Stories indexed with the term ‘Evan Pratt’

County Gets Info on Flooding, Shares Options

A meeting last week at Lawton Elementary School, in southwest Ann Arbor, fell the day before the one-year anniversary of significant overland flooding in the neighborhood. The flooding resulted from heavy rains last year on March 15, 2012. Last week’s meeting followed an earlier one held on Jan. 29, 2013.

Ann Arbor city storm drain in action. (Chronicle file photo)

Ann Arbor city storm drain in action. (Chronicle file photo)

The meetings are part of a study of the Upper Malletts Creek watershed, being conducted by the office of the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner under an agreement with the city of Ann Arbor. The year-long study is supposed to culminate in a final report due to the Ann Arbor city council in February 2014. Water resources commissioner Evan Pratt was on hand at the meeting, along with other members of the project team.

In response to direction from a citizens advisory group that’s been formed for the project, the team used the March 14 meeting to introduce residents to the basic toolkit for stormwater management techniques. The general stormwater management practices described at the meeting – without trying to analyze which solutions might be appropriate for specific locations in the area – ranged from increasing the number of catch basins in streets to the construction of underground detention facilities.

At least 60 residents attended the meeting, and seemed generally receptive to the idea that some money might actually be spent on infrastructure projects to reduce flooding in their neighborhood: “If you want me to sign up for you breaking up my street and putting [stormwater management infrastructure] in there, just give me a consent form and I will sign it tonight!”

The project team is also still in a phase of gathering information about specific experiences that residents have had with past flooding problems. And the same technology platform – an online mapping tool – can be used by residents for logging future flooding events. For help in using a smart-phone app, one attendee volunteered her grandson “for rent” to other residents. Members of the project team also indicated they welcomed information submitted in any format – including letters, face-to-face conversation and phone calls.

But it was a missing follow-up phone call – expected from one resident who’d attended the first meeting on Jan. 29 – that indicated some continuing frustration about the city’s footing drain disconnection (FDD) program. The frustrated resident’s experience had been that after an FDD program sump pump was installed in his basement, he’d started having problems with a wet basement – problems he hadn’t experienced before. Project manager Harry Sheehan, with the county water resources commissioner’s office, extended an apology for the missed communication and an offer to arrange a site visit.

The FDD program removes a building’s footing drain connection to the sanitary sewer system and redirects that stormwater flow to the system designed to handle it – the stormwater system. The FDD program, which has been somewhat controversial, is not the focus of the Upper Malletts Creek study. But residents got an assurance that the additional volume of rainwater that goes into the stormwater system – as a result of the FDD program – would be accounted for in all the modeling that’s done as part of this study. [Full Story]

Climate Action Plan Moves to City Council

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Nov. 20, 2012): An ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025 – with the goal of a 90% reduction by 2050 – was recommended for approval by the city’s planning commission at its most recent meeting.

Evan Pratt, Wendy Woods, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Former Ann Arbor planning commissioner Evan Pratt hugs Wendy Woods, the commission’s vice chair, after receiving recognition for his service at the group’s Nov. 20 meeting. On Nov. 6, Pratt was elected Washtenaw County water resources commissioner, and resigned from the city’s planning commission because of obligations for his new job. (Photos by the writer.)

The climate action plan includes about 80 recommended actions to help achieve those goals, ranging from possible changes in city code to actions that individuals or organizations can take voluntarily, like weatherizing buildings. [.pdf list of recommendations]

In his presentation of the plan, Nate Geisler of the city’s energy office told commissioners that the plan doesn’t tie the city to making firm commitments about these actions, but “it sets us on the path to doing this.” He indicated an urgency in taking action, highlighting the negative impact of global warming and the risks associated with doing nothing. The plan – which is coordinated with the city’s sustainability framework and with a similar effort by the University of Michigan – has already been recommended by the city’s energy and environmental commissions, and will be forwarded to the city council for its consideration.

Bonnie Bona, a planning commissioner who served on the task force that developed this plan, praised Geisler and Wayne Appleyard, chair of the city’s energy commission, for their role in leading the initiative. She offered the planning commission’s help in implementing the recommended actions. More information about the overall effort is online at

Also on the Nov. 20 agenda was a site plan and zoning request for a residential project at 2081 E. Ellsworth Road – called the Summit Townhomes. A similar version of the project had been previously postponed by commissioners in June of 2012. The current plan calls for building 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 includes two surface parking areas on the east and west sides of the site, each with 12 spaces.

On Nov. 20, the commission recommended approval of zoning the property R3 (townhouse dwelling district). That zoning proposal will be forwarded to the city council. But because of outstanding issues – including questions related to regrading the site’s steep slope – commissioners followed planning staff’s advice and voted to postpone a recommendation on the site plan.

In other action, the commission granted a special exception use that will allow the Memorial Christian Church to use a building at 1900 Manchester Road, off of Washtenaw Avenue. The building has been owned by and used as the Ann Arbor regional headquarters for the Girl Scouts Council. And six parcels in the northeast Ann Arbor Hills neighborhood – on Geddes, Seneca and Onondaga – were recommended for rezoning from R1B to R1C. Both are types of single-family dwelling districts. The rezoning would allow some of the larger lots to be divided.

During the Nov. 20 meeting, commissioner Eric Mahler gave a brief update from the commission’s ordinance revisions committee (ORC), which is reviewing recommendations on changes to the city’s R4C/R2A zoning district, including a report from a study advisory committee. He said ORC is still working on the project and hopes to have a report ready for city council in the spring of 2013. [For an overview of the R4C/R2A initiative, see Chronicle coverage: "Planning Group Weighs R4C/R2A Report."]

The meeting included a formal commendation for former planning commissioner Evan Pratt, who recently stepped down from the group after winning election on Nov. 6 as Washtenaw County water resources commissioner. Pratt had served on the planning commission since 2004, and had been its most senior current member. [Full Story]

Scheie, Pratt Vie for Water Resources Office

Competing for a position that many voters don’t even know exists – according to one candidate – Democrat Evan Pratt and Republican Eric Scheie answered questions about their approach to the job of Washtenaw County water resources commissioner at an Oct. 8 forum moderated by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area.

Evan Pratt, Eric Scheie, Washtenaw County water resources commissioner, League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Democrat Evan Pratt and Republican Eric Scheie at the Oct. 8 candidate forum for the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner. (Photos by the writer.)

Scheie, who ran for Ward 4 Ann Arbor city council last year but was defeated by incumbent Marcia Higgins, is concerned that environmentalists have prioritized water over people. He said he’s against water pollution, but thinks that in some cases the government goes too far in over-regulating. He also took issue with the approach of current water resources commissioner Janis Bobrin, saying he’d heard “horror stories” from some farmers who think there’s a plot to push them off their land.

In contrast, Pratt has worked closely with Bobrin and he highlighted her endorsement of his candidacy. He stressed his experience in working on public infrastructure projects as a civil/environmental engineer, as well as his work with the Huron River Watershed Council, the Ann Arbor planning commission and other local entities.

Both candidates have more information on their websites. Scheie’s site includes a description of his philosophy, including a reminder of the position’s origins as drain commissioner. Pratt’s site includes a list of supporters, which he also highlighted during his opening statement. Scheie and Pratt also supplied brief answers to five questions about their background and approach to the job for the League of Women Voters Vote 411 website.

The water resources commissioner is an elected position with a four-year term. Bobrin has served in that role since first being elected in 1988. She was instrumental in broadening the focus of the job – as well as its title – from drains to water resources. Bobrin decided not to run for re-election this year. She endorsed Pratt in both the Aug. 7 primary, when he defeated fellow Democrat Harry Bentz, as well as in the Nov. 6 general election against Scheie, who did not face a Republican primary challenger.

The Oct. 8 candidate forum was held at the studios of Community Television Network, and will be available online via CTN’s video-on-demand service. It was the first of three forums on Monday evening. Others covered the races for county treasurer and county clerk/register of deeds. The full schedule of candidate forums this week is on the league’s website. The forums are broadcast live on CTN’s Channel 19 starting at 7 p.m.

Information on local elections can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. The league’s website also includes a range of information on national, state and local candidates and ballot issues, and a “build my ballot” feature. [Full Story]

Who’ll Be Next Water Resources Commissioner?

Next year, for the first time in more than two decades, someone other than Democrat Janis Bobrin will be Washtenaw County’s water resources commissioner. Harry Bentz and Evan Pratt are competing in the Aug. 7 primary to be the Democratic candidate for that position, with the winner facing Republican Eric Scheie in the Nov. 6 general election.

Harry Bentz, Evan Pratt

From left: Democrats Harry Bentz and Evan Pratt are running for the position of Washtenaw County water resources commissioner. (Photos by the writer.)

Scheie is not challenged in the primary, so it was only Bentz and Pratt who attended a July 9 candidate forum moderated by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area. Questions asked during the 30-minute event covered issues directly related to the position, or dealt more broadly with water and environmental quality issues, such as fracking and the Pall/Gelman groundwater contamination. Other topics included regional collaboration, financing for drain projects, and the Allen Creek greenway in Ann Arbor.

Pratt emphasized his experience as a civil and environmental engineer, including work on local water resources projects. He also stressed the fact that he is endorsed by Bobrin. He noted his involvement with groups like the Huron River Watershed Council and the Ann Arbor planning commission. He stressed his financial experience – in managing projects and as treasurer for various professional groups.

Bentz stressed the importance of ordinary citizens getting involved in local government, and described the job of water resources commissioner as an administrative position. He put himself forward as an alternative to the “political machine” that he says had taken over local government. Bentz noted that he’s a lifelong resident of Washtenaw County, and could provide new blood in the political process.

Both Bentz and Pratt are Ann Arbor residents, as is the Republican candidate, Eric Scheie.

With offices on Zeeb Road in Scio Township, the office of the county water resources commissioner – formerly called the drain commissioner – is responsible for stormwater management, flood control, drainage systems and a wide range of other issues related to water quality throughout Washtenaw County. Recent projects include the Malletts Creek restoration, the RiverSafe public education program, and the Traver Creek stabilization project for a section that runs through the Leslie Park Golf Course.

The July 9 candidate forum was held at the studios of Community Television Network, and is available online via CTN’s video-on-demand service. Candidates gave opening and closing statements, and answered nine questions. The format was not designed for interaction between candidates, but each candidate was given an optional one-minute rebuttal to use once during the forum.

The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 7 primary has passed. Oct. 9 is the last day to register to vote for the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election. Information on voter registration can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. The League of Women Voters also has an online voter information site – – which includes biographical information on some candidates, stances on issues, and a “build my ballot” feature. [Full Story]

Bobrin Backs Pratt for Water Resources Post

Long-time Washtenaw County water resources commissioner Janis Bobrin has announced that she does not plan to run for re-election this year, ending her tenure of more than two decades in that elected position. In a press release issued on March 28, Bobrin endorsed fellow Democrat Evan Pratt for the election. [.pdf of press release]

Pratt, who currently serves on the Ann Arbor planning commission, is a senior project manager with the Spicer Group, a professional engineering firm with offices in Saginaw and St. Johns. He is also chair of the board for the nonprofit Huron River Watershed Council. According to the press release, Pratt is a licensed professional engineer in five states, including Michigan, with expertise in stormwater quality and … [Full Story]