Counci Notebook: Speeding on Henry, Teamsters Insurance, Stormwater Study and More

 11/30/2016 - 02:29
Builder Mark Lewis (right), with City Engineer Gary Roubal, talks about the Curtiss Park Bluffs development.

Saline City Council tackled many issues at their last meeting of November. Among them were: a new ethics policy for Council members, approval of new parking rules on Harris Street, discussion of traffic problems on Henry Street, approvals for the Curtiss Park Bluffs development, another step for the Fairdene Condominiums development and approval of a Professional Services Agreement with Tetra Tech to be mostly funded by a State SAW grant.

Mayor Brian Marl, together with Mayor Pro Tem Rhoads and council member Linda TerHaar have been drafting an ethics policy that council members and the mayor would be required to sign yearly. They disclosed a final draft on Monday, which sets general ethical principles and describes appropriate conduct at Council meetings.

“The citizens of Saline are entitled to have fair, ethical, and accountable local government and to have confidence in the City Council's integrity,” the introduction reads. “To that end, the City Council adopts this Code of Ethics . . .”

The new policy was approved with little discussion.

Fewer Parking Spots

Police Chief Larry Hrinik came forward to introduce Traffic Control Order number 2369. This rule designates no parking zones on the east side of South Harris Street and the west side of North Harris Street. The order was deemed necessary because of changes made in the Michigan Avenue renovation.

The rule makes it illegal to park in these areas for a distance of 175 feet back from the center of the intersection with Michigan Avenue. People accustomed to parking in these areas will need to find alternative spots.

Council member Dean Girbach suggested that city staff look into the possibility of making more parking available for downtown visitors by creating some 2-hour parking slots on South Harris. This will be investigated. Council voted unanimously to approve the no parking zones.

Council Measures Move Project Forward          

In order for the Huntington-Curtiss Bluffs LLC project at 218 Monroe Street to move forward, Council needed to approve several proposals from the developer. These included: approving a Community Unit Plan (CUP) agreement, amending a sanitary sewer easement and creating a short storm water easement in Curtiss Park.

The CUP “includes the general infrastructure provisions that incorporate and regulate the completion of the site plan elements and related construction phase requirements.” The amendment to the sewer easement is designed to protect the city from liability if the sewer line is disrupted in any way by the developer.

Finally, the storm water easement is to allow construction of a 24-inch pipeline that will route water to the Saline River if it overflows the storm retention pond within the development.

Builder Mark Lewis came forward to give an update on the project and to answer questions. He said that Johnson Controls had been delayed in dealing with the pollution issues on the corner of the property due to an internal reorganization, but that Mike Stoelton of Johnson anticipated they could take care of the problem by January.

Lewis said that “everything else is ready to go.” City Council voted separately on each issue and all votes were unanimous to approve.

 Saline Wins 'Lottery' For Stormwater Study         

The State of Michigan established a SAW grant program three years ago, where SAW stands for “Stormwater Asset Management Wastewater.” The state made available a large sum of money from the Great Lakes Water Quality Bond to help communities manage their storm and wastewater systems.

So many communities showed an interest in participating in the project, that the state decided to dole out the money by lottery. After a three-year wait, Saline’s number came up.

City Engineer Gary Roubal and Tetra Tech engineer Brian Rubel came forward to present the project. Tetra Tech created a proposal that will cost a little over $800,000 and all but 10 percent will be paid for by the state.

The money would enable Tetra Tech “to conduct investigations, capacity monitoring, infrastructure inventories, infrastructure condition surveys, studies, computer management systems, and related SAW Grant program activities.” Should problems be uncovered, the city would be obligated to fund repairs on the system.

“It’s really quite exciting what it can do,” said an enthusiastic Rubel.

In the ensuing discussion, council members wondered if some of the grant money could be used to pay for the recently authorized study of the odor problem with the Wastewater Treatment Plant. This may be possible and will be investigated.

Council voted unanimously to accept the grant money and authorize the work by Tetra Tech.

Fairdene Condo Detail Cleared

Council next considered approving a development agreement for Fairdene Condominiums, the project proposed by developer Damian Farrell at 207 Monroe Street. Recently a sewer issue was clarified in the agreement, i.e., that the system would be public not private.

Farrell spoke about the progress of the project. He said he was happy to have one more issue cleared up and that he expects to be able to close on the property in early February.

Girbach wondered why approval of the development agreement was needed before closing, but City Attorney Scott Smith said it was appropriate and the document would be held until the appropriate time.

Council approved the agreement unanimously.

City Waives Event Fees

The City of Saline routinely supports local events that are directly beneficial to the community. They do this by waiving Police and DPW fees for events like the Celtic Festival, Oktoberfest, parades, etc. 

Council discussed these fee waivers about a month ago in a work meeting. City services for these events are expected to cost $23,000 in 2017.

Girbach made a motion to approve the waivers, but limit it to the estimated amount. The motion was approved unanimously.

City Sends Financial Documents to State

The state has a program called City, Village, and Township Revenue Sharing (CVTRS). This program should provide nearly $800,000 to the city in 2017.

To qualify for revenue sharing, the city has to provide documents that demonstrate the city’s commitment to accountability and transparency. After submission to the state this information will be available on the city website.

“I hope people will actually go to look at this, because it’s very clear, very informative, very well laid out,” TerHaar said. “It’s really useful information.”

City council approved submission of the document to the state Department of Treasury.

Meeting Schedule Changed

As the end of this calendar year approaches, council discussed when to plan meeting dates for next year. A schedule was drafted that includes two meetings per month.

TerHaar observed that during the proposed October 2, 2017 meeting, several city council members would be away on a visit to Saline’s sister city Lindenberg, Germany. Council decided to shift both October meetings, to October 9 and 23.

No conflicts with other dates were found, so the suggested schedule was approved as amended.

Teamsters Want HSAs

City employees and retirees are divided into various bargaining units. To date, all bargaining units have been given the opportunity to have a health care savings plan, except the teamsters.

The teamsters have petitioned to have such a plan as well. The program allows employees to set aside money that can be applied to medical bills in a tax-free account. This can save them money.

Since the only money involved is 100 percent from employee contributions, it does not increase city expenses. The request was approved unanimously.

 Henry Street Speeders     

One final issue discussed at the meeting concerned traffic on Henry Street. Council member Heidi McClelland noted that traffic has been “flying” on Henry Street since Michigan Avenue reopened.

She asked that city staff look into traffic-calming measures. Mayor Marl noted that he has heard from many people who would prefer that the intersection at Henry and South Ann Arbor Streets, which was made into a four-way stop during construction, should remain that way.

Several residents of West Henry Street, including Andrew Hatfield, Ivan Parra and Jason Carrigan, also commented on Henry Street traffic. They all contended that the traffic was too heavy or too fast.

Carrigan said that there has been a problem with speeders on the road for many decades. He added that it was a safety hazard for children.

City staff will look into the situation and make recommendations.

Next Meeting

The next Saline City Council meeting will be held on December 5 at 7:30 p.m.

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. Reach him at bobcphotography@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.