The first City Council meeting of February was a very busy one. Even after striking one issue there were still 11 other agenda items, discussion about some others and a public hearing.
One issue that raised some citizen concern was the issuing of new rules and regulations for Oakwood Cemetery. These rules were developed last year by the Oakwood Cemetery Task Force chaired by Mayor Brian Marl.
A number of changes were recommended, including a change in buy/sell rules, removal of the 2 percent per year interest charge, a change in allowable sizes of flush markers, a clarification of who pays when foundations need to be removed, and the allowance of Sunday burials.
City Clerk Terri Royal summarized the rule changes. Afterward Marl quickly recommended an amendment to the rules developed by the task force.
Marl explained that although he liked most of what the task force had decided he had never agreed with the buy/sell rules. These rules declared that any plot owner wishing to sell may only sell their spaces back to the city at the original purchase price. This was to be made retroactive, applying to all current grave owners.
“My opinion was not embraced by the membership of the Oakwood Cemetery Task Force,” Marl said, “but I think it’s appropriate and that’s why I offered the amendment to make the effective start date . . . February 2, which means that this policy would apply moving forward and not apply retroactively to individuals who purchased spaces some time ago.”
Two people, Mary Hess and Eric Grossman, took the opportunity during citizen comments to express concerns about the unamended policy. Both spoke of its unfairness.
Hess spoke about owning a plot purchased for $150 many decades ago and Grossman had similar concerns about lots he inherited that had originally cost $400. The lots are worth far more now.
Marl’s amendment eliminated these concerns.
Councilman Dean Girbach pointed out that the wording of other parts of the document would also need to be changed to make it consistent with the amendment. It was felt that this cleanup could be done after passage.
Then Public Works Director Jeff Fordice answered other questions from councilpersons and the issue was put to a vote. The amended rules passed unanimously.
Monroe Street Rezoning Goes Through Despite Debt
The council also discussed the rezoning of 218 Monroe Street from Single Family R1-A to Single Family R1-C. Developer Mark Lewis petitioned to make the change in order to facilitate his plans to build 17 connected dwelling units in the 4.6-acre site.
Most of the questions from council echoed what had been discussed earlier in the Planning Commission. One big concern was that by city statutes the approval must be contingent upon all outstanding taxes and fees being paid.
Although a partial payment was made recently, the outstanding debt has not yet been paid in full. Girbach felt that it was inappropriate to take any action on the proposal until all debts were settled.
In spite of Girbach’s objections, Marl said he felt confident that the payment would be forthcoming. City Council then voted 6 – 1 to approve the rezoning upon completion of the financial obligation.
Council Pays $86,000 for Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades
Council voted to pay TetraTech approximately $86,000 for some upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant. This work is a step toward reducing odor problems.
Water Safety Contract
Council also voted to authorize a three-year contract with HyroCorp, Inc. to assure that the city is in compliance with state cross connection rules. Cross connection is a piping arrangement whereby water from an undesirable source could potentially flow into the water distribution system. State law prohibits such connections.
Currently 291 industrial and commercial facilities in Saline are inspected on a regular schedule, but the state is expected to soon enforce inspection of residences as well. This will increase the approximately $11,000 per year charge to the city by about five to six fold HydroCorp representative Paul Paterson said.
This change also brought up legal concerns. As Councilman David Rhoads learned from Paterson, inspection could require checking interior plumbing every 5 to 10 years.
“Sounds to me like a court issue just waiting to happen,” Rhoads said. “I don’t see how inspectors can force their way into somebody’s home if they wish them not to come in.”
City to Resurface Maplewood Farms Streets
The Council discussed awarding a contract for planned street projects in 2016. The intent is to resurface roads in the Maplewood Farms subdivision. This was chosen in part because it is far from Michigan Avenue where intense construction will be taking place.
City staff received competitive bids from four companies and chose Midwestern Consulting, LLC. Council voted unanimously to approve the bid.
Council Approves Brick Veneers for Downtown Planters
As part of the reconstruction of Michigan Avenue this year, the streetscape is being redesigned. This design includes four raised planters at the intersection of Michigan Avenue with Ann Arbor Street. The design team from Saline Main Street recommended applying a brick veneer on these planters. This was discussed and approved by Council.
Council Adopts Parks Master Plan
In addition to the various proposals that were on the Council agenda, there was also a public hearing on the Parks and Recreation portion of the city master plan. This has been under discussion for many months and there has been substantial public input.
Doug Lewan reviewed the recommended plan accompanied by Parks and Recreation Director Carla Scruggs. Only one citizen commented on the plan in the public hearing.
The stated goal of the Parks and Recreation Department is “to provide recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.” The document describing how this is to be accomplished through current facilities and future plans is more than 100 pages.
Parts of the plan are more of a wish list than a schedule of actions to be taken. Rhoads pointed out that any proposals involving significant expenditures would still have to be approved by Council.
Since the plan has already undergone considerable review, council had little trouble voting to approve and adopt the plan by unanimous vote.
Council Meets Feb. 29
Due to scheduling conflicts, City Council will not meet again in February until Leap day, February 29. There will be a work session starting at 6:30 and a regular meeting at 7:30.