Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (Feb. 28, 2012): Commissioners took action on several parks projects at their most recent meeting, and were briefed on others already in the works.
Colin Smith, Ann Arbor's parks and recreation manager, signs sheets from more than a dozen local high school students attesting that they had attended the Feb. 28, 2012 meeting of the city's park advisory commission, as part of a class assignment. (Photos by the writer.)
The largest of the action items was a $865,190 contract for road, parking, pathway and other exterior renovations at Buhr Park and Cobblestone Farm. The work will include resurfacing the entry road off of Packard, and improving the path system to allow better access within the park area, as well as a connection from Essex Street into the park. The city council later approved the project at its March 5 meeting.
Commissioners also recommended approval of a 15-foot landscaping buffer in Riverside Park, next to a proposed new DTE Energy substation that abuts the park. DTE is seeking a variance from the city code, which requires a land use buffer for any commercial site that’s adjacent to a park – without the variance, that buffer would need to be located on DTE property. The new substation, to be located in the utility company’s Ann Arbor service center at 984 Broadway, will provide more electrical power to the downtown area due to increased demand.
Also recommended for approval was a $35,200 contract for restroom renovations at the Ann Arbor Senior Center. The facility will be closed in May while the project is completed, and activities will be scheduled at other locations. When PAC chair Julie Grand said she was impressed to see that so many companies had bid on the project, parks manager Colin Smith noted that it might reflect changes related to CUB agreements.
To comply with new state legislation, last summer the city council rescinded a resolution that had previously required contractors for city projects to execute Construction Unity Board (CUB) agreements. The agreements are negotiated between local trade unions and contractors, and require that contractors abide by terms of collective bargaining agreements for the duration of the construction project.
At their Feb. 28 meeting, park commissioners were also updated on a project to make exterior improvements – primarily related to pedestrian pathways – at the Leslie Science & Nature Center. The center, located at 1831 Traver Road, was previously part of the city’s parks system but since 2007 has operated as an independent nonprofit. However, the city still owns and maintains the buildings and property. The first stage of the project will focus on making pathways to the center’s popular raptor enclosures more accessible.
Commissioners also learned that during the week of March 12, the city will begin to install a new pedestrian bridge at the end of the Argo Dam bypass. Because of the construction, the recently renovated bypass will be temporarily closed. A stoplog will be put in to stop the flow of water into the bypass – the project will likely take a couple of weeks. The path along the bypass is expected to be paved later in April, with the end in sight for the entire project by May.
Smith reported that Argo Cascades will be the new name for the bypass – a series of drop pools that eliminates the need to portage along that stretch.
During an update on the parks and recreation budget, Smith reported that due to extra funds available from the park operations budget, plans are in the works to: (1) restore mowing to a 14-day cycle – the cycle has in recent seasons been every 19 days; (2) increase seasonal staffing between April 15 and Oct. 15; and (3) hire three park rangers from May through September, to deal better with maintenance and enforcement issues in the parks.
Several items were also raised during the time set aside for communications. Smith noted that the six-year, 1.1 mill parks maintenance and capital improvements millage will be coming up for renewal this fall. Staff has already started working on the renewal process, gathering materials in preparation for a March 12 city council working session. The millage was last approved in 2006.
It was also noted that two key staff members are leaving their jobs soon. Molly Notarianni, the city’s market manager, is stepping down at the end of March after about four years on the job. The position has already been posted. And long-time Rec & Ed director Sara Aeschbach will be retiring this summer. Both were praised for their service.
At the end of the meeting, commissioner Gwen Nystuen reminded her PAC colleagues about an upcoming sustainability forum on Thursday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in the downtown Ann Arbor District Library building. It’s the third in a series of four, this one focusing on climate and energy, and is part of a broader sustainability project that began last year and includes developing sustainability goals for the city. [See Chronicle coverage of the first and second forums in the series.] A public forum on the forums is also scheduled for March 29 from 6-8 p.m. at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library building, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [Full Story]