Saline City Council In Brief - Oct. 4, 2021

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Saline City Council met for a work session and regular meeting at Saline City Hall Monday. The following is a summary.

Rec Center Changes

Saline City Council voted 5-2 to accept the recommendations of the Rec Center Sustainability Task Force to "stop the bleeding" and stabilize the financial situation at the city's 30-year-old rec center. Councillors Dawn Krause and Janet Dillon voted against the measure, both saying they needed more information and questioning whether the recommendations went far enough. Pre-COVID-19, there were more than 2,500 memberships at the rec center (including family and couples memberships). That number fell to 1,110. The membership picture is improving, according to Saline Parks and Recreation Director Carla Scruggs. Still, the pandemic and the resulting measures cost the facility $1.2 million in revenue. The city expects $950,000 in federal COVID-19 relief over two years - much of which will be programmed to the Rec Center.

The recommendations include:

  • Raising membership prices by 6 percent starting Jan. 1 and then raising prices 1.5 percent each subsequent year.
  • Raising wages for part-time staff. The Rec Center is struggling to compete for workers in the current environment.
  • Changing the hours. The Rec Center would be open more hours than it currently is, but fewer hours than it was before the pandemic began.
  • Having the city's general fund pay for half the salary of the Parks and Recreation Director and Recreation Manager.  Many of their duties have nothing to do with Rec Center operations.

These are "stop-gap" measures. The sustainability task force will make long-term recommendations to city council in 2022. Councillor Dean Girbach spoke about the possibility of a recreation millage - or perhaps modifying the CARES millage.

City Moves Forward on West Side Sidewalk

Saline City Council unanimously voted to award the final design, permitting and bid administration for the west US-12 sidewalk project to Midwestern Consulting for no more than $36,600. The firm has previously completed the conceptual design for this project. It would build a sidewalk along West US-12, from the Saline River Bridge to the Lafontaine automobile dealership and along Austin Drive. The project was $6,600 more than originally budgeted. The project will cross the right-of-way to eight properties. Councillor Dean Girbach said it's very likely the city will use special assessments on those properties to help fund what could be an expensive project.

Saline River Dam

Council voted 7-0 to pay $9,000 to Spicer Group to inspect the Saline River Dam that holds Mill Pond. The inspection should be completed within two months.

Information from this inspection may help council decide the long-term future of the dam.

During public comment, two people spoke against the idea of removing the dam and reverting the river to a more natural state.

2022 Street and Utilities Engineering/Design Bid Awarded

Council unanimously voted to award the 2022 streets and utilities project surveying, engineering, design and bid assistance to Midwestern Consulting for $168,200. That work includes construction on East and West McKay Street, North Lewis Street, Marlpool Drive and Woodhill Drive. At the recommendation of Engineer Jeff Fordice, council agreed to include work on Will Road, Hall Street, and Forestbrooke Drive. The extra work also calls for a more "comprehensive approach" to work on East McKay Street.

    Sewer Camera Purchase

    Council voted 7-0 to approve a recommendation from DPW Director Larry Sirls to purchase a sewer mainline camera from North River Track and Trailer for $95,078. Sirls said images provided by the camera can save the city time and money and help the city inventory its sewer system.

    "The best way to maintain your system is to get an inventory of what you have," Sirls said.

    He estimated it would take 5-7 years to inventory the system.

    Change Order for Highland Street Project

    Council unanimously approved a change order increasing the cost of the Highland Street project by $15,836. Part of the project included resolving a utility conflict where a sanitary sewer passed through a storm sewer, but workers discovered the grade of the storm sewer would not work with round pipe. The changes added cost to the project.

    Alert System Purchase Approved

    Council unanimously approved spending $27,090 with Sensaphone Monitoring to improve a reliable monitoring and response system for city infrastructure. Some of the existing alert systems have become unreliable or are non-existent, according to IT Director Chris Shonk.

    Committee Reports/Other Announcements

    Krause reported the Historic District Commission will have a walking meeting at 5 p.m., Oct. 14. It will start at Ann Arbor Street and Pleasant Ridge Drive. She reported the Health Care Task Force continues to receive important feedback. She said she liked the idea of making the Rec Center more of a "health and wellness" center. Mayor Brian Marl reported he and Krause met with IHA to discuss health facilities in the city.

    Councillor Kevin Camero-Sulak said the DEI Committee is holding a Coffee Hour on Oct. 17. The committee is working on bylaws and a survey to be conducted in cooperation with the school district's DEI advisory committee. He reported the Arts & Culture Committee is planning an art exhibit at the 109 Cultural Exchange in downtown Saline.

    Councillor Dillon reported Saline Recreation will host a flyfishing class Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (register at SalineRec.com). Curtiss Park will be the site of a program on nocturnal animals at 6 p.m., Oct. 21. She also invited people to the fireworks display Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Before the show, there will be activities, food trucks, music and games on Thibault Drive near Liberty School. Those activities begin at 4 p.m.

    Councillor Jim Dell'Orco said he and other members of the Environmental Commission recently toured the New Boston materials recovery facility that serves the city's recycling system. He called it a positive, rewarding and enlightening experience. Dell'Orco said the city's Code Review Committee was beginning to look at its bylaws.

    Councillor Girbach said the Harvest Time at the Rentschler Farm Museuam enoyed a great turnout. He said the city-owned museum, operated by the Saline Area Historical Society, plans on having a Christmas event. He also noted the city's Depot Museum is once again open on Saturdays.

    Mayor Brian Marl remarked on the contributions Taylor Jacobsen made to the Saline community, as an educator, volunteer and leader. He called Jacobsen a community icon who led a rich and active live.

    Camero-Sulak noted that October is National Bullying Prevention Month. He encouraged everyone to be aware of bullying and to speak up when they see it.

    Public Comment

    During public comment, Al Hodge criticized the lack of recycling at Oktoberfest. He said nearly every container used at that facility will end up in a landfill. Hodge also noted that Biwako Sushi, winner of the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce's Best Take Out award in a recent town survey, uses styrofoam containers that can't be recycled. He said the city can show more leadership in these areas.

    Mary Ellen Mulcrone, Director of the Saline District Library, thanked the Friends of the Saline District Library for the volunteering they do to improve and support programs and features at the library. The city council approved a proclamation recognizing   National Friends of the Library Week.

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