Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Jan. 8, 2014): In addition to the organizational actions that typically occur during the county board’s first meeting of the year, commissioners also approved a notice of intent to form a countywide Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program.
It’s the next step of several that are required before such a program can be created. The goal of PACE is to help owners of commercial (not residential) properties pay for energy improvements by securing financing from commercial lenders and repaying the loan through voluntary special assessments.
The county’s proposal entails joining the Lean & Green Michigan coalition and contracting with Levin Energy Partners to manage the PACE program.
A public hearing on this issue is set for the board’s meeting on Jan. 22. The board would also need to take another vote to actually create the PACE district. A date for that action has not been set.
Officer elections were also held on Jan. 8. As expected, the board officers who were first elected in January 2013 were re-elected. Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) will continue to serve as board chair. Also re-elected were Alicia Ping (R-District 3) as vice chair, Felicia Brabec (D-District 4) as chair of the board’s ways & means committee, and Andy LaBarre (D-District 7) as chair of the working sessions. There were no competing nominations and all votes were unanimous, although Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) was out of the room when the votes for Brabec and LaBarre were taken.
Regarding revisions to the board’s rules and regulations, corporation counsel Curtis Hedger made four recommended changes, including three that related to voting requirements. The fourth change inserted language to clarify that binding action may not be taken at a board working session.
The Jan. 8 meeting also included a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would allow the county to issue municipal civil infractions for owning an unlicensed dog. The board had held a previous hearing at its meeting on Oct. 16, 2013, but it occurred after midnight and no one spoke. Some commissioners felt that a second hearing should be scheduled because the initial one was held so late in the evening. One person spoke on Jan. 8, urging the board to create a progressive scale of fees and to provide waivers for low-income families and individuals.
In other feedback from the public, Jim Casha spoke during public commentary to raise concerns over the southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA). “It just seems to me that it’s just going to be another waste of time and taxpayers’ money, and just another level of bureaucracy,” he told commissioners. Board chair Yousef Rabhi will be appointing a new Washtenaw County representative to the RTA soon to replace Richard Murphy, who did not seek reappointment. The county’s other board member on the RTA is University of Michigan professor Liz Gerber, whose term runs through 2015.
The extended deadline for applying was Jan. 12, and Casha was one of only two applicants for the RTA opening. As a Canadian resident, he is ineligible to be appointed for the seat to represent Washtenaw County. The other applicant is Alma Wheeler Smith, a former state legislator and the mother of county commissioner Conan Smith (D-District 9).