The first Saline City Council meeting of May began with a proclamation honoring Walt and Nancy Byers. The Byers have planned for years to move to Petoskey for their retirement and will soon be departing Saline.
Mayor Brian Marl reviewed the history of the Byers involvement in our community, going back to the contributions of Paul Tull, Nancy’s father and the founder of the Saline Reporter.
Walt was a leader in the local banking community and a member of many city organizations, including the Saline Planning Commission, the Special Projects Commission and the Economic Development Corporation. He was also active in the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary. He recently retired as a vice president at Bank of Ann Arbor.
Nancy was active in Saline Area Schools and a leader of the Arts and Culture Committee. In addition, she was owner/manager of Stone Arch Arts and Events Center.
“It is a loss to the community because these two have been civic leaders involved in countless ways for many years,” Marl said.
The Byers were given a standing ovation.
Depot Trail Named for Clements
Another citizen who has contributed greatly is the late Wayne Clements. To honor him for his many contributions in preserving Saline history, Council voted to rename the Depot Trail the “Wayne Clements Memorial Depot Trail.”
Council voted to approve budgets for coming year, seemingly without discussion, in the consent agenda. In fact, the issues were previously discussed and debated in four work sessions.
Fire Budget Approved
The need to add three new fulltime fire fighters to the Saline Area Fire Department has also been discussed in detail at previous meetings. The cost increase cannot be approved without a public hearing.
No one came forward to comment so the public hearing was closed shortly after it opened. Council voted to approve the 2016 fire protection budget of $410,000, a $68,000 increase over last year.
SASS Waiver Denied
The issue of waiving fees for sign variance needed by a local charity, Saline Area Social Services had been tabled at the previous meeting pending advice from legal counsel. Having received this advice, city leaders reluctantly voted to deny the waiver.
“There are a couple of items that would prohibit council from approving this,” City Manager Todd Campbell said. “One is the state constitution not allowing municipalities to loan out city credit. The other is also a concern that [City Attorney] Mr. Smith has with the U.S. Constitution of potentially violating the equal protection clause.”
Maple Road Sale Approved
Next on the agenda was to approve the sale of city property at 600 Maple Road to Three Oaks Group. The Three Oaks plan had been selected over two competing proposals after prior Council discussions. It will include housing for developmentally disabled adults.
“I’m glad to see that we are increasing the diversity of housing in our community,” said Mayor Pro Tem David Rhoads.
Other council members also expressed enthusiasm about the project. Councilwoman Linda TerHaar also supported the project, but interjected her concerns about pedestrian safety in the area. Approval was unanimous.
Contract With Swisher Renewed
Tony Caprarese of Swisher Commercial Realty aided the sale of the Maple Road property. He came forward next to review past and potential future sales of city properties.
Council voted to extend the city’s contract with Swisher for one more year.
Sewer Rates Increase
City Council also considered the proposed sewer and water rates for fiscal year 2017 (appearing first on the September 2016 quarterly bill). Rates will be increasing due to new expenses, but in a way that avoids any drastic jumps.
“The major element was an additional $703,000 associated with the rebuilding of the sewer main under Michigan Avenue,” Rhoads explained. “We could have elected to charge the users that entire amount in one year, but decided as a body that we would spread that over a number of years to keep the rate increase down.”
The county considered asking voters to approve a four-year extension of a previously passed 0.5 mil tax increase for roads. Council voted to send a resolution to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approving the proposal.
“Every dollar that the City of Saline generated would be returned to us,” Marl said. “And while this won’t meet all of our needs and while it’s not a perfect solution, I think it is a solid proposal which will not only benefit the City of Saline but Washtenaw County as a whole.”
Washtenaw County Commissioners later voted against placing the tax on the ballot.
Sidewalk Work Approved
Council also discussed and approved an additional payment of $36,000 to Precision Concrete Cutting of Holland, MI, for extra work requested in eliminating sidewalk tripping hazards.
DPW Gets New Pickup Truck
DPW Director Jeff Fordice spoke about a plan to purchase a new pickup truck for use by the Waste Water Treatment Plant. It would replace a 17-year-old vehicle.
Fordice said this was part of the city’s effort to reduce the age of its fleet. Council approved $31,000 for a 2016 GMC Sierra 2500 HD 4x4 pickup with a western eight foot ProPlus snow plow.
Hoffman Brothers To Use Willis Road Lot for Staging
Tom Rizor of Hoffman Brothers came forward to discuss the Michigan Avenue project awarded to his company and to request the establishment of a staging area for the work. Rizor, who will be superintendent for the project, would like to use the parking area at S. Ann Arbor Street and Willis Road.
Council approved the request, but with numerous conditions. One requirement, insisted on by Rhoads, was video documentation of the condition of Ann Arbor Street before and after project completion. Other conditions included fencing the area, fully informing the neighbors, effective trash handling and liability insurance.
The meeting was adjourned after about 70 minutes. The next Council meeting will be May 16.