DDA Wraps Up Parking Rate Hearing, Audit

Also: UM seeks removal of two parking spaces on Monroe

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Dec. 7, 2011): At its last monthly meeting of the year, the DDA board continued a public hearing on proposed parking rate changes that it had begun at its November meeting. Only two people appeared for the continued hearing on Wednesday – nine people had addressed the board for its Nov. 2, 2011 meeting.

Nassif, Gunn, Hieftje

Front to back: Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board members Nader Nassif, Leah Gunn, John Hieftje. (Photos by the writer.)

The board will not vote on the rate increases until its Jan. 4, 2012 meeting. Some of the rate changes are scheduled for implementation in February 2012, but the increases affecting most downtown Ann Arbor parkers would not be implemented until September 2012. The September changes include an increase from $1.40 to $1.50 per hour for on-street metered spaces and an increase from $1.10 to $1.20 per hour for spaces in parking structures.

Some insight into the DDA’s interest in raising parking rates can be found in the DDA’s finances, as reflected in its annual audit. Acceptance of its annual audit report was the one action item on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. The board voted to accept its audit report done by the firm Abraham & Gaffney, P.C. for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

Auditor Alan Panter had presented the report to a subset of DDA board members at a Nov. 30 meeting of the DDA’s operations committee.

The report notes an instance of expenditures exceeding the amount of funds appropriated that is inconsistent with Michigan’s Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act (UBAA) of 1968. At Wednesday’s meeting, DDA board members characterized it as a “technical violation.” At the operations committee meeting, the $337,478 overage was attributed by DDA staff to the submission of a bill forwarded to the DDA in June by its construction management consultant (Park Avenue Consultants Inc.) – connected to the underground parking garage and streetscape improvement projects currently under construction.

For the fiscal year 2011, the DDA showed $18,806,765 in revenues against $20,796,665 in expenses, drawing $1,989,900 from the fund balance reserve. The planned draw on fund balance is related to the underground parking garage construction payments as well as a new contract, signed this year, under which the DDA operates the city’s public parking system. That contract assigns 17% of gross parking revenues to the city of Ann Arbor. At the Nov. 30 committee meeting, DDA board member Newcombe Clark was keen to confirm the inclusion of the new contract as a note in the audit.

In his presentation to the operations committee on Nov. 30, Panter highlighted the fund balance reserve for the parking fund as a concern, saying that the fund was near deficit – it shows a fund balance reserve of less than 1% of operating expenses. A recommended fund balance level, said Panter, is 15-20%.

Another still outstanding issue for the DDA’s finances is the correct interpretation of the city’s ordinance (Chapter 7) specifying how the DDA tax increment finance (TIF) capture works. At Wednesday’s meeting, the board held its third closed session on the topic since July, to discuss the written opinion of its legal counsel on the issue. Taxing authorities that have their taxes captured under the Ann Arbor DDA TIF district have questioned the DDA’s legal position – the DDA contends that Chapter 7 does not place limits on its TIF capture. Depending on how the issue is resolved, it could mean as much as $600,000 less per year in TIF capture, compared with the budget planning the DDA is currently doing.

Also at the Dec. 7 meeting, during the opportunity for public commentary, the DDA board heard from Jim Kosteva –University of Michigan director of community relations – about a request to eliminate two on-street parking spaces on Monroe Street. With the imminent opening of the newly constructed South Hall, on the south side of Monroe, it’s anticipated that students will attempt to cross mid-block. The elimination of the parking spaces would be intended to make students who are crossing mid-block more visible to motorists. Based on the verbal exchange with Kosteva at the podium, it appears possible, but not guaranteed, that some kind of arrangement could be reached before the start of the next semester.

DDA FY 2011 Audit

The DDA board was asked to consider a resolution to accept its annual audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

The report from the auditing firm Abraham & Gaffney, P.C. notes an instance of expenditures exceeding the amount of funds appropriated that is inconsistent with Michigan’s Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act (UBAA) of 1968. Auditor Alan Panter had presented the report to a subset of DDA board members at a Nov. 30 meeting of the DDA’s operations committee. At that meeting, DDA staff attributed the $337,478 overage to the submission of a bill forwarded to the DDA in June by its construction management consultant, Park Avenue Consultants Inc. The bill was for the underground parking garage and streetscape improvement projects that are currently under construction.

Ordinarily, the DDA’s budget is adjusted to match actual expenditures just before the close of the fiscal year, which the DDA board did this year at its June 1, 2011 meeting. Estimates are given for invoices anticipated to be received before the end of the year. The bill submission prompting the auditor’s notation came after the June 1 adjustment.

At the Ann Arbor city council’s Dec. 5 meeting, Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) complained about the violation noted in the DDA audit report and called for the report to be forwarded to the state, as described in the UBAA.

For the fiscal year 2011, the DDA showed $18,806,765 in revenues against $20,796,665 in expenses, drawing $1,989,900 from its fund balance reserve. The planned draw on fund balance is related to the underground parking garage construction payments as well as a new contract, signed this year, under which the DDA operates the city’s public parking system. That contract assigns 17% of gross parking revenues to the city of Ann Arbor. At the Nov. 30 committee meeting, DDA board member Newcombe Clark wanted to make sure that the new contract was included as a note in the audit.

In his verbal presentation to the board committee on Nov. 30, Panter had highlighted fund balances in two ways. First, he noted that the DDA’s housing fund no longer meets the definition of a special revenue fund under the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 54. The money in the housing fund, which is allocated from the DDA TIF (tax increment finance) fund, is thus included as “assigned” funds within the DDA’s general fund (aka TIF fund).

Second, Panter noted that the DDA’s parking fund balance as a percentage of parking expenditures for the year ($104,821/$15,998,564 = 0.6%) is “on the edge of deficit.” As DDA board members explained to Panter, the DDA operates its funds essentially as one fund. In that context, Panter described the fund balance as roughly 25%. He gave 15-20% as a recommended level. He cautioned, however, that allowing any individual fund to go into deficit is a violation of the UBAA.

DDA FY 2011 Audit: Board Discussion, Deliberations

DDA board member Roger Hewitt reviewed the audit report for his board colleagues.

He began by reviewing fund balances. The TIF and the housing fund have a fund balance reserve of a bit over $6 million, the parking maintenance fund a bit less than $2 million, and the parking fund a little over $100,000 for a total of around $8.2 million. The low balance in the parking fund is part the DDA’s 10-year financial plan for construction of the underground parking garage, Hewitt, said. He characterized it as the “ebb and flow” of money when you have a large construction project, and he stated that the low fund balance did not reflect an intrinsic problem.

Hewitt put the $2.7 million overall drop in the fund balance from last year in the context of building it up to close to $20 million at one point. The money is now being used up, he said – for the underground parking garage and also for the Fifth and Division streetscape improvement project. He said he wanted to warn everyone that the fund balances will be even lower next year. He noted that the two current construction projects, plus Village Green’s City Apartments project at the First and Washington lot, would place an additional burden on the DDA’s fund balances.

[At the Nov. 30 operations committee meeting, board members discussed the fact that the finalization of the First and Washington land sale from the city of Ann Arbor to Village Green was expected to be done this week. The city council gave final sign off at its Nov. 10, 2011 meeting. With some question about whether construction would actually start in December, Newcombe Clark joked that the lot could be turned into a temporary ice rink. A more serious suggestion from Clark, to turn the lot into free holiday parking, prompted talk of insurance and liability issues once the property is legally transferred to Village Green.]

Hewitt stressed that the auditor had said it was a clean audit. None of the figures had been found to be in error, he said. Given the amount of activity associated with the construction projects, he said, it reflected good work by DDA executive director Susan Pollay, deputy director Joe Morehouse and the staff.

Hewitt allowed there was one technical issue the auditors had brought up. He reviewed that by law the DDA is required to amend the budget to reflect actual expenditures before the end of the year. After the board had done that budget amendment, but still before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the DDA had received a number of large invoices, which had been estimated. The estimate had fallen short of the actual amount. He characterized the excess of expenditures beyond allocated amounts as a “technical violation.” He stressed that the auditor’s report did not recommend any corrective action. Responding implicitly to the call from Kunselman to file a report with the state, Hewitt said the audit report is always filed with the state of Michigan once it’s approved.

Newcombe Clark asked Hewitt to enumerate some of the ways that the DDA might realize additional revenue – to give some context for people who might think that the fund balances look low. Hewitt said there were a number of things the DDA could do. One was to increase parking rates in different areas. Hewitt noted that after the current increase is implemented, future increases are anticipated to match inflation. Hewitt stressed that the DDA’s projections for TIF revenues are conservative. TIF revenue is only included in projections once the improved property is on the tax rolls. Two projects are under construction now, he said, and others are planned.

[Currently under construction in the DDA district are Zaragon West and 601 S. Forest. Two other approved projects with construction starts possible in a few months include Village Green's City Apartments and The Varsity Ann Arbor on East Washington. Other projects also in the pipeline are a residential project at 618 S. Main and a hotel at Washington and Division.]

Savings on the expense side, said Hewitt, could come from some deferred maintenance on the parking structures. The DDA had implemented a long-term aggressive maintenance program, he said, and the DDA is far enough ahead in the program that it could be reduced for a few years, with no impact on the integrity of the structures.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to accept the audit report for FY 2011.

Parking Rate Increases

The overall condition of the DDA’s finances – in particular the nearly de minimus fund balance in the parking fund – provide the context in which the DDA board is proposing a set of rate increases. The contract with the city, under which the DDA operates Ann Arbor’s public parking system, gives the DDA the sole authority to set parking rates. However, it must follow a process explicitly stipulated in the contract, which includes: (1) announcement of the intended change at a DDA board meeting [Nov. 2, 2011] and announcement of a public hearing on the topic at the next DDA board meeting; (2) a public hearing on the rate increases [Nov. 2, 2011 continued on Dec. 7, 2011] and (3) a vote on the increases no sooner than the next DDA board meeting [likely on Jan. 4, 2012].

On Wednesday, continued from the board’s Nov. 2 meeting, was the public hearing on proposed parking rate increases. A vote on the rate changes won’t come until the board’s Jan. 4, 2012 meeting.

Parking Rate Increases: Details

The details of proposed parking rate increases were announced in late October, most of which would be implemented starting in September 2012. Some increases would be implemented starting in February. [.pdf of DDA proposed parking rate changes]

The February rate changes will have a relatively minor impact. Joe Morehouse, deputy director of the DDA, wrote to The Chronicle that he expects the February rate changes to generate a total of $133,000 in additional revenue annually. Increases and anticipated revenues are: raise meter bag rates by $5/day ($68,800); increase the premium parking rate by $5/month ($3,300); increase Ann & Ashley and Liberty Square structure evening/Saturday rates by $1/entry ($41,500); increase 415 W. Washington lot entry by $1 and increase permit rates by $5/month ($14,400); increase First & William lot permits by $10/month ($5,000).

Highlights of the more significant changes – to be enacted in September 2012 – include predominantly $.10/hour increases: hourly structure parking rates would increase from $1.10/hour to $1.20/hour; hourly parking lot rates would increase from $1.30 ($1.50 after 3 hours) to $1.40 ($1.60 after 3 hours); hourly parking meter rates would increase from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour; and monthly parking permit rates would increase from $140/month to $145/month.

Of the categories of parking, monthly permits will increase percentage-wise the least (3.57%), while hourly structure rates will increase the most (8.33%). Based on the roughly $15 million in revenue generated by the public parking system last year, the parking rate increases could be expected to increase annual gross revenues somewhere between $0.54 million and $1.25 million, assuming no change in demand or capacity. However, on completion of the new underground garage on South Fifth Avenue, around 650 new spaces will be added to the system, which currently has around 7,000 spaces.

At a joint work session of the city council and the DDA board on Nov. 14 (between the two parts of the DDA’ spublic hearing on parking rate increases), representatives of the DDA did not present a financial case for the need to raise parking rates. And city councilmembers did not question the financial need for the rate increase.

Terms of a new parking contract, under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system, will provide the city of Ann Arbor with 17% of the increased gross revenue from a rate increase – or somewhere between $97,000 and $226,000 more than it currently receives under the contract. For the first quarter of FY 2012 (which started July 1, 2011), the 17%-of-gross calculation for the city’s share worked out to $662,471, which would project to $2.65 million annually without any change in rates, demand or capacity.

Parking Rate Increase: Public Hearing

Tom Heywood, executive director of the State Street Area Association, told the board he was there to express his full support of the DDA and its management of the public parking system. He remembered when many of the parking structures were at the point of collapse in the 1990s. Now, he said, it’s one of the most up-to-date, well-maintained and well-managed systems in the county. Through its new contract with the city of Ann Arbor, the DDA has been given the task of continuing that management through the next 10 years. The new contract, Heywood said, also gives the DDA the power to set rates. Heywood said the State Street Area Association may not always agree with specific rate decisions, but stands behind the DDA’s right to make them. He said it’s not always adequately recognized that the DDA is doing a first-class job.

Rich Bellas, owner of Van Boven Shoes, also expressed support for the DDA. He said it’s easy to point fingers when things don’t go right, but when you don’t know what the alternative would have been, it’s difficult to know if the city would be in even worse shape.

When the Maynard Street structure had to be closed and rebuilt, it was devastating to the neighborhood, he said, and never really recovered in some respects. Bellas said he never wants to go back to the situation that led to the need to rebuild the Maynard Street structure.

Outcome: The board did not vote on the increases – that will likely come at the board’s Jan. 4, 2012 meeting. The public hearing was closed.

Closed Session: TIF Capture

Another still-outstanding issue for the DDA’s finances is the correct interpretation of the city’s ordinance (Chapter 7) specifying how the DDA tax increment finance (TIF) capture works. The issue emerged in May of this year, just as the city and the DDA were poised to sign a new contract under which the DDA would operate the city’s public parking system.

In broad strokes, when first identified as an issue, there was apparent agreement by all parties, including the city and the DDA, that the ordinance limited the DDA’s TIF capture based on the TIF plan. That interpretation resulted in a repayment earlier this year of roughly $473,000 from the DDA to the Ann Arbor District Library, Washtenaw Community College, and Washtenaw County for excess taxes that the DDA had collected. The city of Ann Arbor chose to waive its $712,000 share of the calculated excess. Questions were raised, however, about the method use to calculate the excess. [See, for example, this Chronicle column: "Tax Capture Is a Varsity Sport"]

But after a closed session on July 27, 2011 to consider written advice of its legal counsel, the DDA board took the position that the redistribution of those funds had not been necessary – leaving aside any question of the method of calculation.

At it’s Dec. 7 meeting, the board held its third closed session on the topic (counting those on July 27 and Nov. 2). Depending on how the issue is resolved, it could mean as much as $600,000 less per year in TIF capture, compared with the budget planning the DDA is currently doing.

Monroe Street Parking Spaces

The University of Michigan recently completed construction of a new building, South Hall, on the south side of Monroe Street. It sits on the opposite side of the street from Hutchins Hall. Both buildings are part of the UM law school.

The one-block section of Monroe Street between State and Oakland, where the buildings are located, has long been of interest to the University of Michigan as potentially being blocked off to pedestrian traffic, to provide a more coherent campus. One of the policy issues involved is the monetary value that the city of Ann Arbor and the DDA attach to on-street parking spaces. [For more detailed Chronicle coverage, see: "Column: Ann Arbor's Monroe Street Doctrine"]

At the DDA board’s Dec. 7 meeting, Jim Kosteva, director of community relations for the University of Michigan, addressed the board with a request to eliminate two of the 18 spaces that are now metered on the block of Monroe Street between State and Oakland.

He led off his remarks by saying he would have preferred to have had the opportunity to rehearse the material in other conversations before appearing before the board, but due to the timing issue, he wanted to take the opportunity to address the board during public commentary. He noted that in the Ann Arbor community recently, a great amount of attention had been given to crosswalks, in the interest of promoting pedestrian safety. [See Chronicle coverage: "Council Takes Step to Alter Pedestrian Law"] So he was addressing the board, seeking a similar improvement for access and visibility at a location near the law school campus, at a location where it’s expected to be practically a crosswalk.

Kosteva said it’s expected that between Hutchins Hall and the newly-constructed South Hall, hundreds of law school students will be going back and forth across the street. The new building was designed so that the door is aligned with the door of Hutchins Hall. There are two parking spaces in front of South Hall, Kosteva said, which he was requesting to be removed. The objective, he said, is to promote pedestrian safety.

Students will try to cross the street mid-block, he said, and without removal of the parking spaces, that means they’ll be trying to cross from between parked cars. During the course of construction, Kosteva pointed out, the block had seen the addition of two on-street parking spaces – from 16 to 18 spaces. That had been due to the elimination of some driveway entrances and loading zone areas. So compared to the pre-construction conditions, there would be no net revenue change to the public parking system if two spaces were now eliminated. Kosteva also pointed to three additional spaces along Oakland Street that had been gained as a result of the construction of South Hall.

Susan Pollay, Jim Kosteva Ann Arbor DDA University of Michigan

DDA executive director Susan Pollay and University of Michigan director of community relations Jim Kosteva after the Dec. 7 DDA board meeting had concluded and before another meeting in the same room started. In this shot, Pollay is simply enjoying a healthy snack, not demanding that Kosteva start using apples-to-apples comparisons.

Kosteva acknowledged the ongoing conversation between the city and the university about the entire block. The university is still interested in creating a pedestrian plaza for the street [blocking off the area to vehicular traffic, thus eliminating all on-street parking].

However, Kosteva contended the university does not currently have a dialogue going on. He could not predict when that conversation would be restarted. Part of that conversation involves the city and the university determining the value of a parking space, which would take some time to determine. But with the start of the next term imminent, Kosteva said, the university was asking that the two spaces be removed now – in advance of settling the larger policy issue.

DDA board member Newcombe Clark responded to Kosteva by asking him to return to the podium, and told him that obviously the DDA board would never let anything trump safety, especially not money. Any hesitation about removing the spaces, he said, involved the timing. It would be great, said Clark, if politics and parking did not share any more than just the letter “P” – but they do. Clark wondered if it might be possible to separate out the two spaces from conversation before stepping into it.

Kosteva expressed some concern that it might cloud the bigger picture, as opposed to bringing it to resolution. He suggested he’d be willing to acknowledge in writing the capacity of the block for 18 on-street spaces, in the event that it is useful for the bigger picture conversation.

Clark seemed amenable to that, and noted that if the removal of the spaces turns out to be delayed past the winter term, it would be useful to monitor actual student street-crossing behavior. It’d be useful to have something as a data point that might give clarity. Clark said he didn’t mean to suggest spending thousands of dollars to pay to count pedestrians. Kosteva ventured that the university would definitely get feedback about it. The new building was designed to be able to cross the street directly. There’s going to be a lot of movement between those facilities, he said. Clark concluded by saying the good news is, the DDA had the ability to act quickly.

Communications, Committee Reports

The board’s meeting included the usual range of reports from its standing committees and the downtown citizens advisory council.

Comm/Comm: Downtown Citizens Advisory Council

Ray Detter gave the monthly update from the downtown citizens advisory council, which typically meets on the Tuesday evening before the DDA board’s monthly meeting. He described how the CAC has an annual dinner party discussion to look at goals for the next year and to review the past year. He reported that the new city administrator, Steve Powers, had attended as a guest.

CAC members were generally pleased with the city council’s decision on the previous Monday night, Detter said, not to temporarily reduce the level of support for the city’s percent for art program. The CAC would continue to work for that program, Detter said. Specific areas where Detter felt public art money might be spent included the alley connecting Liberty and Washington streets next to the Liberty Square parking structure.

Among the successes of the downtown, Detter noted the opening that day of Babo, a market on the ground floor of the 411 Lofts building on East Washington. Next door to the 411 Lofts building is the site of another residential high-rise development – The Varsity, Ann Arbor. Detter said that The Varsity was the first project to undergo review by the city’s new design review board. He said that the developer of The Varsity didn’t make all the changes that the CAC wanted, but it was a useful process.

Detter also praised the increase in the number of bike paths. The CAC supports the city’s efforts to increase pedestrian safety at crosswalks, he said. The CAC thinks the downtown library should remain downtown and supports some type of new development on top of the underground parking garage. At the meeting, Detter reported, Powers had said he’s committed to increasing the city’s tax base.

Comm/Comm: Monthly Parking Report

The report of monthly parking statistics (for October) received cursory discussion. Some decline in use was noted for the First and Washington lot – this was attributed to the elimination of that lot’s use by the DDA, given the imminent sale of the property to Village Green for the construction of the City Apartments residential project.

Comm/Comm: Construction Report

John Splitt reported that the last major structural concrete pour is done for the underground parking garage that’s under construction on South Fifth Avenue. Other pours will continue over the winter. The tower crane will disappear soon after next week. Canopies are going up on the east leg, over the stairwell and the speed ramp. No glass will be installed for the canopies until spring. For the middle phase of the project, waterproofing and backfilling continue.

For the Fifth and Division streetscape improvements, work has been focused at Fifth and Liberty, getting it cleaned up. Street lights have been put in at that corner.

Comm/Comm: Transportation

Reporting from the transportation committee, John Mouat said that Erica Briggs of the Clean Energy Coalition had made a presentation to the committee on a bike-sharing proposal. [Briggs is former director of the getDowntown program and currently serves on the city planning commission and the zoning board of appeals.] Briggs did not solicit financial support but asked for cooperation at the level of staff participation and planning. Mouat characterized the committee as supportive, but noted safety concerns expressed by board member Nader Nassif, who wondered of downtown bicycle infrastructure was adequate to support an additional large volume of bicyclists.

Mayor John Hieftje, who by statute occupies a position on the DDA board, said it was not a high priority issue, but asked for a discussion of bicycles on downtown sidewalks. Several cities, he said, have made moves to prohibit them.

Comm/Comm: Midtown Discovery

Joan Lowenstein reported on the progress that the DDA is making on the task of identifying alternate uses for city-owned surface parking lots. The task was assigned to the DDA by the city council earlier this year at the DDA’s request, in connection with negotiations over a new contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking contract. The parcels given initial focus are the Klein’s Lot (on Ashley, between William and Liberty), Palio’s Lot (at the northeast corner of Main & William), the Old Y Lot (at the northwest corner of Fifth & William), the Library Lot (the top of the South Fifth Avenue underground parking garage), and the bottom floor of the Fourth & William parking structure.

Lowenstein reported that the work of the leadership and outreach task force continues. The process has been dubbed “Midtown Discovery” and continues work on the first phase, which is to get on the same page about what’s been done in the past by way of planning for the downtown. At the task force’s Nov. 7 meeting, they’d shared observations from a walk they did around downtown and began talking about how they perceived the area. The task force has begun talking about beginning the public dialogue.

Lowenstein announced that the DDA will receive $70,000 as part of a $3 million federal sustainable communities grant awarded to Washtenaw County. The DDA partnered with the county to obtain the community challenge grant. The DDA is working with the county to create a funding agreement. Lowenstein said the public dialogue will involve working with a consultant and the grant money would help pay for that. DDA planning and research specialist Amber Miller, who worked on the grant application, clarified that $20,000 would need to be put up by the DDA, in order to get $70,000 from the federal grant award.

Comm/Comm: Annual Report

Lowenstein reported that great feedback has been received on the annual report and state of the downtown report created this year by the DDA.

Ann Arbor SPARK, this region’s economic development agency, has floated the idea of partnering with the DDA to use part of the report in its business attraction proposals. That’s what the DDA had in mind, said Lowenstein, when staff started working on the documents. It’s a “sales document,” she said.

Some of the benchmarks have changed, Lowenstein said. In the year 2000, the downtown residential task force had identified a goal of creating an additional 1,000 units of housing in the near downtown area by 2015. Since 2000, 536 units have been constructed and 274 are under construction. When The Varsity and Village Green’s City Apartments are constructed, that will be 337 more units. That’s more than 1,110, she concluded. [The task force report also notes that: "The task force discussed a second goal of an additional 1,500 new units by 2030 but NOT making this goal a rigid recommendation, as it should be re-assessed prior to 2015."]

Comm/Comm: Graffiti

Mayor John Hieftje reported on the results of a recent targeted graffiti enforcement action. He said the city administrator will soon report on the response rate, with an enforcement map. Of those properties cited, Hieftje said, 70% were cleaned up in a week’s time. For the others, the city is working with property owners to get compliance without resorting to assessing fines. Community standards enforcement officers reported that “they didn’t get yelled at.” Board member Nader Nassif reported that he’d witnessed some of the compliance activity of graffiti getting painted over.

Comm/Comm: Police Officer Hiring

Hieftje also reported that the city council had voted at its Dec. 5 meeting to approve a contract with the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office to provide dispatching services, instead of continuing to employ its own dispatchers. The city expects to save $500,000 a year with the move. Work on the county-based police dispatching goes back 20 years, Hieftje said. DDA board member Bob Guenzel, who is a retired Washtenaw County administrator, offered his congratulations, as someone who worked on it for 20 years. Guenzel gave credit to sheriff Jerry Clayton and Ann Arbor chief of police Barnett Jones for finally achieving that.

Hieftje also said that with the new contract struck with the Ann Arbor police officers union (AAPOA), the city would realize another $440,000 in savings. Without the new contract or the dispatch consolidation with the county, the FY 2013 budget had called for a reduction of 10-12 officers, Hieftje said. He expected that those reductions would no longer be necessary. Nine officers would be retiring at the end of the year, so the first step would be to call back four officers who were recently laid off. According to the city administrator, there were 400 applications for the remaining jobs. So the city expects to be able to hire experienced officers, Hieftje said.

Present: Nader Nassif, Newcombe Clark, Bob Guenzel, Roger Hewitt, John Hieftje, John Splitt, Sandi Smith, Leah Gunn, Keith Orr, Joan Lowenstein, John Mouat.

Absent: Russ Collins.

Next board meeting: Noon on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at the DDA offices, 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. [confirm date]

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  1. By Lou Kasman
    December 9, 2011 at 10:03 am | permalink

    Can someone explain to me what DDA does with the money they collect? It is not apparent from the website.

  2. December 9, 2011 at 10:47 am | permalink

    Re #1: If you mean from parking fees, about $2 million a year now go to the general fund (of the City of Ann Arbor).

    It gets more complicated from there.

  3. By Rod Johnson
    December 9, 2011 at 11:16 am | permalink

    “[Kosteva] led off his remarks by saying he would have preferred to have had the opportunity to rehearse the material in other conversations before appearing before the board”

    I think in the light of the current climate of opinion regarding the city, the U and the DDA, it would be best if *all* conversation took place in public. It’s not like the public has a lot of trust in the way business is done here. We need less private “rehearsing” and more transparency.

  4. December 9, 2011 at 11:25 am | permalink

    At the risk of being off-topic, I have been building up a head of pique at the city’s/DDA implementation of e-park meters versus the previously used coin meters — as it relates to handicapped parking. For myself and as a caretaker, it’s made it near impossible to get to a large part of downtown, and I feel the whole setup, along with the skimpy numbers of spaces, and their ill considered locations, is a violation of Title II of the ADA. I am considering a complaint to the Justice Department to have them look at it. If anyone also affected would like to get involved, share examples of noncompliance, and cosign this letter, please contact me at cosmonican[AT]gmail[DOT]com. If some lawyer wants to take it on instead, be my guest.