Stories indexed with the term ‘restructuring’

Women’s Center of SE Michigan to Re-Open

The Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan, which had closed its doors in mid-June, is planning to re-open later this week.

The Women's Center of Southeastern Michigan, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Logo for The Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan.

According to former executive director Kimberli Cumming, the first priority will be to resume services to existing clients. The center provides affordable personal counseling, job coaching and divorce support, among other services.

On June 12, the board of the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit emailed a message to supporters announcing that the center would be closed. From the email: ”The loss of grant support for the types of services we offer has led the Board of The Women’s Center … [Full Story]

Theater Board OKs Restructuring Plan

The board of the nonprofit Performance Network Theatre has voted to accept a restructuring plan led by John Manfredi, who will become PNT’s producing artistic director. The vote occurred at the board’s June 18, 2014 meeting, according to a press release issued by board president Ron Maurer on June 19. [.pdf of press release]

On May 22, the board had announced that it was suspending operations of the professional theater company after determining that the theater ”is not currently financially viable.” In early June, the board issued a letter stating that the theater did not have resources to pay its staff, actors and vendors in a timely manner, and to make debt payments.

Subsequently, a group of PNT supporters – including former staff – … [Full Story]

UM Forms Joint Biomed Engineering Dept.

A new joint department of biomedical engineering will be formed at the University of Michigan, following approval by the UM board of regents at their July 19, 2012 meeting.

Since 1996, biomedical engineering has been a department in the College of Engineering. The restructuring creates a joint department with the Medical School, with the intent of creating a closer collaboration between the two UM units and strengthening the academic and research efforts. Faculty from both the College of Engineering and Medical School voted to approve the change earlier this year.

This brief was filed from the Michigan Union’s Rogel ballroom, where the board held its July meeting.

UM American Culture Unit Becomes Dept.

The University of Michigan’s American culture program has been granted departmental status, following a vote by the UM regents at their July 19, 2012 meeting.

The program, formed in 1952, houses several other programs – in Arab American studies, Native American studies, Latina/Latino studies, and Asian/Pacific Islander American studies. According to a staff memo, the departmental status of American culture will clarify its relationships with these other programs, and bring it into equivalent structural status with similar units, including women’s studies, which became a department in 2007, and Afroamerican and African studies, which received departmental status in 2010. The change will take effect Sept. 1, 2012.

This brief was filed from the Michigan Union’s Rogel ballroom, where the board held its … [Full Story]

A Closer Look at Ann Arbor’s Fire Station Plan

At a work session held by the Ann Arbor city council on March 12, 2012, fire chief Chuck Hubbard presented the city council with a plan to reconfigure the geographic strategy for protecting the city against fires. It would rely on three stations instead of five, which would include re-activating one existing station and closing three.

Fire Department Response Times

Map 1. Ann Arbor fire chief Chuck Hubbard's plan is to protect the city from fires with three stations (red helmets): Station 1, Station 2, and Station 5. Closed would be Station 3, Station 6 and Station 4 (gray helmets). Station 2 is currently not used and would need to be re-opened. The light blue area is the part of the city that is reachable by at least four fighters within four minutes. Red dots indicate fire locations over the last decade. (Map is de-skewed from the original one provided by the city, with additional labels by The Chronicle. Image links to higher resolution file.)

The reactivated station would be Station 2 (south), located near Packard and Stadium. Also remaining active would be Station 1 (center), located at Fifth and Huron in downtown Ann Arbor, as well as Station 5 (north), located on Beal off of Plymouth Road in the northern part of the city.

Closed would be Station 6 (located in the southern part of the city, in the Briarwood Mall area), Station 3 (on Jackson, in the western part of the city) and Station 4 (in the eastern part of the city, south of Washtenaw Avenue on Huron Parkway).

Hubbard contends that the proposal will significantly improve response times for most of the geographic area of the city. Hubbard’s guiding metric for response time is the geographic area that is reachable by at least four firefighters in less than four minutes – a “four-in-four” standard. Four firefighters is the minimum number that must be on scene in order to enter a burning building – to conform with an OSHA “two-in/two-out” regulation.

The existing configuration would provide shorter arrival times for a first-arriving vehicle, but would not provide  a complement of four firefighters on that vehicle. Shifting to a focus of four-in-four – from the current configuration that optimizes fastest first-arrival – reflects a prioritization of fire protection over emergency medical response.

The council was shown a video at the work session that presented results of an April 2010 study done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that investigated the effect of crew size on task performance. Firefighting responses were studied in controlled conditions by sending four crews at a time to the scene of a structure built for that purpose. The study varied the size of the crews among two-person, three-person, four-person and five-person crews – for a total of 8, 12, 16 and 20 firefighters on scene. The study showed that a responding force composed of four-person crews (16 firefighters on scene) was clearly superior to one composed of three-person crews (12 firefighters on scene) – 25% faster overall.

But with one exception, the new Ann Arbor proposal would not increase the crew size for a given vehicle from the current level (three) to four firefighters. The exception would be for the ladder truck at Station 5, which would have a crew complement of four. At a briefing for the press held earlier in the day, Hubbard described part of the advantage of his proposal as allowing for two trucks to arrive together, departing from the same station, to coordinate their activity at the fire scene. In terms of the study presented in the video, this is called “stagger.”

The NIST study showed an improvement in performance by crews arriving spaced more closely together (close stagger) compared to crews that arrived with longer intervals (far stagger). However, the improvement in firefighting performance due to close stagger was not nearly as large as the improvements based on crew size.

During the council’s discussion, it emerged that the restructuring was not motivated by cost-savings, and that no decrease from the current number of budgeted firefighters – 82 – is expected. The station model does not require formal city council approval, but councilmembers will be considering approval of a recently negotiated contract with the firefighters union at their March 19 meeting. The contract includes operational changes that would allow for more effective deployment of Hubbard’s plan. It provides for firefighters to work more hours, in part by reducing the frequency of a mandatory “code day” when firefighters are not scheduled.

After the jump, we take a look at: (1) some additional maps The Chronicle has created; (2) how the maps fit into the overall response-time picture; and (3) councilmember reaction to Hubbard’s proposal. [Full Story]

County Acts on Budget, Health, Policy Issues

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (March 7, 2012): Although the county board isn’t yet in the heart of discussions for its next two-year budget cycle, the specter of that effort provided a backdrop to action at Wednesday’s meeting. The county faces projected deficits of $11.6 million in 2014 and $14.7 million in 2015.

Jenna Bacolor, Michaelle Rehmann, Al Connor

From left: Jenna Bacolor of the county's public health department, Michaelle Rehmann, Farm to Table director for the Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP), and Al Connor of the Michigan Farmers Union. All are involved in helping create the Washtenaw Food Policy Council. (Photos by the writer.)

Two items touched directly on salary and compensation. The board gave final approval to an administrative restructuring that’s estimated to save $326,422 annually, and result in the net reduction of four full-time jobs, which are currently vacant. As he did for the initial vote on Feb. 15, commissioner Ronnie Peterson voted against the restructuring, objecting to a 4% increase that will be given to four top managers in a new cross-lateral team, as a result of their job reclassification. Though the county uniformly gives a 4% raise when any job is reclassified, Peterson argued that the county’s leadership should set an example and that the raises will make it more difficult to ask for concessions in future union negotiations in 2014-15.

Also related to upcoming budgets, commissioner Dan Smith presented a draft proposal that would cut compensation for commissioners in 2013-2014. Overall, the proposal would cut total compensation (salary and benefits) by 5.7% per commissioner – from the current $20,213 to a proposed $19,063. He plans to present a formal resolution at the April 4 meeting. The timing would allow the board to make a decision before the May 15 filing deadline for county board candidates.

Another budget-related item came from the public health department, which proposed fee increases to treat sexually transmitted diseases – one of the mandated services provided by the county. The changes, which were approved unanimously, are being made in response to federal funding cuts and an increase in charges for state services. Though he voted in favor of the increases, Peterson raised concerns about the impact on low-income residents. Dick Fleece, director of the public health department, assured the board that no one would be refused treatment because of the inability to pay.

Public health staff also presented an item with almost no budget impact: A proposal to create the Washtenaw Food Policy Council, with the goal of supporting and coordinating activities in the county’s food system. Partners who’ve been working on this initiative include the Y of Ann Arbor, Growing Hope, Food Gatherers, the Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP), Slow Food Huron Valley, Eat Local/Eat Natural, Michigan Farmers Union, and the Ypsilanti Food Coop. A final vote is expected on March 21.

The board also acted on items related to public safety. They voted to accept a $177,500 state grant from the state’s Economic Vitality Incentive program (EVIP), which provides incentives for local governments to collaborate and combine operations. The grant will help pay for work related to dispatch consolidation between the county sheriff’s office and the city of Ann Arbor.

And in a vote to clear up a procedural move, the board authorized a merger of its countywide 800 megahertz (MHz) emergency communications system with the Michigan Public Safety Communication System. The county’s 800 MHz system is paid for through a 10-year, 0.20-mill tax that Washtenaw County voters approved in May 2006. At the time, the plan called for eventually merging with the statewide system.

During the opportunity for commissioners to raise items of discussion, Wes Prater noted that at the Ann Arbor city council’s March 5 meeting, a four-party agreement to establish a framework for a possible countywide transit system was approved. Prater urged the board to begin discussing the issue, too. [In addition to Ann Arbor, the four parties include the city of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Ann Arbor city council was the first entity to approve the accord, doing so after postponing action on it three times and deliberating for over 3.5 hours at Monday's meeting. See Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Council OKs Transit Agreement"]

A working session for commissioners to address the four-party agreement has been set for Thursday, March 22.

Prater also wondered why the board hadn’t received any reports from the county treasurer recently. The treasurer, Catherine McClary, gave a 2010 annual treasurer’s report to commissioners early last year, at their Feb. 16, 2011 meeting, but has not yet submitted the 2011 annual report. Board chair Conan Smith asked county administrator Verna McDaniel to contact the treasurer’s office and request a report. [Full Story]

Board OKs County Admin Reorganization

At their March 7, 2012 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners signed off on a restructuring of support services in administration, finance, information technology and facilities management –  changes that are estimated to save the county $326,422 annually, and result in the net reduction of four full-time jobs, which are currently vacant. Initial approval had been given at the county board’s Feb. 15 meeting.

The changes entail creating a new “cross-lateral” team of four current senior managers: Kelly Belknap, director of finance; Greg Dill, infrastructure management director; Curtis Hedger, corporation counsel; and Diane Heidt, director of human services and labor relations. The proposal also calls for putting two positions – including the job of deputy county administrator – on “hold vacant” status. Another 11 positions … [Full Story]

County Policy Issues: Salaries, Animals

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Feb. 15, 2012): Two major items – and underlying policy related to them – took up much of the Feb. 15 county board meeting.

Mark Heusel

Mark Heusel, vice president of the board for the Humane Society of Huron Valley, with his daughter at the Feb. 15 Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

After months of uncertainty and sometimes heated negotiations, the county approved an agreement with the Humane Society of Huron Valley through 2012, along with a strategy for a longer-term solution to the county’s animal control services.

A work group, led by the sheriff, is now tasked with determining the cost of animal control services. The work group will involve other jurisdictions in the county that have animal control ordinances – like the city of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Township – but do not currently make financial contributions to the county’s animal control services. The group will present a report to the board by Sept. 15 that recommends a final cost methodology and budget for 2013, based on an agreed-upon scope of services.

In an amendment to the resolution that was proposed from the floor, the board also created a separate task force to develop an animal control policy for the county. The policy will be used to guide the scope of services for a request-for-proposals (RFP). Meetings of the task force will be open to the public and to any commissioner who wants to participate. The task force will submit a preliminary report to the board by May 15, with a final report due by Oct. 15.

Following a lengthy discussion later in the meeting, the board also gave initial approval to an administrative restructuring proposal that included a net reduction of four positions, an estimated annual savings of $326,422, and creation of a new “cross-lateral” team of four current senior managers. The issue of pay increases – given as a result job reclassifications – prompted debate about whether the county’s current policy treats employees equitably at the low end of the pay scale.

Commissioner Ronnie Peterson voted against the restructuring. He objected to the 4% increase that will be given to the cross-lateral team, saying the raises aren’t justified in light of concessions that union employees gave in the most recent round of contract negotiations. A final vote on the proposal is expected at the board’s March 7 meeting.

In other board action, commissioners approved allocating $200,000 to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) as part of funding for a Pure Michigan campaign focused on the Ann Arbor area. The funding comes out of revenues from the county’s accommodations tax. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) is developing a Pure Michigan pilot program, entitled “Sense of Place,” to combine support for tourism and economic development. The Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County area has been chosen as the first region to be featured as a partner in this program, which will include a $1 million national TV ad campaign.

The board approved several other items during the Feb. 15 meeting, including: (1) labor agreements with the final four of 17 bargaining units representing county employees; (2) a change in board rules allowing commissioners to abstain from voting; and (3) a Whitmore Lake improvement project. [Full Story]

County Preps for More Restructuring

Washtenaw County board of commissioners working session (Feb. 2, 2012): Commissioners got a preview from county administrator Verna McDaniel about plans for more restructuring of Washtenaw County operations, in the wake of 117 retirements at the end of 2011 and an ongoing need to cut costs.

Verna McDaniel

Washtenaw County administrator Verna McDaniel. (Photos by the writer)

McDaniel is asking departments to explore a “continuum of opportunities,” from cooperation on one end of the spectrum, to consolidation on the other end. As an example, she noted that the recent 911 dispatch consolidation between the city of Ann Arbor and the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office – an agreement at the county board approved at its Jan. 18, 2012 meeting – began as cooperation, when county dispatchers co-located with Ann Arbor’s operations.

As an initial step, at the board’s Feb. 15 meeting McDaniel will be asking for approval to restructure support services in administration, finance, information technology and facilities management. The changes entail creating a new “cross-lateral” team of four current senior managers, and putting two positions – including the job of deputy county administrator – on “hold vacant” status. Another nine positions will be eliminated, while eight jobs will be created. The restructuring will result in a net reduction of three full-time jobs, and estimated annual savings of $326,422.

Commissioners were generally supportive of her proposal, though some cautioned against creating the expectation that the county can provide the same or a better level of services with reduced resources. The county is facing projected deficits of $11.6 million in 2014 and $14.7 million in 2015.

Also at the Feb. 2 working session, board chair Conan Smith gave an update on negotiations with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, saying he hopes to bring an agreement for board approval at their Feb. 15 meeting. The contract would cover animal control services for the remainder of 2012, with the intent of working toward a longer-term agreement for the coming years. The county plans to ask local municipalities that have animal control ordinances – including Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Township – to help pay for services provided under contract with HSHV.

The board also got a brief update on the $1.3 million in renovations at the downtown county courthouse. The project, which started early last year when Ann Arbor’s 15th District Court vacated the courthouse to move to the city’s new Justice Center, will be wrapping up in mid-March.

The working session included an agenda briefing for the Feb. 15 meeting, but some commissioners expressed discontent at the new format, which had been implemented earlier this year. Wes Prater suggested that if the briefings do not include time for commissioners to ask questions, then the information might as well be emailed to them instead. “I believe all of us can read,” he said.

[Full Story]