Archive for February, 2013

Mulholland Avenue

USPS vehicle proves that one way to get up a snowy hill is  just to floor it and weave your way forward, no matter how long it takes. [photo]

A2: Books

On his blog “Musings of a Curious Mind,” Dane Jackson posts a five-question Q&A with owners of the soon-to-open Literati bookstore at Fourth and Washington. “This isn’t just a bookstore for us. Like any small business owner, this is now our livelihood and lifestyle.” [Source]

Column: The Legacy of Eddie Kahn

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Editor’s note: A version of this column was originally published in the Feb. 18, 2013 issue of Michigan Today.

In the Michigan hockey program’s 90-year history, some 600 players have scored more than 10,000 total goals. But the man who scored the team’s very first goal, 90 years ago, might still be the most impressive one of the bunch.

He was the son of legendary American architect Albert Kahn, who built the most recognizable buildings in Detroit and Ann Arbor, almost all of which still stand. He pioneered the new discipline of neurosurgery, serving 22 years as chief of the department at the University of Michigan Medical Center. In his free times, he liked to fly planes, speak half a dozen languages, and hang out with folks like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Lindbergh.

But to his teammates, back in 1923, Eddie Kahn, MD ’24, was simply an exceptional college hockey player.

When he was in high school, however, you would have been wise to predict none of this. Certainly, his famous father didn’t. [Full Story]

Theta Delta Chi House Expansion OK’d

An expansion of the Theta Delta Chi house at 700 S. State will move forward, following action by the Ann Arbor planning commission at its Feb. 21, 2013 meeting. Commissioners granted a special exception use for the building, and recommended that the city council approved the project’s site plan.

The proposal includes expanding the square footage from 12,386 square feet to 14,752 square feet by making an addition at the rear of the fraternity house, which is located on the southwest corner of Monroe and South State. The property is zoned R2B (two-family dwelling district and student dwelling district), and the size of the lot would allow for occupancy of up to 50 people. However, the fraternity is not proposing to … [Full Story]

Planners Reconfirm Ellsworth Zoning

Zoning for property at 2081 E. Ellsworth Road – where the Summit Townhomes project is proposed – was back on the Ann Arbor planning commission’s agenda for another look, following a city council directive to reconsider zoning for the residential project. At their Feb. 21, 2013 meeting, planning commissioners voted again to recommend that the site be zoned R3 (townhouse district) – the same zoning they had previously recommended at their Nov. 20, 2012 meeting.

The developer wants to build 24 attached residential units in four separate buildings, with each building between 80 to 160 feet in length. Each of the 24 units would have a floor area of about 1,300 square feet, and an attached one-car garage. The plan … [Full Story]

AATA OKs RideGuide Print Contract

The RideGuide – an 84-page publication with bus route maps and schedule information for all Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus routes – will continue to be printed by Grand River Printing/American Litho from Belleville, Mich. A one-year contract for $84,000 for printing and shipping was approved by the AATA board at its Feb. 21, 2013 meeting. The contract can be renewed in one-year extensions up to five years.

The AATA updates its schedule and prints new RideGuides three times a year – in January, April, and August. The cost charged by Grand River works out to about $27,600 per printing. And the staff memo accompanying the resolution indicates that the price bid by Grand River is about $0.36 per booklet. That works out … [Full Story]

AATA to Evacuate Gas-Contaminated Soil

Contaminated soil at the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s headquarters – located at 2700 S. Industrial Highway – will be evacuated and remediated under a $119,980 contract with PM Environmental. The AATA board voted to approve the contract at its Feb. 21, 2013 meeting.

The remediation activity dates back to 2010, and will address an in-ground gas leak that was discovered when the AATA upgraded a fuel tank monitoring system. A final assessment report (FAR), based on monitoring wells and ground water sampling, was filed with the Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality on Dec. 15, 2011.

The amount will be reimbursed by the AATA’s insurance carrier, Chartis, which is a subsidiary of American International Group Inc. (AIG). The AATA’s deductible for its policy was $25,000, … [Full Story]

Transit Center Elevator Price: Going Down

New contracts for millwork and an elevator for the new Blake Transit Center – currently under construction on Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor – have been approved. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board voted on the contracts at its Feb. 21, 2013 meeting.

The AATA had originally awarded a $139,451 contract to ThyssenKrupp for the elevator. But when ThyssenKrupp made changes to the scope of the project that had an impact on the price, the AATA decided to rebid the project. The winner of the rebid work was Otis Elevator, which will install an elevator for $108,100.

The board also approved an $80,255 contract with SBD Commercial Interiors for manufacture and installation of custom millwork in the new transit center. The budget had allowed … [Full Story]

AATA Makes Annual App for State Funds

The estimated expenses for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s fiscal year 2014 budget are being reported to the state of Michigan as totaling $33,653,000. The amount is cited in the AATA’s annual application to the state for operating assistance under Act 51. That application was approved by the AATA board at its Feb. 21, 2013 meeting.

Those total expenses would be covered by the following breakdown of revenue estimates: federal funds ($4,276,104); state funds ($9,939,035); local funds ($12,088,861); fare revenue ($7,258,000); and other funds ($91,000).

The AATA’s current year’s budget – for FY 2013, which ends on Sept. 30 – calls for $32,700,181 in expenditures. So the currently estimated expenses for FY 2014 reflect an increase of about $950,000, or about 3%.

This … [Full Story]

UM’s West Quad Renovation OK’d

Another major dormitory renovation – this time for West Quad and the adjacent Cambridge House at the Michigan Union – was approved by University of Michigan regents at their Feb. 21, 2013 meeting. The project, estimated to cost $114.5 million, is part of the multi-year Residential Life Initiative, which has included “deep” renovations to Mosher-Jordan, Stockwell, Couzens and Alice Lloyd residence halls, as well as work that’s underway at East Quad and South Quad.

West Quad and Cambridge House, built in 1937 and located at 541 Thompson St., house about 1,100 students. The renovations will cover 370,000 square feet and include infrastructure upgrades as well as creation of new community spaces. In describing the project, Royster Harper – UM’s … [Full Story]

UM Regents OK South Quad Design

Moving ahead on a project initially authorized at their Sept. 20, 2012 meeting, University of Michigan regents approved a schematic design for a major $60 million renovation of South Quad, a nine-story dormitory located at 600 E. Madison. The unanimous vote was taken at the board’s Feb. 21, 2013 meeting.

The project entails renovating 106,700 square feet of the building’s first two floors, and includes expanded student dining facilities, updated bathrooms, refurbished student lounges, music practice rooms, group study spaces, and infrastructure upgrades. South Quad, built in 1951, houses about 1,180 students as well as the university’s honors program.

SmithGroupJJR is the project’s architect, and a representative from the firm was on hand to give a brief presentation. The major change … [Full Story]

UM Pharma Renovations Move Ahead

Taking another step on a project originally approved at a Nov. 15, 2012 meeting, University of Michigan regents have signed off on the schematic design for a $2.6 million renovation of the UM College of Pharmacy building. The action took place at the regents Feb. 21, 2013 meeting, when the board also authorized staff to issue the project for bids and award construction contracts.

The project will add more offices and cubicles to the basement and first floor, and create a small lobby entrance. It will cover about 12,000-square-feet in the building, located at 428 Church St. in Ann Arbor. The design work is being handled by the architectural firm SHW Group. Jim Luckey of SHW made a brief presentation … [Full Story]

UM Regents OK 14 Conflict-of-Interest Items

Fourteen items disclosed under the state’s conflict-of-interest statute were authorized by the University of Michigan board of regents at its Feb.21, 2013 meeting. The law requires that regents vote on potential conflict-of-interest disclosures related to university staff, faculty or students.

The items often involve technology licensing agreements or leases. This month, all items were approved unanimously and without discussion. They related to the following businesses and organizations: ResolveAble Inc. (option agreement); Optimal Process Technologies LLC (license agreement); HiperNap LLC (option agreement); H3D Inc. (license agreement); Ektapharm Inc. (option agreement); Cardiavent Inc. (amendment to option agreement); Biocrede Inc. (option agreement); Armune BioScience Inc. (research agreement); Ambiq Micro Inc. (amendment to license agreement); Ascentage Pharma Group Corporation Ltd. (amendment to license agreement); Talley Photo+graphics … [Full Story]

Special Labor Mtg. for Ann Arbor Council

The Ann Arbor city clerk’s office has announced a special session of the city council – for Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 starting at 6 p.m., in the usual meeting place in the city council chambers, located on the 2nd Floor of city hall at 301 E. Huron.

The purpose of the special meeting is to hold a closed session to discuss labor negotiations strategy under the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

A budget working session had already been scheduled for the same time. That working session is now scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The council is looking towards the latter part of May, when the fiscal year 2014 budget needs to be finalized.

UM Anthropology, Zoology Relocation Planned

A $27.45 million project to move offices and “dry” research collections of the University of Michigan departments of anthropology, paleontology and zoology was approved by the UM board of regents on Feb. 21, 2013. The collections, labs and offices are now in three locations: at the Ruthven Museums building (1109 Geddes), Campus Safety Services building (1239 Kipke, near the Crisler Center) and the Clarence Cook Little Science building (1100 N. University Ave.).

The new location will be at the university’s Varsity Drive building (3600 Varsity Drive, off of Ellsworth Road), where about 71,000 square feet of space will be renovated to accommodate these departments and collections of bones and other objects. The project will be … [Full Story]

UM Regents Appoint Provost, Law Dean

The University of Michigan’s board of regents has formally appointed Martha E. Pollack as the university’s new provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Also appointed was Mark West as the new dean of UM’s Law School. The appointments were made at the board’s Feb. 21, 2013 meeting, as part of several appointments in the meeting’s consent agenda.

Pollack, who currently serves as vice provost, will replace Phil Hanlon, who was named president of Dartmouth College late last year and will begin his tenure there in July of 2013. [.pdf of memo recommending Pollack for provost] Her term runs from May 6, 2013 through June 30, 2015.

West now serves as associate dean for academic affairs … [Full Story]

AAPS Mulls Goals of Rising Scholar Program

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (Feb. 13, 2013): A highlight of the meeting was a presentation to the board on the Rising Scholars Program.

Robyne Thompson, assistant superintendent for secondary education

Robyne Thompson, assistant superintendent for secondary education, gave the board a report on Rising Scholars, meant to provide support for high-achieving but underserved students. (Photos by the writer.)

The program is meant to provide support for high-achieving but underserved students. It’s a part of the district’s strategy for addressing the achievement gap between different ethnic groups.  The presentation prompted some discussion about the overall goals of the program and the inequitable resources across the three comprehensive high schools. Several trustees expressed their frustration that not much had changed in the past two years.

The board was also presented with three purchase requests – two requests for purchases for new iMacs and new MacBooks for a total of $2,431,700. The computers would be paid for out of the technology bond. If the board approves the purchases, there are additional costs associated with the new computers. New software would also need to be purchased, and the cost of which would come out of the general fund. The third purchase request was for a new artificial turf field at Skyline for a cost of $858,056. The turf would be paid for out of the sinking fund.

Thirteen students, parents, and staff were present during public commentary to speak in favor of maintaining the trimester system at Skyline High School. This came in response to a request trustee made by Christine Stead at a recent meeting to hear from the members of the school community who favored trimesters. The board has in the past heard complaints about the trimester approach and calls for Skyline to adopt semesters, which is the scheduling approach used by Ann Arbor’s other two comprehensive high schools.

Also at this meeting, state representative Adam Zemke was on hand to talk about the impact Governor Snyder’s proposed budget would have on the district. He also heard the concerns of the board regarding changes in legislation. [Full Story]

Right-To-Work Vote: 6-2

A Civic News Ticker reported an incorrect vote tally on a resolution opposing the Michigan’s right-to-work law, passed by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners on Feb. 20, 2013. The vote was 6-2, with dissent from Dan Smith (R-District 2) and Alicia Ping (District 3). Felicia Brabec (D-District 4) was absent. We note the error here, and have corrected the original item.

Right-to-Work Response Gets Final OK

Washtenaw County commissioners gave final approval to a resolution opposing Michigan’s new right-to-work legislation, with a clause that directs the county administration to renegotiate union contracts. The action took place at the board’s Feb. 20, 2013 meeting. Initial approval had been given on Feb. 6, with a 6-1 vote. The dissenting vote was cast by Dan Smith (R-District 2), who also voted against the resolution on Feb. 20. Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) and Alicia Ping (R-District 3) were absent at that Feb. 6 meeting.

On Feb. 20, the final vote was 8 6-2, with dissent from the board’s two Republican commissioners – Dan Smith and Alicia Ping (District 3). Felicia Brabec (D-District 4) was absent.

In addition to condemning the … [Full Story]

Sewer Debt Refinancing Gets Final OK

Final approval to refinance debt for a sewer system on the county’s west side was given by Washtenaw County commissioners at their Feb. 20, 2013 meeting. The refinancing, which is intended to save about $110,000 in interest payment, got initial approval at the county board’s Feb. 6, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of bond resolution]

The resolution authorizes the sale of refunding bonds that would be used to pay the remaining principal on existing bonds that were sold in 2004. That year, the county sold $5.115 million in bonds to help Lyndon and Sylvan townships pay for the sewer. Of that amount, $2.25 million remains to be repaid. According to a staff memo, the project built sewers at Cavanaugh, Sugar Loaf, … [Full Story]

County Board Makes 2 Appointments

Appointments to the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission and the Area Agency on Aging 1B were confirmed at the Feb. 20, 2013 meeting of the county board of commissioners.

Dan Smith, a Republican county commissioner representing District 2, was appointed to the county parks & recreation commission for the remainder of a three-year term, ending Dec. 31, 2014. He had previously served two years on that commission, through Dec. 31, 2012. He was not reappointed in the initial round of appointments to WCPARC that were made earlier this year. Other commissioners appointed to WCPARC at the county board’s Jan. 16, 2013 meeting were Conan Smith of Ann Arbor (D-District 9) and Rolland Sizemore Jr. … [Full Story]

Changes to 3-Way Tech Agreement OK’d

Washtenaw County commissioners gave final approval to amend a three-way agreement with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and the city of Ann Arbor, in a unanimous vote at the county board’s Feb. 20, 2013 meeting. The three-way accord – an interagency agreement for collaborative technology and services (IACTS) – is meant to provide a way to procure and maintain common technology platforms and services centrally. Commissioners had given initial approval to the changes on Feb. 6, 2013.

The modification to the agreement allows for adding other entities into the agreement in a more streamlined way. It gives each founding member the ability to add new participants administratively, without modifying the agreement itself. The original IACTS was approved in May … [Full Story]

County OKs 2013 Delinquent Tax Borrowing

Washtenaw County commissioners gave final authorization to county treasurer Catherine McClary to borrow up to $40 million against the amount of delinquent property taxes in all of the county’s 80 taxing jurisdictions. [.pdf of delinquent tax resolution] The action took place at the county board’s Feb. 20, 2013 meeting, following initial approval on Feb. 6, 2013.

After March 1, taxing jurisdictions – including cities, townships, schools systems and libraries, among others – turn their delinquent taxes over to the county, and are reimbursed for that amount. The county treasurer then assumes responsibility for collecting these delinquent taxes. This is a standard procedure that’s conducted annually at this time of year. The borrowed funds are used for cash flow purposes, to … [Full Story]

Changes to County Stipend List OK’d

At their Feb. 20, 2013 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners gave final approval to change the board rules and regulations that they had adopted on Dec. 5, 2012. The amendment, initially approved on Feb. 6, 2013, was to change the list of boards, committees and commissions that are eligible for stipend payments, adding the Detroit Region Aerotropolis board to the list and removing the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA). The stipend for service on the aerotropolis will be $100.

Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) had been appointed to serve on the aerotropolis at the county board’s Jan. 16, 2013 meeting. Sizemore’s appointment on Jan. 16 came in the context of the annual … [Full Story]

Bonds OK’d for Allen Creek Drain Project

Washtenaw County commissioners authorized backing bonds for a drain project along Miller Avenue in Ann Arbor – in the Allen Creek drainage district – with the county’s full faith and credit. The unanimous vote took place at the county board’s Feb. 20, 2013 meeting, following initial approval on Feb. 6, 2013.

The backing is for up to $1.58 million in bonds for the project, which will repaid through a special assessment against the city of Ann Arbor. The project is being handled by the office of the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner, led by Evan Pratt. It’s the first project brought forward by Pratt, who took office in January.

According to a staff memo, the funds will be used “to … [Full Story]

County Honors Chelsea Lanes, Purple Rose

Two Chelsea organizations – Purple Rose Theatre and Chelsea Lanes – were recognized for their support of the community at the Feb. 20, 2013 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. Resolutions of appreciation were brought forward by Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1), whose district includes the city of Chelsea.

The Purple Rose Theatre – founded by the actor Jeff Daniels, who lives in the area – is a nonprofit professional theater located in downtown Chelsea. The resolution of appreciation cites several contributions, including the theater’s weekly Wednesday matinee held for the community, and its partnerships with local businesses and entities like the Chelsea District Library. [.pdf Purple Rose Theatre resolution]

Chelsea Lanes, a bowling alley owned … [Full Story]

County Programs Get Grant Funding

Three items related to grants and programs administered by the county’s office of community & economic development (OCED) were given final approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at their Feb. 20, 2013 meeting.

The items are: (1) the Michigan Works! system plan for 2013 [.pdf of 2013 MWSP]; (2) $20,000 in federal funding (Community Services Block Grant discretionary funds) to conduct a needs assessment of the New West Willow Neighborhood Association, supplemented with $5,000 in county matching funds; and (3) $20,000 in federal funding (Community Services Block Grant discretionary funds) for tax preparation services to low-income customers, in partnership with Avalon Housing, Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County, Housing Bureau for Seniors and Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan.

These items … [Full Story]

Grant Application Deadline Wrong

In a news ticker item about the 721 N. Main property, we provided an inaccurate date for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant application deadline. The deadline for the grant application  is April 1, 2013. The physical testing of the building at 721 N. Main is due to be completed by May 31. That deadline is driven by a task force deadline to report to the city council by July 31, 2013. We note the mistake here and have corrected the original brief.