Stories indexed with the term ‘energy grant’

County Amends Energy Alliance Accord

Washtenaw County commissioners have approved amendments to an interlocal agreement with the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office Community Alliance. The action took place at the county board’s Feb. 6, 2013 meeting. There was minimal discussion on this item.

The history of this partnership dates back to 2010. The county board voted initially to join the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office (SEMREO) – a separate entity from the SEMREO Community Alliance – at its March 17, 2010 meeting. At the time, SEMREO was a division of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, a Ferndale-based nonprofit that’s led by county commissioner Conan Smith. Smith abstained from the March 17, 2010 vote, following conflict-of-interest concerns raised by other commissioners. SEMREO later split off from the Michigan … [Full Story]

DDA Sends William Street Project to Council

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Jan. 9, 2013): The first meeting of the year for the DDA’s board featured a packed agenda – with items ranging from budget adjustments to the adoption of recommendations on the Connecting William Street project. Also voted on by the board were grants to the nonprofit Dawn Farm, an allocation of funds for the DDA’s energy grant program, and two monthly parking permits for The Varsity residential development.

Walkable City is a volume brought to the Jan. 9, 2013 Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting by local developer Peter Allen.

Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City” was a volume brought to the Jan. 9, 2013 Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting by local developer Peter Allen. (Photos by the writer.)

The budget adjustments to FY 2013 were made in order to account for roughly $2.6 million in construction costs associated with the Library Lane underground parking garage. They had been allocated in the previous year’s budget, but not paid last year – because the completion of the construction extended into this fiscal year.

The FY 2012 audit report, which the board also approved at its Jan. 9 meeting, shows that for FY 2012, the DDA spent about $2.5 million less than anticipated for that year – because the construction invoices were not all submitted to the DDA by the time books closed for the year.

The result of those changes leaves a budget with $22,237,924 in revenues against $26,339,555 in expenses for the year – which translates to a planned use of the DDA’s fund balance reserve of $4,101,632. That’s about half of the existing fund balance.

Not a part of the revised budget was the approval of two allocations made by the board – one of $50,000 in connection with the DDA’s existing energy grant program, and another of $150,000 for a grant to Dawn Farm, a nonprofit offering both residential and out-patient services supporting recovery for alcoholics and drug addicts. The energy allocation will essentially attempt to leverage energy audits completed through the DDA’s program for use in the Michigan Saves program, which offers low-interest financing for energy improvements.

The board also approved recommendations to be forwarded to the city council on the future redevelopment of five city-owned sites currently used for parking. The project, which is now named Connecting William Street (CWS), began with an April 4, 2011 city council resolution that directed the DDA to seek “robust public input” from experts, stakeholders and residents to develop a plan for those parcels.

In connection with the parcels in that area, the board also adopted a policy on possible grants from the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) funds to support development of the CWS properties. The policy makes clear that the DDA would not forgo its TIF capture on any property – but the amount of the grant would be calculated based on TIF revenue.

Also in connection with the CWS project, the board heard remarks during public commentary from representatives of the city’s park advisory commission as well as the State Street Area Association. The board also invited Doug Kelbaugh, a University of Michigan professor of architecture and urban planning, to share his thoughts on parks versus plazas – and why he thinks the site on top of the Library Lane parking garage is more likely to succeed as a plaza instead of a park. [Full Story]

County Board Forms Energy Subcommittee

At its Dec. 7, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted to create an energy policy subcommittee, and appointed commissioners Rob Turner, Alicia Ping, Wes Prater and Yousef Rabhi as members. The subcommittee’s purpose is to help develop a county energy policy. Such a policy is required in order to receive federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants.

At its Aug. 3, 2011 meeting, the board had held a public hearing and subsequently approved an interlocal agreement with the Southeast Michigan Energy Office Community Alliance (SEMRO). The Ferndale-based nonprofit (SEMRO) provides technical services to the county in identifying and implementing federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant projects. [.pdf of interlocal agreement]

The energy office is a division of the Michigan … [Full Story]

Infrastructure Outlook: “Train Wreck”

With revenues declining on several fronts and investments cut as a result, the infrastructure of southeast Michigan – its transit, water and sewer systems – is facing a “train wreck,” Washtenaw County commissioners were told at a recent working session.

A report from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, drafted by a task force on infrastructure led by county board chair Rolland Sizemore Jr., laid out steps that SEMCOG hopes to take to address the situation – including, most immediately, lobbying Lansing lawmakers to raise the state’s gas tax, which funds road construction and upkeep. The briefing prompted commissioner Jeff Irwin to express frustration at SEMCOG’s approach, which he indicated wasn’t bold enough to tackle the underlying problems that have fostered sprawl.

At their May 20 session, commissioners also got an update on what’s known as the Chevron project – a multi-year, multimillion-dollar effort to cut energy usage in county facilities. And staff of the county’s energy and economic development office asked for feedback from commissioners about what type of pilot project the county should pursue, as part of a recent federal energy grant. Some commissioners are leaning toward a solar photovoltaic installation.

The meeting also included a presentation by county administrator Verna McDaniel on a request for more funds to complete the county jail expansion and new 14A-1 District Court facility. The Chronicle covered that topic in a previous report. [Full Story]

MSU Extension Changes in the Works

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners working session (March 4, 2010): Budget challenges at Michigan State University are prompting major changes in the MSU Extension program statewide, though many unanswered questions remain about how the changes will impact Washtenaw County.

Nancy Thalen

At left: Nancy Thelen, director of the Washtenaw County MSU Extension program, talks with county commissioner Leah Gunn after the board of commissioners' March 4 working session. (Photo by the writer.)

Nancy Thelen, the long-time director of the Washtenaw County MSU Extension program, gave commissioners an update on the changes at their March 4 working session. One major change is that the county director positions are being eliminated, to be replaced by district coordinators who’ll be responsible for multiple counties.

Several commissioners expressed strong support for Thelen and her staff, but said they weren’t pleased about what’s happening. Said Wes Prater: “Quite frankly, I’m not sold on what’s being done.”

Also at Thursday’s session, commissioners were briefed about plans for the county to join the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office – they’ll be asked to vote on this move at an upcoming meeting.

And Verna McDaniel, who’ll be replacing county administrator Bob Guenzel when he retires in May, gave an update on planning initiatives, focusing on ways that the county is preparing to respond to external trends like the depressed economy. [Full Story]

Budget Crunch Backdrop Drives Council

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Dec. 21, 2009) Part II: In Part I of our report, we handled two meeting topics clearly related to the looming budget shortfall: public art expenditures and parking revenue.

members of firefighters local union

Members of International Association of Firefighters Local 693 waited past midnight until their president finally was able to take his turn at public commentary during unreserved time at the end of the meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Two rows of firefighters from the International Association of Firefighters Local 693 – layoff notices have already been sent to some of them – sat in the audience through the whole meeting, which lasted until midnight.

Like the firefighters, sitting at least in the background of nearly every item on the agenda, were the looming budget issues that the city council faces.

When they came to the foreground, the concerns about the budget managed to connect topics as seemingly disparate as Verizon antennae and parking revenues.

Even a garden-variety contract with a consultant for the greenbelt provoked some brief discussion related to the budget shortfall.

The impetus behind the council’s committee reorganization was again … the budget. What was previously one budget and labor committee was split into two committees: (i) the budget committee, and (ii) the labor committee, which is now combined with the council administration committee. That reorganization was pitched as a way to allow representation from each ward on the five-member budget committee.

Councilmembers and the city administrator also made robust use of the communications section of the agenda to provide status updates on their recent work – much of it related to efforts to identify new revenue streams and ways to cut expenses as part of the effort to meet budget goals.

In other business, the purchase of carts for single-stream recycling was authorized, plus an energy grant totaling over $1 million was accepted. [Full Story]