Stories indexed with the term ‘federal grants’

AAATA OKs More North-South Rail Study

Additional study of north-south commuter rail has been approved by the board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. The contact for work to be done by SmithGroupJJR for up to $800,000 worth of planning work was approved by the AAATA board in action taken at its July 24, 2014 board meeting. [.pdf memo for July 24, 2014 WALLY resolution]

Planning and work for north-south commuter rail between Ann Arbor and Howell in Livingston County has been going on for several years in a project that has been called WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Railway). The AAATA appears to be transitioning to a project label that incorporates “N-S Rail” as part of the description.

About two years ago, at its  Aug. 16, … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Applies for Gallup Path Repair

The Ann Arbor city council has approved a grant application to fund renovations to a pathway that runs through Gallup Park, which is part of the countywide Border-to-Border Trail connecting the eastern and western borders of Washtenaw County. Renovations would include repairs to the existing asphalt, as well as widening to 10 feet – in part to meet current American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards.

Gallup Park, Border to Border trail, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Aerial view showing location of trail improvements at Gallup Park. (Links to larger image.)

The council approved the grant application as a part of the consent agenda … [Full Story]

County Board OKs Change to Grant Process

Washtenaw County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution that gives blanket approval in the future to nearly 30 annual entitlement grants received by the county totaling an estimated $8.8 million, beginning in 2014. Currently, each of those grants requires separate annual approval by the board. The vote was 6-0, with three commissioners absent: Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) and Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6).

The action, taken at the board’s Sept. 18, 2013 meeting, was one of several items related to the office of community & economic development, which administers these grants. An initial vote on this item had been taken on Sept. 4, 2013.

According to a staff memo, these grants are awarded on a reoccurring basis based … [Full Story]

Greenbelt Commission Elects New Leaders

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (July 11, 2013): GAC’s first meeting of the fiscal year was relatively brief, lasting less than an hour – including about 35 minutes in closed session to discuss possible land acquisition.

Jennifer Fike, Archer Christian, Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commissioners Jennifer Fike and Archer Christian. Fike was attending her first meeting as a GAC member. (Photos by the writer.)

It was the first meeting for the newest commissioner, Jennifer Fike, who replaced Laura Rubin. The last meeting for long-time commissioners Rubin, Dan Ezekiel and Tom Bloomer was on June 6, 2013. Jean Cares, owner of the Dexter Mill, was nominated at the Ann Arbor city council’s July 1 meeting to replace Bloomer, with a confirmation vote expected by the council on July 15.

Also on July 15, John Ramsburgh’s name is expected to be put forward to replace Ezekiel, with a confirmation vote on Aug. 8. If those two appointments go through, all seats on the greenbelt advisory commission would be filled.

Commissioners elected new officers on July 11, unanimously voting for Catherine Riseng as chair and Shannon Brines as vice chair. Both work at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment. Riseng, an aquatic ecologist, is a research program manager at SNRE, while Brines is manager of SNRE’s environmental spatial analysis (ESA) lab. Brines also runs Brines Farm near Dexter.

At their July 11 meeting, commissioners also received news about the city’s 2013 application to the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP). The city is receiving grants totaling about $220,000 for land preservation of two properties in Lodi Township: (1) a portion of the Donald Drake farm along Waters Road; and (2) the Carol Schumacher farm along Pleasant Lake Road. [Full Story]

Weatherization Grant Gets Final Approval

Washtenaw County commissioners gave final approval to accept $185,654 in funds for the county’s weatherization assistance program. The unanimous vote came at the board’s May 1, 2013 meeting, following initial approval on April 17.

The funding roughly equals the amount of federal weatherization dollars that the county received in 2012, which was a decrease of about 65% compared to 2011 federal funding levels. The current funding is allocated through the 2013 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The county last received LIHEAP funding in 2010, but has received weatherization grants from other federal funding sources in the intervening years.

For the period from April 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, the program is expected to weatherize 27 homes. According to … [Full Story]

Urban County’s Strategic Plan Gets Initial OK

Washtenaw Urban County‘s five-year strategic plan through 2018 and its 2013-14 annual plan has received initial approval from the county board of commissioners. The vote came at the board’s May 1, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of draft strategic and annual plans]

The Urban County is a consortium of Washtenaw County and 18 local municipalities that receive federal funding for low-income neighborhoods. Members include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and 15 townships. “Urban County” is a designation of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), identifying a county with more than 200,000 people. With that designation, individual governments within the Urban County can become members, entitling them to an allotment of funding through a variety of … [Full Story]

FEMA Grant to Fund 721 N. Main Demolition

Two buildings on the city-owned 721 N. Main property near downtown Ann Arbor will now be demolished, using $87,704 in funds granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

721 N. Main site showing the two buildings to be demolished, which are located in the floodway.

721 N. Main site showing the two buildings to be demolished, which are located in the floodway.

The unanimous vote to accept the funds came at the council’s March 4, 2013 meeting. The 721 N. Main site is a former city maintenance yard, and is part of a … [Full Story]

Greenbelt Group Praises Year-End Efforts

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Feb. 7, 2013): At their first meeting of 2013 – because the January session had been canceled – commissioners formally thanked individuals who’d made an extra effort on end-of-year land deals for the greenbelt program.

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, Laura Rubin, Archer Christian, Ginny Trocchio, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commissioners Laura Rubin and Archer Christian, and Ginny Trocchio (standing) of The Conservation Fund, who provides staff support for the greenbelt program. (Photos by the writer.)

A resolution of recognition was presented to Mary Fales, senior assistant attorney for the city of Ann Arbor; Matt Keir, vice president of Liberty Title; Rosanne Bloomer, a lending officer for Greenstone Farm Credit Services – and wife of GAC commissioner Tom Bloomer; and Ginny Trocchio of The Conservation Fund, who provides staff support for the greenbelt program.

GAC chair Dan Ezekiel praised their work, noting that certain factors – including a change in tax law – had added pressure to complete the deals before Dec. 31. The transactions protected a total of about 320 acres in Webster, Salem and Superior townships.

Trocchio also reported that the purchase of development rights for part of the Donald Drake farm – 124 acres of farmland in Lodi Township – had closed earlier this year, making it the first deal of 2013. More than 4,200 acres have now been protected under the greenbelt program, she noted.

Another topic highlighted at the Feb. 7 meeting was the need to recruit new members for the commission. Liz Rother resigned earlier this year, though her term runs through June 30, 2014. Ezekiel also pointed out that he and two other commissioners – Laura Rubin and Tom Bloomer – will be leaving the commission this summer, when their terms expire. All three are term-limited. He urged members of the public to consider applying.

The meeting ended with commissioners voting to approve recommendations for additional land preservation deals. Two of those items – seeking approval to apply for grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) – are now on the agenda for the Ann Arbor city council’s Feb. 19, 2013 meeting. The properties are both in Lodi Township: (1) another part of the Drake farm – 72 acres along Waters Road; and (2) the Carol Schumacher farm – about 100 acres along Pleasant Lake Road. [Full Story]

County Lays Groundwork for Budget Talks

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Jan. 16, 2013): Washtenaw County government will be working to erase a projected $24.64 million general fund deficit over a four-year period from 2014 through 2017. County administrator Verna McDaniel and her financial staff gave a budget briefing to county commissioners at their Jan. 16 meeting.

Verna McDaniel, Washtenaw County administrator, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Washtenaw County administrator Verna McDaniel gave a budget update to commissioners at their Jan. 16, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Although a much smaller general fund deficit of $3.93 million is projected for 2014, McDaniel hopes to make $6.88 million in structural changes that year – a combination of new revenues and cuts in expenditures. If that happens, “we’d be done – we’d have no deficit” going forward, McDaniel said, because those cuts and revenue increases would compound and carry over into future years.

To do that, for 2014 the goal is to generate an additional $1.2 million in revenue, reduce operating costs by $2.96 million, cut $100,000 from outside agency funding, and find $2.62 million in reductions to employee compensation and benefits.

McDaniel noted that for 2012-2013, the county overcame a $17.5 million deficit – but only about $7.3 million of that came from structural changes. Yousef Rabhi, the board’s chair, noted that even though the $6.88 million target is lower, the cuts will be a challenge because many services are already cut to a minimal level.

The board has set a planning retreat for Thursday, March 7 at 6 p.m. – to be held during its regular working session – to talk about budget priorities.

In other action at the Jan. 16 meeting, commissioners were appointed to more than 40 boards, commissions and committees. [.pdf of 2013 appointments listing] Because of changes approved late last year, commissioners will receive stipends based on the number of groups on which they serve, and the number of meetings that they are expected to attend.

Though there are still some details to be determined, a tentative tally of stipends shows a total of $8,800 for all nine commissioners, with individual pay ranging from a low of $0 for Ronnie Peterson, the only commissioner with no appointments, to $2,700 for Yousef Rabhi, whose appointments include several that are mandatory because of his position as board chair.

Unlike the previous per diem system – when commissioners had to request payments, which were administered by the county clerk’s office – the stipend payments will be pro-rated, aggregated and paid out biweekly as part of a commissioner’s paycheck. No one is responsible for monitoring attendance, and absences will only be addressed if brought to the attention of the board chair.

During the Jan. 16 meeting, commissioners also approved a variety of federal grants, primarily related to funding for homeland security and job training. And given initial approval was an application for a $20,000 grant to fund expansion of an after-school program called “Telling It” in the West Willow and MacArthur Boulevard housing developments – low-income neighborhoods on the east side of Washtenaw County.

The grant application is unusual in that it’s the first time a county unit – in this case, the sheriff’s office – has sought funding through the coordinated funding pilot program, which was designed to support human services more effectively in this community. The coordinated funding is a partnership of Washtenaw County, the city of Ann Arbor, the United Way of Washtenaw County, the Washtenaw Urban County, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. [Full Story]

Homeland Security Items OK’d by County

Three agenda items related to homeland security grants were approved by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its Jan. 16, 2013 meeting.

The county board was asked to authorize a change in fiduciary for homeland security grants. The Southeast Michigan Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) board oversees homeland security funding and policy for this region. The UASI has named Macomb County as regional fiduciary. Previously, Oakland County held that designation. The change requires that Washtenaw County sign a new inter-local fiduciary agreement with Macomb County before any funds from previously awarded grants can be distributed.

The county is receiving $816,713 in 2011 federal homeland security grant funds, for a period through May 30, 2014. The emergency services division of the county … [Full Story]

Jobs Training Grants Get Initial County OK

An initial vote to accept funding for three workforce development programs – totaling about $1.35 million – was taken by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at their Jan. 16, 2013 meeting. Final approval is expected at the board’s Feb. 6 meeting. The programs are overseen by the joint county/city of Ann Arbor office of community and economic development (OCED), which manages the local Michigan Works! office.

The grants include $1.16 million in federal funding for Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope. (PATH), an orientation and job placement program for people who are applying for or receiving welfare assistance. The program was previously called Jobs, Education and Training (JET).

The county board also gave initial authorization to a $111,750 increase in federal grant … [Full Story]

AATA in Transition, Briefed on State’s Plans

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Jan. 19, 2012): The AATA board’s meeting consisted of pro forma, ordinary business set against a backdrop of several transitions.

Rich Robben University of Michigan Ann Arbor Transportation Authority

Rich Robben's last meeting as an Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board member was Jan. 19, 2012. (Photos by the writer.)

The board itself is in transition – Thursday was Rich Robben’s last meeting as an AATA board member. And the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, attended his first meeting since his nomination was confirmed by the Ann Arbor city council on Dec. 19, 2011. He replaces Sue McCormick on the board.

The AATA as an organization is also possibly in transition, as it seeks to establish a new, countywide governance structure under Michigan’s Act 196 of 1986. To provide a framework for that move, AATA is asking three other entities – the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County – to ratify an agreement with the AATA. The Ann Arbor city council postponed action on that agreement at its Jan. 9, 2012 meeting, but is expected to take action on Jan. 23. A public hearing on the four-party agreement is scheduled for that council meeting as well. CEO Michael Ford reported that the text of the four-party agreement is currently being revised, to promote clarity.

And as the AATA works on a possible move to countywide governance of public transit in Washtenaw County, Michigan’s state legislature may also act to establish a regional transit authority (RTA) for southeast Michigan that would add Washtenaw to Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties.

The AATA board got a briefing on possible upcoming RTA legislation from Dusty Fancher, a consultant for the Michigan Public Transit Association (MPTA). Fancher, who’s employed by Midwest Strategy Group, stressed that the RTA legislation – for which no details have yet been released publicly – comes in the context of a larger transportation infrastructure agenda being pushed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. That larger agenda includes a focus on funding for roads.

Like the move to a local countywide governance, the funding for an RTA would probably include a request to voters for additional taxes. If the state’s RTA legislation were passed before the November 2012 election – and if a decision also were made to place a ballot request to Washtenaw County voters to fund more transportation within the county – that would potentially result in two transportation tax initiatives in the same election.

How likely is it that the state’s RTA legislation would be passed before the November 2012 election? Fancher said that if nothing were passed by March 2012, she’d bet money that nothing would happen before November. Also at the AATA board meeting, Clark Harder, executive director of the MPTA, indicated that it’s important to understand that Snyder does not currently have the votes within his own Republican Party to push the RTA package forward.

Against that backdrop of transition and many unknowns, the AATA went about some regular business with quantifiable, known facts. The board authorized the purchase of up to 25 vans to provide van pool service. The board also authorized its capital grant program for the next five years, which allows for an additional $1.5 million of federal and state grant money to go towards the reconstruction of the downtown Ann Arbor Blake Transit Center.

The board also heard its usual range of public commentary and reports from committees. [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]

County Board OKs Urban County Renewal

At its Sept. 7, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave final approval to continue the county’s participation in the Washtenaw Urban County program – from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015 – and to expand the program to include six additional jurisdictions.

“Urban County” is a designation of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, identifying a county with more than 200,000 people. With that designation, individual governments within the Urban County can become members, making them entitled to an allotment of funding through a variety of HUD programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships. Those two programs provide funding for projects to benefit low- and moderate-income residents, focused on … [Full Story]

Urban County Finalizes Funding Model

Washtenaw Urban County executive committee meeting (Nov. 16, 2010): The final piece of a coordinated funding model that’s been in the works for more than a year fell into place on Tuesday, when the Washtenaw Urban County’s executive committee voted unanimously to join the effort.

Mary Jo Callan

At the Nov. 16 meeting of the Urban County, Mary Jo Callan, director of the city of Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County office of community development, reviewed key points of the coordinated model for funding human services. (Photo by the writer.)

Two people – Steve Dobson, past chair of the local United Way board, and community activist Lily Au – spoke to the group during public commentary, taking opposite sides of the issue. But there was little discussion among committee members before the vote. Mary Jo Callan, head of the county/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, briefly recapped a detailed presentation she’d given in September, outlining how Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the Urban County would join with the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and Washtenaw United Way to coordinate their funding to local nonprofits.

The coordinated funding, managed by Callan’s staff, will give priority to programs and services addressing six key areas: housing/homelessness, aging, school-aged youth, children from birth to six, “safety net” health and food/hunger relief. In total, the five funding entities provide about $5 million annually for local human services nonprofits. The Urban County – a consortium of 11 local governments – contributes roughly $350,000 of that amount.

The committee also voted on three items related to affordable housing efforts: 1) implementing “green” construction standards for builders funded with federal HUD dollars, 2) approving a draft budget and annual request for proposals (RFP) for developers of affordable houses funded through the Urban County, and 3) making changes to the budget tracking for the Urban County’s homebuyer program. All votes were unanimous. [Full Story]

County Board Agenda: Health, Finance Issues

Discussion at the Feb. 24 briefing for the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners covered a broad range of topics, including health screenings for the 50-100 refugees who settle in the county each year, federal funding for low-income families, a drug discount card for local residents, and a bond refunding for financially-strapped Sylvan Township. Some commissioners had questions and concerns about all these topics.

The briefing, which previewed items on the March 3 board agenda, drew more than just commissioners and administrative staff. In addition to The Chronicle, two others attended Wednesday’s meeting: A candidate for the 11th District county board seat, currently held by Jeff Irwin; and the county treasurer, Catherine McClary.

McClary was there to answer questions related to two resolutions she had proposed – only one of them made it onto the March 3 agenda. In discussing the resolution that will be considered on Wednesday, McClary noted that delinquent taxes are on the rise, expected to reach around $40 million this year – more than double the amount just five years ago. [Full Story]