At the well-attended March 6 Saline City Council meeting, many issues were considered. Among them were: a decision on addressing roof problems at the Rec Center, a collection of grant requests by the Parks and Recreation Department, road construction projects, an extension for the sales agreement for 600 N. Maple Street, an agreement with DTE on moving powerlines at 207 Monroe Street, and more.
After a presentation by Jim Peters on a proposed footpath linking Salt Springs Park with the Leslee Neithammer Saline River Preserve, the city continued the business they had started at the work meeting immediately preceding the regular meeting. The issue was to vote on initial steps for addressing roof repairs at the Rec Center.
Council voted unanimously to approve spending of not more than $46,500 for assessment and design work by Mays Consulting. They also approved starting the 45-day public notice period required before a municipality can issue bonds for a project.
This later vote does not approve the sale of bonds; it just allows the process to start so that it will be possible, if so decided, to issue bonds and complete the project before next winter. A majority of council members voted to begin the public notice, but Janet Dillon voted ‘Nay.”
Run For Your Life 5K
Cindy Barnett, co-director of the Saline Run for Your Life 5K and Lauren Wagner of the American Cancer Society came forward to seek approval for the 2017 event and to ask that the city would waive police and DPW fees. Dean Girbach moved to approve the event but not to grant the waiver of fees and this was seconded by Heidi McClelland.
Wagner said that not waiving fees would mean less money for cancer patients, but it has become standard practice in the city to not waive fees for any event that does not directly serve the people of the city. This is done for legal reasons.
Council voted unanimously to approve, but not waive. The event will be held at 9 a.m. on May 13 at Henne Field.
Scruggs Recommends 4 Grant Proposals
Parks and Recreation Director Carla Scruggs presented four grants that she would like the city to apply for this year. These were: the Judy Ivan Healthy Communities Endowment, the MParks USA Archery Grant, the Healthy Recreation Catalyst Award and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan Grant.
The city would use the Ivan grant to start a free cardio drumming event on Friday nights to compliment the Saturday morning Yoga in the Park program. They might use some of the funds to pay for the Mini-Mastodon children’s obstacle race associated with the Celtic Festival. The MParks grant would be to start an archery program either indoors in the Rec Center gymnasium or outdoors at Henne Field.
There were concerns about safety, especially for the indoor venue, but Scruggs said that they have researched this and as long as other events are not happening in the gym at the same time it should be safe. Council member Jack Ceo said that in winters he participates in an indoor archery league in Jackson and with appropriate safety precautions, there are “no concerns whatsoever.”
“With that being said, we are looking for two instructors . . .” Scruggs said as the rest of her statement was drowned by laughter.
The Healthy Recreation grant would be used for a bocce ball court at Tefft Park or for the Mini-Mastodon if the Ivan grant does not come through. The Community Foundation Grant, if awarded, could be used to supplement monies already committed to the development of Salt Springs Park.
The four grants were considered together and approved unanimously in a single vote.
Council Approves Austin, Old Creek Bids
A contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for work on Austin Road and Old Creek Road was considered. MDOT recently put out bids which came in below estimates.
The project would fund improvements on Austin Road from Michigan Avenue to the west end of Torwood subdivision and on Old Creek Road from Henry Street to Oak Brook Court. Council approved the contract unanimously.
Council Approves Light Replacement
DPW Director Jeff Fordice asked Council to approve the expenditure of nearly $27,000 to convert 73 street lights from sodium vapor lamps to LED. This would be the fourth round of street lamp conversions.
Unlike earlier rounds, DTE is paying a smaller share of the cost this time. Nevertheless, Fordice said that LED lights retain their brightness longer than sodium vapor lamps and these 73 would save about $8,400 per year in energy costs.
In response to a question from council, Fordice said that he had read the American Medical Association report saying that the bluish color of LEDs can cause discomfort and upset people’s biological clocks. He said, however, that he believed the contribution of street lights to this phenomenon was not significant compared to other sources like cell phones. He also said that newer LED street lights are not as blue.
When questioned about the effect of the bluer lights on birds and other animals, which was also reported by the AMA, Fordice only said that these lights do not point upward. The AMA recommends using lights with a color temperature no higher than 3000K.
Council voted unanimously to approve the lamp replacements.
Cell Tower Access Road Issue Delays Housing Start
The project by the Three Oaks Group at 600 N. Maple Street has been delayed by difficult negotiations with American Tower Company. The access road to the cell phone tower at the back of the property goes right through where houses would be built, so the route needs to be moved.
The current sales agreement between the city and Three Oaks expires this month and the tower access will not be resolved by then. City Manager Todd Campbell reported that although progress has been made in recent discussions with American Tower, the developer will need another extension of the sales agreement.
Marl also noted that this project would be the city’s first under the recently developed PUD ordinance. He said that since it was “complex and multidimensional,” the city wanted to be careful to get it right.
Council approved a 90-day extension of the sales agreement by unanimous vote.
DTE Powerline Delays Monroe Project
Another project involving the sale of city property has also had setbacks. Damian Farrell’s plans for condominiums at 207 Monroe street have been delayed by the need for DTE to reroute a powerline. The pathway has been renegotiated.
“We worked pretty hard with DTE actually to get this resolved,” Farrell said. “I’m pleased to tell you that I think you’re going to get somewhere in the region of 15 to 20 thousand dollars more for the property than in the original estimate.”
Farrell was referring to the net income to the city, which is the selling price for the property minus the cost to move the powerlines. The plan negotiated by Farrell is also better for the neighbors and for DTE.
As City Superintendent Gary Roubal explained, the revised route will avoid cutting through two properties to the north and will instead extend through public land in People’s Park.
“So this is beneficial to not only the two properties, but it’s beneficial to DTE too, Roubal said. “They can have better access then to maintain their facilities.”
Council was asked to authorize the new route for the powerlines and did so unanimously.
Toth Named Interim Building Inspector
Over the last two months, Council has held extensive talks on how to go forward with the Building and Engineering Department in the wake of both the building inspector and code enforcement officer leaving. Deciding to keep the mostly in-house plan, the city is now looking to hire people for these positions.
In the meantime, the city needs interim help. Council was asked to vote to install Tom Toth as interim building inspector and establish him as back-up inspector after the city hires their own.
This was approved unanimously.
Chasing The Dragon March 22
In the discussion portion of the Council meeting, Council members announced various upcoming meetings. For example, Dillon announced that the drug task force is sponsoring a film to be shown at the Saline High School auditorium at 6 p.m. on March 22, called “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict.”
McClelland, speaking for the Parks Commission, announced an upcoming public forum at 7 p.m. on March 21 to discuss plans for developing Salt Springs Park. She also said that the annual park cleanup day will be on March 6 at People’s Park.
Mayor Pro Tem Linda TerHaar said that the spring recycling collection will be held on April 29 this year. She also announced that the Saline Environmental Commission has been chosen to receive an Environmental Excellence Award this year from the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner & the Washtenaw County Board of Public Works.
City Staff Review Preliminary Report on Odor Issues
Wastewater Treatment Director Bob Scull reported that Nova Water Technologies has “completely rebuilt and reinforced” the filter units at the WWTP and city officials are closely monitoring its performance. Also, Webster Environmental Associates has submitted a preliminary report on the source of the odor problems. Scull and his staff are reviewing this.
City Council Meets March 22
The next regular City Council meeting will be held at 7:30 on March 22, preceded by a work meeting starting at 6:00 p.m.