Funding Resolution for Pedestrian Safety Group Voted Down

A resolution appropriating a total of $197,250 to fund the work of a pedestrian safety and access task force was voted down at the Ann Arbor city council’s April 7, 2014 meeting. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) attempted simply to withdraw the resolution, but the council wound up debating the question for more than a half hour before unanimously voting it down.

Previous action to postpone the resolution until April 7 had come at the council’s March 3, 2014 meeting amid concerns over the amount of funding and questions from councilmembers about the need for support from a consultant.

The rejection of  the resolution at the April 7 meeting does not mean that the task force will be prevented from doing its work. Here’s why. In the resolution that was rejected, the total amount proposed to be appropriated for the task force project budget was $197,250. That amount included an “estimated $122,500” as the approximate cost of the anticipated city staff effort for the project. The total project budget included $77,400 for a professional services agreement with Project Innovations Inc.

So the portion of the project budget that requires hard costs to be covered – other than city staff time – is the cost for the consultant to provide facilitation services. And according to a staff memo to the city administrator written after council’s March 3 action to postpone, the bulk of the cost can already be covered in an existing budget allocation. From the March 27, 2014 staff memo to the city administrator: “The estimated amount for the facilitation work is $70,000 to $90,000. Of this amount, $75,000 is currently budgeted for pedestrian safety and sidewalk-gap planning. The remaining $15,000 will be included in the City Administrator’s recommended FY 14 budget amendment.”

The connection between sidewalk gaps and the task force’s work is based in part on one of the “resolved” clauses establishing the task force: “… the task force will also address sidewalk gaps and create a tool for setting priorities for funding and filling those gaps; …” Another key “resolved” clause establishing the group’s scope of work includes the following: “… the task force will explore strategies to improve pedestrian safety and access within a framework of shared responsibility through community outreach and data collection, and will recommend to council improvements in the development and application of the Complete Streets model, using best practices, sound data and objective analysis.”

In addition to authorizing the funding, the April 7 resolution would have authorized a $77,400 contract with Project Innovations for the facilitation work. But now, it’s not clear whether that particular consultant will be selected for the work. Originally Project Innovations had been identified by staff as a contractor uniquely qualified to do the facilitation work. Project Innovations is familiar to city staff as the facilitator for a sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation study the city is currently conducting. But now the city has decided to issue an RFP (requests for proposals) for the facilitation work. [.pdf of RFP No. 893] Responses to the RFP are due by April 22, 2014.

At an April 4 task force meeting, Connie Pulcipher – a systems planner with the city of Ann Arbor – told members of the task force that they could be involved in the process of interviewing respondents to the RFP.

The pedestrian safety and access task force was established through a council resolution passed on Nov. 18, 2013. Confirmed as members of the task force on Jan. 21, 2014 were: Vivienne Armentrout, Neal Elyakin, Linda Diane Feldt, Jim Rees, Anthony Pinnell, Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, Kenneth Clark, Scott Campbell, and Owen Jansson.

All members attended the first meeting on April 4. At that meeting, task force members decided that they would elect a chair and secretary from among its members. They left until their next meeting the decision about who would serve in those roles. The delay in selecting a facilitator means that the original timeline for the group’s work, which included a final report by February 2015, has shifted to around August 2015.

Council deliberations on this item, which began after midnight, are included in The Chronicle’s live updates filed during the April 7 meeting.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.