Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission meeting (May 18, 2010): During an hour-long presentation and Q&A, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje urged park commissioners to support the proposed Fuller Road Station, saying he’d like the city to present a unified front as they pursue federal funding for the $46 million project – a large parking structure, bus depot and possible train station for commuter rail.
Heiftje’s presentation had not been on the agenda, but the commission was set to discuss a resolution that called for city council to stop the project, or at the least negotiate better terms with its partner, the University of Michigan. Several commissioners have expressed concerns about the project, which would be on city-owned property designated as parkland. Under proposed terms – which Hieftje said are not finalized – the city would receive less revenue from UM for parking than it currently gets from the surface lots it leases to the university on Fuller Road. Those revenues support the city’s parks operations.
Another public meeting on the project is set for Wednesday, June 2, from 7-9 p.m. at city council chambers, 100 N. Fifth Ave.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners got a brief update on the urban forestry management plan – the first of two public meetings is set for Thursday at Tappan Middle School from 7-9 p.m. to get input on developing a plan to manage the city’s trees.
The artist selected for a public art project at West Park – Traven Pelletier of Lotus Gardenscapes – spoke briefly about his design. And in a third-quarter financial update for parks and recreation, commissioner Sam Offen reported that they’re in better shape than expected, needing less general fund support than they had originally budgeted for the current fiscal year.
Fuller Road Station: “This Does Not Benefit the Parks”
At PAC’s April 20, 2010 meeting, commissioner Gwen Nystuen – who has often publicly expressed concerns about Fuller Road Station – proposed forming a committee to evaluate the project. Commissioners agreed to discuss it in detail at the May 4 meeting of PAC’s land acquisition committee, which includes all members of the commission.
On May 4, a different proposal was floated – one that asked council to either halt the project, or to negotiate with the University of Michigan for higher lease payments. [See Chronicle coverage: "Better Deal Desired for Fuller Road Station"] On the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting was a resolution to that effect. [.pdf of resolution]
It’s in this context that mayor John Hieftje showed up at PAC on Tuesday, asking to speak with commissioners. He began by cataloging various encounters he’s had recently with local, state and federal officials, as well as with executives from Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Railroad, which owns the tracks that run south of the proposed Fuller Road Station site. The project is proposed for an area between those tracks and Fuller Road, just east of East Medical Center Drive near UM’s medical center complex.
Hieftje described a discussion on Friday, May 14, that was organized by Congressman John Dingell and focused on high-speed rail funding for this region. The media event included Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman, Congressman Mark Schauer, Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari, and Dearborn mayor Jack O’Reilly, among others. Hieftje said he’d also talked with U.S. Sen. Carl Levin during the May 2 UM commencement ceremonies, saying that Levin expressed support for Fuller Road Station and the possibility of commuter rail.
There’s a “lively” negotiation going on between Amtrak and Norfolk Southern, Hieftje said – Norfolk Southern is interested in selling the rail line that runs through Ann Arbor, and Amtrak is interested in buying. He said that he and Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, emerged from Friday’s discussion very enthused about the possibility of federal funding for high-speed rail – and track improvements for high-speed rail would be the same ones needed for commuter rail, he said. “Rail transit coming to our region is inevitable.”
Ann Arbor is applying for about $40 million in federal funding for Fuller Road Station, Hieftje said, adding that he would very much like the city to present a “cohesive and unified effort” to bring rail to this community. There’s no other location that offers the synergy and impact of the Fuller Road site, he said. It’s near a concentrated employment center, which might bring even more jobs in the future. Rail transit holds tremendous potential for providing easier access to Detroit Metro airport, as well as for development in downtown Ypsilanti, he said.
The rail project could take years to unfold – it could take a decade, Hieftje said. And even if commuter rail doesn’t happen, the high-speed rail will, he said, giving this region something that every other major metro area in the country has. [Hieftje later clarified in an email to The Chronicle that he intended to say that every major metro area in the country has commuter rail.]
He told commissioners that he had read their resolution. If PAC wanted the city to drive a harder bargain with the university, then he would appreciate their support of the Fuller Road Station project.
Fuller Road Station: Questions for Hieftje
Commissioners had several questions and comments in the wake of Hieftje’s remarks. David Barrett asked when the next round of federal funding would be available – Hieftje said he didn’t have exact dates, but he expected it would happen later this year.
Doug Chapman said their intent wasn’t to express disunity, but rather to get a better deal. Heiftje said he had no problem with that, and noted that a deal with UM hadn’t yet been finalized.
Saying that commissioners shared Hieftje’s enthusiasm for rail, Tim Berla pointed out that their role was to look out for the parks system – and the structure was planned for land designated as parkland. It’s been difficult because it wasn’t clear what the process was for this project, he added. Berla gave the example of the budget process: Staff comes to PAC with a draft, it’s discussed, then PAC makes recommendations that are forwarded to city council. In the case of Fuller Road Station, Eli Cooper has made some presentations to PAC, but it’s not clear what their role is – or who’s making decisions, and when. Berla asked Hieftje to talk about what’s already happened, and how PAC can best help council.
Hieftje said that some money has already been allocated and spent, and that design drawings are coming together. He then described his own history of support for the parks, saying that his own feelings about parks and the environment are as deep as anyone’s and that he agonized over locating the project on parkland. But looking at the environmental spectrum, transit is a part of that, he said – and the success of rail transit in Ann Arbor hinges on this location.
Hieftje then touched on a range of other issues. He said he’s heard people say that this project will set a precedent – but one time doesn’t set a precedent, he said. The city doesn’t need to ask voters to approve the project because they aren’t selling the land, they’re leasing it. [He was referring to a voter-approved amendment to the city charter, which requires a voter referendum on the sale of parkland.]
Gwen Nystuen addressed the issue of process – there hadn’t been any public input on deciding to locate the structure at the Fuller Road site, she said. Further, the large parking structure has nothing to do with a rail station. It’s commuter parking for the university, she said, and that’s not a parks use. Hieftje countered that the current surface lot isn’t a parks use either, but Nystuen replied that the university leases it during the weekdays – it’s available for parks users in the evenings and weekends. That won’t be the case with the new structure, she noted, which will bring in more traffic and be used by the university 24/7. “This does not benefit the parks,” Nystuen said.
Hieftje argued that Fuller Road is the only location where a station would work. “That’s your decision,” Nystuen said. No, Hieftje replied, that’s the decision of professionals. The question is how it benefits the community and the environment, he said, not just the parks.
If this is the best location, Nystuen said, then why not go through a public process to arrive at that conclusion? Then perhaps they’d decide to sell the land, or have people vote that they no longer want to use it as parkland.
It might have been parkland at one time, Hieftje said, but it tastes and feels like a parking lot.
People love the idea of a train station, Nystuen said, but a huge commuter parking lot doesn’t need to be part of that. The city is supposed to be working to have fewer cars, not more.
Sam Offen said there’s no doubt the land will be taken out of parks use if the parking structure is built. Now, the surface lot is an auxiliary use for parks, but it will be turned into a commuter structure. It’s something that would have been good to address months ago, he said. Offen also noted the recent planning commission vote to add “transportation facilities” as a permitted principal use for public land. He indicated that was clearly designed to allow Fuller Road Station to be built on public land.
But Offen’s bigger issue related to revenue. He asked Hieftje’s view of the potential for success in negotiating a better financial deal with the university. The memorandum of understanding between the city and UM calls for the university to pay about $24,000 annually, which is roughly a third of what the city gets now from leasing Fuller Road lots to UM, Offen noted. Plus, the university will be parking more cars there – so it seems like the city is getting the short end of the stick, he said. [.pdf file of memorandum of understanding]
The rate hasn’t been voted on yet by council, Hieftje said, and armed with the second part of PAC’s resolution, they can press the university. But he was there to say that the first part of the resolution did nothing to advance their efforts to secure funding for the project. Yes, parking is for UM – but they’re a jobs creator, he said. They’re helping keep Ann Arbor’s unemployment rate the lowest in the state. He also said they couldn’t get people to take the bus or train by starving parking. Though they’ve had great success with programs like getDowntown, he said, the city still needs to provide parking. He also mentioned that AATA is interested in the project, and sees potential there.
The AATA is key to the city’s strategy for funding its share of the city-university project. From the Chronicle’s report of the April 21, 2010 AATA board meeting:
AATA board member Sue McCormick [who is public services area administrator for the city of Ann Arbor] also gave some shape to the city’s funding strategy for its share of the Fuller Road Station project: Once the environmental impact study is completed, that will make it possible for the local transit agency – in this case, the AATA – to apply for federal funds for the project. That’s consistent with the message thus far from city officials, who have said that whatever the funding strategy will be, it won’t involve city general fund money.
Julie Grand, PAC’s new chair, asked whether the recent meetings with federal officials changed the outlook for phase 1 of the project – the parking structure. Hieftje reported that Sen. Carl Levin would prefer that the project not have two phases, and that it would be easier to get federal funding if it were bundled as one project. [The project has been divided into two phases, with the first phase – the parking structure and bus station – moving ahead, with hopes that a train station would be built at a later stage.]
Grand said that when the project was first presented as a train station, it was easy to see the benefits. But over the months it’s been narrowed until it’s basically just a parking structure, and there’s been no opportunity for public input.
Hieftje said it would never be just a parking structure – even if there’s no rail component, he said, it would still be an intermodal station, with buses, taxicabs, and bicycles. It would serve as a hub for an interconnector bus system that’s now being studied, linking the north and south sides of town and campus. He said he couldn’t stress enough how much AATA was involved, and that the agency is out there trying to get funding for the Fuller Road project. If they want to wait for the certainty of funding for rail, however, they might be waiting a long time, he said, though there are many positive signs.
David Barrett told Hieftje that it’s important to see the context in which PAC is operating. They’ve had to make reductions in parks services, because of the budget. Then they get word that they’ll be getting even less revenue as a result of the Fuller Road Station – a project they haven’t been a part of. There was a breakdown in communication, he said, and he viewed Hieftje’s visit to PAC as a sign of good faith.
Hieftje noted that on Monday, city council had voted to restore money for mowing and trimming in parks, and had removed the proposal to have football Saturday parking at Allmendinger and Frisinger parks. He said he’d be happy to be armed with a strong message saying the city wanted a better deal, and take that to the university.
Berla asked Hieftje to improve the transparency of the process, so that they wouldn’t have to speculate about what was happening. There’s a formula that the city uses to calculate the amount it charges the university for parking, he said, but it wasn’t clear how that formula was developed. The same is true for the Fuller Road Station deal.
Hieftje said he wasn’t involved in the negotiations – that’s been handled by city staff. He also said that if Fuller Road Station is built and the university decides it doesn’t need to lease the parking lots on the north side of Fuller, which are also on city-owned parkland, then those lots might be returned to park use. He encouraged commissioners to look at it from that perspective, as the possibility of having more park and open space in that area.
In response to a query from Offen, Hieftje said that revenues from the university’s lease of Fuller Road Station would be returned to the parks budget.
Fuller Road Station: Discussion of the Resolution
Discussion of Fuller Road Station resolution came later in the meeting – Hieftje did not stay for it. Julie Grand, PAC’s new chair, began deliberations by saying the resolution had changed somewhat since their last meeting. It incorporated concerns about the lack of transparency and public input, she said, as well as safety concerns. The resolution was brought forward by Grand, Gwen Nystuen and Sam Offen:
Whereas, the Park Advisory Commission (PAC) has been briefed on numerous occasions about plans for the Fuller Road Station by project managers and City staff.
Whereas, PAC have yet to receive direction from the City Council to offer our opinion as an advisory body regarding the proposed Fuller Road Station.
Whereas, the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan have jointly proposed building an approximately 1,020 car parking structure, which represents an increase of 770 parking spaces.
Whereas, the proposed Fuller Road Station will permit cars and buses to run on a 24 hour schedule, while currently the University is limited to parking cars between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday on the South Lot.
Whereas, the proposed Fuller Road Station may offer limited amenities that benefit the parks system or park users, such as the expansion of the adjacent athletic field; in balance, the proposed project does not benefit park users, nor does the construction of the Fuller Road Station adhere to the Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan, which proposes open space, additional athletic fields and a service park building, as well as development of a Border-to Border trail and nature areas along the Huron River.
Whereas, PAC has serious reservations about setting precedent for long-term leases or other agreements on parkland, particularly if said agreement does not directly benefit park users or the parks system.
Whereas, PAC has concerns regarding the safety of park users, pedestrians, and bicycle commuters with the introduction of additional curb cuts, bus, and automotive traffic that may result from construction and utilization of the Fuller Road Station.
Whereas, PAC questions the inclusion of a commuter bicycle station at the Fuller Road Station in terms of its distance to the Medical Center as well as the aforementioned safety concerns.
Whereas, the Parks and Recreation Department currently receives $31,057.00 (FY 2010) annually from the University of Michigan for 250 parking spots in the South Lot and is slated to receive only $24,846.00 with a 3% yearly increase for 1,020 spots following completion of the proposed parking structure in 2012.
Whereas, it is unlikely that the University of Michigan will continue to lease the North Lots on Fuller Road following the completion of the proposed parking garage, resulting in an additional annual loss to the Parks budget of approximately $38,495 (FY 2010).
Whereas, the potential loss of revenue (totaling $44,706 in FY 2010 dollars) from the University of Michigan will result in the Parks and Recreation Department having to make additional cuts to an already stretched and shrinking budget.
Resolved, that PAC recommends that the City Council does not proceed in its approval of plans for the Fuller Road Station at the site where it is currently proposed.
Resolved, that if such plans are approved by Council, that the agreement with the University of Michigan is renegotiated to include a significant increase in revenue allocated to the Parks and Recreation Department. 100% of payments should come from the University of Michigan. Revenue at the current FY 2010 rate of approximately $125 per space would result in an annual payment of between $100,000 and $127,500 to the Parks Department.
Tim Berla said he didn’t share the safety concerns mentioned in the resolution. He wanted to send a message that the process needed to be transparent, and that PAC has the chance to give the agreement with the university a thumbs up or down.
Grand was concerned about the timetable and cited urgency, given that she thinks the city will be breaking ground this summer to do utilities work. Part of the problem, she noted, is that there’s a lack of information about exactly what will be happening, and when.
David Barrett said he was under the impression that city council had already signed off on the project – he asked for clarification from councilmembers Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), who are ex-officio members of PAC. Taylor said it’s still in the planning stage, though they had voted on the memorandum of understanding with the university. The site plan hasn’t been approved, and the question of funding hasn’t been resolved.
Though Taylor acknowledged that some people on council are very keen on the project, “I don’t believe that the point of no return has been reached.”
Barrett said that PAC had been mad about the process and mad about the money, but it would be premature to say they didn’t approve of the project.
Matt Warba, the city’s supervisor of field operations, came to the podium to explain the work that was being done this summer. The stormwater system adjacent to the Fuller Road Station site is undersized, he said, and needed to be replaced anyway. The work is being done in a location that anticipates the possibility of the station, he added, but they’d planned to replace the utilities anyway.
Taylor addressed the transparency issue, saying the process had been unclear but it hadn’t been a backroom deal – it hadn’t been “untransparent.” There’s no template for this kind of project, he said. It’s fluid, and the multiple funding streams are uncertain.
Sam Offen noted that their meeting packet included a timeline, dated April 30 and on the letterhead of Walker Parking Consultants. He asked whether this gave a clue about what will happen. Here’s the timeline from the meeting packet:
Park Advisory meeting #1: March 16 (done)
Building Board of Appeals: April 23 (done)
UM President’s review: May 5 +/-
Public meeting #3: May 6
Planning Commission submittal: May 17
Park Advisory meeting #2: May 18
City Council informal presentation: June 20 or 21
Planning Commission hearing: July 8
UM Regents formal review: July 15
City Council formal review: August 16
Colin Smith, the city’s parks manager, said that this schedule had been pushed back at least a month – he noted that it called for a presentation to PAC that day, which obviously wasn’t happening. In response to a question from Offen, he said he wasn’t sure what the regents formal review would entail.
Offen said he didn’t think PAC should wait too long to act, but suggested tabling the resolution to work on refining it, based on what they’d heard at the meeting.
Anglin weighed in, describing the process as “organic.” He said the city hadn’t handled this first phase well, and that they should be asking the university for millions of dollars, “not just this pittance.”
Berla suggested asking that council and staff present PAC with a complete plan, including the parking deal. That way the public could then see it and provide input, and PAC could make a recommendation to council.
Grand reported that she had attended the last public meeting held by staff on the project. People had asked when they could give input, she said, and staff told them they could do it at public hearings after the plan had been submitted. But by that point, she noted, it’s already ”a done deal.”
Grand said she was glad that the mayor had come to talk to PAC, but “it doesn’t mean we have to do what he tells us to do.” The project is still in phases, and phase one is still a parking structure, she said. That’s not in the best interests of the parks system, she said, adding that obviously the revenues aren’t acceptable either. She suggested stating in the resolution that PAC is in favor of the vision of rail transit, but that this plan isn’t the right one to achieve that goal.
Nystuen agreed. The plans that are fully developed are those for the parking structure, she said. There’s been no consideration of alternative plans, like ones presented at PAC’s March meeting by local architect Peter Pollack. The city has already spent $600,000 on the project, she noted. It’s important that council hear some of these issues fairly soon, she said, and to hear that so far, the deal doesn’t look good.
Offen suggested adding to the resolution the fact that Sen. Carl Levin wants to see the phases combined into one project. However, he said he didn’t have much confidence that federal dollars would flow. The resolution should state that the city should negotiate a favorable return for the university’s use of city property – but to make it sound as pleasant and upbeat as possible.
Smith noted that the current draft resolution was quite specific, and that perhaps sticking to general themes – like the need for input and transparency – would be more effective.
Taylor suggested including in one of the resolved clauses a statement that revenues from Fuller Road Station would be allocated to parks. He said it would be incomprehensible that the city would lose money on the project, given the economic environment.
Commissioners discussed safety issues, with Grand noting that increased traffic – both in volume and in duration – would be an issue for both pedestrians and cyclists. Smith said that there’s now one curbcut to the surface lot, which holds about 200 cars that mostly come and go at two set times during the day. The Fuller Road Station would have three curbcuts, a steady flow of traffic, and more buses and cars.
Trying to see if they’d reached consensus, Grand asked commissioners whether it was fair to say that based on what they know about phase one, that they don’t support it. Berla said it’s reasonable to put something like that in the resolution, but that he wouldn’t vote for it.
Taylor said it seemed as though commissioners would support a rail project at that location, and would prefer to see the phases bundled into one – the “Levin project.” He said the mayor’s point seemed to be that PAC should be aware of the consequences of its resolution, as the city seeks federal funding.
Grand said she understood Hieftje to say that if PAC wants the city to negotiate a better deal with the university, they needed to support the project and present a united front. As advocates for the parks, she said, it’s not PAC’s job to defend his plan and present a united front.
Taylor said Hieftje might argue that rail transit benefits the environment, which in turn benefits the parks.
Nystuen moved to table the discussion until the June 1 meeting of PAC’s land acquisition committee – the motion passed. Grand will work on a revised resolution that they’ll discuss at that meeting, with the intent to bring the resolution up for a vote at PAC’s June 15 meeting.
Fuller Road Station: Public Commentary
Peter Pollack was the only speaker during public commentary, and he addressed the issue of Fuller Road Station at the end of PAC’s meeting. It was significant, he noted, that the congressional delegation preferred the project not to come in phases. If that’s the case, Pollack added, he urged PAC to reconsider the current design – it’s a large, multi-story structure on the corner of the site. Instead, he suggested a design that would be a better fit for the park and the landscape – long and low, stretching lengthwise across the current two soccer fields to the east. [Pollack had previously described his vision during public commentary at PAC's March 16, 2010 meeting.]
The parking structure and the need for parking should not be driving this project, Pollack concluded – the train station should. The city should design a structure that reaches far into the future.
Urban Forestry Management Plan
Kerry Gray, the city’s urban forestry and natural resources planning coordinator, briefed commissioners about the next steps in a process to develop a plan to maintain a healthy and sustainable urban forest. As part of that, a comprehensive tree inventory was completed last year, she said. There are over 40,000 street trees and about 6,600 trees in city parks.
The next step is to gather public input on what the community’s values are regarding its urban forest, Gray said. Two public workshops are scheduled: On Thursday, May 20 from 7-9 p.m. at Tappan Middle School, 2251 E. Stadium Blvd. and on Tuesday, June 1, from 7-9 p.m. at the Forsythe Middle School cafeteria, 1655 Newport Road.
After the workshops, city staff will send out a survey to get additional input, then form a stakeholder committee to work with staff on developing a management plan, Gray said.
Commissioner Sam Offen asked whether this plan concerned only the city’s urban forest, or whether it included University of Michigan and private property as well. Gray replied that the staff was keeping it open until they got public input, though they hadn’t intended to include the university, since it had its own management plan. But they could at least include the university in the stakeholder committee, she said.
Commissioner Tim Berla asked what kinds of activities might be included in the plan. Again Gray said that they’d like the community to direct the staff, but that a plan might include things like goals for tree-planting, canopy cover or maintenance.
West Park Public Art Project
City parks planner Amy Kuras is overseeing a major renovation of West Park, located between Seventh and Chapin, south of Miller and north of Huron.
The project is being funded by $213,218 from the park maintenance and capital projects millage and $1.374 million from the city’s stormwater fund, through a low-interest loan from the State Revolving Fund (SRF) program. [See Chronicle coverage: " West Park Improvements Get Fast-Tracked" and "More to Meeting Than Downtown Planning"]
On Tuesday, Kuras told commissioners that there’s “a lot of dirt in big piles” – the project is taking shape. One element of that effort is the recent selection of an artist for a public art component – Traven Pelletier of Lotus Gardenscapes. The group that actually picked Pelletier – the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (AAPAC) – has been reluctant to go public with his name, though he announced it on his Facebook page in March. Kuras introduced him to commissioners on Tuesday, and included sketches of his design in the meeting packet. [.pdf file of West Park art project]
His work will be incorporated into new seat walls being installed in a hill facing the West Park bandshell. The project includes creating two metal tree sculptures at each end of the top tier of the concrete seating, and incorporating large boulders into the seating area and the plaza leading up to the bandshell.
Pelletier said the design is in its final stages, and that it would be good to know sooner rather than later if the project will be approved. [AAPAC has not yet voted on the final design.] He said he’s grateful for the opportunity to work on the site.
In response to a question from Sam Offen, Pelletier clarified that the trees will be made of structural steel. When Offen asked what material the boulders were made of, Pelletier quipped, “structural rock.”
Third-Quarter Financial Report, Other Budget Updates
Sam Offen is chair of PAC’s budget and finance committee, and gave an update to commissioners on financials for parks and recreation. [.pdf file of budget as of April 2010]
The city’s fiscal year ends June 30. The parks and rec budget is now forecast to end the year needing $89,000 less than expected from the general fund, Offen said. That’s not to say they’re in the black, he noted – a general fund subsidy of $1.467 million will be needed for the year. But that’s better than expected, he said, thanks to the staff’s efforts to cut expenses in response to lower revenues.
The public market and the city’s two golf courses – which are enterprise funds, designed eventually to be self-sufficient operations – are forecast to end the year needing a general fund subsidy of $487,441. That’s $170,000 less than expected, Offen said.
In response to a question about how the recent rainy, cooler weather might affect revenues, parks manager Colin Smith said he’d rather have that kind of weather in May than in June, when kids are out of school. Noting that May wasn’t off to a great start, Smith said that March had been a “ridiculously good” month, as had April.
Smith also reported that the stop log was recently removed at Argo Dam – that allows water to flow back into the dam’s headrace, which in turn lets canoes and kayaks pass through. Having the stop log in place would have impacted revenues at the Argo Canoe Livery. [Details about issues with the Argo Dam, including an agreement between the city and state that resulted in removal of the stop log, are included in Chronicle coverage of the city council's May 3, 2010 meeting.] The Argo livery is still closed because of high water conditions, but they expect it to open relatively soon – possibly this weekend.
Matt Warba, the city’s supervisor of field operations, also spoke to commissioners about a few budget-related issues. There’s about $126,000 left over from the upgrade to Fuller athletic fields, which will now be used to install LED lighting at Garden Homes Park. And the city council’s approval on Monday of the FY 2011 budget included funding for hand trimming in the parks – Warba said he’s sure it’s apparent to everyone that they haven’t been able to trim around trees. They’re currently on a 19-day mowing cycle with the large mowers. Because weather has been warm earlier in the season this year, they’ve already mowed three times – usually, they would have only made one pass at this point in the season.
Warba noted that the budget passed by council does not affect the need to eliminate or reduce maintenance in 17 city parks. Details of that were discussed at PAC’s meeting in April.
Smith also reported that the FY 2011 budget has reinstated funding for the Ann Arbor Senior Center and Mack Pool, which had initially been slated to close. Staff will be working to implement the recommendations that task forces for those two facilities developed, as ways to cut expenses and raise revenues. All fee increases were approved by council unanimously with no discussion, he said, as was a recommended rollback in funding for the natural areas preservation program.. The volunteer outreach position was approved as well – he’ll be posting a notice for that job soon.
The council rejected a proposal to use Allmendinger and Frisinger parks for parking on University of Michigan football game days, Smith told commissioners. Related to that, he reported that Allmendinger had been used for parking by law enforcement officials when President Obama came to town for UM’s May 2 commencement. It had rained heavily that day, and neighbors were upset by damage done to the park by the vehicles. Smith said that neighbors hadn’t been notified in advance because of security issues.
He said that he and Warba had visited the park for several days after the event, and had determined that there’s no need for restoration work. When Offen asked how the park looked now, Warba said there’s no evidence that anything had been disturbed. Christopher Taylor pointed out that if the plan had moved forward to allow football parking, they had made provisions not to do it during rainy conditions.
During his report to commissioners, parks manager Colin Smith gave several updates:
- PAC’s June 15 meeting will be held at CTN studios on South Industrial, as will their meetings in September and December.
- The city’s swimming pools are set to open on Saturday, May 29 – Memorial Day weekend. He urged commissioners to buy a season pass before then, and get a discounted rate.
- The city is parterning with the Center for Independent Living to offer a paddlesports program on June 10 from 3-7 p.m. at Gallup Park. Parks staff will be trained on how to better serve people with disabilities.
Matt Warba reported that his staff is working to restore damage to the Sun Dragon sculpture at Fuller Pool. [This situation was also discussed at the May 11 meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission. AAPAC chair Margaret Parker designed the sculpture.]
Warba also told commissioners that athletic fields 1, 2 and 3 at Fuller Park will be open for play on June 1. [For details of renovations of the Fuller fields, see Chronicle coverage of PAC's Jan. 19, 2010 meeting: "Fee Increase Suggested for Athletic Fields"]
Present: David Barrett, Tim Berla, Doug Chapman, Julie Grand, John Lawter, Karen Levin, Gwen Nystuen, Sam Offen, Mike Anglin (ex-officio), Christopher Taylor (ex-officio)
Next meeting: Tuesday, June 15 at 4 p.m. at the CTN studios, 2805 S. Industrial Hwy., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]