Stories indexed with the term ‘Office of Community Development’

Lenart, Hall Take New Jobs in Housing

As Jennifer L. Hall prepares to start her new position as executive director of the Ann Arbor housing commission, Brett Lenart has been named to replace her as housing and infrastructure manager at the joint Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community development. Hall sent an email on Sunday night to announce the transition.

Hall had been offered the housing commission job at the commission board’s Oct. 19, 2011 meeting. The commission oversees the city of Ann Arbor’s public housing units, as well as the Section 8 program for Washtenaw, Monroe, and western Wayne counties. Hall’s last day with the office of community & economic development is Nov. 23.

Among his various responsibilities at the county, Lenart has managed the … [Full Story]

County Departmental Merge Gets Final OK

At their Aug. 3, 2011 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners gave final approval to a major consolidation of three county departments: the office of community development (OCD); the economic development & energy department; and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department. An initial vote of approval had been taken at their July 6, 2011 meeting, though some commissioners had asked for more details about the proposed changes, which would take effect on Jan. 1, 2012. [.pdf of responses to commissioner questions]

OCD director Mary Jo Callan will lead the new office of community & economic development. The goal is to cut costs by eliminating duplicated services in the face of declining revenues, while finding ways to deliver those services more efficiently … [Full Story]

County Departmental Reorg Gets Initial OK

A major consolidation of three county departments – the office of community development, the economic development & energy department, and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department – was given initial approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at their July 6, 2011 meeting. A final vote is expected at the board’s Aug. 3 meeting. The changes would take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

If the reorganization gets final approval, Mary Jo Callan, director of the office of community development, will lead the new office of community & economic development. The goal is to cut costs by eliminating duplicated services in the face of declining revenues, while finding ways to deliver those services more efficiently to citizens. Several personnel changes are part of … [Full Story]

Washtenaw Board Previews Consolidations

Washtenaw County board of commissioners briefing (June 28, 2011): At a briefing this week to preview agendas for their July 6 meeting and July 7 working session, county commissioners focused most of their questions and comments on a proposed departmental merger and trial court consolidation.

Ronnie Peterson Verna McDaniel

Washtenaw County commissioner Ronnie Peterson, right, and county administrator Verna McDaniel before the start of the chair's briefing on Tuesday, to preview agendas for the July 6 board meeting and July 7 working session. (Photo by the writer.)

Generating significant conversation was an item on the planned consolidation of three departments: The office of community development, the economic development & energy department, and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department. Commissioners wanted clarification on the status of the employee count listed out on the agenda: 11 positions eliminated, 3 jobs created, 20 reclassifications, 5 title changes and 1 position held vacant. County administrator Verna McDaniel told commissioners that while that seems like an extensive set of changes, in terms of people, all but one person had been given a “soft landing” within the county’s organization.

Another item that generated interest among commissioners was the second phase of the trial court consolidation project. Phase two will renovate the first floor of the downtown Ann Arbor courthouse to consolidate some trial court operations, as part of a restructuring that included moving the juvenile court from its Platt Road location earlier this year to the courthouse at Main & Huron. The consolidation was made possible in part due to the relocation of the 15th District Court from the downtown courthouse to the city of Ann Arbor’s new municipal center at Fifth & Huron. Commissioner conversation centered around the purview of the board’s space committee (consisting of Rolland Sizemore Jr. and Rob Turner) in connection with the future of the Platt Road building.

The board’s July 7 working session agenda led to an extended conversation about prioritization of the three items listed: (1) the split of the Washtenaw Community Health Organization (WCHO) from Washtenaw County; (2) the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority; and (3) the Ann Arbor Skatepark. Chair of the working session, Yousef Rabhi, did not attend Tuesday’s briefing, but with the consent of the working session’s vice chair, Rob Turner, the order to the agenda items was revised to put the WCHO item last. The rationale was to allow an open-ended time for adequate discussion – commissioner Ronnie Peterson figured he might need at least an hour for discussion on that item alone.

The presentation that commissioners will hear on the skatepark is likely to be similar to the one presented by Friends of the Skatepark at the Ann Arbor city council’s June 20 meeting.

Tuesday’s “chair’s briefing” was in a format similar to administrative briefings used in the past to preview upcoming adendas. Those administrative briefings were abandoned due to concerns expressed by some commissioners about accessibility. The June 28 briefing was conducted in the county boardroom and was video-recorded. It was the second in a series of three such briefings scheduled for the summer – the next one takes place on July 26, starting at 4 p.m., to prep for the Aug. 3 board meeting. [Full Story]

Report Shows Impact of Nonprofits on Economy

The city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County office of community development released a 16-page report on Tuesday, May 31, that attempts to quantify the economic impact of the 37 local nonprofits that are funded by the county and city. In 2011, the combined investments from the city and county in those nonprofits totaled $2.7 million. According to the report, those funds leveraged more than $34 million in non-local revenue.[.pdf of nonprofit investment report]

The report highlights six “return on investment” categories: (1) stabilizing the workforce and community by providing services like childcare, food and affordable housing; (2) leveraging millions of dollars in additional funding; (3) providing jobs – if combined, human services nonprofits funded by the city and county … [Full Story]

Three County Departments to Merge

Washtenaw County board of commissioners working session (May 5, 2011): A consolidation is underway for three county departments that share similar missions and programs: providing services to low-income residents; support for low-income housing; help for job seekers; and projects designed to spur economic development.

Conan Smith, Barbara Bergman, Mary Jo Callan

From left: Washtenaw County commissioners Conan Smith and Barbara Bergman, and Mary Jo Callan, director of the county/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, at the May 5, 2011 working session of the county board of commissioners. (Photos by the writer.)

County commissioners were given an update on these plans at their most recent working session. They’ll be asked to give initial approval to the consolidation at their June 1 meeting, with final approval on July 6.

Mary Jo Callan, who is expected to lead the new office of community & economic development, made the presentation and fielded most of the questions from commissioners. She is currently director of the office of community development, a joint department of the county and city of Ann Arbor, and one of the three departments slated to merge. The goal, Callan said, is to provide a more coherent approach to the broad spectrum of community development, from providing for basic needs to helping people get jobs. And in a climate of reduced resources, they’ll be eliminating duplication and cutting costs, she said, while making it easier for residents to get the services they need.

The three departments – the office of community development (OCD), ETCS (the employment training and community services department) and the economic development & energy department – employ nearly 60 people with a combined budget of about $16 million. Staff cuts will likely result from the changes – those and other details are still being worked out.

Most commissioners expressed support for this effort, though some wanted more information – including a business plan for the new department – before their June 1 vote.

The working session also included a presentation and discussion on the Packard Square brownfield redevelopment, an issue that was initially debated at the board’s May 4 meeting. A Chronicle report on that part of the working session will be published separately. [Full Story]

Washtenaw Gets More Housing Funds

More than $400,000 in unanticipated federal funding – including a $250,000 “green” grant for Avalon Housing‘s Near North in Ann Arbor – allowed board members of the Washtenaw Urban County to boost funding for several low-income housing and community development projects at their April 27 meeting.

Van for Avalon Housing

A van for Avalon Housing, parked at the nonprofit's headquarters in the Northern Brewery building on Jones Drive. Avalon recently received a $250,000 federal "green" grant for its Near North affordable housing development on North Main.

In addition to the grant for Near North – a proposed 39-unit affordable housing development on Main Street just north of downtown – the Urban County also received nearly $180,000 more than anticipated in federal funding through the Community Development Block Grant program for the coming fiscal year.

The board voted to divvy up those additional funds to projects in the Urban County’s three largest jurisdictions – Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. They also approved setting aside nearly $27,000 for as-yet-unspecified human services support, in light of possible cuts in city of Ann Arbor funding to local nonprofits.

The focus on allocations at Tuesday’s meeting prompted this comment from Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber: “It’s a pleasure to sit on a board that has money to spend!” [Full Story]

“Urban County” Allocates Housing Funds

At their March 23 meeting, members of the Washtenaw Urban County – a consortium of 11 local municipalities that handles federal grants for low-income housing and other projects – approved over $2.6 million in allocations for the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.

Margie Teall, Leah Gunn, Mary Jo Callan, Damon Thompson

Mary Jo Callan, director of the Office of Community Development, discusses proposed funding for housing projects at the Washtenaw Urban County meeting on Tuesday. At left are Ann Arbor city councilmember Margie Teall and county commissioner Leah Gunn, who chairs the Urban County executive committee. At right is Damon Thompson, OCD's operations manager. (Photos by the writer.)

The group also had a frank discussion about problems with struggling Gateway Apartments in Ypsilanti Township – the complex is operating at a loss and is putting strains on the nonprofit Avalon Housing, which took over management from the nearly-defunct Washtenaw Affordable Housing Corp.

In addition, Urban County members reallocated federal funds that had previously been earmarked to support a county land bank. The county’s board of commissioners voted to dissolve the land bank earlier this month.

Also approved during Tuesday’s meeting was the draft of an annual plan for July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. The plan outlines projects and a nearly $4 million budget from two federal programs for low-income neighborhoods. Avalon Housing’s Near North apartment complex, the Delonis Center homeless shelter, and an owner-occupied housing rehab program are among the projects being funded.

Staff of the Office of Community Development, a joint county/city of Ann Arbor department which among other things manages the Urban County projects, also reported on efforts to recruit more local governments to join the Urban County. OCD director Mary Jo Callan joked that there were two perception problems in marketing the Urban County: urban and county. [Full Story]