COUNCIL CAPSULE: December 9, 2014

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 11:59 pm
By: 
Erik Altmann

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

Review of game day public safety resources: Council had previously expressed concern about public safety on game days, particularly with regard to so many ambulances being occupied with transport of inebriated individuals to the hospital. City Manager George Lahanas, ELPD Chief Julie Liebler, ELPD Captain Jeff Murphy, and ELFD Deputy Chief Troy Brya presented on game day management to Council tonight. Lahanas indicated that the MSU-UofM game day was in fact as busy as it seemed. Chief Liebler said the problems were severe enough that it strained their resources. Captain Murphy spoke to the spike in unarmed robberies on game days, with criminals attracted to conditions under which officers are all deployed dealing with other problems.

General fund used to meet benefits due to retirees: ELi has previously reported that a very large part of the City’s debt arises from benefits promised to employees and retired employees over the last several decades. At Council tonight, finance director Mary Haskell presented on the need to transfer money from the City’s General Fund to the City’s Self-Insurance Fund in order to pay the Fiscal Year 2014 balance of the OPEB (“other post-employment benefits”) required contribution in the amount of $648,445 to the Michigan Employee Retirement System “retiree healthcare funding vehicle.” Haskell reported that for the next payment there might be need to be some accounting adjustments. City Manager George Lahanas indicated that payments like these are not budgeted, but instead cobbled together from savings (like the $74,000 on the telephone contracts, described below) and from trimming services and reducing costs wherever possible. A motion to make the proposed transfer was approved unanimously.

Bailey Daycare and Bailey Community Center, including citizen communications: Parents of children who attend the Bailey daycare and members of the Bailey neighborhood have been pushing to keep the daycare open, including at Council last week. (See our other previous reports here, here, here, and here.) Tonight there was additional discussion of the finances, with Tim McCaffrey, Director of Parks and Recreation (the unit that currently oversees the daycare) presenting the City’s view of the situation. Communications from the audience were all directed at this issue, so we include them in this section.

William McHarris (512 Beech St) spoke in favor of keeping the Bailey Community Center (BCC) open and maintaining a childcare program there.

Konrad Hittner (639 Kedzie St.) spoke as chair of the Bailey Community Association (BCA) to convey two resolutions from BCA board. The first urged quick action to abate the problems at an abandoned property in the neighborhood (1025 Snyder Rd.). The second urged the city to make the necessary investments to keep a high quality professional child care program operating in the BCC, reaffirming a position the board took in September.

Sally Silver (426 Bailey St.) spoke in favor of keeping the BCC open and maintaining a childcare program there.

Mike Wildbur (351 Oakwood Ln., Perry) spoke as a Bailey childcare program parent, urging the city to maintain the program there and take steps to advertise it and increase revenue.

Robert Anderson (411 Butterfield Dr.) spoke in favor of keeping the BCC open and maintaining a childcare program there.

Suzanne Windgate spoke in favor of maintaining the BCC as a community center with space for dance classes.

Melaney Wallace (521 Division St.) spoke as a Bailey resident and Bailey childcare parent and urged the city to maintain the program in the BCC.

Judy Olson (556 Collingwood) spoke as a 37-year resident of the Bailey neighborhood, urging the city to maintain the BCC for the sake of the neighborhood.

During the portion of the meeting dedicated to this issue, Charles Hoogstraten (617 Snyder Rd.) spoke on behalf of a parents working group, to update Council on the group's progress toward a sustainable business model for Bailey daycare.

Elisabeth Weston, executive director of EC3, spoke to the role EC3 could play in facilitating the transition to a sustainable administrative model. (EC3 is the acronym for Educational Child Care Center, a Lansing-based private, nonprofit organization. Read more.)

Matthew McGaughey from Mayotte Group Architects reviewed their analysis of the Bailey Community Center. Highlights: The building is structurally sound and has generally been well maintained but there are safety deficiencies including lack of emergency lighting and fire suppression systems. The report and attachments are posted on the web under Item 7 of the meeting agenda.

Parks and Recreation Director Tim McCaffrey reviewed budget projections for the Bailey childcare program for the next two years (posted with the attachments), according to which the program would break even in fiscal year 2016, net of the investments required to remediate high-priority deficiencies identified in the Mayotte report.

Councilmember Beier suggested that Council consider maintaining the program through June, 2017, and directing staff to work with parents to transition to a business model that would make the City money, with the understanding that if the building could not be turned into a productive public asset in two years, it would then be closed.

Councilmember Woods supported this proposal, noting the importance of the daycare program to the parents who use it and to the neighborhood generally. Later she indicated support for transferring the daycare to the Red Cedar school building.

Councilmember Boyle asked for information about the cost of surveying and abating hazardous materials in the building. She also expressed concern about mothballing a building in the heart of a fragile neighborhood, and asked staff to prepare suggestions for what was to be done with the building if the daycare closed.

Mayor Pro Tem Goddeeris favored making "hard decisions" about Bailey now rather than postponing them. She opposed spending any money on Bailey, and would rather lease space for the daycare in Red Cedar and move all other community programs to Hannah.

Mayor Triplett opposed spending money from the general fund balance (the money the City keeps in reserve for emergencies) on either the Bailey building or the childcare program, asking "to what end?" He asked the Council what guidance they should give residents and users of the daycare.

City Manager Lahanas said the money in the general fund balance should be reserved for emergencies and not operations.

The discussion ended without a plan for a vote, but with a plan for City staff to generate alternative uses of the Bailey school building if the daycare is shut down.

Discussion of annual audit: City finance director Mary Haskell, together with auditors from Plante Moran (Beth Bialy and Dan Block), gave an informal review of the annual audit. Highlights include that revenues and expenditures are relatively stable, and that the city holds a healthy level of the fund in reserve for emergencies. The auditors will return for a formal presentation at the January 20, 2015, business meeting, which will be televised.

Telephone contracts: Telephone contracts: Staff is seeking approval from Council for telephone contracts with AT&T and SPS. The contracts were presented by City staff member Alan McCarrick, who projected a net savings with the new contracts of $74,000. The contracts were approved unanimously. (Although this was a work-session, where votes are usually not taken, a vote was taken tonight because a deadline was pending.)

Board and commission reappointments: Council took action to reappoint the following board and commission members for terms beginning January 1, 2015, ending December 31, 2017, unless otherwise indicated:

  • Arts Commission: Anthony Cepak
  • Board of Review: Scott Schrager
  • Building Board of Appeals: Larry Cross; Tim Mrozowski for extended appointment
  • Commission on the Environment: Andrew McGlashen; Michael Wegan; Nella Davis-Ray
  • Downtown Management Board: Jeffrey Kusler; Heather Frarey; Michael Krueger (term ending December 31, 2018)
  • Historic District commission: Mikhail Filipovitch
  • Housing Commission: James Secor; Rhonda Huffman; Mark Meadows
  • Human Relations Commission: Ana Wolken; Alexander Chemey
  • Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission: Ella Buss
  • Planning Commission: Paul Stokstad; Lee Reimann
  • Seniors’ Commission: Gary Stollak; Cindy Whiddon; Maria Zdybel
  • Transportation Commission: Diana Twede; Chris Parsons
  • Zoning Board of Appeals: Travis Stoliker; Nicholas Kipa
  • Michigan Avenue Corridor Authority: Diane Goddeeris
  • Tri-County Office on Aging Advisory Council: Felix Fliss

 

Commission appointments: Council approved the appointment of Summer Minnick to the Planning Commission for a full term beginning January 1, 2015 and ending December 31, 2017, and Michael Teager to the Arts Commission for a full term beginning January 1, 2015, and ending on December 31, 2017.

Councilmember, City Manager, and City Attorney reports: Only Triplett had a report. He reviewed recent state legislative activity with implications for municipalities.

 

This article was corrected on December 11, 2014, at 11 am to correct who presented to Council on behalf of ELFD. It was Deputy Chief Troy Brya, not Chief Randy Talifarro. It was also amended the same day at 1:40 pm to correct the appointee to the Michigan Avenue Corridor Authority (Diane Goddeeris, not Nathan Triplett).

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