Stories indexed with the term ‘parking rates’

City Delays Parking Lease with University

A two-year extension on a University of Michigan lease of three city of Ann Arbor parking lots at Fuller Park has been delayed by the city council.

The council’s unanimous vote to postpone consideration of the lease agreement came at its Aug. 18, 2014 meeting, after a brief discussion. The council will take up the item again at its first meeting in October – on Oct. 6. The lease came to the council with a recommendation of approval from the park advisory commission, given at its July 15, 2014 meeting. The council now wants PAC to take another look at the agreement.

[Full Story]

Column: Parking Oversight, Please

On-street metered parking in and near downtown Ann Arbor costs $1.50 an hour. Rates have not been increased since September 2012. By the terms of the contract under which the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA) operates the parking system on behalf of the city, the DDA – not the city council – has the authority to raise rates.

(City of Ann Arbor public parking system data from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, charts by The Chronicle)

Comparing the periods October 2012 through June 2012 to October 2013 through June 2014 – when rates have been constant – revenue has increased 1.20% to $14,647,274, while the number of hourly patrons has decreased by 1.65% to 1,661,256. (City of Ann Arbor public parking system data from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, charts by The Chronicle.)

What if on-street metered rates were raised a dime, and rates across other parts of the parking system were also raised by an equivalent percentage?

Although the DDA operates the parking system, that kind of 6.7% rate increase would directly benefit the city’s general fund. By how much?

First, any increase to the city’s general fund revenue is a function of the contract with the city of Ann Arbor, under which the DDA operates the roughly 8,000-space public parking system. The contract stipulates that the city receives 17% of gross parking system revenues.

Total parking system revenues are budgeted by the DDA for the 2015 fiscal year at about $19.3 million. So in ballpark numbers, the 17% equates to a roughly $3.2 million transfer to the city. Of that $3.2 million, about $2.3 million will go to the general fund, while the remaining amount will go to the fund the city uses to maintain downtown streets. That division of the transfer payment by the city has its historical roots in an arrangement between the city and the DDA that predated the existing contract.

So a 6.7% increase in rates across the parking system – assuming no decrease in the use of the system – works out to something like $150,000 more for the city of Ann Arbor’s general fund.

The city council’s role in setting parking rates is one of oversight, not decision-making. But even that oversight role is structurally somewhat weak – because decisions made by the DDA (to raise parking rates) can make the city council’s annual budget decisions somewhat easier.

The next scheduled opportunity for the Ann Arbor city council to exercise oversight of the DDA will be during a fall joint work session – which is stipulated to occur under terms of the city-DDA parking contract. That session is currently planned for Sept. 8.

The contractually stipulated work session would be a good opportunity for councilmembers to ask for metrics on Ann Arbor’s public parking system. Requested information should include stats that indicate how well Ann Arbor’s public parking system supports three different key user groups: (1) downtown employees; (2) retail/transactional customers and visitors; and (3) downtown residents.

Some data is collected routinely by the DDA from Republic Parking – its contractor for day-to-day operations – and shared publicly. That data is limited to revenue figures and numbers of hourly patrons. The routine data does not include hours parked by different categories of users – monthly permit holders and hourly patrons – which makes it difficult to evaluate the system’s support of different user groups.

Still, it’s possible to discern some patterns and to draw some conclusions about Ann Arbor’s parking system, based on the data the DDA does provide. Charts with commentary are presented below. [Full Story]

Monthly Parking: Tweaked to Manage Demand?

At its May 2, 2012 meeting, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Authority approved a resolution that authorizes its operations committee (aka bricks & money and transportation committee) to use demand management strategies to price monthly parking permits in Ann Arbor’s public parking system. The goal of adjusting monthly parking permit rates is to expand campus-area parking to structures other than those immediately adjacent to the University of Michigan campus. In broad strokes, “demand managent strategies” means pricing the most desirable parking options higher than those that are less desirable.

The move comes as the opening of the new underground parking structure on South Fifth Avenue, offering around 700 additional total spaces, is set to open by the start of the Ann … [Full Story]

DDA OKs Budget, Taps Reserve for $2M

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (March 7, 2012): The main business item for the board at its monthly meeting was the approval of its budget for the coming fiscal year 2013, which starts on July 1, 2012. Across all funds, the FY 2013 DDA budget shows anticipated revenues of $22,097,956 against $24,101,692 in expenditures – for an excess of expenditures over revenues of $2,003,736.

John Hieftje Leah Gunn Nader Nassif

Left to right: Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje and Ann Arbor downtown development authority board members Leah Gunn and Nader Nassif. (Photos by the writer.)

The difference will be covered from the existing fund balance. The use of fund balance, in the current year and in the coming year, was planned as part of the construction of a new underground parking structure on South Fifth Avenue, and a new contract with the city of Ann Arbor, ratified in May of 2011. The contract, under which the DDA manages the city’s public parking system, pays the city of Ann Arbor 17% of gross revenues from the parking system.

At the end of FY 2013, the DDA expects to have a total fund balance of $4.38 million, or an amount equal to about 18.2% of expenses.

In its other main business item, the board authorized a budget of $100,000 for its Connecting William Street project, which it’s undertaking at the direction of the Ann Arbor city council. The council passed a resolution on April 4, 2011 that gave the DDA direction to explore alternative uses of city-owned parcels – currently used for surface parking – in a limited area of downtown. The area is bounded by Ashley, Division, Liberty and William streets.

Parcels included in the area are: the Kline’s lot (on Ashley, north of William), Palio’s lot (at Main & William), the ground floor of the Fourth & William parking structure, the old Y lot (Fifth & William), and the top of the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage, which is nearing completion.

Of the budgeted amount, $65,000 will come from a community challenge grant awarded recently as part of a larger $3 million grant awarded to Washtenaw County by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. The remaining $35,000 will be made up by DDA cash (no more than $20,000) and DDA in-kind contributions of staff time.

Toward the end of Wednesday’s meeting, the board also entertained some discussion about parking meter bags. The bags placed over on-street parking meters to designate the spots as unusable, so that streets are free of parked cars for construction projects or special events. The meter bag discussion came in the context of a request on behalf of FestiFools and conveyed by mayor John Hieftje, who sits on the DDA board. The request was to waive fees ordinarily associated with the meter bag placement for the April 1 FestiFools parade in downtown Ann Arbor.

One possible approach includes the creation of a parking meter puppet. [Full Story]

DDA Reviews Mid-Year Financials, Parking

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Feb. 1, 2012): In the one agenda item that required formal action, the DDA board unanimously voted to award an annual management incentive to Republic Parking, the contractor that manages day-to-day operations of the city’s parking system.

Sandi Smith

DDA Quiz: Board member Sandi Smith is illustrating: (a) the "increment" in "tax increment financing," (b) the amount of a parking rate increase, (c) building heights and flood plains, or (d) relative thickness of concrete slabs in parking structures. (Photos by the writer.)

The amount of the award was 90% of the total amount the board could have awarded –$45,000 of $50,000. It’s the same amount the board has awarded in each of the last three years. It’s based on a variety of criteria, including customer satisfaction surveys, independent inspections of the parking facilities, and financial performance.

February’s meeting also included a review of the DDA’s finances at the mid-point of the fiscal year – through Dec. 31, 2011. The DDA’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. Operations committee chair Roger Hewitt sketched out a picture that portrayed things unfolding pretty much as expected. Although parking revenues are currently about $125,000 under the year-to-date budgeted amount, parking revenues are projected to finish the year at around $672,536 over the budgeted amount. The gross parking revenue now anticipated for FY 2012 is around $16.8 million. But capital costs associated with the new Fifth Avenue parking garage construction are anticipated to put the parking fund expenses over budget.

Part of that parking system revenue will come from rate increases and changes in billing methods, which were approved by the board at its Jan. 4, 2012 meeting. Some of the changes will not be implemented until September 2012 – like hourly rates at parking structures and lots, which will climb from $1.10 per hour to $1.20 per hour.

But other changes were implemented starting Feb. 1, including a change in the billing method at parking structures and hourly lots – from half-hourly to hourly. The board heard criticism of the change during public commentary, from a resident who makes frequent but brief trips downtown as a patron of the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library. The billing change amounts to a “surcharge” on his library use of a couple hundred dollars a year, he said.

The board also heard a pitch from the developer of the 618 S. Main project, Dan Ketelaar, who is interested in financing certain elements of the project through the state’s Community Revitalization Program. That’s the successor to the state’s brownfield and historic preservation tax credit program.

The 618 S. Main project, which received a positive planning commission recommendation on Jan. 19, would be a 7-story, 153,133-square-foot apartment building with 190 units for 231 bedrooms. The idea would be for the DDA to forgo a portion of the taxes that it would ordinarily capture on the newly constructed 618 S. Main project. The DDA captures taxes from the increment in value due to new construction within its tax increment authority (TIF) district.

The board also heard a pitch from Jody Lanning, with Lanning Outdoor Advertising, for a way to finance murals on the city’s parking structures and other public buildings. The board also entertained its usual set of updates from boards and commissions. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Parking Rate Increases OK’d

At its Jan. 4, 2012 meeting, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority voted unanimously to increase parking rates – some effective starting Jan. 21 and Feb. 1, 2012, with others starting Sept. 1. Among the increases to take effect eight months from now are an increase in on-street metered parking from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour and an increase in the hourly rate for parking structures from $1.10/hour to $1.20/hour.

The mid-January and early February rate changes are estimated to generate a total of $133,000 in additional revenue annually. Increases and anticipated revenues are: raise meter bag rates by $5/day ($68,800); increase the premium parking rate by $5/month ($3,300); increase Ann & Ashley and Liberty Square structure evening/Saturday rates by … [Full Story]

DDA Wraps Up Parking Rate Hearing, Audit

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Dec. 7, 2011): At its last monthly meeting of the year, the DDA board continued a public hearing on proposed parking rate changes that it had begun at its November meeting. Only two people appeared for the continued hearing on Wednesday – nine people had addressed the board for its Nov. 2, 2011 meeting.

Nassif, Gunn, Hieftje

Front to back: Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board members Nader Nassif, Leah Gunn, John Hieftje. (Photos by the writer.)

The board will not vote on the rate increases until its Jan. 4, 2012 meeting. Some of the rate changes are scheduled for implementation in February 2012, but the increases affecting most downtown Ann Arbor parkers would not be implemented until September 2012. The September changes include an increase from $1.40 to $1.50 per hour for on-street metered spaces and an increase from $1.10 to $1.20 per hour for spaces in parking structures.

Some insight into the DDA’s interest in raising parking rates can be found in the DDA’s finances, as reflected in its annual audit. Acceptance of its annual audit report was the one action item on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. The board voted to accept its audit report done by the firm Abraham & Gaffney, P.C. for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

Auditor Alan Panter had presented the report to a subset of DDA board members at a Nov. 30 meeting of the DDA’s operations committee.

The report notes an instance of expenditures exceeding the amount of funds appropriated that is inconsistent with Michigan’s Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act (UBAA) of 1968. At Wednesday’s meeting, DDA board members characterized it as a “technical violation.” At the operations committee meeting, the $337,478 overage was attributed by DDA staff to the submission of a bill forwarded to the DDA in June by its construction management consultant (Park Avenue Consultants Inc.) – connected to the underground parking garage and streetscape improvement projects currently under construction.

For the fiscal year 2011, the DDA showed $18,806,765 in revenues against $20,796,665 in expenses, drawing $1,989,900 from the fund balance reserve. The planned draw on fund balance is related to the underground parking garage construction payments as well as a new contract, signed this year, under which the DDA operates the city’s public parking system. That contract assigns 17% of gross parking revenues to the city of Ann Arbor. At the Nov. 30 committee meeting, DDA board member Newcombe Clark was keen to confirm the inclusion of the new contract as a note in the audit.

In his presentation to the operations committee on Nov. 30, Panter highlighted the fund balance reserve for the parking fund as a concern, saying that the fund was near deficit – it shows a fund balance reserve of less than 1% of operating expenses. A recommended fund balance level, said Panter, is 15-20%.

Another still outstanding issue for the DDA’s finances is the correct interpretation of the city’s ordinance (Chapter 7) specifying how the DDA tax increment finance (TIF) capture works. At Wednesday’s meeting, the board held its third closed session on the topic since July, to discuss the written opinion of its legal counsel on the issue. Taxing authorities that have their taxes captured under the Ann Arbor DDA TIF district have questioned the DDA’s legal position – the DDA contends that Chapter 7 does not place limits on its TIF capture. Depending on how the issue is resolved, it could mean as much as $600,000 less per year in TIF capture, compared with the budget planning the DDA is currently doing.

Also at the Dec. 7 meeting, during the opportunity for public commentary, the DDA board heard from Jim Kosteva –University of Michigan director of community relations – about a request to eliminate two on-street parking spaces on Monroe Street. With the imminent opening of the newly constructed South Hall, on the south side of Monroe, it’s anticipated that students will attempt to cross mid-block. The elimination of the parking spaces would be intended to make students who are crossing mid-block more visible to motorists. Based on the verbal exchange with Kosteva at the podium, it appears possible, but not guaranteed, that some kind of arrangement could be reached before the start of the next semester. [Full Story]

Parking Rate Hearing Done, January Vote

At its Dec. 7, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board continued a public hearing begun at its Nov. 2, 2011 meeting on proposed parking rate changes, and then formally closed the hearing. A vote on the rate changes won’t come until the board’s Jan. 4, 2012 meeting.

The details of proposed parking rate increases were announced in late October, most of which would be implemented starting in September 2012. Some increases would be implemented starting in February. [.pdf of DDA proposed parking rate changes]

The public hearing on parking rate increases came at the same meeting when the board voted to accept the audit from the previous fiscal year (2011), which included some concern expressed by the auditor that the … [Full Story]

Public Hearing Starts Without Aparkolypse

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Nov. 2, 2011): At a meeting that included no business requiring a vote, the Ann Arbor DDA board began a public hearing on possible parking rate increases for the city’s public parking system.

DDA public hearing

Deanna Relyea spoke to the Ann Arbor DDA board at the Nov. 2 public hearing on behalf of the Kerrytown District Association. (Photos by the writer.)

The hearing will continue at the board’s Dec. 7 meeting, after a Nov. 14 joint working session with the Ann Arbor city council, when the two bodies will discuss proposed increases. A vote by the DDA board on the rate increases would not come until January.

Around a half dozen people spoke at the initial opportunity for public comment on the proposed rate increases, most either downtown merchants or representatives of merchant associations. They were uniformly in support of one feature of the proposal – no extension of meter enforcement past 6 p.m. Extension of enforcement hours has been actively on the table for at least two years. Based on board discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, evening enforcement could eventually be implemented – but not for the current rate increase cycle.

Those who spoke at the initial part of the hearing were generally opposed to increasing rates, but also acknowledged the financial decisions the DDA faces. And some speakers put part of the blame for that situation on the city of Ann Arbor. Under a new contract, the city of Ann Arbor now receives 17% of gross public parking revenues, which could otherwise be put back into the parking system, reducing the pressure to raise rates. Under the contract, the DDA operates the system, and is responsible for ongoing maintenance. Rates are controlled by the DDA in consultation with the city council.

The details of proposed parking rate increases were first announced towards the end of last week, most of which would be implemented starting in September 2012. Some increases would be implemented starting in February. [.pdf of DDA proposed parking rate changes]

Highlights of the changes to be enacted in September 2012 include predominantly $.10/hour increases: hourly structure parking rates would increase from $1.10/hour to $1.20/hour; hourly parking lot rates would increase from $1.30 ($1.50 after 3 hours) to $1.40 ($1.60 after 3 hours;) hourly parking meter rates would increase from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour; monthly parking permit rates would increase from $140/month to $145/month.

The board’s meeting included the usual range of reports, including the quarterly financial numbers and parking report, and updates on the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage construction as well as the most recent development in the Nov. 8 sidewalk millage ballot proposal.

At the city council’s Oct. 17 meeting, the council passed a resolution clarifying how the millage proceeds would be used inside the DDA’s geographic district. And at the DDA’s Wednesday meeting, mayor John Hieftje gave the clearest public indication to date that he does not want to take a position on the sidewalk millage, saying that residents would have to “figure it out for themselves.”

The board also held a closed session, under the provision of the Michigan Open Meetings Act that allows such a session to discuss the meaning of legal advice contained in a written document protected under attorney-client privilege.  [Full Story]

DDA Announces Parking Rate Hearing

In a document that began circulation in the community on Oct. 27, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has detailed proposed parking rate increases, most of which would be implemented starting in September 2012.

Highlights of the proposed changes include predominantly $.10/hour increases: hourly structure parking rates would increase from $1.10/hour to $1.20/hour; hourly parking lot rates would increase from $1.30 ($1.50 after 3 hours) to $1.40 ($1.60 after 3 hours;) hourly parking meter rates would increase from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour; monthly parking permit rates would increase from $140/month to $145/month.

No extensions of enforcement hours are a part of the proposal.

At its Nov. 2, 2011 meeting, the DDA board will formally announce its intent and open a public hearing on the … [Full Story]

DDA Gives More Time To Near North

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Sept. 7, 2011): In the main business of its September meeting, the DDA board voted to renew a $500,000 grant previously awarded to Avalon Housing for its Near North affordable housing project on North Main Street. The project is planned to include 39 units of affordable housing on the site where eight now-vacant houses stand.

Russ Collins Gary Boren

Russ Collins (left) shakes hands with former board member Gary Boren, who was recognized for his service at the DDA's Sept. 7, 2011 board meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The Near North decision came over the objection of three board members, who expressed concern over unanswered questions about the project’s timeline. Avalon had also requested that the intent of the resolution be expressed in the form of a contractual agreement and that the period of the grant be two and a half years, instead of the maximum two years normally attached to DDA grants. The additional time is needed in order to cover a sufficient period to achieve LEED certification.

Representatives of the construction trades, who objected to the selection of the Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction as the general contractor for the Near North project, as well as a resident spoke against the DDA’s grant award during the time allowed for public participation.

The three votes against the grant renewal came from Newcombe Clark, Roger Hewitt and Russ Collins. With the absence of board members Keith Orr and Bob Guenzel, the 12-member board still achieved the minimum seven votes it needed for approval of the grant.

Despite his absence from Wednesday’s meeting, Guenzel was voted as the new chair of the DDA board, filling a vacancy in that position left when the recently elected chair, Gary Boren, was not nominated for reappointment to the board when his term expired on July 31. Boren was on hand to accept a resolution of appreciation for his service on the board.

In connection to the officer election timing issue, Clark asked for a review of the board’s bylaws by the board’s executive committee. Clark has raised the issue during the July officer elections for the last two years. Because the mayor has been reticent about his intended appointments, DDA board members have elected their officers for the coming year without knowing if all board members with expiring terms will be reappointed. Clark asked that the bylaws possibly be changed so that board officers are elected after appointments are made, so that it’s clear who will be serving on the board.

In other business, the board unanimously passed a resolution of support for the RiverUp! program amid some discussion of the appropriateness of the resolution – in light of the fact that the Huron River does not flow through the DDA tax district.

The board also passed a resolution encouraging the Washtenaw County board of commissioners to enact an economic development tax on county residents. About half of the tax proceeds would go to Ann Arbor SPARK. The resolution came at the request of DDA board member Leah Gunn, who also serves on the Washtenaw County board. The Ann Arbor city council had previously passed a resolution encouraging the county board to enact the tax. The county board gave initial approval to the tax later that evening.

As part of the reports from various board committees, Roger Hewitt stressed that the parking rates and hours of enforcement discussed at the previous week’s operations committee meeting were merely the start of the discussion. The DDA is currently discussing what kind of proposal it will present to the city council at a November joint work session on parking. Under its new contract with the city to manage the public parking system, the DDA’s authority to set rates and hours of enforcement comes with specific requirements on public input.

The city council also has directed the DDA to explore alternate uses for some of the city-owned surface parking lots in the downtown. Board members got an update on the status of the DDA’s effort to plan how to implement that directive.  [Full Story]

UM Regents Road Trip to Grand Rapids

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (April 15, 2010): Under the high ceilings and crystal chandelier of an historic hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, university regents and administrators gathered Thursday for their monthly meeting in a venue designed to recognize UM’s ties with the western part of the state.

Dave Brandon

Dave Brandon addressed the UM Board of Regents for the first time publicly as athletic director, speaking at their April 15 meeting at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids. (Photos by the writer.)

Though most of the meeting entailed presentations and reports – focused on UM programs with links to the Grand Rapids area and western Michigan – the regents also unanimously approved several action items, with little discussion.

Increases for parking permit fees – 3% in each of the next three fiscal years – were set, as was the transfer of the Henry Ford Estate to the nonprofit Ford House foundation. The estate had been given to UM in the 1950s along with land that became the university’s Dearborn campus. Regents also approved a major expansion of the Institute for Social Research building on Thompson Street.

During public commentary, two leaders of the lecturers’ union spoke to regents, charging that UM lecturers are being asked to shoulder an unfair burden as the university tries to cut costs. The union is negotiating with the administration for a new contract – its current contract expires May 15.

After the meeting – held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel – regents, executives and staff headed over to the nearby J.W. Marriott hotel for a reception hosted by the UM Alumni Association. [Full Story]

Parking Report Portends DDA-City Tension

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (April 7, 2010): At its regular Wednesday meeting, the full board of the DDA endorsed a draft of the parking report it has been asked to submit to the city council by April 19, when the council next meets. Before it’s sent to the city council, the report will possibly undergo some minor tweaking at the DDA’s partnerships committee meeting next Wednesday, April 14.

Granger Construction Company

David Olson, vice president of Granger Construction Co., delivered a letter to the DDA board during public commentary, which questioned the way concrete bids were handled for the DDA's underground parking garage. The garage is currently under construction along Fifth Avenue. (Photos by the writer.)

Though not addressed by the board as business items, two areas of controversy emerged during public commentary.

One involves the award of a bid as part of the DDA’s construction of the underground parking garage along Fifth Avenue. The contract for construction management for the entire project was awarded to The Christman Co. However, under the terms of the contract, Christman must bid out various components of the project, like the concrete work – even though Christman has the capability of doing that work itself.

The low bid for the concrete work was submitted by Granger Construction Co., at $21.5 million. But Christman awarded the contract to Christman Constructors Inc., which had submitted a bid of $22 million. Christman’s selection as construction manager of the project had been finalized at the DDA board’s Nov. 4, 2009 meeting with a guaranteed maximum price of $44,381,573. Representatives of Christman and Granger aired their differing points of view on the concrete bid at Wednesday’s meeting, with DDA board chair John Splitt concluding that he was satisfied the process had been fair.

The other point of controversy arising during public commentary is the probable $2 million payment this year by the DDA to the city of Ann Arbor – which it has no obligation to make under its current parking agreement with the city. The city’s budget book for FY 2011, released on Monday, does not factor in a payment from the DDA. Instead, it shows a $1.5 million shortfall for the year. The DDA’s parking report to the city council hints at the possibility that the DDA would take responsibility for the ticketing of parking violations. That change in enforcement could be included in the renegotiation of the parking agreement.

Other business transacted by the board on Wednesday included a resolution calling on the city council to revise its sign ordinance so that downtown merchants could use sandwich board signs legally. A recent attempt to revise the ordinance by the council was voted down at its Feb. 16, 2010 meeting. [Full Story]

Budget Round 4: Lights, Streets, Grass

On March 8, the Ann Arbor city council held its fourth meeting since the start of the calendar year devoted to deliberations on the budget for FY 2011, which begins July 1, 2010. The council will make its final budget decision in mid-May after receiving a budget proposal from city administrator Roger Fraser in mid-April.

Sue McCormick

Sue McCormick, the city's public services area administrator, showed the city council a map of streetlights during Monday's meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

On Monday, Sue McCormick, public services area administrator, was front and center, describing for council how the public services budget “lives within the general fund.” The basis for the discussion was budget impact sheets prepared for the public services area, which she distributed.

Councilmembers had several questions for her about a possible special assessment district (SAD) to fund streetlighting, with much of the discussion centered around what it means for an area to be “overlit.” A streetlighting SAD would require property owners to pay for streetlights.

Also generating a fair amount of discussion among councilmembers was the $100,000 annual cost for traffic control on University of Michigan football game days and the city’s plan to reduce that cost through judicious rescheduling of personnel to avoid overtime expenses.

McCormick also pitched to the council the idea of relaxing the constraints of the “box” defining how the parks maintenance and capital improvements millage is administered. The proposal would have the council rescind the part of a previous resolution that requires millage funding for natural area preservation to increase by 3% every year. That savings, McCormick said, could be put towards hand-trimming of grass in the parks. Reduction of hand-trimming, she said, would have a negative visual impact on the parks – they’ll look “fuzzy.”

Also related to yard-waste type issues, McCormick briefed the council on the idea of eliminating collection of loose leaves in the fall, and moving to an approach requiring leaves to be put into containers. She also told them about  a proposal that would be coming before them in the next 30 days to transition the city’s composting facility to a merchant operation, similar to the city’s materials recovery facility (MRF) for recyclables. That proposal was met with strong criticism from Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Councilmembers also heard from McCormick that residents will face a 3.88% increase in water rates, unless council directs that more budget cuts be made.

Towards the end of the meeting, city administrator Roger Fraser warned that accounting services manager Karen Lancaster and chief financial officer Tom Crawford would put them to sleep with an explication of how the city’s municipal service charge (MSC) works. However, Lancaster and Crawford were unable to make good on Fraser’s threat. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Delays Vote on Pay Cuts

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Feb. 16, 2010): Looming budget decisions were a prominent part of the council’s meeting. Around a dozen speakers addressed the council during a public hearing on housing and human services needs – the input will be used by the office of community development in making recommendations for city general fund expenditures.

Jim Mogensen

Jim Mogensen, speaking about the University of Michigan shouldering a half-million-dollar cost for the Central Campus Transit Center that the city would ordinarily have paid: "Look, it's not free." (Photos by the writer.)

The approval of a contract extension for the city’s public art administrator generated a great deal of discussion – partly concerning the dollar amount of the contract – and was passed despite dissent from three councilmembers.

But the council postponed a resolution that would have cut the base salaries of the city administrator and the city attorney by 3%, and would have directed the administrator to cut the salaries of non-union employees by 3% as well.

Another prominent theme of the meeting was real estate and infrastructure. Council approved the acquisition of a property within the city limits – a portion of the Black Elk’s site on Sunset Road – using greenbelt millage funds. They also approved the capital improvements plan (CIP), modified to delete an item for the extension and shifting of a runway at the Ann Arbor municipal airport. [Full Story]

DDA Invites City to Discuss Parking Fines

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Dec. 2, 2009): In a meeting dominated by status reports for ongoing DDA initiatives, a glimmer of a possibility emerged that a discussion about the parking system could begin between the DDA and the city of Ann Arbor.


View from the southwest. The Library Lot (construction crane) is immediately to the north of the Ann Arbor District Library (red brick with blue trim). In the foreground is the awning for the Blake Transit Center (bus turning in). (Photo by the writer links to higher resolution image).

That discussion would be focused on parking fines – a topic the Ann Arbor city council was briefed on at its Nov. 9 work session by city financial services staff. That session did not include the DDA, which manages the Ann Arbor’s parking system under a contract with the city. Republic Parking is the company contracted by the DDA for operation of the system. [See Chronicle coverage: "Parking Fines to Increase in Ann Arbor?"]

In the only board resolution considered at the meeting, executive director Susan Pollay was authorized to negotiate easements with property owners adjoining the construction site for the underground parking garage, which is now starting construction. [Full Story]

Parking Rate Hikes Delayed Slightly

The more you near your destination the more you slip sliding away,

The DDA board heard from the public on the topic of snow removal downtown, including the person attached to this foot, whose holiday gifts included some pullover gadgets with non-slip metal coils.

Downtown Development Authority Board (Jan. 7, 2009) The Main Street Area Association had hoped for a year-long delay in the parking rate increases that were approved by the DDA board at its Nov. 5 meeting. But after discussing that possibility – and the borrowing of $3.65 million from the TIF fund that the year’s delay would require – the board left their original proposal intact. However, it will not be put before city council for final approval on Jan. 20, as originally planned.

Instead, the rate hike, which is part of the same packet of materials as the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage project, will be placed on the agenda for the second council meeting in February. The board settled on this delay when mayor of the city of Ann Arbor, John Hieftje (who serves on the DDA board in that capacity) announced that the council’s budget and finance committee had indicated a preference to see that packet delayed until February. Hieftje warned that if it were placed on the Jan. 20 agenda, it would simply be postponed by city council. [Full Story]