Council Capsule: May 26, 2015

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 3:17 pm
Chris Root


Hear this Council work session: You can listen to an audio recording of last night’s City Council work session by clicking on this link.

Present at Council: Mayor Nathan Triplett, Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, Councilmembers Kathy Boyle, and Susan Woods. Ruth Beier was absent.

Bailey Community Center Proposal: At its work session last night, East Lansing’s City Council invited the Capital Area Housing Partnership (CAHP) to present its proposal for reuse of the Bailey Community Center building at the June 2 Council meeting. Read more at our special report.

Moving Ceramics Program to Hannah Community Center: Tim McCaffrey, head of the parks and recreation, presented to Council a plan for the City to submit an application to the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) for a Capital Improvements Grant to relocate the existing Ceramics Program from the Bailey Community Center to Hannah.

The ceramics work area would be moved to part of room 235/237 at Hannah, leaving a smaller multipurpose room that would continue to be available to be reserved for other purposes. A kiln would be moved to a new outdoor structure of about 10 by 12 feet that probably would be constructed near the back southwest corner of Hannah near Forest Street.

The grant request would be for $76,000 and would require a 1:1 match from the City. (This is a small increase from the amount in the May 22 memo submitted to Council.) The match would come from the FY 2016 Parks and Recreation budget, which currently has a fund balance of $50,000. The FY 2016 Parks and Recreation budget would need to be amended to provide this match. When asked about the cost of the alternative of renovating the ceramics space at Bailey, McCaffrey said there was no estimate and that the cost might be even higher than moving it to Hannah because of the age of the facility.

The Council needed to decide whether to support the grant application at this meeting because the deadline is June 1. Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris suggested delaying submitting the application for a year because of the possibility that the ceramics facility could remain at the Bailey Center as part of the CAHP proposal (read more), which CAHP’s Mikki Droste indicated was a possibility.

Goddeeris also expressed concern about the high cost of the move and whether funds for the required match would be available in the Parks and Recreation budget. Mayor Nathan Triplett argued that applying immediately would allow the City to describe the purpose as saving an existing program, rather than being perceived as starting a new program later, which he believed would be less competitive. He also argued that people who participate in the ceramics program would not feel that the program was being discontinued if they knew it would be reopened in 6 to 8 months, which could be done if the grant application is successful.

Goddeeris also asked whether a permit would be required to build the new small structure for the kiln next to the Hannah Community Center; staff did not have an answer to this question. She said the City might be in the position of having to reject the grant if a permit is required but not agreed to, which would not be ideal. Nevertheless, she said she would not stand in the way of this decision, and the Council voted unanimously to approve the application to MCACA.

Chesterfield Hills infrastructure options: City Manager George Lahanas explained that staff was presenting options for how to spend approximately $550,000 on street improvements in the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood because of Council’s action two years ago to focus more on neighborhood streets. Council has focused particularly on streets in Chesterfield Hills which have not been repaired for the longest period of time and which are in particularly poor condition. Council members agreed that their preferred option is Option 3 in the staff memo. The proposal is to grind (“mill”) the top 1-1/2 to 2 inches and then repave about 2 miles of streets and adding 45 ADA-compliant ramps. Director of Public Works Scott House will present this proposal at the Council’s June 2 meeting for action.

Draft Operating Agreement for (SCENE) Metrospace: The Council briefly discussed a slightly revised draft agreement between the City of East Lansing and the Department of Art, Art History and Design at Michigan State University regarding operating this cultural space. The new draft provides that either party may terminate the agreement “for any reason” on 90 days written notice. Goddeeris pointed out that this change was the result of several members of the Arts Commission raising concerns about the City having the opportunity to evaluate how this new arrangement works in practice. Goddeeris asked that language be added to the agreement stating that the facility would be open to the public at no cost. The operating agreement will be on the Council’s June 2 agenda for action.

Modified Site Plan Application from Trowbridge Village: Planning and Zoning Administrator Darcy Schmitt explained the request from River Caddis developer to change its site plan for Trowbridge Village so as to demolish the Oodles of Noodles building and build gated parking for residents of the new apartment building, some of which spaces would include carports. She said the developer had investigated the condition of the building and found that there was too much mold to modify it. The Planning Commission approved this request because it conformed to the zoning ordinance. Boyle asked about possible additions of green space in this site modification. Schmitt reported that the developer had obtained a permit to demolish the building, which can be granted before the revised site plan is approved.         

CVS application for Modified Special Use Permit to operate on a 24-hour basis: Schmitt explained that the request from CVS includes extending sale of beer and wine from midnight to 2:00 a.m. She said that other establishments in the area already sell these products until 2:00 a.m. and that East Lansing Police did not believe CVS extending its beer and wine sales for two more hours this would be a problem. Goddeeris requested that a condition be added to state explicitly that CVS would need to come back to Council for approval if it ever wanted to further extend hours for sale of beer and wine to 4:00 a.m. The modification requested by CVS would not extend the hours of the pharmacy.

Site Plan and Special Use Permit application for properties at 500 Albert Avenue and 122 Division Street: Schmitt presented the application from Lingg Brewer to construct a four-story, mixed-use building with13 apartments and approximately 1,000 square feet of non-residential space. The Planning Commission has approved this site plan, and Council has set a Public Hearing for June 2. Schmitt explained several improvements in the latest plan, including that the new building will not be connected to the existing building at 500 Albert. Brewer has agreed to a letter drafted in 2014 promising to demolish this building within three years, with a $10,000 bond. City staff has asked the developer to revise the dollar amount to reflect increased demolition costs. Goddeeris asked that the letter be revised so as to require the completion, not just the beginning, of demolition.

Purchase of ballistic protection equipment: Fire Chief Talifarro presented a proposal to spend $145,256 for protective gear for EMS and fire department personnel from a Michigan Competitive Grant Assistance Program (CGAP). This program is intended to encourage mergers and cooperation among local governments; the equipment will be distributed among six fire departments in the region. The gear includes 100 sets of ballistic vests and 200 goggles (glasswear) and gloves. Talifarro explained that this gear is intended to be used in active-shooting situations and perhaps in hostage situations and is not intended to be used when police are dealing with protests. Approving this purchase was placed on the June 2 agenda.

TIGER grant application for Midtown Complete Streets Project: Triplett informed the Council that it was being asked to agree to submission of a grant by the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) for federal funding for street improvements in the Michigan Avenue corridor from Harrison Road in East Lansing west to Pennsylvania Avenue in Lansing. No financial commitment is being requested by East Lansing, and the City does not control this state road. The street improvements could be an initial phase of implementing the Bust Rapid Transit (BRT) plan, if it goes forward, or would have independent benefit. Goddeeris asked to see a plan for the proposed reconfiguration of the street. Council will vote on a resolution on this application on June 2.

Revised bylaws of the East Lansing Michigan Avenue Corridor Improvement Authority: City Economic Development staff person Lori Mullins presented revisions in the Bylaws of this Authority that are designed to reflect how the Authority is actually operating. The Authority provides for cooperation among East Lansing, Lansing, and Lansing Township in the Michigan Avenue Corridor. The original design was for these government units to create a Tax Increment Financing district that would be able to secure funding for large projects, such as streetscape improvements. Instead, it has operated on a smaller scale and has not had its own budget. The Bylaws revisions will be on the Consent Agenda on June 2.

Street paving and sidewalk projects funded from CDBG grant: Engineering administrator Bob Scheuerman presented proposals to spend up to $100,000 for a contract with Able Concrete, Inc. for a Grove Street sidewalk project and up to $36,200 for a contract with Michigan Paving and Materials Co. for a street paving and curb repair project on Virginia Ave. in Avondale Square. These funds would be allocated from an annual grant to the City from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Both contractors have agreed to extent unit prices from current contracts with the City. Action will be on the consent agenda on June 2. Staff also agreed to a request from Goddeeris to provide information about the number of streetlight posts in this area that are rusty and the cost of repainting them.

Refinance of the Towar Snell Drain Drainage District bond: Finance Director Mary Haskell explained that East Lansing was being asked to provide necessary assistance to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners to refinance a bond at a lower interest rate in order to reduce costs. Details are provided in a memo from Haskell. A resolution was provided for Council to act on at its June 2 meeting.

Councilmembers Reports: Triplett noted that volunteers are still being sought to assist with Recycle East Lansing on May 30 and the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival on June 19-20.

City Manager Report: Lahanas reported that the Crisis Leadership and Decision Making seminar put on by the TEEX National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center that he attended was very helpful and that he looks forward to other senior City staff attending in the future.

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