Stories indexed with the term ‘Ypsilanti’

Security Alliance Formed for Eastern Washtenaw

A new public safety collaboration – the Eastern Washtenaw Safety Alliance – was announced on July 8, bringing together the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office, Eastern Michigan University, and the city of Ypsilanti to increase security efforts on the eastern side of the county. The alliance will work on several initiatives, including increased police officers, expanded patrols, installing new streetlights and shared jurisdictional authority, according to a press release. EMU is hiring 10 additional police officers this year, which will increase its police staff to 43 deputized officers by the fall. The city of Ypsilanti has hired eight new police officers since last fall, bringing the city’s total to 29. [Source] [Alliance FAQ] [Street light FAQ] [List of ... [Full Story]

In the Archives: Criminal Girls

In the fall of 1883, delegates from almost every state attended the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky. Penologists, prison officials, and representatives from state institutions for the blind, deaf, orphaned, insane and “feeble-minded” gathered at Louisville’s Polytechnic Institute for eight days of presentations and discussions.

Emma Hall's 1883 talk, delivered at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky, analyzed the best methods of reforming girls.

Emma Hall’s 1883 talk, delivered at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky, analyzed the best methods of reforming girls.

On the morning of Sept. 26, Ypsilanti resident and Normal School graduate Emma Hall faced a distinguished audience. “The reformation of criminal girls,” she began, “is no longer a doubtful experiment.”

Born February 28, 1837 on a farm in Lenawee County’s Raisin Township, Emma was the second of her parents Reuben and Abby’s eight children. Most of the family relocated to Ypsilanti around 1870. Reuben’s teaching background and Abby’s upbringing as a Congregational minister’s daughter may have influenced Emma’s career as a prison reformer. She became Michigan’s first woman to lead a state penal institution, and was later made a member of the nation’s top prison advisory committee.

After graduating from the Normal in 1861, Emma taught recitation at Professor Sill’s Seminary for Young Ladies in Detroit, for a yearly salary of $550 [about $10,000 in 2014 dollars]. Emma met Detroit House of Corrections prison superintendent Zebulon Brockway. Beginning with his work at the Detroit prison, which opened in 1861, Brockway would become a nationally-recognized though controversial prison reformer.

In 1868, Brockway opened the House of Shelter. This adjunct to the Detroit House of Corrections offered a radical experiment for women prisoners, many of whom had been arrested for prostitution. Instead of barred cells, the House of Shelter offered a comfortable group home in which each woman had her own bedroom. The home was furnished and decorated as a well-to-do middle-class home.

Brockway made Emma its first matron. She moved in and lived full-time with the women. [Full Story]

Thompson Block Brownfield Plan Gets OK

Final approval for a brownfield redevelopment plan for the Thompson Block in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town area was given by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its April 16, 2014 meeting. [.pdf of Thompson Block brownfield plan] Commissioners had granted initial approval on April 2, 2014.

The plan covers 400-408 N. River St. and 107 E. Cross St., an historic property that has been declared ”functionally obsolete and blighted.” That qualifies the project as a brownfield under the state’s brownfield redevelopment financing act (Public Act 381), which allows the owner to receive reimbursements for eligible activities through tax increment financing (TIF). Approval also will allow the developer to apply for Michigan Business Tax Credits. The property is currently owned by Thompson … [Full Story]

Brownfield Plan for Ypsilanti Site: Initial OK

A brownfield redevelopment plan for the Thompson Block in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town area was given initial approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its April 2, 2014 meeting. A final vote is expected on April 16. [.pdf of Thompson Block brownfield plan]

The plan covers 400-408 N. River St. and 107 E. Cross St., an historic property that has been declared ”functionally obsolete and blighted.” That qualifies the project as a brownfield under the state’s brownfield redevelopment financing act (Public Act 381), which allows the owner to receive reimbursements for eligible activities through tax increment financing (TIF). Approval also will allow the developer to apply for Michigan Business Tax Credits. The property is currently owned by Thompson Block … [Full Story]

Survey: Majority Favorable on Transit Tax

Results of a survey of 841 registered voters in the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township show a 63% positive reaction to a possible additional transit tax in those communities. Those three jurisdictions are the members of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. [.pdf of Feb. 7, 2014 press release] [.pdf of survey questions]

Fall 2013 AAATA Survey: Of the 841 registered voters surveyed, 63% said they would definitely or probably vote for an additional transit tax, while 31% said they definitely or probably vote against an additional transit tax.

Chart 1: AAATA Millage Vote Survey. Of the 841 registered voters surveyed, 63% said they would definitely or probably vote for an additional transit tax, while 31% said they definitely or probably would vote against an additional transit tax. Half the respondents were asked about a tax at the rate of 0.5 mills while the other half were asked about a 0.9 mill tax. There was not a significant difference in the two groups. The amount of the potential millage request in 2014 is 0.7 mills.

The AAATA’s release of partial survey results on Feb. 7 comes about two weeks before the next monthly meeting of its board of directors, on Feb. 20. At that meeting, the board will almost certainly consider whether to place a millage on the ballot – either for May 6 or later in the fall of this year.

The purpose of the potential millage – which would be the first one ever levied by the AAATA – would be to fund a 5-year plan of service improvements, approved by the AAATA board at its Jan. 16, 2014 meeting. The millage itself would last for five years.

Generally, those improvements include increased frequency during peak hours, extended service in the evenings, and additional service on weekends. Some looped routes are being replaced with out-and-back type route configurations. The plan does not include operation of rail-based services. The AAATA has calculated that the improvements in service add up to 90,000 additional service hours per year, compared to the current service levels, which is a 44% increase.

If a millage were approved in May, those improvements that involve extending the hours of service later in the evening and the weekend could begin to be implemented by late 2014. However, increases in frequency along routes, which would require acquisition of additional buses, would take longer.

The AAATA refers to the plan in its communications as the 5YTIP. The AAATA has calculated that the additional tax required to fund the 5YTIP is 0.7 mills. A draft five-year plan was presented to the public in a series of 13 meetings in the fall of 2013. Changes to the five-year plan made in response to public feedback were included in the board’s information packet for the Jan. 16 meeting. [.pdf of memo and 5-year improvement plan] [.pdf of presentation made to the board on Jan. 16]

The dedicated transit tax already paid by property owners in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti is levied by each city and passed through to the AAATA. Those taxes would stay in place if voters in the AAATA’s three-jurisdiction area approved a 0.7 mill tax. For Ann Arbor, the rate for the existing millage is 2.056 mills, which is expected to generate a little over $10 million by 2019, the fifth year of the transportation improvement plan. For the city of Ypsilanti, the rate for the existing transit millage is 0.9789, which is expected to generate about $314,000 in 2019. For the owner of an Ann Arbor house with a market value of $200,000 and taxable value of $100,000, a 0.7 mill tax translates into $70 annually, which would be paid in addition to the existing transit millage. The total Ann Arbor transit tax paid on a taxable value of $100,000 would be about $270 a year.

The transit improvement program also calls for an additional $1,087,344 to come from purchase-of-service agreements (POSAs), based on increased service hours in Pittsfield, Saline, and Superior townships.

A subset of a financial task force that had formed during an effort in 2012 to expand the AAATA to a countywide authority has concluded that the 0.7 mill would be adequate to fund the planned additional services. At the most recent meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, on Feb. 5, DDA board member Bob Guenzel stated that he had continued to participate on that task force, and reported that the group had forwarded its finding on the currently contemplated 0.7 millage to the AAATA.

Besides Guenzel, who is former Washtenaw County administrator, the current configuration of that group includes Mary Jo Callan (director of the Washtenaw County office of community and economic development), Norman Herbert (former treasurer of the University of Michigan), Paul Krutko (CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK), and Mark Perry (director of real estate services, Masco Corp.) and Steve Manchester.

The survey on voter attitudes toward a millage was conducted for the AAATA by CJI Research with a mixed methodology – of telephone contacts, and a mail invitation to respond online – during October and November of 2013. The sample of respondents was divided into two groups – those who were asked about their attitudes toward an additional 0.5-mill tax and those who were asked about their attitudes toward an additional 0.9-mill tax. According to CJI, the groups showed virtually no difference in the distribution of responses.

Of the 841 registered voters surveyed, 63% said they would definitely or probably vote for an additional transit tax, while 31% said they definitely or probably would vote against an additional transit tax.

The Feb. 7, 2014 press release issued by the AAATA highlighted three of its conclusions from the survey results: (1) that the AAATA is highly regarded by voters in the three member jurisdictions; (2) residents in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township are supportive of transit service expansion even if it means a new tax; and (3) among survey respondents, the best reasons to support a transit expansion are to help retain and attract jobs, generate economic activity by taking customers and workers to area retailers and other employers, and to improve service for seniors and the disabled. The margin of error for the survey was no more than 3.4%, according to the press release. [Full Story]

A2: Holiday Gifts

The Damn Arbor blog has posted a gift-giving guide premised on a positive answer to this question: “Do you want to make sure the money you spend this season stays in the community?”  The post continues, “… we have worked tirelessly to assemble an outstanding list of locally made gifts.” Items range from sausage to bourbon to “Mit Lit.” [Source]

Council Agenda: Transportation Governance

On the Ann Arbor city council’s Nov. 18, 2013 agenda is an item that first appeared on Oct. 21 – approval of a change to the governance of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. How would the AAATA’s governance change? And why did the Ann Arbor city council delay its vote?

Ypsilanti Township is now a member of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, pending consideration by the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti city councils.

Ypsilanti Township would become a member of the AAATA, if the Ann Arbor city council approves a change to the AAATA’s articles of incorporation at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting.

The governance change would grant a request from Ypsilanti Township to be admitted as a member of the authority, joining the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. The city of Ypsilanti requested membership in the AAATA just this summer, and that request was granted.

Some of the recent community conversation about the topic has included the idea that the governance changes were long overdue. That’s based on the fact that some transportation service to the two Ypsilanti jurisdictions – the city and the township – has been provided by the AAATA through year-to-year purchase of service agreements (POSAs) since at least the early 1980s.

As a result of action earlier this summer, the AAATA board has already expanded from seven to nine members, with one of the additional seats appointed by the city of Ypsilanti. The now-pending governance change, to add Ypsilanti Township as a member, would bring the total number of board seats to 10. [Amendment 3 of the AAATA articles of incorporation]

But the Ypsilanti jurisdictions asked for membership in the AAATA not just because they wanted a seat at the table. They also want to use that membership to help generate additional revenue in the AAATA geographic area – to pay for additional transportation services in all three jurisdictions. Those additional services are described in a five-year service improvement plan the AAATA has developed. The additional services – which include extended hours of operation, greater frequency, and some newly configured routes – were the topic of a series of 13 public meetings that were scheduled from Oct. 17 through Nov. 14.

For the city of Ann Arbor, the five-year plan would mean 33% more service, according to the AAATA. It’s the additional services, and the revenue needed to pay for them, that gave some Ann Arbor city councilmembers pause on Oct. 21, 2013, when the item first appeared on the agenda.

This article reviews some additional context, including the taxing powers of the AAATA, the issue of equity among jurisdictions, the AAATA’s performance as a transit authority, and a couple of vignettes from the series of public meetings held over the last month by the AAATA. [Full Story]

More Land Preserved in Superior Township

Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission meeting (Oct. 8, 2013):  WCPARC’s October meeting saw the commission taking final action on the acquisition of a conservation easement on 82 acres in Superior Township, northeast of Ann Arbor. The land is adjacent to 65 acres that are already part of the county’s natural areas preservation program.

Ford Road, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map of showing the location of 82 acres of mostly agricultural land in Superior Township that the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission is preserving through a conservation easement.

The new parcel of mostly agricultural land, on the north side of Ford Road a bit east of Berry Road, is owned by Ford Road Property Company LLC. The intent is to provide a buffer between Ford Road and the land that WCPARC previously purchased, as well as Superior Township’s nearby Schroeter Park. WCPARC authorized purchase of the easement for $413,000, which will prevent the land from being developed.

In a separate vote, commissioners authorized moving ahead on the purchase of 10 acres in Bridgewater Township – located near the southern border of Washtenaw County on the south side of WCPARC’s 43-acre Riverbend Preserve. Commissioners approved the preparation of a purchase offer of $92,500 contingent on completing all necessary due diligence and WCPARC’s final approval.

Also on Oct. 8, WCPARC director Bob Tetens provided an update on the proposed recreation center near downtown Ypsilanti, a project that WCPARC began almost two years ago. The proposal is to build a multi-purpose recreation center on part of the 38-acre Water Street redevelopment area on the south side of Michigan Avenue, next to the Huron River. The project would be a partnership, with the city providing the land, the county constructing the building, and the facility to be managed by the Ann Arbor YMCA.

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber attended the Oct. 8 meeting, to emphasize the city’s strong support for this project. Discussion focused on possible changes to the design developed by a team of University of Michigan architects and students. The need to make changes arose from the city of Ypsilanti’s 2013 master planning and rezoning project, which is nearing completion.

In addition to the regular financial reports and updates, other actions at the Oct. 8 meeting included approving WCPARC’s participation in Pittsfield Township’s State Road corridor improvement authority. The CIA to improve State Road would entail capturing a percentage of taxes from several local entities, including taxes that support WCPARC. [Full Story]

AAATA: Just Say “TheRide”

Final paperwork for a name change of Ann Arbor’s local transit agency – from the “Ann Arbor Transportation Authority” to the “Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority” – is now complete.

As of Aug. 15, 2013 the transportation authority will begin using the new name on all official communications and transactions. That’s the date when the filings with the state became official, as well as the date on which the board of the AAATA passed a resolution giving formal notification of the name change. The resolution was passed at the board’s regular monthly meeting.

The board’s Aug. 15 resolution indicates that the organization will continue to use “TheRide” in its marketing and branding. That’s partly a response to the increased challenge of pronouncing … [Full Story]

Ypsi: Shadow Art Fair

Mark Maynard has announced that this year’s July 20 Shadow Art Fair in Ypsilanti will be the last. He writes: “Yes, after discussing this eventuality for the past several years, my fellow organizers and I have finally come to a consensus and decided to invoke the nuclear option. It’s been a hell of a run, but, like old Ben Kenobi, we’ve decided that the time is right for us to step aside so that others might flourish in our absence, experiencing the full intensity of the force, which has motivated us these past several years, for themselves.” The fair runs from noon to midnight at the Corner Brewery. [Source]

AATA Adds Ypsilanti, Expands Potential

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (June 20, 2013): While the AATA board also handled a relatively full agenda of routine items, the main event was formal action to ratify changes to the articles of incorporation of the authority, which added the city of Ypsilanti as a member.

AATA board takes a vote at its June 20, 2013 board meeting.

The AATA board takes a vote at its June 20, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

In the last two weeks the city councils of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor had voted unanimously to support the changes to the articles. The vote on the AATA aboard was also unanimous among the five members who were present. Sue Gott and board chair Charles Griffith were absent.

The change to the articles will also expand the board to nine members, with one of the two additional seats to be appointed by the city of Ypsilanti. The name of the authority will now reflect the fact that the geographic boundaries extend beyond Ann Arbor by changing the name to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA).

While the change in governance does not in itself have any financial implications, the goal of the governance change is to provide a way for the two cities to generate additional revenue supporting transportation – in addition to the local millages that the cities already levy, which are specifically dedicated to transportation and transmitted to the AATA. An additional millage could be levied by the AAATA – a statutory right also enjoyed by the AATA, but never exercised. The AAATA could put a millage proposal on the ballot, but it would require voter approval.

The board does not have a meeting scheduled for the month of July, but CEO Michael Ford indicated that one might be convened, to handle some routine items as well as next steps related to the addition of Ypsilanti to the AAATA. That would need to be noticed to the public as a special meeting under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.

In other business, the AATA board agreed to raise fares for its commuter express service from Canton and Chelsea. The increase in fares, in combination with a one-time agreement with the University of Michigan to defray costs of the fare increase for its employees, allowed the Canton service to continue. Fares were also increased on a certain subset of rides taken on the AATA’s NightRide – a shared taxi service that operates after the AATA regular buses stop running. The fare for NightRide will remain $5 for all rides except those that have origins and destinations both in Ann Arbor, and for those that are made with an advance reservation. However, if a ride has either an origin or destination outside Ann Arbor and no reservation is made in advance, then the cost will be $7. The board also approved a number of other route scheduling changes.

In addition, the board approved the purchase of battery refresher kits for up to 20 of its hybrid electric buses. And the board authorized the sale of an older bus to the Ann Arbor Community Center for one dollar.

The board held a public hearing on its federal program of projects, and received updates on several items. Board members also heard an update on the delayed deployment of the AATA’s new website, an optimistic report on the possibility that around $800,000 of state funding would be restored, and a status report on the connector project. The connector project is still in the planning stages, and could result in high-capacity transit along the corridor that runs from US-23 and Plymouth Road through downtown southward to Briarwood Mall.

The board also took care of some internal housekeeping items at the meeting, electing Eli Cooper as treasurer, who replaces David Nacht. Nacht recently ended his 10 years of service on the board. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council OKs Ypsi in AATA

The city of Ypsilanti’s membership in the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has been approved by the city of Ann Arbor in action taken by the Ann Arbor city council on June 3, 2013.

The specific action taken by the council was to approve changes to AATA’s articles of incorporation. The AATA itself and the Ypsilanti city council will also need to approve the document. Given the unanimous vote of the Ypsilanti city council requesting membership – and the AATA board’s generally positive response to the request – it’s expected those two bodies will also vote to approve the revised articles of incorporation. [.pdf of proposed AAATA articles of incorporation][.pdf of existing AATA articles of incorporation]

Ypsilanti’s request for membership came in … [Full Story]

Ypsilanti a Topic for AATA Planning Retreat

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (May 16, 2013): Possible membership for the city of Ypsilanti in the AATA was a main theme of the board’s monthly meeting.

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber addressed the board at its May 16 meeting.

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber addressed the AATA board at its May 16 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber attended the meeting in support of the city’s request for membership, and the board unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging the request. The resolution also directed staff to prepare for a detailed discussion on the issue at the board’s planning retreat, scheduled for May 22. Board members were positively inclined toward the request, but wanted to be sure that due diligence is done to ensure all the implications are understood.

Because the addition of the city of Ypsilanti would require revision to the AATA’s articles of incorporation, there’s some interest by some board members in approaching the changes in a way that could accommodate the addition of more members than just the city of Ypsilanti. It’s possible that Ypsilanti Township, Pittsfield Township or other jurisdictions might request membership in the near future. A more comprehensive approach to revising the articles, or delaying until all jurisdictions are admitted to the AATA at one time, could eliminate the need to revise the articles multiple times in quick succession.

The possible membership of Ypsilanti in the AATA is part of an effort to continue working with “urban core” communities in the immediate Ann Arbor area – after a more ambitious effort to extend AATA governance and services countywide in the summer of 2012 failed to gain traction.

A revision to the articles of incorporation would likely include a change in the AATA board membership structure. Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje had indicated he’d support adding two seats to the current seven-member board, with one of the two additional seats to be appointed by the city of Ypsilanti.

Related to board membership, the May 16 meeting included a resolution of appreciation for the service of Jesse Bernstein on the board. He concluded a five-year term of service in April. Susan Baskett, currently an AAPS trustee, has been nominated as his replacement on the board. If she’s confirmed at the Ann Arbor city council’s May 20 meeting, she’ll join Eric Mahler as another new appointment. Mahler’s appointment to replace David Nacht was subjected to political wrangling at the council’s May 13 session, but he was confirmed on a 7-4 vote. [Full Story]

County Gives More Support to Rutherford Pool

Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission (May 14, 2013): At their most recent meeting, county parks & rec commissioners voted to grant $150,000 to the city of Ypsilanti to help complete the Rutherford Pool project. The Friends of Rutherford Pool is trying to raise about $1 million to rebuild the community pool, located on the eastern end of Recreation Park at 975 North Congress Street.

Recreation Park, Ypsilanti, Rutherford Pool, Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

The entrance to Recreation Park in Ypsilanti, where Rutherford Pool is located. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners also took steps that could lead to spending over $1.713 million on natural areas preservation. They voted to move forward with the acquisition of three deals for the county’s natural areas preservation program: 17 acres in Scio Township ($55,000); about 245 acres in Northfield Township (about $1.4 million); and 65 acres in Freedom Township ($420,000). The latter two purchases were approved contingent on completing due diligence assessments, followed by final approval from the commission.

In addition, WCPARC approved an initial step in replacing the HVAC system at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center on Washtenaw Avenue, and heard reports on upgrades at several other facilities. Those include the nearly-completed major improvements and expansion of water parks at Rolling Hills and Independence Lake parks. Both are set to open Memorial Day weekend, kicking off WCPARC’s summer season.

In other news related to Ypsilanti projects, WCPARC director Bob Tetens reported that the Ypsilanti city council had recently passed a resolution reaffirming support for the east county recreation center project, proposed in the Water Street site near the Huron River. Tetens also presented a report on WCPARC’s marketing and communications program, which staff have expanded into new venues – including AATA buses. The effort is partly in preparation for a millage renewal coming in 2014.

Commissioners also discussed the desire to add another off-leash dog park in addition to Swift Run, which the county runs in partnership with the city of Ann Arbor. Interest is especially keen in light of Ann Arbor’s difficulty in finding a new dog park location. Some commissioners want to include a water element where dogs could play. Jan Anschuetz put it this way: “We’ve done so much to provide water recreation for people – now let’s do it for the dogs.” [Full Story]

AATA: We Hear You, Ypsilanti

In a formal resolution, the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has acknowledged the request of the city of Ypsilanti to join the AATA. The board’s action came at its May 16, 2013 meeting.

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber attended the May 16 meeting and discussed Ypsilanti’s desire to join the AATA, citing several signs of  Ypsilanti’s support for transit – including the request to join AATA and the dedicated transit millage approved by Ypsilanti voters in 2010.

At the Ypsilanti city council’s April 23 meeting, councilmembers had made a formal request to join the AATA under the transit authority’s existing enabling legislation – Act 55 of 1963. For the city of Ypsilanti, joining the AATA represents a new way to generate … [Full Story]

Ypsilanti: Master Plan

WEMU reports on a clash between an update to Ypsilanti’s master plan regarding the long-vacant Water Street site, and a possible Washtenaw County recreation center, which has been proposed for the northwest corner of the property. From the report: “The design team that’s taking public input and converting it into recommendations for council recommends locating the proposed recreation center further south on the parcel, mostly due to the building’s large size and parking requirements.” [Source]

Ypsi: Community Values

The Shape Ypsilanti website is soliciting input on community values to help guide development of the city’s master plan. From one of the responses: “City SUSTAINABILITY* is the priority in economic, energy, transportation and other matters. … Sustainability is NOT the ability to carry out endless growth & development.” [Source]

Public Gives Input on East County Rec Center

About 70 people crowded into a Sept. 27 open house at the Spark East office in Ypsilanti to hear about plans for a proposed new recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti, on the northwest corner of the Water Street redevelopment area. Two conceptual designs were presented for feedback, developed in large part by students and faculty at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The overall project is being spearheaded by Washtenaw County parks and recreation.

Model of a conceptual design for a new recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti

Model of a conceptual “canopy” design for a proposed new recreation center in downtown Ypsilanti. It was one of two models displayed at a Sept. 27 open house to get feedback on the proposed project.

Robert Tetens, the county’s parks and rec director, gave the gathering an overview of the project. “We’re an organization run by data, and our surveys over the years have showed demand for a rec center in the east part of the county,” he said. “We went to the Ypsilanti city council last fall, and proposed that the city provide the land, we [the county] would build it, and the Y[MCA in Ann Arbor] would run it. The seven- or eight-month project has taken us to where we are now.”

The center would be located on the south side of Michigan Avenue just east of downtown, next to the Huron River. The building likely would be 60,000-65,000 square feet – larger than the county’s 51,000-square-foot Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, and smaller than the 70,000-square-foot Ann Arbor YMCA. Construction costs are estimated at $200 per square foot, or about $12-14 million. [Construction is only part of overall project cost, which typically includes infrastructure, professional fees, and more. No estimate of total project cost was made at the Sept. 27 meeting.] Tetens said that construction could not start until after the county’s parks and recreation millage is renewed in November 2014.

Two millages totaling 0.472 mills support the county’s parks and recreation efforts: one for operations, and one for development. The operational millage, at 0.2353 mills, was renewed for 10 additional years in 2004. To ensure operational continuity, that millage is typically renewed two years in advance of its expiration date. The current operational millage expires in 2016, but will likely be on the ballot for renewal in 2014.

Previously, Tetens had said that the schedule for the proposed east county recreation center would include settling on a specific plan for the building by December 2012. At the Sept. 27 meeting, he said other steps would include collaboration between the Ypsilanti city council and the county parks department over the next 8-10 months, followed by a campaign for the county parks millage renewal in November 2014, which is needed to ensure adequate cash flow. Then, Tetens said, he hoped to have bids out and be ready to get approval from the county board of commissioners, sign a contract, and start construction “right after that.”

The planning group showed two possible ways of developing the entire Water Street site: a “river ribbon” street plan with a storefront-style, elevated rec center building; and a “grid” street plan with a canopy-style building. Before designing the specifics of the building, the planning group defined the project’s objectives and the pertinent qualities of the overall site. Running through the discussion, including audience participation at the end, was the desire for the publicly-funded rec center and the adjacent Border-to-Border trail to create enough use of the site to attract private investment in retail, residential, and commercial uses that would generate tax revenue for the city of Ypsilanti. [Full Story]

Ypsilanti Income Tax, Millage Voted Down

With results reported from six of the seven precincts in the city of Ypsilanti, voters overwhelmingly rejected two major proposals on the May 8 ballot: A city income tax, and a millage to pay off debt for the Water Street parcel. The proposed city income tax was voted down with 1,313 no votes (68%) to 625 yes votes (32%) from six precincts. The proposed Water Street millage failed 1,291 (67%) to 644 (33%).

At Aubree’s in Depot Town, volunteers who worked for SCIT (Stop City Income Tax) appeared more interested in the pizza provided by SCIT than in additional voting results, which as early as 9 p.m. were clearly in their favor. Peter Fletcher, spokesperson for SCIT, was not available for comment … [Full Story]

Privatizing Public Services: A Good Thing?

A recent forum on privatization, organized by the local League of Women Voters, brought together four elected officials and one former administrator to share their experiences and opinions on the issue.

Bob Guenzel, Sabra Briere

Former Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel and Ann Arbor city councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) were among five panelists at a Feb. 27 forum on privatization. The event was organized by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor area and held at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. (Photos by the writer.)

The membership of the national League of Women Voters is studying the issue of privatization, with the eventual goal of developing a position statement, based in part on feedback from local leagues. Susan Greenberg, who moderated the Feb. 27 panel in Ann Arbor, said they’ll be looking at the factors that governments use to determine which services are privatized, the policy issues that are considered, how privatization impacts a community, and what strategies are used to ensure transparency and accountability.

Panelists all had experience in public sector leadership: Lois Richardson, Ypsilanti city councilmember and mayor pro tem; Bob Guenzel, former Washtenaw County administrator; Sabra Briere, Ann Arbor city councilmember; Andy Fanta, Ypsilanti public schools board member; and Susan Baskett, Ann Arbor public schools board member.

Panelists gave examples of how privatization is being used locally – such as curbside recycling in Ann Arbor and garbage pick-up in Ypsilanti – but generally expressed caution about the practice. Fanta was less circumspect, describing privatization as capitalism eating its entrails. [All of the four elected officials are Democrats.]

The forum also included time for questions from the audience. Topics ranged from the impact of Proposal A – which shifted control of funding for K-12 schools from local communities to the state – to comments about national funding priorities.

The event was co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and held at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. A videotape of the panel will be posted on the AADL website. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor to Ypsi Ridership: Numbers Up

At its Feb. 16, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board got an update on the first week’s performance of the increased service implemented on Route #4, between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, which the board approved at its Nov. 17, 2011 meeting.

At the board’s planning and development committee meeting the previous week, Chris White – AATA’s manager of service development – urged caution about the increased ridership and on-time performance on the routes. It’s just the first week and it’s possible that riders are simply switching routes. Compared to the previous week, before the implementation of the more frequent service, ridership on Route #4 increased 8% compared to a systemwide ridership decrease of 0.6%.

On Route #4, ridership numbers … [Full Story]

DDA Takes “Baby Step” for Ypsi Buses

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Dec. 1, 2010): At its last meeting of the year, the DDA board transacted only one piece of business: It authorized a grant of $14,417 to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to fund service improvements, like greater frequency and reduced travel times, for the AATA #4 bus, which runs between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

Fifth and Division Street Improvements

Bricks: Part of the new streetscape improvements on Fifth Avenue in front of the DDA offices. Money: New ePark payment kiosks. As part of the Bricks and Money Committee report to the DDA board, John Splitt noted that the new street lights were being "wired as we speak." That was literally true – as evidenced by the yellow-vested, hooded electrician observed an hour before the meeting started. (Photo by the writer.)

The money is offered by the DDA as a challenge to other local organizations to support service enhancements on the route, which are estimated to have a total cost of $180,000. Board member Newcombe Clark described the grant as a great first step, adding “but man, is it a baby one.”

Although the transportation grant was the only vote taken by the board at the meeting, board members entertained discussion on two topics that are likely to receive a great deal of focus in the broader community over the next few months: (1) the future use of the Library Lot; and (2) the “mutually beneficial” discussions between the city and the DDA about the parking contract under which the DDA operates the city’s parking system.

The board also heard the usual range of reports from its committees. No one addressed the board during either of the two slots set aside for public commentary. [Full Story]

In the Archives: Ypsilanti’s Waldorf-Astoria

Editor’s note: “In the Archives” is a biweekly series on local area history. In the coming week, on Jan. 19-20, the city of Ann Arbor will interview proposers of different projects for the top of a new underground parking garage at the Library Lot – including some developers who would like to build a hotel there. In this installment of her historical look back, Laura Bien offers a vignette of life just east of Ann Arbor, in Ypsilanti’s Huron Hotel, just after it had opened.

Eula Beardsley and Gladys Huston exited the front door of their Ypsilanti rooming house at Adams and Pearl one late December day in 1924.

Huron Hotel

The hotel opened in 1923, the year that residents celebrated the city's centennial. At left is the Washington Street entrance to the coffee shop and at right is the main Pearl Street entrance. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

“Colder than I thought,” said Gladys. Eula pulled shut the front door. “You’ll warm up at that big lunch today.” The pair walked one block east on Pearl Street, passing shiny rows of black cars in the Wiedman auto dealership to their left.

They crossed Washington, headed towards the door of the elegant new Huron Hotel on the northeast corner of Pearl and Washington.

Two years earlier, the only accommodations the city could offer guests were at the old-fashioned Hawkins House on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Adams. Built in the 19th century, the place had a worn-out and rustic atmosphere. The Ypsilanti Board of Commerce decided the city needed a modern, attractive hotel. It sold shares of stock to city residents, raised $200,000, and built the hotel in eight months, adding two additional floors two years later. [Full Story]

Federal Money May Save Bus #5 for Ypsi

Clipping from April 3, 1973 Ann Arbor News newspaper

A clipping from the April 3, 1973 Ann Arbor News newspaper. Headline was: "Bus System Linking City With Ypsilanti Gets Push"

At a meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s planning and development committee on Wednesday evening – attended by some members of Ypsilanti’s city council, plus the mayor – the possible elimination of Ypsilanti’s bus Route #5 became far less likely.

The committee recommended that federal stimulus money be used to cover a shortfall between the amount that Ypsilanti’s city council allocated to transportation, and the cost of the city’s purchase of service agreement (POSA) with the AATA through June 2011. If the recommendation to use federal dollars is approved by the full AATA board at its Sept.23 meeting, the elimination of Route #5, plus reductions in service on Routes #10 and #11, would not be necessary.

On Sept. 8, Ypsilanti’s city council had voted 5-1 (with dissent from Mayor Paul Schreiber) to propose the service reductions – chosen from a “menu” of options provided by the AATA. The Ypsilanti council resolution also included a request that the POSA rate not increase, and that about $100,000 in federal stimulus dollars – part of a $6.45 million grant to the AATA – be used to make up the remaining difference.

The willingness of the AATA’s planning and development committee to increase the federal dollars allotted to around $200,000 was based on a key condition, which is actually built into the language of the Ypsilanti council resolution: either there will be progress towards a dedicated countywide funding mechanism for mass transportation, or else the city of Ypsilanti will put a millage proposal (a Headlee override) on the November 2010 ballot. [Full Story]

Ypsi Community Band Practices for Pease

Ypsilanti Community Band

Photo 1. Say hello to my little friend. A trombone spit valve.

In a battle between a band and a pipe organ to see which can play louder, the lead trombone player in the band clips a white cloth to the spit valve at the end of his slide and holds it aloft as a sign of surrender. That’s not what happened at Tuesday evening’s rehearsal by the Ypsilanti Community Band. For one thing there was no pipe organ in the Whitmore Lake High School band room where the 73-member ensemble rehearses. But the anecdote – told by assistant conductor and organist, James Wagner, during a lull in the rehearsal – is based on a true story from Texas.

The Ypsilanti Community Band could repeat that bit of Texas history when it performs the Finale from the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony at its annual holiday concert, to be held this year on Dec. 11 at Pease Auditorium on the Eastern Michigan University campus, starting at 7:30 p.m. Pease boasts a formidable pipe organ, which will be played by Wagner. The concert, which is a joint endeavor with the Ypsilanti Community Choir, is free (including parking) and open to the public. [Full Story]

Ypsi: Economy

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber was interviewed for the PRI program “To the Point” on an episode called “The Road to Recovery and American Cars.” Schreiber’s segment begins at time code 29:45. [Source]