Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Aug. 19, 2009): As expected, the DDA board approved spending $226,000 to replace 6-inch water mains with 12-inch pipes, and authorized hiring The Christman Company for $40,000 worth of construction management services – which are for now limited to the pre-construction phase of the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage.
The same day, the city of Ann Arbor delivered the roughly $49 million worth of bonds that had previously been sold to pay for the project, and received the funds. In response to the obvious Chronicle question, the city’s CFO, Tom Crawford told The Chronicle over the phone, “Yes, we have the money.” So far, then, the lawsuit that was filed last week by the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, has not had a material effect on the forward progress of the underground parking garage project.
Wednesday’s special meeting of the DDA board – called to consider authorization of expenditures on water mains and to hire a pre-construction manager – was also John Splitt’s first opportunity to chair a meeting since his somewhat controversial July 1 election as board president.
As Splitt caught sight of his place at the board table, he observed cheerfully, “It’s not pink!”
The non-pink item in question was his gavel. The previous board chair, Jennifer Hall, had been presented with a pink gavel at last year’s September meeting, which had been her first meeting as chair.
The New Board
At Wednesday’s special board meeting, Splitt welcomed the board’s newest member, Newcombe Clark. Clark replaces Rene Greff. Without Greff, and without Gary Boren and Jennifer Hall – who are still on the board, but were absent – the three votes at the July 1 board meeting not supporting Splitt as president were not in the room.
At the July 1 meeting, Greff had raised the question of whether the 7-vote majority that elected Splitt as board chair counted. The basis of the objection was that Mayor John Hieftje’s vote had been made by Leigh Greden, a Ward 3 councilmember who follows mayor pro tem Marcia Higgins and Margie Teall (Ward 4) in the order of succession to the mayor. Hieftje, Higgins and Teall had been all been unavailable.
The water main replacement was part of the project plans for both the Fifth and Division street improvements project, as well as the underground parking structure. The water mains in question run along the 300 block of Fifth and Division streets – they’re currently 6 inches in diameter, but will be replaced with 12-inch diameter pipes.
In response to a query from board member Newcombe Clark about the project’s timing, Adrian Iraola of Park Avenue Consultants, who’s overseeing the project, explained that permits had been requested from the Michigan Department of Water Quality. Iraola estimated 2-3 weeks before the work would actually begin. Clark said that property owners tended to be reluctant to upgrade their fire-safety systems (sprinkers) and that it would be worth stressing to property owners along the block that now might be a good time to tap into the new mains.
Board member Sandi Smith asked about vacant parcels – could they tap into the new mains? Iraola said that any parcel could tap into the new mains – it’s a city permit that’s required. Smith was also curious to know whether the new mains would service the old YMCA site, property owned by First Martin, and the Ann Arbor District Library. Iraola said it would not serve those properties. Smith concluded that the primary use of the new main would be whatever might be built on the Library Lot.
In accordance with the recommendation of the DDA’s capital improvements committee, The Christman Company was awarded the contract to provide pre-construction services on the underground parking garage project. The board watched a 5-minute video presentation that Christman had prepared, chronicling their experience with the Grand Rapids Michigan Street Improvement project.
It was that experience with very similar kinds of underground parking structures – plus the fact that they were bringing the same project team that had worked in Grand Rapids – that had convinced the capital improvements committee that Christman was right for the job.
Deliberations on Wednesday consisted of getting some clarification from Michael Ortlieb – of the design firm Carl Walker – about what the award of the $40,000 pre-construction contract to Christman meant for the award of the actual construction services work. Ortlieb clarified that there was no contractual obligation to hire Christman for the actual work. The strategy in the two-step approach, he said, was to get a committment from Christman for pre-construction services – assistance with cost estimating, constructability analysis, phasing of project elements.
Then, sometime in early October, Ortlieb said, Carl Walker and the DDA would have a guaranteed maximum dollar amount, plus the work performance of Christman to date, on which to base a final hiring decision.
Board member Newcombe Clark asked what the impact would be on the project if somehow Christman were not selected as the construction manager for the actual construction work. Ortlieb allowed that it would represent “inconvenience to the project,” but that it would simply become a familiar here’s-a-design-give-us-a-bid bidding process.
Board member Sandi Smith confirmed with Adrian Iraola that it would be Christman – or whoever the eventual construction manager was – that would be dealing directly with the adjacent property owners during construction.
Roger Hewitt, chair of the capital improvements committee, was effusive in his appreciation for the hard work of the committee in evaluating the candidates for the construction manager job, characterizing it as an “arduous process” that had forced them to select from many qualified candidates.
In explaining the rationale for selecting Christman, he reiterated how Christman had experience doing exactly the same kind of work in Grand Rapids in connection with the Michigan Street Improvement project. He added that he’d been born in a hospital about a half block north of that project.
The lawsuit filed by GLELC in connection with the underground parking garage contends that the decision to authorize the issuance of the bonds was made at a meeting that violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act. The lawsuit seeks to have that decision declared not valid. In delivering the bonds, the city acknowledged the pending litigation in its official statement. (The city’s bond counsel bond advisor and financial consultant is Stauder, Barch & Associates, Inc.):
Dated: August 19, 2009
PLEASE INSERT THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IN THE SECTION “LITIGATION” IN THE FINAL OFFICIAL STATEMENT FOR THE OFFICIAL STATEMENT REFERENCED ABOVE.
An action relating to the construction of the public parking structure (the “Parking Project”) to be financed in substantial part by the Bonds was filed against the City in Washtenaw County Circuit Court (Case No. 09-945 CZ) on August 11, 2009 by a nonprofit environmental group and two neighborhood businesses. Such action includes a count seeking an order invalidating the initial approvals of the Parking Project and the Bonds by the City’s City Council, based upon an alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act. Counsel to the City has advised that the count is without legal merit on various grounds [emphasis added]. Bond counsel to the City has advised that it is able to render its approving opinion with respect to the validity and enforceability of the Bonds, without any qualification as to the pending action.
Present: Gary Boren, Newcombe Clark, Roger Hewitt, John Hieftje, John Splitt, Sandi Smith, Leah Gunn, Russ Collins, Keith Orr.
Absent: John Mouat, Jennifer Hall.
Next board meeting: Noon on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the DDA offices, 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. [confirm date]