There was no work meeting preceding Monday’s session of the Saline City Council, but the regular meeting had a full agenda, lasting almost two hours. Topics included approving special land use for the proposed Emagine Theater, renaming the Brecon Library trail to honor the late Leslee Niethammer, development plans for Salt Springs Park and approvals for this year’s Oktoberfest.
The first item on the agenda was a public hearing on Emagine Entertainment’s request for a special land use permit allowing them to use the former grocery store building at 1335 E. Michigan Ave. as a movie theater. It was mostly a replay of the discussion that took place in Saline Planning Commission two weeks earlier.
Founder and Chairman of Emagine Entertainment, Inc., Paul Glantz was present to answer questions as was Jason Gekiere, owner of Tower Construction who will be doing the conversion work. Glantz recounted the history of his company. It began as a “hobby business” in 1989 and he opened his first multi-screen theater in Birch Run Michigan in 1997.
Glantz described the current business as a closely held family business dedicated to serving their clients. He recognizes that that are many entertainment options competing for his customer’s time and money.
“Our business is about offering customers a superior experience,” Glantz said.
As a premium theater business, Emagine would offer adult beverages. Councilman Dean Girbach asked about this aspect of their business and also about their hours of operation.
During two decades of operation in multiple theaters, Emagine has only been charged with one violation, in which alcohol was served to a minor. Glantz spoke of the extra care they now take to prevent any future noncompliance.
The first shows would start around 10:30 to 11:00 a.m. and the theater would close no later than 2 a.m. Glantz said that except when certain blockbusters come out, closing time would be earlier.
Mayor Brian Marl has been a cheerleader for this project. He stated that he has exclusively chosen Emagine theaters for his movie watching for two years and that he enjoys the availability of adult beverages. Regarding Emagine’s beverage service, he said, “they run a tight ship.”
John Olsen of the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce spoke in support of the theater during public comment time.
“We’ve got 400 plus members and there is definitely an excitement buzz among the whole community and, as I just talk to people on the street, there’s a lot of excitement about having this come here,” Olsen said.
The special use was approved unanimously.
Council Approves Meghan Ringle's Girl Scout project
Carla Scruggs, Director of Saline Parks and Recreation Department came forward to introduce Ambassador Girl Scout Meghan Ringle. Ringle is proposing a Gold Award project for the beautification of Tefft Park.
The park currently has raised vegetable gardens. She has proposed installing about 150 sq. ft. of brick pavers around these boxes and adding a butterfly garden.
The project would make it easier to mow around the garden boxes and add an extra attraction to bring in more visitors. Expenses and labor would be donated. The project was approved.
Library-Brecon Trail Named for Leslee Niethammer
The Saline District Library Board was looking for a way to honor the memory of Leslee Niethammer and they settled on a plan to rename the Library-Brecon Trail to the "Leslee Niethammer Memorial Trail." This is the trail that roughly follows the old railroad tracks from Maple Road to Harris Street.
Mary Ellen Mulcrone, the recently appointed head librarian, presented the proposal for Council’s approval. She said that the trail seemed to be a uniquely appropriate way to honor Niethammer, in part because Niethammer was the driving force behind creation of the trail.
“The trail symbolizes making connections between the library and the community and Leslee was very well known for that,” Mulcrone said.
Girbach suggested that the word “library” should be included in the name and others agreed. So Council voted unanimously change the name to “The Leslee Niethammer Memorial Library Trail.”
Friends of the Library are planning a rededication event and some sort of commemorative stone, perhaps similar to what was done in July for the Wayne Clements Memorial Depot Trail.
Few Changes at Oktoberfest
The next item on the agenda was a bit misleading: “Changes to the Oktoberfest.” In fact, almost nothing is changing. Rebecca Schneider spoke for the Oktoberfest committee.
“This year’s event is largely just like last year’s event in terms of entertainment, lineup, layout and schedule,” Schneider said. “We thought it was not the year to change things up too much.”
In fact, the only changes seemed to be related to possible interference by continuing road construction, and even those were minimal. City Manager Todd Campbell said he was fairly confident that work on South Ann Arbor Street would be done by the September 23-24 festival date.
Council member Jack Ceo said that he was pleased to see the event billed as “a community event celebrating our sister city relationship with Lindenberg.” Council approved the plans unanimously.
Council Approves 2-Phase Development for Salt Springs Park
Salt Springs Park has been Jim Peter’s baby for many years. He was successful in attaining park status for the property a few years ago and now he is working to have the property further developed. He and Scruggs appeared before Council to support a contract to begin the project.
The city has proposed a two phase plan. Phase one is to build a small parking lot along the WWTP driveway and a path running south from the lot to the park entrance. Phase two would be to create pathways within the park.
Three construction companies bid on the project and the lowest bid was from Beckett & Raeder for $17,750. City Engineer Roubal expressed confidence in the company which has completed other projects for the city.
John Beckett was present and also spoke of past projects in the city and his long residence in the Saline area.
The firm, Fleis and VandenBrink came in second place in the bidding. The main difference between the two bids was that Beckett & Raeder included a much lower estimate for a wetlands study.
There was some discussion of the wisdom of doing the work in phases. Council member Heidi McClelland was concerned that starting with a “parking lot to nowhere” would be a liability concern, but Campbell said that it would be no more so than other parks.
Campbell explained that doing the project in phases is necessary for financial reasons. The contract was approved unanimously.
SPD Gets Police Cruiser
Police Chief Larry Hrinik petitioned Council for a new police cruiser for 2017. The oldest vehicle currently is a 2012 Chevy Tahoe and the department likes to keep the age of the fleet at no more than five years.
The chief explained that police vehicles are used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so they wear out faster than normal cars. He is proposing replacement with a 2017 Ford Utility Police Interceptor All Wheel Drive from Signature Ford.
The change from Chevrolet to Ford is because the price of the Tahoe has gone up dramatically, such that the Ford is $10,000 cheaper. The Ford, with alterations is priced at $34,957.90.
The request was approved unanimously.
Sign Approved for Salt Springs Park
Once again, Scruggs, along with Jim Peters, came forward to request approval for signage to be used at the Salt Springs Park. Wording for a historical marker has been refined and has received approval from the state.
The sign would be paid for by donations to the Arts and Culture Committee and the Saline Area Historical Society. The words describe the history of the area from ancient salty seas in the Paleozoic era to the naming of our city in the 1800s. The sign was approved.
City, Schools Consider Consider Community Police Officer
Two discussion items were brought before council. The first was the possibility of assigning a Community Service Police Officer to Saline Area Schools. Saline High School already has a campus officer provided by Pittsfield Township Police and this has worked well.
Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden came forward to answer questions along with Chief Hrinik. Graden said the officer would be present most at the Middle School and Liberty School.
Campbell spoke about the advantages of the program, but cautioned about the expense. He suggested that the city would need to find a cost-neutral solution.
Various council members spoke positively about the idea but shared concerns about whether it could work without additional funding. Ceo called the project “the essence of community policing.”
Graden said the project could not begin any earlier than January. At this point, it seems to be up to the police department to find a way to make it work.
Rotary to Support Sculpture Made with Old Maude Trolley Tracks
Al Hodge of the Saline Rotary came forward to offer financial support for a sculpture made from the tracks from the Old Maude trolley, recently extricated from Michigan Avenue. He said that if the Arts and Culture Committee could come up with a plan and a local artist, the Rotary would work on raising funds.
The council members all thought it would be a good idea and thanked the Rotary for their offer. The ball is now in the Arts and Culture Committee’s court.
The next meeting of Saline City Council is scheduled for August 22 at 7:30 p.m.