Council Capsule: April 28, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 5:44 pm
By: 
Chris Root

This was a work session of Council. Audio tape of the meeting is available on the City's website.

Present: Mayor Nathan Triplett, Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, Councilmembers Ruth Beier, Kathy Boyle, and Susan Woods

Note about next week: Next week’s City Council meeting will be on Wednesday, May 6. It will not be held on a Tuesday, as usual, because of the statewide election next Tuesday, May 5. Next week's Council Capsule will therefore not be available until later than usual.

Gateway project revised plan and TIF: Council continued review of DTN’s “Gateway Project,” proposed for 300 West Grand River Avenue, an empty lot just to the east of the West Village 2 townhouse condos. Council and City staff also debated whether the project warrants public subsidy in the form of tax increment financing (TIF). See our special report.

Contract for Department of Public Works (DPW) Employee Safety and Training Services: Director of Public Works Scott House explained a decision by DPW, working with Human Resources, that DPW needs assistance from subject matter experts to ensure that its policies, procedures and training meet the requirements of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). A memorandum from House stated that safety and training programs of DPW “were disrupted” over the past five years. DPW issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) and received one proposal, from FTC&H, that conformed to the RFP. City Council was asked to approve up to $90,000 for a five-phase training program, which was presenting as being a bit more than $1,000 for each of DPW’s 80 employees. Funding would be distributed across the sewer fund (50%), general fund (10%), water (10%), major streets (10%), local streets (10%), sanitation (5%) and garage (5%). Approval of this contract was placed on the consent agenda for the May 6 Council meeting.

City Manager Contract Extension: Following his recently-completed annual review, City Manager George Lahanas requested an extension of his contract for three more years, to January 31, 2019. Lahanas’ contract began in February 2012, at a salary of $135,000, which is being incremented by 1% annually. Action on this issue was placed on the Council’s May 6 agenda.

Active military house-sitting exemption: Annette Irwin, East Lansing’s Housing and University Relations Administrator, proposed that Council add a new exception to the City ordinance on rental licenses to allow East Lansing residents currently serving in the military to extend house-sitting of their house for an additional two years. This is occasioned by an East Lansing resident whose tour of active duty has recently been extended. Irwin believes this new exemption would be used only infrequently. Goddeeris asked whether neighbors would have any say in whether an extension would be granted, and City Manager George Lahanas suggested that the record regarding tickets (for issues such as noise violations and maintenance and upkeep of the property) should be checked and the owner should be given the opportunity to correct any problems. Goddeeris also suggested that persons on active military duty should have a local representative with whom the City can communicate; Irwin pointed out that this would be an additional expense for the homeowner. The Council agreed that enforcement of the current ordinance could be delayed administratively while Council develops an amendment to the Ordinance.

Modification of Taxi Moratorium: Marie Wicks explained a resolution that was placed on the Council’s agenda next week to extend the moratorium on licensing new taxi companies in East Lansing until August 30, 2015, while ending the moratorium on new taxi vehicles and drivers. The purpose of the change is to give additional time for the Greater Lansing Taxi Authority to complete its rules and regulations. Mayor Triplett reported that several more townships, as well as Michigan State University, are applying to join this new regional regulatory authority. This issue was placed on the May 6 Council agenda of action.

Updates to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy: City Attorney Tom Yeadon presented a proposed new Policy Resolution about administering FOIA requests that would be compatible with a new state law that goes into effect on July 1, 2015. He requested decisions by Council about several specific issues, including whether fringe benefits should be included in the cost of staff time for responding to requests and who should handle appeals to decisions about FOIA requests before they could go to the Circuit Court policies. After Council discussion, he was asked to include in the draft resolution that fringe rates would be included and that the City Manager should handle appeals. City Clerk Marie Wicks, who administers FOIA requests for the City, reported that 149 FOIA requests were received in 2014. The City does not charge for most of these requests and does not treat FOIA requests as an income stream; the total cost of all 2014 requests was $700. The exceptional requests that take more time and are therefore charged for often involve requests for email messages, which must be reviewed individually.

Contract to Peripheral Vision for upgrades to the 54B District Court and City Hall video monitoring system: Information Systems Manager Alan McCarrack presented a proposed resolution for a $132,835 contract to upgrade the existing 54B District Court and City Hall analog video surveillance system to an IP-based system and to improve building security coverage. Although it was not the lowest bidder, Peripheral Vision was the only bidder on the City’s RFP on this job that verified that they provide equal benefits to all their employees. A resolution approving this contract was placed on the Consent Agenda of the May 6 Council meeting.

Grant application for Bogue Street Bridge maintenance: The Council unanimously adopted a motion made by Mayor Pro Tem Goddeeris and seconded by Councilmember Woods to approve a grant application to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) program that provides up to 95% of funding for preventive maintenance of roads and bridges. Assistant Engineering Administrator Carl Fedders explained that, if approved by MDOT, the grant would provide funding toward a new bridge deck, new guardrails and new sidewalks on the Bogue Street Bridge over the Red Cedar River. Funding would be provided in Fiscal Year 2018. The entire cost of the project is approximately $1.4 million. Action was needed at this Work Session so an up-to-date letter can be included with a grant proposal due on May 5.

Appointment of Patrick Marchman to the Zoning Board of Appeals: The Council unanimously approved a motion appointing Marchman to this position for a term ending December 31, 2016. Marchman just completed the East Lansing Emerging Leaders program.

Councilmember Reports: Mayor Pro Tem Goddeeris suggested that Council members share reports at least once per year about the various bodies to which they are assigned to represent the Council, such as the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) or the East Lansing Public Library Board of Directors. This should be informative for others on Council and be especially useful when a new Councilmember begins covering a group.

Mayor Nathan Triplett suggested that future agendas not include target times for each item because it is very difficult to predict the amount of time needed for each item so the times are frequently inaccurate. It was agreed that future agendas would not include estimated times.

Triplett reported that the April 25 Taste of East Lansing, organized by the Community Relations Coalition (CRC), sold 9,000 tickets in 2015, compared to 5,800 in 2014.

The Council met in Executive Session to discuss an Attorney/Client Privileged Communication.

Communications from the audience: There were no comments from the public at this meeting.   

 

UPDATE, April 30, 2015, 8:20 am: This article was updated to include the information about the Gateway proposal, including the link to the special report on that.

Reminder: Members of the public can comment at East Lansing City Council meetings on any issue, and can also communicate with Council in writing by emailing council@cityofeastlansing.com.

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