Saline City Council: Live Report, Sept. 21, 2020 - Downtown Recovery Zone, Maple Road Work

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The following is reporting from the Sept. 21, 2020, Saline City Council meeting.

Public Comment

Mary Hess: Said she was concerned about requests for leniency tax payments, pointing to the Saline hotel being behind on what it's owed. She also said the public should have more input into the discussion about four-way stops at the intersection of Ann Arbor and Henry Streets.

Terri Royal: Read a letter from John Klee asking for forgiveness of penalties on late payment of taxes.

Summer Tax Penalty and Interest Request

The following addresses requested a waiver of penalties/interest on late payment of summer taxes at  349 W. Bennett St, 467 Cottonwood Lane, Clark Lane Apartments, 148 S. Industrial Dr. and 586 Lancaster.

Mickie Jo Bennett said the city will waive fees when there's a clerical error, otherwise, it does not. She said none of these cases show clerical errors.

Councillor Jack Ceo there appeared to be different reasons for the taxpayers and wondered if they should be considered separately. 

Council acknowledged receipt of the request but took no action on it.

Maple Road Project Payments

Council approved spending up to $48,160 for the Maple Road Pavement Repairs project.

Downtown Recovery Zone

Interim Manager Mike Greene said the downtown restaurants are requesting the extension of the downtown recovery zone until the end of November, as allowed by state law.

Holli Andrews, Executive Director of Saline Main Street, said she supported the request.

Councillor Ceo said there are differing impacts on the recovery zone. He asked anyone who feels a negative impact to address council. Marty Flint of Excalibur Barbershop said his business was down significantly.  He noted some of the restaurants who want the street closed aren't open Mondays.

Paul Geragosian of Brecon Grille said it's been a creative struggle to be successful in these times. Geragosian said the businesses have collaborated on a music series has been successful. He noted Brecon Grille has 115 seats normally and is limited to 35 by Gov. Whitmer's COVID-19 rules.

As long as the weather is cooperative, Geragosian supports the closure of the road to weather the storm. But, he said he hoped it might happen again next year. 

Karen Carrigan, of Carrigan Cafe, had written a letter to council expressing her opposition to the idea, but she said she misunderstood the proposal, thinking it would close the street all winter. She said the closure has affected her business.

Councillor Christen Mitchell asked Andrews if there was anything that could be done to support the barber shop.  She said Main Street would work to assist the barber shop.

She said it was good to see the downtown community come together to adapt and work together. She said the recovery zone has been successful and it has calmed downtown. 

Councillor Jim Dell'Orco asked Greene about the liquor license statute. Dell'Orco said he was proud of the City of Saline leaning in to help, but he's concerned about any business struggling as a result of council's decision. He said he was hopeful the city could weather the storm through the end of November.

Councillor Girbach said he's talked to business owners concerned by losing drive-by and drive-up business.

Councillor Dillon said she was taken off guard by not learning of the liquor license extension until now. She listed some concerns. She asked if there was a window for a compromise. She noted north side businesses came up with a plan to make it work for everyone. She talked about sidewalk seating and using Leather Bucket Alley. She asked what happens Dec. 1? She said we need to start transitioning people to indoor seating and said restaurants should consider plans to make people feel comfortable inside their restaurants.

Councillor Kevin Camero-Sulak said he thought the extension was appropriate, despite concerns. He said he had faith in Saline Main Street to stay on top of the situation downtown.

Councillor Dillon noted council has not heard any opinions from the fire chief and police chief about the impact. He also said the city council has not heard from the DPW about potential issues.

Police Chief Hart said the request was reasonable. He said patrons will decide when its too cold. He said if nots being used, it would be good to clear the barricades and reopen the street.

Greene suggested permits would need to change to have restaurants clear snow/ice from the area.

Greene said Fire Chief Hoeft was OK with the situation as long as they could access the buildings from behind.

Councillor Girbach asked for a condition based on weather. He said if there was a major snowstorm, he'd like to see it canceled. Councillor Dillon wanted a more specific motion on weather-related conditions. Councillor Camero-Sulak suggested concern about weather, too.

Dell'Orco said the motion could be amended to give authority to the police chief, fire chief, city manager and DPW Director to modify the recovery zone in the event of inclement weather.

Mayor Brian Marl said he was in favor of the motion. He said every downtown business and property owner matters and that the city appreciated their tenacity. He said the city was invested in their success. Marl said the recovery zone should be a regular discussion item on the agenda. Marl said he was praying for uncommonly warm weather in October but said city staff should have the ability to pull the plug on the recovery zone.

Dillon asked if this extension permitted tents and heat lamps. Marl said the motion doesn't change the terms of the agreement. Girbach said a downtown business was unloading a tent and heaters Sunday.

Andrews said Mac's is planning to use a tent - but not in the recovery zone.

Andrews said not everyone on Ann Arbor Street is happy with the solution.

Andrews said Bill's Barber Shop has slowed down, too.

She said she wanted everyone to give a little and work together.

The revised motion 6-1, with Dillon voting no.

Reports and Announcements

Camero-Sulak said the Arts and Culture Group met to discuss the logo project. Work continues to digitize the Bixby Marionnettes.  The Saline Youth Council is participating at Park or Treat with Parks and Rec. He said the youth are energetic and happy to work around town.

Marl addressed power outages around Saline. He said the Crestwood, Wildwood and Saline Heights have been hit hardest. He reached to contacts at DTE. He said a transformer was replaced. Overgrown vegetation has caused issues. Crews will remove dead limbs and vegetation in 2021.  He said the amount of power outages residents are experiencing is unacceptable.

WWTP and Water Update

A bad wire was found on the last RBC at the wastewater treatment plant. All 18 RBCs are now working.

Marl asked Steve Wyzgoski, superintendent, about water quality and testing discolored water. Wyzgoski said one issue is what to test it for. 

He said the water department is looking at the reverse osmosis filters and continuing to study the issue.

Councillor Christen Mitchell said she was concerned Wyzgoski didn't know what to test for.

She asked if residents can scoop discolored water for testing. Wyzgoski said it's not a problem if residents use clean containers.

He said the water plant was testing for iron this week.

Mitchell said water complaints have increased  a lot of the last two years and she'd like to know why. She said she wanted Wyzgoski to nail down the root cause.

Dell'Orco asked if the issue was reported to EGLE. Wyzgoski said no, because it's an aesthetic issue. But he said if he had a good sample of discolored water, he'd send it to the state for testing.

Dell'Orco said he wanted to see EGLE involved in the issue and involved in testing.

Girbach asked when the next water report is due. Wyzgoski said it was done in June and that it should be on the website. Girbach said he appreciated Wyzgoski going to Process Results for answers on the issue. Girbach said he suspected the continued upgrade on infrastructure was likely going to solve the issue.

Councillor Dillon asked about the Mill Pond dam inspection. She said it appears the city has taken action. She asked if there was a preliminary report.

Engineer Jeff Fordice said the city is waiting for data. He said the city was given a recommendation to do maintenance on the railing and the work was completed.

Dillon asked if the city should provide specimen cups to provide residents to collect samples for rusty water. Wyzgoski said he could leave some at city hall.

Dillon asked if there are plans to increase hydrant flushing.

Fordice said there are short-term solutions, like increasing hydrant flushing, and longer-term solutions, like more storage (water towers). Fordice said there would soon be discussions with Tetra Tech about ways to decrease the velocity in the water system. Fordice said flushing have been delayed for now.

Dillon asked about odors at the wastewater treatment plant. Dillon said the odor detector doesn't seem to pick up on the odors that are present. Wyzgoski said the meter measures hydrogen sulfide.

Public Comment

Paul Gerogosian thanked council for supporting the recovery zone. 

Another member of the public spoke about why her property tax bill was late. She said her spouse had cancer. She said her bill was three days late. 

Mary Hess said she went downtown when it was cold and there were few people outdoors. She said frost was an issue and wondered if the city would be liable if someone slipped. She said Old Creek Drive residents have put up with a lot of traffic and trucks as a result of the downtown recovery zone. She said the city should understand the true cost of the recovery zone.

Jenn Harmount asked about the process used to select the contractor on the Maple Road project.

Closed Session

Council went into closed session to discuss legal opinion regarding E&L Construction Group. They were the company awarded the odor abatement project at the wastewater treatment plant.

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Just 1 small yet somewhat significant correction -- I mentioned that Mac's has some outdoor heaters, not a tent :) Lots of places in Downtown Saline to be cozy and a superhero local! Eat, shop and stroll here -- we appreciate your business and support, and hope to see you soon!

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