Live Reporting of the Saline City Council Meeting, Sept. 14, 2020

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The following is live reporting from the Saline City Council meeting.

Saline Lodging Group

The presentation on the Saline hotel was canceled, according to Mayor Brian Marl.

Certificates of Appreciation

Mayor Marl presented a certificate of appreciation to Adam Davis for his donation of hand-crafted masks to Saline Area Social Service. Two other parties were honored.

Public Comment

  • Mary Hess spoke about a 1970s issue with ponding behind Canterbury Drive. The issue still exists, Hess said. Hess said there was a rock under Willis Road contributing to the problem. She asked it be removed if it was there.
  • Clerk Royal read a previously submitted letter from Mary Kluzinski, an Eastlook Drive resident. She said suggested the city clear the easement and incur the cost of the work rather than do drain work and assess neighbors.

Greene Extended as Interim City Manager

Councillor Dean Girbach said he appreciated the work Mike Greene has been doing as interim city manager. Councillor Janet Dillon said the hiring committee for the city manager is still working within its time frame. 

Layher Farms

Due to COVID-19, the real estate market has been uncertain, Greene said, so Grand Sawkwa requested an extension on its PUD site plan until Dec. 2021.

Tom Covert of Midwest Consulting said he hoped construction would begin in early 2021, answering a question from Councillor Christen Mitchell.

Councillor Dillon asked about the Maplewood pump station project and other east belt sewer projects the city plans. Engineer Jeff Fordice said those projects are moving forward, but it might be fiscally wise to move the projects back one year.

Dillon asked if there was a concern about prolonging the project. Fordice said the Maplewood pump station was adequate for today's needs. The actual east belt does surcharge in some situations.

Dillon asked if the city should delay the east belt project as a result of the delay at Layher Farms. Fordice said it made sense to consider it.

Fordice said there are no immediate plans for increases in demand in the industrial park.

DPW Cell Tower Lease Extended

Council passed the 

Eastbelt Drainage Assessment

Council is considering creating a special assessment district on 10 properties to pay for drainage improvements. The properties are on Eastlook Drive and Marlpool Drive.

The cost is $21,000. Assessments would be over five years.

Councillor Christen Mitchell said she witnesses a hand-made trench near Marlpool. Fordice said there have been attempts by homeowners to solve the issue. Mitchell asked if such work needed a permit. Fordice said no.

Councillor Jim Dell'Orco said he felt the city should contribute something to the project. Since the city has not enforced easement encroachments, he felt the city should contribute funds.

Council recessed in hopes of solving technical issues.

The meeting resumed.

Mitchell said she wanted to engage people in the area.

Councillor Kevin Camero-Sulak asked about the public comment from the homeowner who asked about moving things from the easement.

Fordice said the public comment was the first time he'd heard the easement issue. Fordice said the level of development in the easement would be an invasive solution.

Councillor Dillon asked if the problem will worsen.

Fordice said in June there was evidence the flooding was within a couple feet of the foundation.

Attorney Roger Swets said council must keep in mind that this easement is a private easement, not a public easement. The city can't just go in and clean it out, he said. He said there could be grounds for civil action between neighborhoods.

Councillor Girbach asked Greene and Fordice how much time they spent on the issue. Fordice said he spent 15 hours on the project thus far.

Councillor Jack Ceo said he thought time was of the essence with the torrential downpours we've seen.

Mayor Marl agreed the city should contribute to the project.

Councillor Mitchell asked Swets about using a public solution to a private problem. She asked what homeowners could do without a public solution. Swets suggested a lawsuit would be a potential remedy.

Girbach moved the motion. Ceo seconded the motion.

Girbach said it was a good way to solve the problem and that the city had already invested many hours into solving the issue. 

Swets said this resolution directs staff to move forward and finalize costs. That cost estimate will come back to city council for consideration.

Councillor Dillon asked if the city or a contractor will do the work. Swets said he wasn't sure. Fordice suggested it would be a contracted item. Dillon asked if the city was no assuming liability for the water? Swets said the relief drain would be a public drain the city will need to maintain. 

The motion passed 5-2, with Marl and Dell'Orco voting no.

River Walk Design

The city put out a request for proposals to design/engineer the Mill Pond Park river walk and US-12 crossing. Fordice said costs were higher than budgeted. Mannik Smith Group was recommended at a cost of $50,629.

Dillon said she had concern with transferring Curtiss Park money for this project.

Marl agreed, he suggested the money could be taken out of the fund balance. Most of the project will be funded by a grant.

Fordice, answering a question from Councillor Dell'Orco, said the plan is to use the design to purse other grants. Councillor Mitchell asked about MDOT approval of the US-12 crossing. Fordice said he thought MDOT would yellow-flashing lights activated by pedestrians.

Councillor Camero-Sulak asked about an estimate for the cost of the project. Fordice said it was hard to say, depending on the soil and the need for raised walkways, but easily into six figures.

Scruggs said there were plans for a dog park, a play structure and other features at Curtiss Park, answering a question from Girbach.

Scruggs said she felt there were significant funds to pay for the play structure, dog park and to use funds designated for Curtiss Park to help fund the design and engineering.

Christen Mitchell moved the motion to approve and award. It was seconded by Kevin Camero-Sulak.

Councillor Dillon asked if there are any plans to replace the bridge over the river. Fordice said it was an MDOT project.

Fordice said the location of the crossing would probably be outside any work associated with the bridge.

The cross would would be closer to the east side of the pond.

Marl said the river walk has been a priority for the city. It improves walkability and improves one of the nicest parks in Washtenaw County. It also enhances pedestrian safety on US-12.

The motion passed 7-0.

DEI Taskforce

Council approved the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force recommended by Mayor Marl.

Kerstin Woodside is the chair. Kevin Camero-Sulak is council's representative. The DEI task force includes Viswanath Akella, Jesus Cardoso, Anne Cummings, Kandace Jones, Mark Kirkland, John Lathrop,  Jennifer McPherson,  Daisie Scharmen,  Suhasini Iyer and Grace Wu.

Marl said there will be opportunities for people to participate in subcommittees and working groups.

It was passed, 7-0.

Council Reports

Councillor Dell'Orco said the environmental commission wants to explore electric vehicle charging stations at city hall.

Councillor Mitchell said the historic district commission will have a walking meeting Sept. 30.

Councillor Camero-Sulak said the arts and culture committee is rebranding, renewing its membership with the Arts Alliance and working on Art Around Saline.

Mayor Marl spoke about DEI workshops and mandatory staff training. They'll be helped by the MSU Extension. But there's a moratorium on the training at the moment. Marl suggested virtual training in the meantime. Marl said it was important to complete before the end of the year.

Marl is proposing a special meeting for the Huntington Woods sidewalk issue. 

Wastewater Treatment Plant Update

Steve Wyzgoski said it was a hot, dry summer with a lot of water usage. Due to the high demand, the sentiments get stirred up creating an aesthetic issue. He suggested a watering ban could solve the issue next summer.

Marl asked if the water quality issues could be solved with extra hydrant flushing. Fordice said they could help. There was an aggressive overnight program in the late spring.

Marl asked how many flushing would be appropriate and realistic. Fordice said two might be realistic, but not necessary. He suggested doing two flushings until the issue is solved could help.

Councillor Dell'Orco said he was increasingly alarmed by the problems with water coloration. He asked if the membranes were operational. Wyzgoski said one was down, but that was not the issue.

Dell'Orco asked if they've tested for iron in the water and Wyzgoski said it hasn't been too high.

Dell'Orco said if it's not iron, what is it? He worried it might be a heavy metal we should be concerned about.

Dell'Orco said citizens deserved better.

Councillor Mitchell asked if Wyzgoski tested homes. Wyzgoski said he visited three homes and tested for iron.

Mitchell suggested residents should save discolored water for testing by the city.

Mitchell asked if there is away to anticipate hotter days and increase water supply those days. Wyzgoski said that would require more storage capacity.

Mitchell asked how close the city was to needing an issue. Wyzgoski said engineers would have to answer that.

Mitchell said that was something the city should explore.

Council Camero-Sulak asked if there was other equipment in the water system not functioning well.  Wyzgoski said there weren't other issues except for the reverse osmosis membrane.

Councillor Dillon asked about the Nova filters. Wyzgoski said there are running.

Dillon asked why we still have odor issues at the wastewater treatment plant.

Wyzgoski said the equipment seems to be working.

Dillon said odors have been detectable downtown and the Monroe Street.

Wyzgoski said there appears to be a fan issue with the bioscrubber. So the contractor is coming in to look at the bioscrubber.

Marl said the city wants all its equipment working properly when it brings Webster (the contractor) to the site to investigate the odor issue.

Dillon said Webster made assurances the odor would go away. 

Interim manager Greene has sent letters to property owners across the river from wastewater treatment plant asking about the need for a fence to screen the properties from the plant. Greene said residents were more concerned about the odor issue than screening.

On the wastewater issue, Mitchell said the city had to get support to Wyzgoski and solve the issues. Wyzgoski said he thought it was important to move forward on the siting study proposals.

Marl said as soon as the city gets its Phase 1 environmental study, council should move forward on a plan to rebuild at the current site.

Downtown Recovery Zone

Greene expects Saline Main Street and the downtown businesses would have a plan to the city to continue blocking South Ann Arbor Street for restaurant space.

Police Chief Jerrod Hart said he noticed a marked increase on Henry Street. He said there's been no increase in traffic yet. But pandemic traffic is still down.

Councillor Dell'Orco said he thought the state statute allowed the recovery zone, and that it was expiring. Greene said the city is exploring creating a "social zone." 

Henry Street Traffic Calming

The city is considering traffic calming measures for Henry Street, classified a "major street" though it doesn't meet dimensional requirements for that classification.

Midwestern Consulting LLC presented council with four options. 

Dell'Orco said he liked option four, which did not include a bike lane. He said he was worried about trying to squeeze things too much. Ceo and Camero-Sulak supported options four, too.

Councillor Jack Ceo said he'd like to see traffic calming on Monroe Street. He said he was shocked by the numbers of speeders on Monroe Street.

Councillor Mitchell asked about the stop sign at Ann Arbor and Henry streets. Fordice said the issue was previously studied and the intersection does not qualify for a four-way stop or signal. When the  restaurant area closes, it will revert to the previous 2-way stop on Henry Street.

Councillor Dillon said she thinks Saline have "bike lanes to nowhere."

Fordice said they're all part of a plan, being installed piecemeal, as it's possible.

Dillon asked if it was necessary that should be included.

Fordice said the non-motorized plan does identify Henry as a street that should have a bike lane. In the end, Fordice said, there's not enough room for bike lanes there unless parking is sacrificed.

Midwestern also performed site distance analysis.

There are two proposals. 

Fordice recommends a technique that involves pavement marking because it's cheaper and will provide less difficulty for turning trucks.

Marl suggested a deeper dive on the issue at a work meeting.

Public Comment

  • Mary Hess compared the swale in Canterbury Park and asked if the city attorney can explore whether the city is responsible for the rock under Willis Road that she said could be causing the flooding.
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