property loss and some of the construction projects, we have allocated that money through prior years to save the money for this type of a project and so we are going to be using some of our saved money to close the gap.”

Several council members expressed their support for the budget. Councilman Dean Girbach reminded Council that the budget balancing could be more difficult in a few years due to needed infrastructure repair. Councilman Rhoads summed up the thoughts of the others.

“We have spent many many hours reviewing this proposed budget for the coming fiscal year both with various members of city staff and in the city council work sessions and I think everyone has done a good job of paring down expenses where they needed to be and being realistic in the proposed revenue so I’m pleased to support this.”

The budget and revenue plan was passed unanimously.


Alternate Plans for Summer Music Series

Saline Main street representatives Jill Durnen and Riley Hollenbaugh presented a request to allow an alternative site for the Saline Summer Music Series. If and when it becomes necessary because of the Michigan Avenue construction project, the concert will be moved from South Ann Arbor Street to North Ann Arbor Street.

“I want to make clear that this is an alternative for that location on South Ann Arbor,” Hollenbaugh said. “Our goal is to have it on South Ann Arbor as much as we possibly can.”

Girl Scout Project           

Liralyn Smith, a local Girl Scout who just graduated from Saline High School, presented a plan to build a rain garden in Mill Pond Park. It is to be her Gold Award Project, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.

Smith was introduced by Parks and Recreation Director Carla Scruggs. She went on to explain the details of her endeavor in a very business-like manner.

Construction of a rain garden will reduce flooding and mosquito breeding in the park, she said. She also said that all the plants used will be native to this area, so they will be “effectively self-maintaining.”

The project would require no city funds, but would be financed through local Girl Scout Troops. These troops would also maintain the garden for the first year.

Council woman Janet Dillon suggested that a legacy group could be formed, perhaps including the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, who would continue to maintain the gardens in future years. Smith said she would be happy to attempt establishing such a group.

The project was approved.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Work

Next on the agenda was a decision to approve the next payment on the wastewater treatment plant improvements that are being done by Weis Construction under the direction of TetraTech.  The amount due is $383,461.

Girbach asked for an update on odor abatement, because he said, “I’ve been smelling it.” City Manager Todd Campbell responded.

He reiterated what was stated in a press release a few weeks ago. Improvements to the Rotating Bacteria Collectors (RBCs) have been challenging and completing the repairs has required removing the enclosures around them. This released foul odors.

He said that they expect work on the RBCs to be complete by late July.

“As you’ve heard me say before, it is a wastewater treatment plant, so there is going to be some odor from time to time, but we are doing our best to abate that as best we can,” Campbell said.

Council voted to approve the payment.


Maplewood Farms Construction Bids           

The city asked for bids on street repairs in the Maplewood Farms subdivision and was pleased with the outcome. Three bids were received and the low bid was from Cadillac Asphalt LLC of Bellville.

“There is good news here for the project and for the budget as well,” said City Engineer Gary Roubal. “The low bid came in very low, almost $100,000 under what we had budgeted and much less than the estimate, so we are blessed in that area.”

Roubal also remarked that Cadillac was the best of the companies that bid. He said they may have been able to bid lower because they are already in town working on the Michigan Avenue project.

As Girbach had earlier, Councilwoman Linda TerHaar remarked about worrisome future infrastructure expenses and said it was encouraging that this one came in low. The total cost of the project will be $463,082.

Council approved the expenditure.

Council Renews People's Express Contract for 2 Years

Council also discussed renewing the contract with People’s Express for another two years. The cost of the contract would be $45,423 per year, unchanged from last year.

“There’s a lot of things happening in the world of public transportation in the area right now,” DPW Director Jeff Fordice said. “The Regional Transportation Authority is presenting their final plan and a millage proposal to go along with it.

“AAATA has done one round of expansion of their service, but at this time they’re not ready to provide something that we can afford as a replacement for what we have right now. So it’s my proposal to renew with People’s Express again.”

There was some extended discussion of how the service has been working. Rhoads complained that information about the service was not getting out to the residents.  Fordice said DPW could promote it better.

Mayor Marl said that he thinks the future is with the AAATA, “The Ride,” and he would prefer a one-year contract. TerHaar said she liked the two-year contract because of the transportation chaos this year on Michigan Avenue. The contract does include an opt out clause with a 60-day notice.

Council approved the contract renewal.

New Water Regulations Will Affect Saline

Fordice spoke about new water regulations being issued by the state in the wake of the tragedy in Flint. There will be changes to the lead copper rule. Also, there are new requirements for water distribution systems.

As now required, the city has identified two areas where lead components are most likely to be found in water service lines. These areas are North Ann Arbor Street and Michigan Avenue.

Lead “goosenecks” are being replace in Michigan Avenue this summer as part of the water main project. Goosenecks connect the homeowner’s service line to the city mains.

People in areas that might have lead are being informed about ways to reduce their risk. The risk is already quite low because Saline uses an appropriate additive in the water to prevent dissolution of lead.


Remnants of Old Maude

Finally, an interesting archeological find by the Michigan Avenue road construction crew was announced. Workers found several hundred feet of rails from the interurban trolley “Old Maude” that used to carry passengers between Saline and Ypsilanti.

The tracks were made of cast iron rather than steel and the switches were hand forged. Council discussed what to do with the artefacts. Suggestions included donation a large piece to the Saline Historical Society, cutting smaller pieces to sells for fundraising and using the material for a public art project.

The next regular council meeting will be at 7:30 on June 20, preceded by a work session to start at 6:00.

Robert Conradi
Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.