Ann Arbor city council meeting Part 2: Non-budget items (May 20, 2013): Although the approval of the FY 2014 budget took up the majority of its meeting time, the council still completed a lot of other business. Budget deliberations are reported separately in Part 1 of the May 20, 2013 meeting report. Part 2 focuses on non-budget items.
From left: Community services area administrator Sumedh Bahl and city administrator Steve Powers. At the council’s May 20 meeting, Bahl was called on to explain the circumstances under which a homelessness outreach ministry was apparently charged a facility rental fee. (Photos by the writer.)
On the surface it seemed like a controversial new development at 413 E. Huron – approved by the council at its May 13 session – might be reconsidered with a different outcome. But the item added to the agenda at the start of the May 20 meeting was simply motivated by a need to rectify a technical detail – to correct a reference to the most recent set of project plans. The council dispatched the item with scant discussion.
Fees were a highlight of the meeting in several ways, beginning with public commentary. Several residents spoke against the city charging a parks & recreation rental fee to a local church, for its homelessness outreach ministry in Liberty Plaza. Mayor John Hieftje gave an assurance that it was his intent for the Pizza in the Park event to continue without being assessed a fee by the city.
On the council’s agenda were three sets of fees for different service areas of the city, including those for parks and recreation. The council approved fee increases for facility rental at Gallup Park and Cobblestone Farm, as well as various public services area fees, and fire inspection and permitting fees. The fire permit fees prompted moderate discussion among councilmembers, pushed by Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). Kunselman’s colleagues agreed to his call for a substantial reduction in fire permit fees for bonfires – based on the idea that lower fees would result in higher compliance.
Fees were also on the agenda in the form of utility rate increases, which the council gave initial approval. Because the utility rates are part of the city’s ordinances, they need an initial approval followed by a public hearing and then a second and final vote. In terms of revenue generated to the city, the proposed rate increases are expected to generate 3.55% ($739,244) more for drinking water, 4.25% ($955,531) more for the sanitary sewer, and 4% ($233,811) more for stormwater.
In other business, an economic development task force, put forward by Sally Petersen (Ward 2) over the last several weeks, was formally established by the council. Appointed to the task force for the city were Petersen, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and city administrator Steve Powers. The two other entities that are being asked to participate are Ann Arbor SPARK and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. They can appoint up to three members each.
Appointments to standing boards and commissions approved by the council at its May 20 meeting included Stephanie Buttrey to the greenbelt advisory commission (GAC), Susan Baskett to the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA), Paras Parekh to the city planning commission, and Jennifer Geer to the park advisory commission. Nominated to serve on GAC was Jennifer Fike.
A proposed ordinance on video privacy was again postponed by the council, this time until June 17. But the council did take action to approve a contract for roof repair at the Veterans Memorial Park ice arena.
Public commentary included a focus on how the city allocates its share of Act 51 money, which comes from the state to fund road maintenance. The city designates a portion of those funds for non-motorized facilities. In years past, that portion was 5%, but was reduced to 2.5% as a result of the economic downturn. Non-motorized transportation advocates are now calling for restoration to the 5% level. [Full Story]