<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> First February newsletter 2014 sec

Sabra Briere

First Ward, City Council
995-3518 (home)
277-6578 (cell)

Coffee wakes some of us up

I usually hold office hours 7:30 to 9 am on Mondays at the Northside Grill. 

The folks at the Northside put up with political talk early in the morning.  If you see me there, please wave, and if you have time, please, join me for coffee and a chat. 


The City Council holds a caucus meeting each Sunday prior to a Council meeting.  This meeting is an opportunity for members of Council to discuss agenda items -- and pending issues -- with each other in public view.  Members of the public are welcome to attend to bring issues to the attention of Council members.  Caucus is held in Council Chambers.

The Caucus starts at 7 pm.


Dear Neighbors,

After the snowiest January on record, I see that the groundhog on February 2nd is likely to forecast an early spring for us – that’s if you subscribe to the belief that a cloudy day equals an early spring.  I’m just anticipating the snow.

Because you are probably as tired of the snow as anyone else, I don’t want to burden you with too many more reminders.  On Saturday, February 1, the City anticipates having 10 plows dedicated to clearing the major streets (Plymouth, Jackson/Huron, State, Main, Washtenaw) during the storm.  Since this snow storm may include both heavy (weight) snow and freezing rain, the snow/sand mixture that the City uses to both melt the snow and create traction will be part of the process.  The City works two 12-hour shifts to plow residential streets when a storm drops 4 or more inches.  Because this storm is predicted to bring over 4 inches of snow – with freezing rain to follow! – residential areas should begin to be plowed on February 1 with the salt/sand mix being spread on the streets to improve driving conditions.  Residential area snow plowing will likely continue through Sunday, February 2. The City anticipates snow plowing should be complete after every average storm (4-7 inches) within 24 hours– including cul-de-sac and narrow areas.

Once again, I recommend that all cars be parked off-street in order for the plows to actually do a good job, curb-to-curb.  At least one car on my street has been parked – and plowed in – since before the last snowfall.  Plows must navigate around parked cars; it makes the service less effective than you or I might want.

If you are concerned about when the plows will reach your neighborhood, contact me or call the Snow Desk (734.794.6367) with questions and for the latest information.

The City staff prepared a preliminary update on this snow for Council.  I’ve attached it here.  Much of the information on this sheet is simply general expectations, as it was prepared before the snow actually hit.  If there are any changes in the plans for this snowfall, Council members expect to be informed. 

I know that, under the snow, potholes are developing.  A pothole patch lasts less than one (1) year; some areas in our community have serious surface issues.  If you can identify an area with significant (damage your car significant) potholes, please contact me, email the City at customerservice@a2gov.org and/or call the City at 734.99.HOLES.  This year I’ve reported pothole issues on Plymouth, Pontiac, Huron Parkway, Huron River Drive, and Newport.

Wouldn’t you rather find that garden catalog and think about how – at least this year – there’s lots of snow cover protecting your tender perennials? And for those thinking about the animals, I’ve spotted my usual herd of deer most mornings lately, heading back into the woods after eating whatever they can find.

Water main breaks

You might have noticed that there have been quite a few water main breaks in the past month.  Although water mains break – and need repair – fairly often, winter water main breaks can be caused by the deep freeze and thaw cycle, and the resulting shifting of the soil (this freeze/thaw cycle affects road conditions, too).  Although I could easily have missed some, by my count there have been 33 water main breaks this winter.  The Council will get an update on the number of breaks, the cost of repair, the causes and the ways to prevent future water main issues during the budget cycle.  As soon as I learn, I’ll post that information in my newsletter.


Sidewalk Gaps

Residents living along Newport Road and in the adjacent neighborhoods have been seeking a safer way to walk across the M14 bridge to Wines elementary school and Forsythe middle school.  On January 22nd, the City met with residents from Newport Creek and Riverwood subdivisions as well as from Newport Road to discuss the current proposal to construct a sidewalk from the entrance to Riverwood to Wines.  Homeowners’ associations for Riverwood and Newport Creek have discussed ways to help fund the construction.  The City will hold a subsequent meeting with residents to discuss voluntary contributions and a special assessment district; the decision of whether to approve a special assessment district will come before Council in April – or so I’ve heard.  As soon as I know about dates for these meetings, I’ll share.  The cost to build the sidewalk is estimated at $50,000.

Shelter from the cold

This has been an unusually cold and snowy winter so far, and for some of our neighbors, it’s also been quite harsh.  Some of our neighbors have decided – for personal reasons with which we may not be comfortable – that they would prefer to remain outside in tents rather than go to one of the emergency shelters that have been opened.  The concerns I’ve heard include ‘Delonis is too crowded’ and ‘crowded spaces make me anxious.’  I’ve also heard from many people who would like the City to fund and open a day shelter, a night shelter, or both. 

So what is the City doing?

First, the City doesn’t provide direct services, although it helps fund several non-profits that provide services.  Working with the County’s Office of Community and Economic Development, several non-governmental and governmental organizations have agreed to make their space available (this means, no one will be told they are not welcome) during weather emergencies.

Options within Ann Arbor include:
Emergency shelters open 24 hours:
Delonis Center (312 W. Huron St.) 24 hours.
University of Michigan Medical Center (1500 E. Medical Center Drive) 24 hours.
IHN Alpha House (4290 Jackson Road) 24 hours – Only if resident is nearby; residents should not travel from Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti to get to this location.
Emergency shelters open during the day and evening
First United Methodist Church (120 S. State St.) until 7 p.m.
All Ann Arbor District Library Locations (various - See www.aadl.org) until 9 p.m.
Emergency shelters open during the day
Mercy House (3501 Stone School Road) until 3 p.m.
St. Mary's Student Parish (331 Thompson St.) open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Michigan Ability Partners (3810 Packard Road Suite 200) until 4:30 p.m.
Ann Arbor Housing Commission (727 Miller Ave. - Miller Manor; and 106 Packard - Baker Commons) until 5 p.m.
Ann Arbor City Hall (301 E. Huron St.) until 5 p.m.
Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (on Industrial) until 5 p.m.

Second, the City continues to work with the County to provide shelter and services to those who are ‘living rough’ for whatever reason.  But City ordinances do not allow the City to set aside an area where those who are ‘living rough’ could remain in tent encampments. 

Third, although the City is not required to fund human services or affordable housing by state or national regulations, the City has made providing services a priority for years – and recently the City Council allocated the proceed from the sale of the old Y lot to help fund affordable housing.


On the Agenda

Once upon a time, the Chronicle carried a report of Caucus but not always a preview of the next Council meeting.  Recently, they’ve begun writing about agenda items before the meeting, and the Ann Arbor News has begun to follow suit.  If you want, you can learn more about what the Chronicle thinks is significant on Monday’s agenda.   The Ann Arbor News covers the issues item by item, though, which makes providing their view more difficult for me.

Public Hearings

The Council will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to Germain Motors (formerly Howard Cooper).


New and amended ordinances require two readings.  A public hearing is held at the time of the second reading.  Public hearings may be held over if the ordinance is postponed at second reading.

Ordinances, second reading


Ordinances, first reading

Public Art
Last April, the Council approved a significant change to the Public Art ordinance, altering the way the City would plan for and fund public art.  On February 3, the Council will consider a new amendment that could result in the return of those dollars collected during the Percent for Art program to their originating funds.

Smoking prohibition for certain outdoor locations
Up for first reading is a new ordinance that would regulate smoking in specific outdoor locations, such as within 20 feet of the entrance, window or ventilation system of any City building.  It would also allow the City Administrator to designate certain parks and park areas as ‘no smoking’ zones.  Although there is a County ordinance regarding smoking, this ordinance is only enforced by the County Health Department.  The Ann Arbor News has brought this issue to public attention in this article.


Resolutions from Council

There is only one resolution from Council on the agenda: to set hearings for non-renewal of liquor licenses.

Resolutions from Boards and Commissions


Resolution to extend the contract for the staff person working with the Public Art Commission: This resolution was postponed from the January 21st meeting, and would extend the contract an additional six months (through June 30, 2014) at a cost of $20,500; the money would come from those funds remaining in the Percent for Art fund.  (The final project supported by Percent for Art dollars is proposed for Argo Cascades.  None of the proposals has been approved, and the Public Art Commission has restarted the selection process.)

The Council will consider whether to approve additions to the buildings at Germain Motors on South State Street (after the public hearing).

Resolutions from Staff

Consent Agenda

Among other items on the Consent Agenda are street closings (Fool Moon and FestiFools), an agreement for shared IT services with Chelsea, acceptance of a grant from Firehouse Subs to purchase 11 defibrillators and the purchase of a new boiler for Fuller Pool.

Geddes Avenue improvements

The Council will be asked to approve a contract with Hubbel, Roth and Clark for preliminary work – including public outreach – leading to reconstruction of Geddes between Huntington and Huron Parkway, with reconstruction of the Sanitary Sewers on Geddes Ave. and Dover Place as well as the storm sewer on Geddes and the water main on Dover / Riverview.

Edwards Brothers

The Council will consider whether to exercise its Right of First Refusal for the Edwards Brothers property on State Street.  At this moment, there are no details about what funds would be appropriated or what the terms might be that the Council would ask the City Administrator to establish with Edwards Brothers.  There has been some speculation, though, and of course, there are three real options: let the University buy the property and remove it from the tax rolls, purchase it and immediately sell it to a developer, or purchase it and hold it for some future plan. 

I’d love to hear what you believe is the best decision.  (I don’t believe the Council would purchase the land to sell it immediately at a loss.  If that were an option, I doubt there would be 8 votes in favor of that decision.)


There are always other items on the Agenda that might interest you.  You might be interested in the work plan for the Environmental Commission, or the performance and financial reports for AAATA’s first quarter (ending December).  It is always possible that you would want to review the City’s 2013 fourth quarter investment portfolio report, too.

On the Calendar

From the Planning website:

The Bank of Ann Arbor has scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 6:30 pm at the Downtown Library, Conference Room A (4th floor), 343 S. Fifth Avenue, to present its proposal for additions to the bank headquarters at 125 S. Fifth Avenue.  The Bank of Ann Arbor proposal adds approximately 8,500 sf by the addition of a third floor over the eastern portion of the building and a new entrance at the corner of S. Fifth and E. Washington. See the announcement for more information.
First Martin Corporation has scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Wednesday, February 5, 2014 from 6-7 pm at the Downtown Library multipurpose room, 343 S. Fifth Avenue, to present its new development proposal for the site at 116-120 W. Huron Street. The 120 W. Huron Street project proposes demolition of two buildings on the site and construction of a six-story hotel with retail space along the West Huron frontage.  The new building will retain the façade of the Greyhound Bus Depot. See the announcement for more information.
 The Ann Arbor Housing Commission has scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 7:00 pm at the Malletts Creek Branch of the Ann Arbor Public Library, 3090 East Eisenhower Parkway. The project proposed is for the demolition of existing buildings at 3451 – 3457 Platt Road and construction of 21 new housing units as well as a new management office.
The Ann Arbor Housing Commission has scheduled a citizen participation meeting for Wednesday, February 12, 2014, 7:00 pm at the Peace Neighborhood Center, 1111 North Maple Road. The project proposed is for the demolition of existing buildings at 707 N. Maple Road and construction of 42 new units as well as a new community center.
Interested in the health of the City’s creeks?  The Millers Creek Sedimentation study will be presented on February 5th at 6:30 p.m. in the Gallup Park conference room.

And if you’ve been following the Sanitary Sewer Wet Weather Project, the next public meeting will be held on February 6th at 6:30 p.m.at Slausson middle school.  The Citizen Advisory Committee for this project will meet on February 13th at 6 p.m. at Forsythe middle school.

On the Horizon

Sidewalk gaps (again)

The City staff will host a public meeting at Northside elementary school on February 25th at 6:30 to discuss both the Barton Drive sidewalk gap plans and the traffic calming schedule for Northside.

Pedestrian Safety and Access

Currently, no meeting date has been established for the Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force (first meeting).  The expectation is that this task force will begin meeting in March and meet frequently thereafter.  Task force members (appointed at the last Council meeting) are: Vivienne Armentrout, Scott Campbell, Ken Clark, Neal Elyakin, Linda Diane Feldt, Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, Owen Jansson, Tony Pinnell and Jim Rees.  When a date for this task force’s first meeting is set, I’ll post it in this newsletter.

What am I reading?

Blink  by Malcolm Gladwell is” a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant – in the blink of an eye – that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?”

Anyway, it might be a good read while the sky rains down on us.