Council Capsule: April 21, 2015

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015, 5:00 pm
Alice Dreger

Image: “Graduates” of the Emerging Leaders Program

All councilmembers were present: Mayor Nathan Triplett, Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, Councilmembers Ruth Beier, Kathy Boyle, and Susan Woods.

Emerging Leaders: Megan Clark from the City Manager’s Office presented the graduates of the 2015 East Lansing Emerging Leaders Program. According to the City, this is a “six-week course in civil engagement” in which participants “hone leadership and public service skills by learning about a variety of topics with courses taught by a range of local business, community and government leaders.”

This year the course was completed by David Brotherson, Jasmine Brown- Moreland, Brandon Bussa, Jose Camara, Kristin Clark, Curt Dwyer, Paul Furtaw, Erin Graham, Stephen Hershfield, Meegan Holland, Ellie Marchman, Patrick Marchman, Flemming Mathiasen, Michael Pendy, La Tricia Perry, John Swords, and Stephen Wooden. Clark told Council, “They are already all-stars if you ask me.” City Manager George Lahanas said the program fits a positive model of citizen engagement.

Council approves PDIG’s site plans and special use permit: See our special report on this.

Gateway project debated: Council held a public hearing on the DTN-proposed Gateway Project for the area along Grand River Avenue between the West Village townhouses and Biggby Coffee. See our special report on this.

IBM awarded tax exemption: IBM requested and was given a tax abatement for personal property tax amounting to $6,755 per year for 5 years for a total of $33,775. Goddeeris praised IBM for bringing good jobs to the area and said this was a good way to reward them. Boyle called the tax abatement “modest” and “entirely appropriate.” Triplett said he appreciated IBM’s investment in the area. The vote in favor was unanimous.

Spine Center MRI truck screening approved: Council considered “a modified Site Plan application from Compass Health for the property at 250 East Saginaw Street to utilize a mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit.” The neighbors of the Spine Center have wanted appropriate screening of the large truck housing this unit. In her explanation of the matter to Council, Planning staff Darcy Schmitt said that the owner, Dr. Christopher Abood, had sent a letter indicating that “We acknowledge and regret that we did not involve City officials in this project sooner” as required by Code.

Council unanimously approved the plan for screening of the large truck, which houses a mobile MRI unit. Abood is trying to get permission to install the MRI inside but there are significant requirements for this process and it can take years to get the required “certificate of need” for this. The truck will be screened on the south and west sides to make it less unattractive to the neighborhood. Boyle said the plan meets with approval of the neighbors. Council’s approval included a requirement for reviewing the screening if the MRI is not moved inside the building by December 31, 2018.

Sewer cleaning and recording contract: City engineer Bob Scheuerman asked Council to approve a contract with United Resources, LLC, in the amount of $380,000, to deal with cleaning and “televising” (examining with video) areas of the City’s sewer. City staff decided not to go with the apparent lowest bidder because of the calculation that it would actually not turn out to be the least expensive due to the way the lowest bidder did the calculation of likely costs. Some of the pipes that will be cleaned are on the MSU campus and date to 1927, and Scheuerman is not sure they have ever been cleaned. The approval was unanimous.

MDOT cost sharing agreement: Council unanimously passed a resolution “authorizing the City Manager to execute the cost sharing agreement between the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for the reconstruction of Abbot Road between Burcham Drive and Saginaw Street and Bogue Street from north of Shaw Lane to Grand River Avenue.” Department of Public Works’ new staff member Carl Fedders explained that the costs had not turned out to be what was written in the resolution before Council. Triplett asked for the new amounts so that the resolution could be worded correctly. As those were not available, and there is a time urgency related to this, Council ended up passing a resolution that referred to a contract rather than a specific sum of money. The City Attorney said this was acceptable.

Sidewalk improvement assessments: Council held a public hearing on assessments that will occur as part of this year’s Major Street Improvement Projects. City Engineer Bob Scheuerman spoke on this, noting that there will be major road work done this summer on Abbot Road, from Saginaw Highway to Burcham Drive, and Bogue Street, from Grand River Avenue to south of the Red Cedar River. At the same time, sidewalks in the area will be repaired and curb cuts at intersections will be brought up to ADA standards.

Property owners were advised of how much they would have to pay for sidewalk repairs as part of this project. None appealed the estimates. The sidewalk repairs are turning out to cost more than the City had estimated they would, and the City is not going to raise the assessments to property owners as a result, but will instead “eat” the extra cost. Property owners can use their own contractors for the work but have to complete it by June 15, otherwise the City’s contractor will do the work and the owner will be assessed.

I asked during the public hearing about whether the City would ensure they used a better grass replacement mix than that which caused significant weed problems in 2012. No one else seemed familiar with the issue and there was no further discussion of the matter. The resolution was passed unanimously.

Public comments: Several citizens spoke to Council on a variety of topics.

Barbara Godby read a letter of appreciation for the paramedics who helped her when on March 27 she had a medical emergency. She praised the emergency workers and said she was so grateful to them and her city.

Laura Spees, a long-time volunteer at the Listening Ear, expressed gratitude for a $2,000 grant to advertise but said that lack of funding was causing significant challenges as Listening Ear tries to provide adequate mental health services to the community. Spees said there are 77 shifts per week and less than half that number of volunteers. To date they have handled 7,000 calls and over 50 responses to sexual assault.

Fenton Zhang asked Council to recognize World Falun Dafa Day. Council later (in the consent agenda) passed a resolution recognizing it. Zhang said Falun Dafa is a peaceful, spiritual process involving meditation, exercises, and moral teaching and that its practitioners are being persecuted by the Chinese government. She said many of her friends have been tortured, disabled, and even organ-harvested by the Chinese communist party. She asked Council to stand for human rights and freedom.

Ralph Monsma objected to Council moving forward on the PDIG plan saying they still had not ascertained how it would work in terms of the finances and management of risk to the City and City’s taxpayers. He asked them to oppose the project now.

Reports from Council, City Manager, and City Attorney:

Councilmembers Woods, Beier, and Triplett had nothing to report, nor did the City Attorney.

Councilmember Boyle reminded people that the City is undertaking a collaborative process to determine the future of the Bailey Community Center. She asked residents to participate in the session next Monday, April 27, at 7 pm at the Hannah Community Center. RSVPs are requested but not required. As his report to Council, City Manager George Lahanas reiterated the importance of this community collaborative dialogue.

Mayor Pro Tem Goddeeris praised an anonymous donor for giving a $1.5 million contribution to the East Lansing Public Library for physical improvements. She and the library director are challenging the community to match that gift with personal donations. Goddeeris also asked community members to attend the Crystal Awards celebration at Hannah Community Center tomorrow at 5 pm. She said it is a great way to learn about people helping the community, often “under the radar.”

Taste of East Lansing: The food festival known as “Taste of East Lansing” will be this Saturday, April 25, from 3-6 pm. At Council, Community Relations Coalition (CRC) interns Marisa Martini and Tee Sanders presented on this as well as on their experiences with the CRC. Sanders spoke about how her CRC work made her realize that there are long-term residents living right near students. She talked about the CRC’s activities, including ice cream socials and party trash pick-up, and said it had been a wonderful year. Read our report on the festival.

Appointments: Council noted that at the last work session they approved the appointment of Tony Beyers to the Michigan Avenue Corridor Improvement Authority for a partial term ending on December 31, 2015 and approved the appointment of Brandon Bussa to the Building Authority for a partial term ending June 30, 2016.

3200 West Road: A public hearing was held on “a request from Phipps Robert J. (Trust) to rezone the property at 3200 West Road from RA, Residential Agricultural to B-4, Restricted Office Business District.” This was uncontroversial and passed unanimously. Council also unanimously approved a lot split application from Edwin D. Weaver, Jr., for the same property.

Consent agenda: The following items were passed on a “consent agenda,” which means they were approved without further discussion:

  • Approval of a resolution authorizing the Mayor to sign the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Grant Memorandum of Understanding
  • Approval of the park naming committee recommendation to rename Forest Park to Corey Cafagna Park and authorize the City Manager to have a plaque installed with appropriate language recognizing Corey Cafagna, and authorize the City Manager to have a sign with the words "Corey Cafagna Park" installed at an appropriate location
  • Approval of the contract for Physio-Control Lucas 2.2 Chest Compression System in the amount of $74,979.20
  • Approval of the contract for Physio-Control Life Pack Defibrillator Monitors in the amount of $125,000.90
  • Authorize the City Manager to direct the East Lansing-Meridian Water/Sewer Authority to manage the refurbishment or replacement of both pumps at the Hagadorn Road Water Distribution tank not to exceed $30,000.00
  • Approval to award the 2015 Miscellaneous Concrete Project and authorize the City Manager to enter into a contract with Able Concrete, Inc. at the unit prices bid with a total amount not to-exceed $70,000.00
  • Approval of a resolution establishing a public hearing on the preliminary FY2015-16 budget and tax rate for May 6, 2015
  • Approval of a resolution proclaiming April 24, 2015 as Arbor Day in the City of East Lansing
  • Approval of the appointment of La Tricia Perry to the Human Relations Commission for a partial term ending on December 31, 2017
  • Approval of a resolution recognizing May 13, 2015 as World Falun Dafa Day in the City of East Lansing
  • Approval of the appointment of La Tricia Perry to the Officers Compensation Commission for a partial term ending on September 30, 2019
  • Set a public hearing for May 6, 2015 for the Amended Brownfield Plan #4 or the redevelopment of 300 W. Grand River Avenue 
  • Approval of the appointment of Elisia Marchman to the Commission on the Environment for a partial term ending December 31, 2017 (added on late to the agenda).


UPDATE, April 23, 2015, 4:45 pm: The original version of this, under "IBM awarded tax exemption," said "Triplett said he appreciated IBM’s investment in the area and said the company pays 'nearly $200,000' in real and personal property taxes to the City of East Lansing." That line has been shortened to remove the words "and said the company pays 'nearly $200,000' in real and personal property taxes to the City of East Lansing." While Triplett said this, it has come to our attention that the staff memo to which he was referring as support does not; memo here. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info