Stories indexed with the term ‘Urban County’

Urban County Action Plan: Initial Approval

Washtenaw County commissioners gave initial approval to the 2014 Urban County action plan at their April 16, 2014 meeting. The plan covers the period from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 and outlines how the Urban County consortium intends to spend federal funding received from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [.pdf of draft action plan]

Washtenaw Urban County, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map of Urban County participants.

The Urban County is a consortium of Washtenaw County and 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Members include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and 15 townships. “Urban County” is a designation … [Full Story]

Public Hearing Set for Urban County Plan

At their March 5, 2014 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners scheduled a public hearing for March 19 to give input for the Washtenaw Urban County 2014-15 action plan. The hearing, set to start at 6:30 p.m. at the county boardroom in downtown Ann Arbor, is intended to solicit feedback about proposed projects and programs that the county intends to implement with federal funding – through community development block grant (CDBG), HOME and emergency shelter grant programs – from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. [.pdf of action plan]

The Urban County is a consortium of Washtenaw County and 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Members include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and 15 townships. “Urban County” … [Full Story]

Washtenaw Urban County Plan Gets Final OK

Washtenaw Urban County‘s five-year strategic plan through 2018 and its 2013-14 annual plan has received final approval from the county board of commissioners. The vote came at the board’s May 15, 2013 meeting, following initial approval on May 1. [.pdf of draft strategic and annual plans]

The Urban County is a consortium of Washtenaw County and 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Members include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and 15 townships. “Urban County” is a designation of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), identifying a county with more than 200,000 people. With that designation, individual governments within the Urban County can become members, entitling them to an … [Full Story]

County Board Wrangles Over Budget Process

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (May 1, 2013): The location and accessibility of a planned May 16 budget retreat drew some heated rhetoric from commissioner Ronnie Peterson, who argued strongly for all budget-related meetings to be held in the main county boardroom and to be televised, as the board’s regular meetings are.

Dan Smith, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Washtenaw County commissioner Dan Smith (R-District 2) talks with residents who attended the county board’s May 1 meeting to highlight the deteriorating condition of North Territorial Road, which runs through Smith’s district. (Photos by the writer.)

The May 16 retreat is set for the county’s Learning Resource Center at 4135 Washtenaw Ave. – near the county jail complex – starting at 6 p.m. The meeting is open to the public and will be videotaped.

Peterson also questioned the content of the retreat. “If it’s a hug fest,” he said, “I don’t have to be there.” Board chair Yousef Rabhi told commissioners that the goal will be to set priorities for the upcoming budget. “It’s going to be work,” Rabhi said. “There aren’t going to be any hugs, unless somebody wants to give me a hug.”

Also at the May 1 meeting, the board gave final approval to authorize the development of a four-year budget planning cycle, a change from the current two-year cycle that’s been in place since 1994. The vote was 7-2 vote, with dissent from Peterson and Rolland Sizemore Jr. Peterson argued that developing a budget is the main job for commissioners. “So we owe the taxpayers a rebate. I hope we cut our salaries in half … because there’s really a lot less work to do.” Though the planning cycle would be longer, the board is still required by state law to approve its budget annually – so that process wouldn’t change.

The board will get a better sense of the county’s financial status at its May 15 meeting, when county administrator Verna McDaniel will give a first-quarter update and a “state-of-the-county” presentation. One major factor is a pending decision for the board on whether to issue a $345 million bond to cover the county’s pension and retiree healthcare obligations. The board discussed that topic at a May 2 working session. [See Chronicle coverage: "County Board Debates $350M Bond Proposal."]

One item not on the May 1 agenda was raised during public commentary: The deteriorating condition of North Territorial Road, specifically a section running through Northfield and Salem townships. Residents have collected about 600 signatures on a petition urging the road commission to repair that stretch, and asked the county board to help address the problem “before somebody gets hurt or comes in here shouting or raving.”

County commissioner Dan Smith, who represents the district that includes Northfield and Salem townships, pointed out that there are possible funding mechanisms available to the county, including the possibility of levying a tax under Act 283 of 1909. A 1 mill levy in Washtenaw County would bring in about $13.8 million, based on 2012 property values, he said. He also noted that there’s a similar law on the books that appears to allow townships in Michigan to levy up to 3 mills for roads. That could bring in another $24.9 million throughout the county, he said. In total, about $38 million could be raised in Washtenaw County to fix the roads.

In other action during the May 1 meeting, commissioners gave initial approval to the Washtenaw Urban County‘s five-year strategic plan through 2018 and its 2013-14 annual plan.

The board also declared May 12-18, 2013 as Police and Correction Officers Week, and May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Dieter Heren, police services commander with the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office, was on hand to accept the resolution on behalf of sheriff Jerry Clayton and all law enforcement agencies in the county. He reminded the board that on May 15 at 10 a.m. there will be a memorial service in the Washtenaw 100 Park in Ypsilanti to “honor the law enforcement officers who have fallen here in Washtenaw County while serving the community,” he said. The park is located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Ballard Street. [Full Story]

Urban County’s Strategic Plan Gets Initial OK

Washtenaw Urban County‘s five-year strategic plan through 2018 and its 2013-14 annual plan has received initial approval from the county board of commissioners. The vote came at the board’s May 1, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of draft strategic and annual plans]

The Urban County is a consortium of Washtenaw County and 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Members include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and 15 townships. “Urban County” is a designation of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), identifying a county with more than 200,000 people. With that designation, individual governments within the Urban County can become members, entitling them to an allotment of funding through a variety of … [Full Story]

County Board Briefed on Audit, Financials

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (April 3, 2013): With a third of the board absent, commissioners were briefed on the county’s 2012 audit – with a look toward changes that will impact future financial statements. The audit was clean.

Mark Kettner, Carla Sledge, Kelly Belknap, Pete Collinson, Rehmann, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Mark Kettner of the accounting firm Rehmann; Carla Sledge, Wayne County’s chief financial officer; Kelly Belknap, Washtenaw County’s finance director; and Pete Collinson, accounting manager for Washtenaw County. (Photos by the writer.)

The county’s finance staff, along with the auditor, Mark Kettner of Rehmann, highlighted several points, including a relatively dramatic increase in the general fund balance over the last few years – from $9.7 million in 2009 to $16.8 million at the end of 2012. Kettner also explained upcoming accounting changes that will require unfunded liabilities from the county’s pension and retirement healthcare plans – now totaling nearly $250 million – to be recorded in a different way, with more disclosure.

The new accounting changes – required by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) – won’t begin until 2015, but commissioner Dan Smith (R-District 2) wondered whether the county could implement the changes sooner. It might be possible, Kettner replied, but “I don’t know why you’d want to do it.” He suggested that the board hold a working session to go over the upcoming changes in more detail.

Kettner also pointed out that the changes will affect government entities in different ways. For example, it’s likely that there will be more impact on the city of Ann Arbor, because of how its many “enterprise” funds might be affected and the implications that would have on outstanding bonds. At minimum, the changes will mean more work for finance staff.

Also at the April 3 meeting, commissioners voted to add 39 new jobs in the community support and treatment service (CSTS) department, which provides mental health and substance abuse services to county residents. The work is primarily funded by the Washtenaw Community Health Organization, a partnership between the county and the University of Michigan Health System. Most of the new jobs are union positions. Dan Smith expressed concern about adding to the county’s payroll, but supported the resolution along with other commissioners in a unanimous vote.

The board also took an initial vote to dissolve The Washtenaw Ride. That Act 196 authority is a remnant of a failed attempt to create a countywide transit system last year. Efforts to expand the current reach of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority are still underway, but don’t require the structure that was put in place under Act 196.

The topic of public transportation was raised later in the meeting as well, as Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) asked about the county’s role in the southeast regional transit authority (RTA). The RTA was formed by the state legislature last year to coordinate regional transit in the city of Detroit and counties of Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw. There was not uniform support for Washtenaw County to be part of this effort, and it’s not yet clear what the impact will be on the AATA.

In other discussion, Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) highlighted a proposal in front of the Ann Arbor city council regarding possible ordinance changes governing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Depending on what the council decides, there might be implications for the county, he said, so he wanted to put it on the board’s radar. For background on this issue, see Chronicle coverage: “DDA Tax Capture Change Gets Initial OK” and “DDA Ramps Up PR after First Council Vote.”

Also briefly mentioned was a discussion that occurred at a late March county pension commission meeting, raising questions about the new labor contracts that the board approved on March 20, 2013. At issue is whether the county complied with a state law requiring supplemental actuarial analysis before pension benefit changes are adopted. The county administration subsequently conferred with outside legal counsel, and confirmed their view that no new actuarial analysis was necessary.

And although it wasn’t discussed at the April 3 board meeting, the recent labor contracts resulted in another issue related to compliance with state law: Elimination of the county’s healthcare benefits for domestic partners. [Full Story]

Public Hearing Set for Urban County Plans

A public hearing is now set for April 17, 2013 to get input on the Washtenaw Urban County‘s five-year strategic plan through 2018 and its 2013-14 annual plan. The hearing will be held at the county board of commissioners meeting at 6:30 p.m., in the boardroom of the county administration building at 22o N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. Commissioners scheduled the meeting with a unanimous vote on April 3.

The Urban County is a consortium of Washtenaw County and 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Members include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and 15 townships. “Urban County” is a designation of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), identifying a … [Full Story]

Budget Items Dominate County Board Session

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (May 16, 2012): Budget issues threaded through most topics raised at the recent county board meeting. Some were obvious, like the first-quarter budget update, and some less direct, like the stalled effort to develop a policy for animal control services.

Alicia Ping, Wes Prater

Republican Alicia Ping and Democrat Wes Prater currently serve Districts 3 and 4, respectively, on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. They will face each other in the Nov. 6 general election due to redistricting of the board that takes effect in the next election cycle. They’ll both vie for the new District 3. The filing deadline for candidates was the day before the board’s May 16, 2012 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The 2012 budget update covered the first three months of the year, but also looked at projections for the full year. Overall revenues for the general fund are now projected to be about $1.165 million more than budgeted  in 2012 – thanks in large part to about $2.5 million more in property tax revenues than originally anticipated, but offset by revenue shortfalls in other areas. Total revenues for the 2012 general fund are expected to reach $99.9 million.

But expenditures for the general fund are $893,527 more than budgeted, primarily due to $669,000 in higher-than-expected costs in the sheriff’s office from greater use of part‐time temporary workers and overtime, operating supplies, and jail medical/food contracts.

The 2012 budget had anticipated a surplus of $1.889 million, but the administration is now projecting a surplus of just $272,238. That surplus is intended to carry over into the 2013 fund balance – so the county faces a $1.617 million shortfall in the amount it had budgeted for the fund balance contribution in 2013. Currently, the county has a $14.5 million fund balance.

Tina Gavalier, the county’s finance analyst, told commissioners that she’ll have a much clearer picture of the budget outlook when she gives a second-quarter update at the board’s Aug. 1 meeting. She listed out several areas that the administration intends to monitor closely, including medical costs, state revenue-sharing, personal property tax reform, and actuarial valuations for the retirement plan and retiree health benefits.

The board also took an initial vote to set the 2012 county general operating millage rate at 4.5493 mills – unchanged from the current rate. Several other county millages are levied separately: emergency communications (0.2000 mills), the Huron Clinton Metroparks Authority (0.2146 mills), two for county parks and recreation (0.2353 mills and 0.236 mills) and for the natural areas preservation program (0.2409 mills). That brings the total county millage rate to 5.6768 mills, which is also unchanged from 2011. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.

This is an annual procedural action, not a vote to levy new taxes, and it’s typically passed without discussion. But this time Wes Prater raised concerns about a $29 million fund balance for the parks and recreation department, saying it was too high and wondering whether it indicated that the tax levy for parks should be lowered. Several other commissioners – including those who serve on the parks & recreation commission (which oversees those funds) – defended the fund balance, noting that several major capital projects are in the works that will tap that money.

In another budget-related action, commissioners gave final approval to the Urban County’s annual plan for July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013 with a $3.59 million budget. The Urban County is a consortium of local municipalities that receive federal funding for projects in low-income neighborhoods. In a separate vote, the board approved adding Webster Township to the consortium, which includes the city of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and several townships.

Two residents spoke during public commentary, objecting to funding for Planned Parenthood that was included in the annual plan. That particular funding had already been approved last year by the board, as part of a coordinated funding model that pools includes money from the county, the Urban County, Washtenaw United Way, and the city of Ann Arbor to fund several dozen human services nonprofits.

Two commissioners commented on issues related to animal control services during the May 16 meeting. Barbara Bergman noted that there had been a “failed meeting” of a task force on May 9 – only she and board chair Conan Smith had attended from the board, although the task force is open to all commissioners. [See Chronicle coverage: "Low Turnout for Animal Control Task Force."] The intent is to set policy that will guide a request for proposals that the county plans to issue later this year, for its next contract to provide animal control services. Those services are currently handled by the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV), in a contract that expires at the end of 2012. [A subsequent task force meeting on the morning of May 23 drew five of the 11 commissioners, and will be reported in a separate Chronicle article.]

A separate work group on animal control services is being led by the sheriff’s office. That group is tasked with developing a methodology to determine the cost of providing animal control services. It includes representatives from HSHV, the county, and other municipalities that have animal control ordinances. Commissioner Rob Turner, who serves on the group, reported that the HSHV has agreed to work with the county’s finance department to come up with a cost breakdown for the services it currently provides.

The May 16 meeting also included a brief swearing-in ceremony for Felicia Brabec, who won a May 8 special election to represent District 7. Brabec had been appointed to the board last October following Kristin Judge’s resignation. [Full Story]

Urban County Plan OK’d, Webster Twp. Joins

Washtenaw County commissioners took two actions related to the Washtenaw Urban County at their May 16, 2012 meeting.

Commissioners gave final approval to the Urban County’s annual plan for July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013 with a $3.59 million budget. A public hearing on the plan had been held at the board’s May 2, 2012 meeting. The annual plan describes how the Urban County expects to spend the federal funding it receives from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) and Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) programs, operated by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

[.pdf of 2012-2013 draft annual plan] [.pdf of list of planned projects]

The board also authorized Webster Township to join the Urban County. The Washtenaw Urban … [Full Story]

Report: Better-than-Expected ’12 Tax Revenue

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (April 18, 2012): Most of the recent county board meeting was devoted to what’s become an annual ritual: Delivery of the county equalization report.

Raman Patel, Conan Smith

Raman Patel, left, Washtenaw County's equalization director, shares a laugh with county board chair Conan Smith before the April 18, 2012 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The report includes a calculation of taxable value for all jurisdictions in the county, which determines tax revenues for those entities that rely on taxpayer funding, including cities and townships, public schools, libraries and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, among others.

It was the 41st report that Raman Patel, the county’s equalization director, has completed – and he delivered some positive news. The county’s general fund budget was approved with a projection of $59.734 million in tax revenues. But actual revenues, based on 2012 taxable value, are now estimated at $62.395 million – for an excess in 2012 general fund revenues of $2.66 million.

Despite reporting better-than-expected taxable value, Patel cautioned that if the potential repeal of the state’s personal property tax is passed – being considered by legislators in a set of bills introduced last week – it could result in a loss of more than $5 million in annual revenues for the county government alone, and more than $40 million for all taxing jurisdictions in Washtenaw County.

Although most of the meeting focused on Patel’s presentation, other business covered a variety of issues. Commissioners discussed the next steps in an effort to deal with mandated animal control services in the county. A work group has met that includes representatives from the county, the Human Society of Huron Valley, and other municipalities that have animal control ordinances, such as the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township. Some commissioners highlighted the need to develop a policy to guide the work group, which will give recommendations about the cost of animal control services.

Related to the March 15 tornado that touched down in the Dexter area, board chair Conan Smith reported that he had declared a state of emergency earlier this month and sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder requesting reimbursement to local municipalities for costs incurred as a result of the devastation. Local governments itemized about $1 million in costs, but the total – primarily in damages to residences – is estimated at over $9 million. [.pdf of Smith's letter to Snyder] [.pdf summarizing tornado-related expenses]

During the meeting, the board also passed a proclamation recognizing the National Training Institute, put on by the National Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee – a partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). The training institute is held in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan and this year runs from July 25-Aug. 3, bringing more than 3,000 people to town. Commissioner Rob Turner, an electrical contractor, is a member of both the IBEW and NECA.

Among the other action items at the April 18 meeting, commissioners (1) set a public hearing for May 2 to get public input on an annual plan for the Washtenaw Urban County, which gets federal funding for projects in low-income neighborhoods; (2) authorized the issuance of up to $6 million in notes at the request of the Washtenaw County road commission, for work in Ypsilanti Township; and (3) approved the hiring of Nimish Ganatra as assistant prosecuting attorney over the dissent of Wes Prater, who objected to paying a salary above the midpoint range. [Full Story]

Public Hearing Set for Urban County Plan

A public hearing to take commentary on the annual plan for the Washtenaw Urban County was set for the May 2, 2012 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. The board’s vote to set the hearing came at its April 18 meeting.

The annual plan describes how the Urban County expects to spend the federal funding it receives from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) and Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) programs, operated by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [.pdf of 2012-2013 draft annual plan] [.pdf of list of planned projects]

The Washtenaw Urban County is a consortium of 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Current members include the cities … [Full Story]

County Board OKs Urban County Renewal

At its Sept. 7, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave final approval to continue the county’s participation in the Washtenaw Urban County program – from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015 – and to expand the program to include six additional jurisdictions.

“Urban County” is a designation of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, identifying a county with more than 200,000 people. With that designation, individual governments within the Urban County can become members, making them entitled to an allotment of funding through a variety of HUD programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships. Those two programs provide funding for projects to benefit low- and moderate-income residents, focused on … [Full Story]

Washtenaw County Board Gets Budget Update

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Aug. 3, 2011): A second-quarter budget update and final approval of a major multi-department consolidation were highlights of Wednesday’s meeting.

Dan Smith, Verna McDaniel

Washtenaw County commissioner Dan Smith (R-District 2) and county administrator Verna McDaniel. Smith is vice chair of the board’s ways & means committee, and led the meeting in the absence of the committee chair, Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5). (Photos by the writer.)

The budget update showed the impact of higher-than-anticipated property tax revenues, which had first been announced in April. Because of higher revenues than originally projected, the county now expects to use only $2.9 million from its fund balance during 2011 – previously, the budget called for drawing $5.3 million from the fund balance to cover a shortfall between revenues and expenditures.

Without the $2.9 million transfer from the fund balance, however, there would be a projected $2.5 million deficit for the year, on a general fund budget of roughly $100 million. Among several shortfalls on the expenditure side, about $1.034 million in anticipated non-departmental lump sum reductions have not materialized.

Expenses for attorney fees are higher than budgeted, but the county’s corporation counsel Curtis Hedger noted that there’s at least one case that won’t be costing the county in the future. It was an allusion to the end of a 2006 lawsuit against the county over the cost of police services. Hedger later told The Chronicle that the two townships still involved in the case – Ypsilanti Township and Augusta Township – paid the county this week the nearly $750,000 recommended by a court-ordered facilitator.

There was little discussion about most of the action items that the board approved. Most notably, a final OK was given to creating a new office of community & economic development – the result of merging three county departments. The new unit, to be led by Mary Jo Callan, will employ about 31 full-time workers, compared to 40 that are now employed in the three separate departments: the office of community development (OCD); the economic development & energy department; and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department. Other jobs within the county government have been identified for all but one employee so far. The consolidation will take effect in 2012.

Commissioners also set public hearings for their Sept. 7 meeting to get input on two millages: one levied under the Veterans Relief Fund Act, and another collected under Public Act 88 to be used for economic development purposes. Because Act 88 and the veterans relief act predate the state’s Headlee Amendment, they can be approved by the board without a voter referendum.

The Act 88 millage of 0.05 mill would be an increase from the 0.043 mills currently levied. It would generate an estimated $688,913 annually. In previous years, it has been used to fund several entities, including Ann Arbor SPARK. The veterans relief millage of 1/40th of a mill does not represent an increase, and is estimated to bring in $344,486 to provide services for indigent veterans in Washtenaw County through the county’s department of veterans affairs.

Republicans Dan Smith and Alicia Ping led the back-to-back ways & means committee and regular board meetings on Wednesday – as vice chairs of those respective bodies, they were filling in for chairs Rolland Sizemore Jr. and Conan Smith. Both Democrats were out of town. [Full Story]

Initial OK to Continue, Expand Urban County

At their Aug. 3, 2011 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners gave initial approval to continue the county’s participation in the Urban County program – from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015 – and to expand the program to include six additional jurisdictions. A final vote is expected on Sept. 7.

“Urban County” is a designation of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, identifying a county with more than 200,000 people. With that designation, individual governments within the Urban County can become members, making them entitled to an allotment of funding through a variety of HUD programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships. Those two programs provide funding for projects to benefit low- and moderate-income … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Renews Urban County

At its July 18, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council authorized joining the Urban County for a second three-year period from July 2012 through June 2015.

“Urban County” is a designation of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, identifying a county with more than 200,000 people. With that designation, individual governments within the Urban County can become members, making them entitled to an allotment of funding through a variety of HUD programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships. Those two programs provide funding for projects to benefit low- and moderate-income residents, focused on housing, human services and other community development efforts.

Washtenaw County and the townships of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Pittsfield, Superior, Northfield, Salem, and Bridgewater got the Urban County designation in 2002. Later, the city of Ypsilanti and Scio Township joined, and in 2009 the city of Ann Arbor – which previously received HUD funding directly – joined as well, roughly doubling the amount of money available in the Urban County’s funding pool.

The renewal application needs to be submitted to the Detroit HUD Field Office by July 15, 2011 from all participating jurisdictions.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link[Full Story]

Final OK for Urban County Annual Plan

At its June 1, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave final approval to the Washtenaw Urban County annual plan from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.

The plan must be submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), outlining specific projects and programs that the Washtenaw Urban County will undertake with HUD funding from several sources: the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program; HOME grants; and Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG). The county is expected to receive $3,602,480 from these programs during the coming fiscal year. A $448,920 in-kind county match is required. [.pdf of fiscal year 2011 Washtenaw Urban County plan]

The Urban County is a consortium of 11 local governments that receive federal funding for programs that serve low-income residents and neighborhoods.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Urban County Plan Gets Initial OK

At its May 18, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave initial approval to the Washtenaw Urban County annual plan from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012. The plan must be submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), outlining specific projects and programs that the Washtenaw Urban County will undertake with HUD funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, HOME grants and Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG).

The Urban County is a consortium of 11 local governments that receive federal funding for programs that serve low-income residents and neighborhoods.

The county is expected to receive $3,602,480 from these programs during the coming fiscal year. A $448,920 in-kind county match is required.

Final approval is … [Full Story]

Urban County Gets Grim Funding Update

Washtenaw Urban County executive committee meeting (Feb. 22, 2011): Leaders of local municipalities got a grim update on Tuesday about looming federal funding cuts that will likely affect projects in many of the county’s low-income neighborhoods.

Mary Jo Callan

Mary Jo Callan, director of the Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, at Tuesday's meeting of the Washtenaw Urban County. (Photo by the writer.)

“I am bringing you some troubling news,” said Mary Jo Callan, director of the Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community development. “Do you want to start with the bad news, or the worst news?”

Callan reported that the two major programs that fund projects for low-income neighborhoods – the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership programs, both operated by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – have been targeted by Congress and President Obama for significant cuts in both the current fiscal year and in 2012. Washtenaw County communities receive about $2.4 million annually from the CDBG program alone.

Though at this point it’s unclear exactly what the final federal budget will include, Callan said it’s nearly certain that some funding cuts will occur – her staff is planning for a 10% reduction in grants from those two programs for fiscal 2012. “It’s pretty bleak,” she said. [Full Story]

Urban County: Nonprofit Funding Update

Washtenaw Urban County executive committee meeting (Jan. 25, 2011): Urban County members – a group representing 11 municipalities in Washtenaw County – got an update on a new effort to coordinate the funding of local nonprofits.

Damon Thompson, Teresa Gillotti

Damon Thompson, operations manager for the Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, talks with Ypsilanti city planner Teresa Gillotti after the Jan. 25 Urban County meeting.

Nonprofits are vying for funds from the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, the Urban County, and Washtenaw United Way. Nearly 60 nonprofits applied to the first phase of the process, in which they were asked to supply basic financial and governance documents. Of that group, 51 were qualified to respond to a request for proposals (RFP) that was issued Jan. 28.

It’s still unclear how much funding will be available, but it could be less than the nearly $5 million that was awarded from these groups last year. Budgets for Ann Arbor and the Urban County haven’t been finalized, and the 2011 county budget is facing about $1 million in as-yet-undetermined cuts.

At last week’s meeting, three members of the Urban County’s executive committee – Pittsfield Township deputy supervisor Barb Fuller, Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber and Ann Arbor city councilmember Margie Teal – were appointed to review applications for the coordinated funding process. All governing boards of the four entities involved in this cycle’s funding will appoint members to a review committee. The fifth partner – the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation – will fund capacity-building grants to nonprofits identified as needing help with internal operations, like infrastructure and staff development.

Also at last week’s meeting, Urban County members got an update on an annual plan being developed for the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), which provides funding for low-income housing and neighborhood projects. The plan will include a list of proposed projects located within the Urban County area that would be eligible for HUD funding. To gather more input, a needs assessment public hearing is set for the Feb. 22 meetings of both the Ann Arbor city council and the Urban County.

Two people spoke during public commentary, both criticizing Avalon Housing for its handling of two low-income housing projects: 1500 Pauline, and Near North. The nonprofit was defended by Leah Gunn, who chairs the Urban County executive committee – she called Avalon one of the “stars of community development.” [Full Story]

Urban County Finalizes Funding Model

Washtenaw Urban County executive committee meeting (Nov. 16, 2010): The final piece of a coordinated funding model that’s been in the works for more than a year fell into place on Tuesday, when the Washtenaw Urban County’s executive committee voted unanimously to join the effort.

Mary Jo Callan

At the Nov. 16 meeting of the Urban County, Mary Jo Callan, director of the city of Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County office of community development, reviewed key points of the coordinated model for funding human services. (Photo by the writer.)

Two people – Steve Dobson, past chair of the local United Way board, and community activist Lily Au – spoke to the group during public commentary, taking opposite sides of the issue. But there was little discussion among committee members before the vote. Mary Jo Callan, head of the county/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, briefly recapped a detailed presentation she’d given in September, outlining how Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the Urban County would join with the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and Washtenaw United Way to coordinate their funding to local nonprofits.

The coordinated funding, managed by Callan’s staff, will give priority to programs and services addressing six key areas: housing/homelessness, aging, school-aged youth, children from birth to six, “safety net” health and food/hunger relief. In total, the five funding entities provide about $5 million annually for local human services nonprofits. The Urban County – a consortium of 11 local governments – contributes roughly $350,000 of that amount.

The committee also voted on three items related to affordable housing efforts: 1) implementing “green” construction standards for builders funded with federal HUD dollars, 2) approving a draft budget and annual request for proposals (RFP) for developers of affordable houses funded through the Urban County, and 3) making changes to the budget tracking for the Urban County’s homebuyer program. All votes were unanimous. [Full Story]

Coordinated Funding for Nonprofits Planned

A strategy for coordinating major funders of nonprofits in Washtenaw County has been in the works for more than a year, and is now being rolled out to governing boards for approval.

Mary Jo Callan

Mary Jo Callan, director of the Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, described a proposed coordinated funding strategy by local governments, United Way of Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation at the Sept. 28 meeting of the Washtenaw Urban County. (Photos by the writer.)

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Washtenaw Urban County executive committee, members were briefed on the proposal, which involves the Washtenaw United Way, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Washtenaw County, city of Ann Arbor and the Urban County. Together, these entities provide about $5 million annually for local human services nonprofits.

Mary Jo Callan, director of the Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, told Urban County members that the public/private model would focus funding on six priorities that have been identified for the entire county: housing/homelessness, aging, school-aged youth, children from birth to six, health and food.

The two-year pilot project is grounded in previous coordination between the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the Urban County, a consortium of 11 local governments. The office of community development (OCD), which Callan leads, already manages nonprofit funding for those three entities.

Callan also said this could be a national model for communities that are trying to do a better job of delivering human services with constrained resources.

Some members of the Urban County executive committee, while expressing general support, also raised questions and concerns. How do individual nonprofit agencies fit into the funding model, especially if they don’t provide services in the areas identified as priorities? Will small or new nonprofits be able to compete successfully for funding, or will larger, well-established nonprofits have an overwhelming advantage? How well will the different cultures of United Way, the community foundation and local governments work together, and what roles will they play?

Callan acknowledged these challenges, but noted that many of these same concerns exist under the current, more fragmented funding model. Coordinated funding is the best approach to providing needed services to people in the county, she said.

The Urban County is expected to vote on the proposal at its Oct. 26 meeting. The other groups – including Ann Arbor’s city council – are expected to vote at meetings in late October and early November. Callan will also be making a presentation about the initiative to the county board of commissioners at their Oct. 7 working session. [Full Story]

Urban County Reallocates Housing Funds

Washtenaw Urban County executive committee meeting (Aug. 24, 2010): At just past 1 p.m., Leah Gunn told the gathered group, “We’re waiting for a quorum because we have important business to conduct – and I’m told the cats have been herded!”

Jennifer Hall

Jennifer L. Hall, far left, describes a request to reallocate federal funding at the Aug. 24 Urban County executive committee meeting. Hall is housing manager for the Office of Community Development, a joint Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County unit. To the right are Teresa Gillotti, Paul Schreiber and Andrea Plevek. (Photos by the writer.)

A few minutes later more voting members of the Urban County‘s executive committee, which Gunn chairs, arrived. The group is a consortium of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and nine townships, responsible for allocating federal funding for low-income housing and other community development projects. The funds are managed by staff of the joint county/city of Ann Arbor Office of Community Development.

On Tuesday, the business they conducted included approval to reallocate federal funds for local housing programs, in an effort to identify how the money will be spent before a Sept. 18 deadline.

The group also got an update on state and federal emergency housing funds for the county, which have been cut by nearly 30%. In response to upcoming changes mandated by state and federal housing agencies, the Urban County executive committee approved several recommendations, including selecting the nonprofit SOS Community Services to coordinate housing crisis management in the county.

Those changes led to a discussion of the homeless situation in Washtenaw County, and the challenges of dealing with a spectrum of housing needs, from people seeking emergency shelter to those ready to buy a home. [Full Story]

County Board Says Farewell to Guenzel

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (May 5, 2010): At his last board meeting before retiring later this month, Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel received an extended standing ovation from commissioners, staff and others in attendance, including his wife, Pam Guenzel.

Bob Guenzel

On Wednesday, Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel attended the last board of commissioners meeting of his 37-year career with the county. (Photos by the writer.)

The board’s tribute to the outgoing leader came at the end of a meeting that included a first-quarter budget update with news both good and bad. Though the county’s general fund budget is on track to show a surplus, it’s not as much as needed to carry over into 2011 – which means the budget could be tighter next year. And Guenzel cautioned that 2012 and 2013 could be even more challenging.

Also during the meeting, two finalists for the job of deputy county administrator were introduced: Bill Reynolds, who leads the Chippewa County (Wisc.) government and is former chief of staff for Sen. Arlen Specter, and Jose Reyes, CEO of a Southfield management consulting firm. They had been interviewing all day for the position now held by Verna McDaniel, who’ll be the next county administrator.

And what was expected to be a relatively short meeting was lengthened by a discussion about the Washtenaw Urban County‘s annual plan, which commissioners were being asked to approve. Despite some apparent confusion on the part of one commissioner over funding sources in the plan, it ultimately received unanimous support.

After the meeting, commissioners and staff headed over to Argiero’s to give Guenzel a send-off. A larger farewell party is planned later this month at The Ark, where he is a long-time board member. [Full Story]

Washtenaw Gets More Housing Funds

More than $400,000 in unanticipated federal funding – including a $250,000 “green” grant for Avalon Housing‘s Near North in Ann Arbor – allowed board members of the Washtenaw Urban County to boost funding for several low-income housing and community development projects at their April 27 meeting.

Van for Avalon Housing

A van for Avalon Housing, parked at the nonprofit's headquarters in the Northern Brewery building on Jones Drive. Avalon recently received a $250,000 federal "green" grant for its Near North affordable housing development on North Main.

In addition to the grant for Near North – a proposed 39-unit affordable housing development on Main Street just north of downtown – the Urban County also received nearly $180,000 more than anticipated in federal funding through the Community Development Block Grant program for the coming fiscal year.

The board voted to divvy up those additional funds to projects in the Urban County’s three largest jurisdictions – Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. They also approved setting aside nearly $27,000 for as-yet-unspecified human services support, in light of possible cuts in city of Ann Arbor funding to local nonprofits.

The focus on allocations at Tuesday’s meeting prompted this comment from Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber: “It’s a pleasure to sit on a board that has money to spend!” [Full Story]

“Urban County” Allocates Housing Funds

At their March 23 meeting, members of the Washtenaw Urban County – a consortium of 11 local municipalities that handles federal grants for low-income housing and other projects – approved over $2.6 million in allocations for the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.

Margie Teall, Leah Gunn, Mary Jo Callan, Damon Thompson

Mary Jo Callan, director of the Office of Community Development, discusses proposed funding for housing projects at the Washtenaw Urban County meeting on Tuesday. At left are Ann Arbor city councilmember Margie Teall and county commissioner Leah Gunn, who chairs the Urban County executive committee. At right is Damon Thompson, OCD's operations manager. (Photos by the writer.)

The group also had a frank discussion about problems with struggling Gateway Apartments in Ypsilanti Township – the complex is operating at a loss and is putting strains on the nonprofit Avalon Housing, which took over management from the nearly-defunct Washtenaw Affordable Housing Corp.

In addition, Urban County members reallocated federal funds that had previously been earmarked to support a county land bank. The county’s board of commissioners voted to dissolve the land bank earlier this month.

Also approved during Tuesday’s meeting was the draft of an annual plan for July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. The plan outlines projects and a nearly $4 million budget from two federal programs for low-income neighborhoods. Avalon Housing’s Near North apartment complex, the Delonis Center homeless shelter, and an owner-occupied housing rehab program are among the projects being funded.

Staff of the Office of Community Development, a joint county/city of Ann Arbor department which among other things manages the Urban County projects, also reported on efforts to recruit more local governments to join the Urban County. OCD director Mary Jo Callan joked that there were two perception problems in marketing the Urban County: urban and county. [Full Story]

Greenbelt Explores Support for Small Farms

The main topic of discussion for the Ann Arbor Greenbelt Advisory Commission’s November meeting could be distilled into this: How can the greenbelt program support the development of small farms, and ensure that farm properties remain farms, even when the property changes ownership?

It’s an unlikely resource that might actually be able to help answer those questions: the federal housing programs administered by the Office of Community Development, a joint county/city department.

Jennifer Hall, OCD housing program coordinator, attended the Nov. 4 meeting of the greenbelt group and floated some ideas for how federal funding might provide resources to retain land for the farming community.

The commission also heard from the managing organization of the greenbelt program, The Conservation Fund, about strategies for preserving small farms. [Full Story]