Stories indexed with the term ‘board meeting’

County Board Moves Ahead on Land Bank

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (July 7, 2010): Commissioners spent most of their July meeting on two contentious issues: re-establishing a land bank, and a possible expansion of the county road commission.

Jeff Irwin, Leah Gunn

Washtenaw County commissioners Jeff Irwin (District 11) and Leah Gunn (District 9) confer before the July 7 board meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

After more than an hour of discussion, a majority of commissioners approved a step toward bringing back the land bank, which they’d voted to dissolve in March. Several commissioners raised concerns over funding for the land bank and the expense of property maintenance and rehab, though most said they supported the entity in concept.

A land bank allows the government – through a separate land bank authority – to take temporary ownership of tax- or mortgage-foreclosed land while the county works to put it back into productive use. Commissioner Ronnie Peterson, whose district in Ypsilanti and parts of Ypsilanti Township has been hit hard by foreclosures, has been an advocate for the land bank for several months, and expressed his impatience and frustration during the meeting. A motion to rescind the dissolution of the land bank was not considered at the July 7 meeting, but might be brought forward next month.

The board also held a public hearing on expanding the road commission from three members to five – three residents spoke at the hearing, all opposing the expansion. An animated discussion with a somewhat unclear outcome followed the hearing – with Wes Prater moving to stop the process of expansion, and getting support from the majority of the board. Calling that move “symbolic,” Jeff Irwin said he plans to bring a resolution to the Aug. 4 board meeting that will officially propose the expansion.

Several other items related to financial matters. The board approved an initiative to put more government information online, especially regarding budget and finance. They discussed and authorized re-funding bonds requested by Dexter Township, and noted with some concern that Dexter Township isn’t alone in its struggle to meet bond payments. And county administrator Verna McDaniel signaled her intent to hire Kelly Belknap as the county’s new finance director, replacing Peter Ballios, a 38-year veteran of the county who retired at the end of 2009.

The board also approved a brownfield plan for a project in downtown Ypsilanti, and set public hearings for Aug. 4 regarding two additional brownfield plans – the Near North housing project and Zingerman’s Deli expansion, both in Ann Arbor. The board is also expected to vote on those plans at the Aug. 4 meeting. [Full Story]

Library Feels Impact of Construction Project

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (June 21, 2010): Construction in the area surrounding the downtown library came up in a couple of ways during the library board’s June meeting held this week.

Construction along Fifth Avenue in Ann Arbor

The view from the entrance of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, looking west. In the foreground is construction from the Fifth Avenue streetscape project. Across the street is a city-owned surface lot that will be closed when the AATA rebuilds the Blake Transit Center, seen to the right.

Vibrations from work on the Fifth Avenue underground parking structure, just to the north of the library building, have caused problems with the building’s HVAC system – the library temporarily lost air-conditioning as a result. In a related move, the library board voted to award a contract for HVAC maintenance and repair to Pace Mechanical, despite arguments that it should go to a local company.

And in her director’s report, Josie Parker noted that a public parking lot used by library patrons will close as early as next spring, due to the rebuilding of the AATA’s Blake Transit Center. The city-owned surface lot is located at the northwest corner of Fifth and William, directly across from the library.

The Chronicle followed up with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, which oversees management of the surface lot for the city, for more details on possible contingencies for patron parking, as well as other access issues that could arise when Fifth Avenue along that block is closed for at least a year, starting Aug. 1.
[Full Story]

AAPS: Which Bus Route to Take?

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (June 4, 2010): At an extra, regular meeting on Friday evening, the school board heard an updated presentation on the details of a proposed consolidation of school transportation services with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD). The board’s second briefing on the consolidation and its vote, will come Wednesday, June 9.


AAPS trustee Susan Baskett and deputy superintendent for operations Robert Allen listen to the transportation consolidation proposal. (Photos by the writer.)

Brian Marcel, assistant superintendent of business services for WISD, walked board members through the proposal, and went through an extensive list of questions and answers about the plan. A few bus drivers from AAPS, as well as some from Lincoln Consolidated Schools, attended the meeting – one of them, Richard Miller, spoke during public commentary.

The only other business conducted at the meeting was to approve a set of minutes, and to schedule an executive session before the next regular meeting on Wednesday, June 9. [Full Story]

UM Regents: Housing Rates Up, Tuition Next

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (May 20, 2010): This month, regents met at the UM-Dearborn campus – this is their second month away from Ann Arbor, after holding their April meeting in Grand Rapids. They’ll be back at their regular location in the Fleming administration building next month, when they’ll be voting on the budget for 2010-11, including tuition rates.

Big Ten championship ring on the hand of a UM gynmast

Championship ring on the hand of a UM men's gymnast at the May 20, 2010 board of regents meeting in Dearborn. (Photos by the writer.)

During the May 20 meeting, regents approved a 3% average rate increase for room and board during the 2010-11 academic year in campus residence halls. A double room will increase from $8,924 to $9,192 – an increase of $268. The most expensive room – a single with a private bath – will cost $12,166, up $354. Rates for the Northwood apartment complex on UM’s north campus were also raised an average of 1%.

Three construction projects – including a $17.7 million expansion to the University Hospital emergency department and a new $2.5 million indoor golf practice facility – were approved, with no discussion.

A large part of the meeting consisted of presentations, including an update on how the university’s health system might be affected by recent national health care reform, and a report on the non-traditional education programs task force, which generated some comments from regents.

Several sporting achievements were highlighted at the start of the meeting, as has been the case in other recent months. Most prominently, the men’s gymnastics team attended and were congratulated for their recent NCAA championship win. The celebration included a cake, and regents were given caps – which some wore during the meeting – commemorating the achievement.

Sports-related news not mentioned during the May 20 meeting was the university’s response to allegations that its football program violated NCAA rules – the university announced that response a few days later. [Full Story]

Library Board Adopts 2010-11 Budget

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (May 17, 2010): At its May meeting, the AADL board adopted a budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year – keeping the millage rate at 1.55 mills. Though the tentative budget discussed at the board’s April meeting had projected a $200,000 shortfall, the library staff is now anticipating less of a drop in tax revenues for the coming fiscal year. That increased optimism on the revenue front means that the approved budget does not require tapping the library’s fund balance.

Board members also discussed awarding a contract for HVAC work, and heard from the representative of a company that’s not being recommended for the contract. The board revised the library district’s boundaries in the Northfield Township area, and approved new legal compliance and conflict of interest policies. [Full Story]

New Trustee, AAPS Board Weigh Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (May 12, 2010): Last month, Andy Thomas made a report to the board as a member of the Parent Teacher Organization Council. Now, the PTOC will make those reports to a board that includes Thomas.

Andy Thomas AAPS school board member

Andy Thomas, being sworn-in as the newest trustee of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education at its May 12 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Thomas replaces long-time member Randy Friedman, who resigned in April.  The selection of Thomas to the board during last Wednesday’s meeting marks the third change in board membership in the past six months. Thomas’ current term will end at the end of the year, and he – along with trustees Simone Lightfoot, Christine Stead, Deb Mexicotte, and Susan Baskett – will need to be re-elected in November to remain on the board.

Also at the meeting, the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students was addressed from multiple perspectives. The proposed Washtenaw Intermediate School District budget was reviewed, and the board was briefed on the district’s finances, sinking fund summer projects, policy updates, and human resources. [Full Story]

AAPS Custodial, Maintenance Kept Public

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (April 28, 2010): The most recent regular school board meeting of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) ended the debate over privatization of the district’s custodial and maintenance workers – it’s not happening.

The board’s ratification of an agreement between AAPS and local members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union retains the 164 workers and their seven supervisors as AAPS employees. In return, custodial and maintenance workers agreed to lower wages, less vacation time, and almost double the cost of health insurance premiums.

Also at this meeting, an initiative to consolidate the busing services of at least five of the ten school districts in Washtenaw County was introduced to the board as a first briefing item. The consolidation plan is still under development, but as currently formulated, it would save the district $2.1 million in transportation costs, and would require only around 60% of the total number of bus drivers and monitors currently employed by participating districts. Bus drivers hired as part of the consolidated service plan would become employees of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD), maintaining their pensions as part of the state retirement system.

Many community members were on hand to support the numerous award recipients honored during the course of the board’s meeting. But the meeting drew no public commentary, and no one spoke at the embedded public hearing on sexual health curricular materials. Large-scale facilities projects, a personal curriculum option, and policy updates were also approved.

A large, roughly three-hour chunk of the meeting was devoted to a detailed presentation of the district’s current achievement data, and a discussion of the “achievement gap” between students of different races. This topic may be addressed by The Chronicle in a separate article, and is thus mentioned only briefly in this meeting report. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Would Cut Positions, Add Fees

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (March 24, 2010): Todd Roberts, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), unveiled his administration’s 2010-11 budget recommendations to the board of education on Wednesday night. To counter a potentially $20 million shortfall, the proposed budget eliminates 80.6 positions across the district, while restructuring programs, adding fees, and bringing 200 new students to the district.

Todd Roberts AAPS school board

AAPS Superintendent Todd Roberts, flanked by members of his staff, begins presenting his administration's proposed 2010-11 district budget. Behind him, from left to right, are two members of his cabinet: Robert Allen and Randy Trent, and the three administrators of instructional services: Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, Larry Simpson, and Joyce Hunter. (Photos by the writer.)

However, multiple budget factors are still unknown: the state has not yet set the per-pupil funding amounts for next year; contract negotiations between AAPS and its teachers, bus drivers, and custodial/maintenance workers unions are still ongoing; and a possible countywide transportation consolidation plan is in the works, but has not yet been solidified. Depending on these outcomes, an additional 39 teaching and three administrative positions could be eliminated, and support services could still be outsourced. If layoffs are made, teachers will be notified by the end of April.

Though the board will hear an update on the proposed budget from the administration on April 14, board president Deb Mexicotte described that second briefing as a time when the board is “looking to have a general consent that this is the direction we are going, with the idea that we have legal obligations related to the budget that we are approving in June.” Two public forums are set for April 12 and 13, and a public hearing on the budget will be held before the board in late May. The district’s fiscal year begins July 1, 2010.

Wednesday’s meeting also covered a variety of other business: the second quarter financial report; a discussion regarding the necessity of maintaining the district’s fund balance; unanimous approval by the six trustees present to welcome “schools of choice” students to the district; and a special briefing which expedited the district’s ability to lease antenna space on the top of three district buildings to a wireless broadband Internet service provider. [Full Story]

Library Board Adopts Strategic Plan

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (March 15, 2010): At their March meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board adopted a new strategic plan for the next five years – a process that’s been in the works for several months.

The board got a monthly update on the library’s finances, and were briefed on a $50,000 donation from the Friends of the AADL. They also heard a report on a project to digitally archive the program history of the University Musical Society – the first project of its kind in the world, according to AADL director Josie Parker. [Full Story]

UM Regents Skate Through Agenda

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (March 18, 2010): Thursday’s meeting was a routine, relatively brief session – punctuated rather dramatically by the arrival of four Olympic ice dancers, who turned the regents, as one of them observed, into “total groupies.”

Meryl Davis, Martin Taylor, Mary Sue Coleman

UM president Mary Sue Coleman, right, talks with Olympic silver medalist Meryl Davis, left, while regent Martin Taylor looks on. Davis is one of four ice dancers who attend UM and who competed in the winter Olympics. (Photos by the writer)

During the less rambunctious portions of the meeting, regents approved two building renovations – at the Duderstadt Center and Lorch Hall – totaling $3.8 million. They also authorized the awarding of six honorary degrees at the May 1 commencement ceremony, including one to the keynote speaker, President Barack Obama.

The main presentation of the afternoon came from Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, who updated regents on the status of employee benefits.

At the end of the meeting, one person spoke during public commentary. Ann Arbor resident Rita Mitchell urged regents not to proceed with the Fuller Road Station project, a joint UM/city of Ann Arbor parking structure and transit center planned on city-owned land near the university’s medical campus. She argued that the project violated both the spirit and intent of a city charter amendment passed in 2008, which requires voters to approve the sale of city parkland.

Thursday’s meeting was in its usual location – the boardroom in the Fleming administration building, on Thompson Street. UM president Mary Sue Coleman reminded regents that next month’s meeting will be held in a different venue: the city of Grand Rapids. [Full Story]

AAPS Weighs Schools of Choice Program

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (March 10, 2010): Christine Stead, a business management consultant in the health care industry, was sworn in as a member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education Wednesday after receiving a four-vote majority in the first and only round of consideration.

Stead Ann Arbor Public Schools

Christine Stead is sworn in after being appointed to fill the opening on the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees left by Adam Hollier's resignation. (Photos by the writer.)

Her first vote as a board member was to support the meeting’s consent agenda, including a bid to outsource $135,000 in low-voltage electrical work to a local company.

Also at the meeting, the board heard a recommendation from AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts to open the district to students from all of Washtenaw County. If approved at the next board meeting, this “Schools of Choice” program could result in 170 new students being added to AAPS kindergarten, first, and sixth grade classes, bringing with them an additional $1.1 million in revenue for the upcoming school year.

Bus drivers and custodial/maintenance workers again held signs outside the meeting at the downtown Ann Arbor library, as they have for the last few months. They collected signatures to petition the board not to privatize any AAPS services. They were joined during public commentary by a University of Michigan research scientist, who likened the district’s contention that outsourcing has saved AAPS money to “a rooster getting credit for the sunrise.” Public commentary also included representatives of opposing positions in the local debate over school funding, and both sides called on the board to make fully transparent the decision-making process used to set the upcoming budget.

And, as numerous educators were commended for their service to public education at the meeting, both the board and PTO Council took steps to increase their advocacy efforts at the state level to ensure that funding that level of service can continue. [Full Story]

AATA Board Treasurer: Where’s My Report?

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Feb. 17, 2010): Although little business was transacted by the board during Wednesday’s meeting, members engaged in what David Nacht called a “healthy conversation” on the subject of the treasurer’s report. At issue was whether the agenda should contain a slot for the report.

Ted Annis Jesse Bernstein

At left: Ted Annis, AATA board treasurer, and board member Jesse Bernstein, right. (Photos by the writer.)

The discussion began with a gentle ribbing of the board’s treasurer, Ted Annis, who was asked: “Have your feelings been hurt?” It ended, however, with a serious philosophical discussion about the difference between a body consisting of appointed board members compared to one composed of elected officials.

Over the next few months, the board will begin a conversation in earnest to change its meeting location to the Ann Arbor District Library and its time to Thursday evenings.

A development not explicitly discussed at the board meeting, but nonetheless connected to it, is the fact that the AATA will begin providing board packets in their native digital text – until now, the documents have been available in electronic form, but only as image scans. [Full Story]

UM Regents OK Upgrade to Campus Bus Stop

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (Feb. 18, 2010): Nearly 10 minutes after the scheduled 3 p.m. start of Thursday’s meeting, UM’s chief financial officer Tim Slottow joked to president Mary Sue Coleman, “I don’t think we have a quorum yet.” None of the regents had arrived.

Hank Baier

Hank Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations, gave regents an update on plans for a Central Campus Transit Center on North University Avenue. (Photos by the writer.)

Enough of them showed up a few minutes later to begin the meeting that had a relatively light agenda and lasted about an hour.

Of note for city residents was a briefing on what’s called the Central Campus Transit Center, a $4.5 million project to build larger bus shelters and make changes to North University Avenue, narrowing the road and adding bike lanes.

Regents approved the appointment of Phil Hanlon as provost, to replace Teresa Sullivan, who’s leaving later this year to become president of the University of Virginia.

They also heard a presentation about the extensive accreditation process that’s underway. Occurring every 10 years, the process includes a site visit in mid-March by members of the Higher Learning Commission. There’s a distinct lack of suspense – it’s unlikely that UM will fail to achieve accreditation. But like any good student, they’re trying for the highest marks. [Full Story]

Board Briefed on Gutting of State Library

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Feb. 15, 2010): During her report to the board, AADL director Josie Parker delivered a scathing review of the state’s moves to downsize the Library of Michigan, laying out the implications for local patrons as well as for the state as a whole.

A memo dated Feb. 12, 2010 from the state Department of Education describes general plans to disperse the state library’s extensive collection. Parker noted that while the memo claims the state will support continued services, such as the popular Michigan eLibrary, there’s nothing that guarantees funding – and “without that, those resources are gone,” she said. [Full Story]

UM Regents Get Updates on Research, Haiti

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (Jan. 21, 2010): At their first board meeting of the year, UM regents approved a raft of athletics-related projects, got an update on the university’s research efforts and applauded UM provost Terry Sullivan, who was recently named as the first female president of the University of Virginia.

University of Michigan regent Denise Ilitch, right, talks with Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, UM's executive vice president for medical affairs.

UM regent Denise Ilitch, right, talks with Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs, before the start of the Jan. 21 meeting of the board of regents. Ilitch, a Democrat from Bingham Farms, did not declare her candidacy for governor at Thursday’s meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The relatively short meeting also included a report on the university’s contribution to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Two people spoke during public commentary. A local Sierra Club board member, James D’Amour, told regents that the group opposed the Fuller Road Station, a joint UM/city of Ann Arbor project being built on city-owned parkland. He urged them to “take no part in this unethical act.” They later approved the project.

And UM student Alex O’Dell described his vision for TEDxUofM, an April 9 event on campus being modeled after the influential TED Talks, where speakers get 18 minutes to share “ideas worth spreading.” [Full Story]

Library Board Gets Update on Library Lot

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Jan. 18, 2010): The Ann Arbor District Library doesn’t own the property known as the Library Lot, adjacent to its downtown building, but what’s happening there will have a direct impact on the library’s future.

Roger Fraser, speaking at Monday's meeting of the Ann Arbor District Library board. (Photos by the writer.)

Roger Fraser, speaking at Monday's meeting of the Ann Arbor District Library board. (Photos by the writer.)

So while the library board won’t be making decisions about the city’s quest for a development there, they had plenty of questions about how it’s proceeding. At Monday night’s library board meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser was on hand to answer those questions and give an update on the Library Lot RFP process – interviews for potential developers are being held this week.

The lot – where an underground parking structure is now being built – was also the topic addressed by the only speaker during public commentary, who urged the board to keep an open mind about the development that might be built on top of the site. The comment prompted board member Prue Rosenthal to respond: “You know that we’re not in charge of this, right?” [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Moves Elections

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Dec. 21, 2009): At its last meeting of 2009, the library board voted to move its elections to November, in response to a similar decision last week by the Ann Arbor Public Schools board.

At Monday night's board meeting, the annual report by Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker was made as a video presentation.

At Monday night's board meeting, the annual report by Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker was made as a video presentation. (The video report is available on the library's website at In the foreground: board members Prue Rosenthal, left, and Rebecca Head. (Photo by the writer.)

Library board members also discussed their hopes for a development next to the downtown library. The city solicited bids for development atop an underground parking structure being built just north of the library, on land stretching between Fourth and Fifth and Division. The library has a vested interest in that project – as board members noted on Monday, the development there will affect their decision about what to do with the downtown library building.

No representative from the library is on the city’s review committee that’s currently evaluating proposals for the site. But two members of that committee did attend Monday’s board meeting, and library director Josie Parker plans to meet with city officials to convey the board’s feedback.

Bottom line: A place that’s active and that attracts a diverse group of people around the clock would be best for the library. Also needed, board members said, is some master planning for that entire area, which includes the former YMCA lot and the AATA’s Blake Transit Center. [Full Story]

County Board Hears Protests, Passes Budget

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (Dec. 2, 2009): During a meeting dominated by public commentary from residents protesting the county’s funding of Planned Parenthood, Washtenaw County commissioners passed the 2010-2011 balanced budget with little discussion, ending a year-long effort to wrestle with a previously projected $30 million deficit.

Washtenaw County commissioner Conan Smith, left, confers with county administrator Bob Guenzel before the Dec. 2 meeting of the board of commissioners. To the right is Rolland Sizemore Jr., the board's chair. Smith is chair of the Ways & Means Committee, on which the entire board serves. (Photo by the writer.)

Washtenaw County commissioner Conan Smith, left, confers with county administrator Bob Guenzel before the Dec. 2 meeting of the board of commissioners. To the right is Rolland Sizemore Jr., the board's chair. Smith is chair of the Ways & Means Committee, on which the entire board serves. (Photo by the writer.)

The board also discussed a situation with Ypsilanti Township’s contract for sheriff deputies, which the township wants to amend as of Jan. 1. Commissioners voted to hold a special board meeting on the issue on Monday, Dec. 7, when they are expected to take action on the request to decrease the number of contracted deputies.

Another special meeting was held on Wednesday afternoon, prior to the evening board meeting. Attended by seven of the 11 commissioners, the group discussed the role of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, a Ferndale-based nonprofit led by county commissioner Conan Smith, in handling a federal grant to the county for energy efficiency programs. The issue was not discussed at the evening meeting of commissioners, where the board voted to amend a resolution that authorized the county to apply for the grant. The amendment took out a specific reference to the alliance.

Other items at Wednesday’s board meeting included approval of the placement of a display for the Vietnam-era ship USS Washtenaw, and some questions about the progress of a $4 million weatherization grant that hasn’t moved forward as quickly as some commissioners would like.

There was no mention at the meeting of major news that came out the next day – the retirement of county administrator Bob Guenzel, who will step down in May after 37 years with the county. [Full Story]

School Election Change Would Affect Library

Ann Arbor District Library special board meeting (Dec. 1, 2009): During a special board meeting held on Tuesday, the Ann Arbor District Library board discussed the implications of possible changes to the school board’s election date.

Bottom line: If the school board moves its May election to November, the library board will be forced to do the same.

The school board is expected to make that decision at its Dec. 16 meeting. If the school board approves the change, the library board will need to act before the end of the year, too. To prepare for that possibility, the library board voted to hold a meeting on Monday, Dec. 21, with a public hearing scheduled on the topic of the election. If the school board votes not to move its election date, it’s likely that the library board will cancel the Dec. 21 meeting. [Full Story]

UM Regents: Report on Space Use

Michigan Student Assembly leaders distribute T-shirts to UM regents and administrators

Michigan Student Assembly president Abhishek Mahanti, far left, points to Royster Harper, UM's vice president for student affairs. MSA leaders distributed "Go Blue – Beat OSU" T-shirts to UM regents and administrators at the Nov. 19 regents meeting. The T-shirts were not effective in ensuring a Michigan victory on Saturday. (Photo by the writer.)

University of Michigan Board of Regents (Nov. 19, 2009): Some media outlets that attended the Nov. 19 regents meeting didn’t get what they came for – namely, comments from UM president Mary Sue Coleman regarding the ongoing NCAA investigation of the university’s football program.

What they heard instead was a report on a five-year initiative to use UM’s physical space more efficiently, including its classrooms and labs. The meeting also included a brief report on the outlook for state funding, discussion of renovations to house the Museum of Zoology’s extensive specimen collection, a question about the band Jazz Pie Music. [Full Story]

AATA Adopts Vision: Countywide Service

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Nov. 18, 2009): At its Wednesday meeting, the AATA board took the first of the steps that CEO Michael Ford had recommended at their meeting on Oct. 29: adopt a vision statement and start developing a plan for a countywide system. The board will continue to address Ford’s recommendations by holding  a special meeting on Dec. 8, at 5:30 p.m. at AATA headquarters to discuss formation of an Act 196 authority.

two men standing, one seated, papers getting passed out

Michael Ford, left, had extra copies made of the treasurer's report and distributed them to audience members. (Photo by the writer.)

The board’s resolutions were complemented by a treasurer’s report from Ted Annis that laid out a possible budget within which the countywide system could be designed. Presentation of that report revealed some conceptual differences among board members in their preferred approach to engaging an outside consultant to do the countywide system design: (i) Here’s a budget, now design the system; or  (ii) Design us a system, then tell us how much it would cost.

Key to the budget that Annis proposed was the assumed elimination of Ann Arbor’s transportation millage – on Annis’ assumption, Ann Arbor residents would pay the same countywide millage as other county residents if such a millage were approved.

In other business, the board approved service changes to Route #2 in northeast Ann Arbor.

Also generating discussion was the plan to repair, refurbish or reconstruct the Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor, which was described as “dilapidated.”

The board also received an explanation for the decreased ridership compared to last year, and a report on the move to different office space by the getDowntown program. [Full Story]

Library Nears Deal on Newspaper Archives

Thousands of clipping files like these will be turned over to the Ann Arbor District Library.

Thousands of clipping files like these will be among the material turned over to the Ann Arbor District Library, after a deal is struck with owners of the former Ann Arbor News. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Nov. 17, 2009): Board members were briefed on Monday about a pending deal with the Herald Publishing Co., owners of the former Ann Arbor News, which is allowing the library to digitize the newspaper’s archives of photographs and newspaper clippings dating back decades. The 174-year-old Ann Arbor News closed in July of 2009.

Josie Parker, AADL’s director, said that accepting the agreement is likely the most important decision the board would make during its tenure, and could serve as a model for other libraries in the future. She also cautioned that though the library isn’t paying for the collection, it’s not free. “From the moment we get it, it’ll cost us,” she said.

Several library employees who are keen to get started on the project attended the meeting, including one librarian who gave Parker a high five when the meeting ended, to celebrate the board’s decision to move ahead with the project.

The board also spent a portion of the meeting reviewing and modifying a draft of its strategic initiatives, and got an update on AADL’s financial performance via a report on the financial audit for fiscal 2009. And performance of a different sort was reflected in two awards that the library recently received, which Parker described to the board, earning her and the rest of the staff a round of applause. [Full Story]

County Board Set for First Budget Vote

Washtenaw County commissioners are expected to take an initial vote on the 2010 and 2011 budget at their Wednesday meeting. Also on the agenda: A resolution to approve the economic development tax that was tabled at the board’s Oct. 21 meeting, and a public hearing on a new food safety program for restaurant workers.

The board and county administration have been working on the budget all year. Public meetings over the past several months have brought out residents and employees to lobby for funding, as the county looked for ways to address a projected $30 million deficit.

But there’s been little substantive public discussion among commissioners since county administrator Bob Guenzel presented his official recommendations at the Sept. 16 board meeting. Commentary from the public has also quieted down – an Oct. 22 public hearing devoted to the topic was sparsely attended, lasting just 10 minutes. That’s in part because two contentious issues had been settled by then: labor unions representing county employees had approved contract concessions, and the board had voted to restore some funding to local nonprofits that the county had previously proposed cutting.

The lack of discussion was noted by commissioner Kristin Judge at last Wednesday’s administrative briefing, when she asked about the Nov. 4 agenda: “Is this the meeting when we talk about the budget?” [Full Story]

AATA Plans for Countywide System

Charles Griffith and Michael Ford, two men standing together

Charles Griffith, AATA board member (left),  and Michael Ford, CEO of the AATA, talk about Ford’s presentation and the board’s subsequent discussion after an Oct. 29 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 29, 2009): At a special meeting of the AATA board held before dinner at Weber’s Inn, recently hired CEO Michael Ford gave board members a presentation that hammered home one basic point: The AATA needs to expand its current vision and mission by establishing a countywide transportation authority.

The AATA is currently funded by a millage levied at a rate of a little over 2 mill just in the city of Ann Arbor, with service to additional municipalities funded through purchase of service agreements (POSAs).

Board members were generally receptive to Ford’s presentation – David Nacht’s remarks reflected that this was essentially what they’d hired him to do. And to get things rolling towards an expanded, countywide mission for the AATA, Ford asked the board to adopt four specific resolutions in the coming few months. But when those resolutions are adopted, it’s not going to have an immediate impact on bus riders’ lives. As Nacht put it Thursday night, that’s simply “when the real work begins.”

And board member Rich Robben allowed that there were issues that he did not yet “feel that warm and fuzzy feeling about,” noting that ultimately the move to a countywide authority would need the support of the voting public.

After the jump, we take a look at the four specific steps Ford is asking the board to take, and summarize the board’s discussion on his proposal. [Full Story]

AATA Sets Meeting on Regional Authority

man giving plaque to woman

New AATA board chair Paul Ajegba presents a plaque of appreciation to Dawn Gabay, deputy CEO, who served for two years as interim director of the authority until Michael Ford was hired as CEO this past summer. In the background at left is board member Jesse Bernstein. To the right, opening a box containing his ceremonial gavel, is outgoing board chair, David Nacht. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct 21, 2009): Some news of significance announced at the AATA‘s board meeting last Wednesday received relatively brief mention and discussion: There will be a special meeting of the AATA board at Weber’s Inn, on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009 at 5 p.m. in the Varsity Room.

The topic of the meeting will be the possibility of reorganizing as a regional authority under Act 196. That meeting will be a precursor for the conversation about countywide service – and a countywide millage.

As far as the board’s business as reflected on Wednesday’s agenda, the item receiving by far the most discussion was one authorizing a contract for $171,704 for facility camera upgrades. Board member Rich Robben got an animated conversation rolling when he pointedly asked, “Was the bid spec written around a product line??” The board wound up authorizing the contract, with dissent from Robben and fellow board member David Nacht.

Putting a punctuation mark on the past year’s activity was the board’s new chair, Paul Ajegba, who presented the former chair, David Nacht, with a ceremonial gavel in appreciation of his service. Ajegba also presented deputy CEO Dawn Gabay with a plaque in appreciation for her service as interim director of the agency. [Full Story]

New Downtown Library? If, When and Where

By the end of their five-hour retreat last week, board members for the Ann Arbor District Library had heard from library staff about hundreds of projects that have been accomplished over the past six years since their last strategic plan was crafted.

Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library, speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 groundbreaking for the Library Lot underground parking structure.

Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library, speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 groundbreaking for the “Library Lot” underground parking structure. The project, located next to the downtown library on Fifth Avenue, is being undertaken by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. (Photo by Dave Askins.)

The long list included construction of three new branches. But the board’s discussion kept circling back to one huge undertaking that hadn’t been completed: Building a new downtown library.

When that project was halted last November, the board had considered it as a detour or a pause.  What they’d done up to that point, including about $900,000 worth of architectural and consulting work, was to be set aside and used in the future.

But during Wednesday’s retreat it became clear that with so many variables in the air – including the unanswered question of what might be built on top of a new underground parking structure next to the downtown library – the board would need to start anew if and when they decided to undertake the project again. [Full Story]

Buses for Ypsi and a Budget for AATA

WALLY poster on the wall of the AATA board room (Photo by the writer.)

WALLY poster on the wall of the AATA board room. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Sept. 23, 2009): At its Wednesday afternoon meeting, the AATA board approved a recommendation from its planning and development committee to use $220,000 in  federal stimulus funds to maintain bus service to the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. It’s a temporary measure, with the expectation that by fall 2010, a longer-term funding mechanism will be found for Ypsi buses.

The board also approved a roughly $25 million budget for its 2010 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 20, 2010. It was about $1 million more than board member Ted Annis wanted to see – he dissented both from the planning and development committee’s budget recommendation as well as from the board’s vote to adopt it.

The longer-term solution to funding Ypsi buses, as well as Annis’ dissent on the budget, were partly reflected in the physical surroundings of the AATA board room. Sometime in the last month, two framed posters have been hung on the wall there – one shows the proposed WALLY north-south rail route that extends through northern Washtenaw County into Livingston County, and the other is a map of Washtenaw County. Both show regions broader than the current AATA millage area.

It’s a voter-approved countywide millage that offers one possibility of funding Ypsilanti buses. And Annis contended at the board’s meeting that in order to sell voters on such a millage, the agency’s operating costs needed to be reduced from the $102 per service hour that the adopted budget reflects. [Full Story]

Downtown “Library Lot” to Close Sept. 30

Librarians are passing out these informational flyers to patrons, giving details about the closure of the city-owned lot next to the downtown branch. The lot will be closed on Sept. 30 at 4 p.m., as construction begins on the underground parking structure.

Librarians are passing out these informational flyers to patrons, giving details about the closure of the city-owned lot next to the downtown branch. The lot will be closed on Sept. 30, as construction begins on the underground parking structure. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 21, 2009): The sentiment expressed by a Huron High School student at Monday night’s library board meeting – “I just want to get it over with” – might also reflect how board members feel as they brace for construction of the Fifth Avenue parking structure, a project to begin in earnest next week at what’s known as the Library Lot.

The student was attending the meeting as a requirement for a civics class – he said he chose the library board because it was a meeting held early in the semester, compared to his other choices. In contrast, library officials have no menu of choices regarding the parking structure. Though heavily used by library patrons, it’s a city-owned lot –  the new structure being built by the Downtown Development Authority. AADL director Josie Parker told board members they’re trying to make sure that patrons know it’s not a library project.

Parker also gave the board some good news: Stimulus funding has been secured to hire a coordinator for the Washtenaw County Literacy Coalition. Parker is co-chair of that group, which is working to end illiteracy. [Full Story]

DDA Hires Christman, Bonds Delivered

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!” [Full Story]

Green Light: North-South Connector Study

Michael Ford AATA CEO sitting at table with Rich Robben

At right is Michael Ford on Day Two of his work as CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. At left is board member Rich Robben. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board (July 21): The AATA board’s monthly meeting schedule usually skips the month of July. But there was some unfinished business from June’s meeting on the approval of funding for the north-south connector feasibility study. And a looming expiration date of July 31, 2009 on the M-Ride agreement with the University of Michigan had led to the suggestion from board chair David Nacht of a one-year extension to that agreement.

Mainly in order to address those two items, the board decided to call a special meeting for Tuesday, July 21. It was properly noticed and publicized as required by the Open Meetings Act.

In addition to approving the two items on the agenda that had prompted the board’s special meeting, it was also an occasion for the board to welcome the recently hired CEO, Michael Ford, who did not take up much time with his few remarks: “Day Two,” he declared, “And I look forward to many more!” [Full Story]