Stories indexed with the term ‘county facilities’

Ann Arbor DDA OKs $300K for County Annex

Washtenaw County will be receiving $300,000 from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority as a result of DDA board action taken at its Sept. 4, 2013 meeting.

The resolution approved by the DDA board on a unanimous vote states that the money will support renovations to the building at 110 N. Fourth in Ann Arbor (known as the Annex) so that it can house the county’s Community Support & Treatment Services (CSTS) department. [.pdf of DDA resolution on Annex] The cost of the renovations at the Annex, which would include a new lobby and “client interaction” space, would be about $1 million, according to the DDA board resolution.

CSTS provides a variety of client services to individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities and … [Full Story]

County Gets Input on Bonding, Despite Delay

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (July 10, 2013): A non-voting item – the county’s bonding proposal, which is now on hold – was the focus of most public commentary at the board’s July 10 meeting, which also included a previously scheduled public hearing on the topic.

Doug Smith, Washtenaw Watchdogs, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Doug Smith, standing, talks with other members of the Washtenaw Watchdogs before the start of the July 10, 2013 county board meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Several of those who spoke are affiliated with the Washtenaw Watchdogs. The group has raised concerns about the bonding and is prepared to launch a petition drive that would force the proposal to be put on the ballot for voters to approve.

The bond initiative, publicly proposed in May, was intended to cover unfunded pension and retiree healthcare obligations – for the Washtenaw County Employees’ Retirement System (WCERS) and Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA). The original maximum amount for the bonds had been estimated at up to $345 million. But updated actuarial data resulted in a lower estimate of about $295 million.

However, on July 3, board chair Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) and county administrator Verna McDaniel issued a joint statement announcing a decision not to put bond-related action items on the July 10 agenda. They cited the need to address unanswered questions, including uncertainty about the state approval process. No date has been set to reschedule action, if any, on the proposal.

In addition to the bond proposal hearing, the board held three other public hearings during its July 10 meeting: on two brownfield plans in Ann Arbor – for 544 Detroit St. and Packard Square (the former Georgetown Mall) – and for annexing land from Scio Township into the village of Dexter to accommodate the expansion of Dexter Fastener Technologies, known as Dextech. All items were subsequently approved by commissioners.

The board also gave final approval to a range of infrastructure projects totaling about $5 million for county government facilities – including redeveloping the Platt Road site in Ann Arbor where the old juvenile center was located. An amendment brought forward by Andy LaBarre (D-District 7) called for creating a 9-member advisory committee to guide the dispensation of the Platt Road site, which is located in his district. Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) raised concerns about the authority of such a committee. He was assured that the board retains control over whether to act on the committee’s recommendations. Details of how the advisory committee will be appointed, as well as the committee’s formal mission, will require approval from the board at a later date.

In other action, the board gave initial approval to a modest increase in staff for the Washtenaw County clerk/register of deeds office – bumping up a staff position from part-time to full-time – primarily to handle an increase in processing passports and concealed pistol license applications. Commissioners also made several appointments to various boards and commissions, nominated by Rabhi as board chair. He announced he wasn’t yet ready to make nominations to the county’s historic district commission.

Also pushed back was a final vote on a notice of intent to eliminate a lump-sum budgeting approach for Washtenaw County’s court system. Initial approval for this action came on a 5-4 vote at the board’s June 5, 2013 meeting. But on July 10, Alicia Ping (R-District 3) – who had originally brought forward the proposal – asked for postponement until the board’s Oct. 16, 2013 meeting, citing communications she’d had with trial court chief judge Donald Shelton. The vote to postpone was 6-2, with dissent from Dan Smith (R-District 2) and Conan Smith (D-District 9). Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) was absent.

In addition to feedback about the bonding proposal, commissioners heard from leaders of two nonprofits – Washtenaw Success by 6 Great Start Collaborative and Interfaith Hospitality Network-Alpha House – about the need to support human services funding. Uncertainty about the upcoming budget has caused concern among nonprofits that have been historically funded by the county.

Also during public commentary, two members of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Ann Arbor thanked commissioners and staff for quickly restoring domestic partner benefits to nine county employees, following recent court rulings that enabled the county to reinstate such benefits.

Facial hair got a minor mention at the July 10 meeting, when Rabhi told Dan Smith: “Your beard is epic – congratulations on it.” Smith used the opening to mention that he’s growing the beard for his role as Lazar Wolf in the upcoming production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The show runs from July 19-21 at the Whitmore Lake High School Theater. He received a round of applause from the board. Peterson joked that he was glad for the explanation – Peterson had been prepared to reach out to Smith with the name of his barber. [Full Story]

Strategic Plan for County Facilities Approved

At their July 10, 2013 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners gave final approval to a range of infrastructure projects totaling about $5 million for county government facilities – including redeveloping the Platt Road site where the old juvenile center was located. Commissioners had given initial approval to the overall proposal – called the “strategic space plan” – at their June 5, 2013 meeting.

The final resolution included a two-part amendment proposed by Andy LaBarre (D-District 7). He called for the creation of a 9-member advisory committee to guide the dispensation of the Platt Road site, which is located in his district. The space plan proposes demolishing the former juvenile center and exploring redevelopment of the site at 2260 and 2270 Platt … [Full Story]

County Weighs $5M in Facilities Improvements

A range of infrastructure projects totaling about $5 million are being proposed for Washtenaw County government facilities, including redeveloping the Platt Road site where the old juvenile center was located. The county board of commissioners gave initial approval to the overall proposal – called the “strategic space plan” – at its June 5, 2013 meeting. A final vote is expected on July 10.

Projects include:

  • Demolish the former juvenile center and explore redeveloping the site at 2260 and 2270 Platt Road for affordable housing, alternative energy solutions, and county offices.
  • At 200 N. Main in Ann Arbor, consolidate the land records from the building’s lower level to the 1st floor, and remodel the lower level to accommodate administrative offices.
  • At 220 N. Main in … [Full Story]

New Plan Proposed for County Infrastructure

A reorganization of Washtenaw County facilities is underway, spurred in part by excess building capacity and a push to cut expenses. As a result, some departments and programs will be relocated, and the long-time leasing of some sites might be eliminated.

County Annex on Fourth Avenue

The County Annex building at 110 N. Fourth was built in 1904 and houses several county units, including the public defender's office, the office of community and economic development, Project Outreach (PORT) and the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. Total annual operating costs were $407,206 in 2010. (Photos by the writer.)

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners were briefed on these plans at their most recent working session by Greg Dill, infrastructure management director. The March 8 briefing included an update on information technology infrastructure, which Dill also oversees.

Washtenaw County owns about 1 million square feet of building space and about 62 miles of fiber network. Building operating costs in 2010 – the most recent data available – totaled $9.979 million, including $1.62 million for utilities and $965,800 for security, primarily at the county courthouses.

Dill told commissioners that the goal is to be more strategic about the use of facilities, in part by maximizing occupancy at county-owned buildings and minimizing the amount of leased space. The county pays about $500,000 annually for two major leases in the city of Ypsilanti, both used for Michigan Works workforce development programs: at the KeyBank building at 301 W. Michigan Ave., and at 300 Harriet St. on the south side of town.

The space plan Dill and his staff are developing includes making better use of the county’s Zeeb Road facility, which has been partially vacant. In the short term, offices of the Washtenaw Community Health Organization will move there, freeing up space in their current location – at 555 Towner in Ypsilanti – for possible use by the workforce development programs. In the long term, the Zeeb Road site might be the future home for 911 dispatch operations, which the county recently consolidated with the city of Ann Arbor.

Two other properties are being evaluated for possible sale: (1) the vacant building and land on Platt Road, site of the former juvenile justice center; and (2) the Head Start building at 1661 Leforge in Ypsilanti. The county is relinquishing the administration of Head Start later this year.

Dill also talked about his goal of cutting annual operational costs by $1 million, through a combination of eliminating leases and creating energy efficiencies – migrating to LED lights, for example. Efforts to cut energy expenses were supported by several commissioners, as was the plan to hire an energy manager for the county. Commissioner Leah Gunn noted that several years ago the county had invested heavily in what’s known as the Chevron project, a multi-year contract aimed at cutting energy costs. She asked for an update on the effectiveness of that effort, which Dill said he’d provide. [Full Story]