Stories indexed with the term ‘homeland security’

County Board Handles Lawsuit, Art, Budget

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (March 5, 2014): A light agenda at the March 5 meeting was punctuated by a relatively rare closed session to discuss pending litigation. The specific litigation wasn’t cited.

Jim Casha, Mary Jo Callan, southeast Michigan regional transit authority, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jim Casha shows Mary Jo Callan, director of Washtenaw County’s office of community & economic development, a map of the Michigan state fairgrounds. Casha is advocating for the southeast Michigan regional transit authority to develop the site as a regional transit hub. (Photos by the writer.)

However, in the previous week, a jury had awarded nearly $1.2 million to a former Washtenaw County employee, Ali Aboubaker, who had filed a discrimination lawsuit against the county in 2011. Responding to a query after the March 5 meeting, corporation counsel Curtis Hedger told The Chronicle that the county would be evaluating its options for appeal. The administration would also be meeting with the county’s insurance carrier to discuss the situation.

In other action, the board gave initial approval to hire a contract position that would support budget-related work for the board and administration. The item had been originally considered, but postponed, at the Feb. 5, 2014 meeting. The vote on March 5 was 7-1, over dissent from Dan Smith (R-District 2). Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) was absent.

Commissioners also voted to accept a grant from the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs for the Youth Arts Alliance (YAA). Washtenaw County is the fiduciary for this five-county collaborative, which provides creative arts workshops to youth in the juvenile justice system. The county also provides office space for YAA.

The grant will pay local artists to install public art at each of the five county juvenile facilities, made with help from the youth at those facilities. The youth will also work with local musicians to create an original album. The alliance’s director, Heather Wilson, told commissioners: “We are seeing huge transformations with the kids experiencing creative arts as an outlet.”

During his communications to the board, chair Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) laid out the application process to fill the seat on the Washtenaw County road commission board left vacant by the recent death of long-time road commissioner Fred Veigel. The deadline for submitting applications is Sunday, March 16. Rabhi hopes to make a nomination at the board’s March 19 meeting. The appointment would be to fill the remainder of Veigel’s term, through Dec. 31, 2014. During the March 5 meeting, commissioners passed resolutions honoring Veigel as well as local activist Lois Mayfield, who died on Feb. 21.

Commissioners also scheduled a public hearing to give input for the Washtenaw Urban County 2014-15 action plan. The hearing will be held at the county boardroom in downtown Ann Arbor during the March 19 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. It’s intended to solicit feedback about proposed projects and programs that the county intends to implement with federal funding – through community development block grant (CDBG), HOME and emergency shelter grant programs – from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

The March 5 meeting included an update from Diane Heidt, the county’s human resources and labor relations director, about a proposal to offer autism health care coverage for county employees. A formal resolution is expected to be on the March 19 agenda for the board’s consideration.

Public commentary included advocacy from Jim Casha, who has previously addressed the board regarding the southeast Michigan regional transit authority. Washtenaw County is a member of the RTA, and the county board appoints two representatives to the RTA board. Casha’s remarks focused on the benefits of using the former state fairgrounds as a regional transit hub, instead of private development. [Full Story]

County to Get Homeland Security Grant

Washtenaw County commissioners have given initial approval to authorize the acceptance of $444,215 from the federal homeland security grant program, to fund projects and positions in the county sheriff’s office for a period from Sept. 1, 2013 through May 31, 2015. The action came at the county board’s March 5, 2014 meeting. A final vote is expected on March 19.

According to a staff memo, each project was reviewed and recommended by Washtenaw County’s homeland security task force. Major allocations include $117,983 for the Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team; $107,704 for Washtenaw County Sheriff Emergency Services; and $90,000 to continue funding an existing crime analyst position in the sheriff’s office. The position is dedicated to the Detroit/Southeast Michigan Fusion Center, which coordinates crime analysis efforts and regional … [Full Story]

UM Football Game Day Street Closures OK’d

City streets on three sides of the University of Michigan football stadium will have traffic restrictions on game days in 2013. The Ann Arbor city council action authorizing street and lane closures came at its Aug. 8, 2013 meeting.

UM football game day street closures.

UM football game day street closures (pink) with detour route (purple).

Vehicle access on the fourth side of Michigan Stadium, on university property, will also be restricted.

The street closures are new security measures. According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, it’s … [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]