Council Capsule: May 6, 2015

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Thursday, May 7, 2015, 1:20 pm
Alice Dreger

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

Gateway project: As Chris Root notes in our special report, “Council unanimously supported a revised site plan for DTN’s proposed four-story building at 300 West Grand River Avenue and also voted in favor of a Brownfield tax subsidy plan for the proposal. The proposal includes 39 two-bedroom rental apartments, a drive-through bank and one other commercial space on the first floor, and underground parking for residents. The vote on the almost $1.9 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan was 3 to 2, with Mayor Nathan Triplett, Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, and Councilmember Susan Woods voting in favor and Councilmembers Ruth Beier and Kathy Boyle voting against.” Read more in the special report.

City Budget and Finances: Council has been working with staff to set the 2015-16 City budget and to set the tax rate. City Manager George Lahanas said the City continues to face economic challenges from its aging infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, water mains, sewers, wastewater treatment plant, and buildings) and underfunded employee “legacy” costs. (To read more about our City debt, which is approaching $200 million, click here.)  Lahanas said the proposed budget will still provide essential services, including fire and police, at the same level as the last fiscal year and that the City will continue to offer services through Parks & Rec.

During public comments, Michael Teager of Oxford Road objected to how the City is handling finances and suggested the City is effectively devaluing permanent residents who buy homes in East Lansing. Teager noted he is a Commissioner on the East Lansing Arts Commission and has been active in East Lansing arts events, including as a performing musician. He said he and his wife moved to the Glencairn neighborhood in 2012 because East Lansing offered “a kind, safe, thoughtful community.”

Teager said he was growing concerned with the divergence in his family’s experiences between the “city” of East Lansing (lower case “c,” meaning the community), which is positive, and the “City” of East Lansing (meaning the City’s administration), which he said has been making decisions that harm the “city.” He named specifically the City’s decision to close the Bailey daycare and transfer control of Scene Metrospace to MSU. He noted the City manager has said in both cases he wanted to “get the City out of the business” of daycare and the art gallery. Teager asked, “In what businesses would the City like to be involved?”

Teager then objected to the City providing hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars, through TIF (tax-increment financing) to build more “luxury” student housing downtown. He said he felt the City was functioning to accommodate the University and suggested that the reason the Okemos school district has no problem with maintaining enrollments and the East Lansing school district does may be the City’s actions.

The City Council is expected to take action on the budget at their May 19 meeting.

Fire department awards: East Lansing Fire Department (ELFD) Chief Randy Taliaferro and Captain Stephen Peto formally recognized personnel and citizens who “went above and beyond.” They talked about how difficult it is to give awards to ELFD and ELPD personnel because they see the work they do as “just part of the job.”

Peto recognized ELFD paramedics John Newman, Nate Floyd and Lieutenant Josh Barrett who on March 4, 2014, were called to MSU Clinical Center for 24-day old infant having a cardiac issue. They were supposed to provide routine transfer but when the baby was in the back of the ambulance, the baby went into cardiac arrest. Thanks to the ELFD personnel, the baby was revived and survived.

Peto also recognized retired Lansing police detective Scott Ellis (who was off duty when this next event happened), MSU Police Officer Steve Beard, ELFD Deputy Chief Jeff Alleman, ELFD firefighters Alan Vanstempvoort, Derek Johnson, and Chris Patterson. On January 29, 2014, these individuals came together to provide care for a man who collapsed with cardiac arrest at the Breslin Center. The man made a complete recovery.

Demolition of the house at 1025 Snyder Road: The City is seeking to demolish the house at 1025 Snyder Road because of poor conditions at the property. Neighbors support the demolition. The issue has been moving through the various steps required by the regulations.

During public comments, Claudette Nelson, the owner of 1025 Snyder Road, said she had been a homeowner since 1965 and that she had misunderstood City communications about her home. She said there had also been false statements made about herself as a person and about her home, and that she had not abandoned it but that the property had suffered problems of frozen pipes, animal infestations, etc. (She is not currently living there.) She said she had tried to bring the property into line with the City’s expectations and that their plan to demolish it has caused her great pain. She asked for time to retrieve her personal possessions and possibly to sell the property.

City Attorney Tom Yeadon recommended City Council let his office proceed with the legal process of asking for demolition of Nelson’s house. (Read Yeadon’s memo.) Beier moved to pass the resolution prepared by Yeadon instructing the Yeadon to proceed and Goddeeris seconded the motion. Beier said she thought this would give Nelson adequate time to retrieve her belongings. Goddeeris said that the neighbors, some of whom were present at the meeting, wanted the demolition to proceed. Council voted unanimously in favor.

City Manager’s contract extension: City Council unanimously passed a third addendum to the City Manager’s contract. Triplett explained there had been a performance evaluation of City Manager Lahanas, finding that he met or exceeded expectations, and so Council proceeded to move to extend his contract, which was set to expire January 31, 2016, to now expire January 31, 2019. He is also being given a 1% pay increase per year.

Goddeeris was the person who moved approving the addendum and Boyle seconded it. Goddeeris said the timing of the expiration is good because it won’t be when there is someone new on Council. She said she thought he was doing a good job in a difficult situation.

Beier said she had been glad to have the opportunity to talk with Lahanas about the frustration she has felt about the way the East Lansing government is run. She said the meeting with him was “not just an ‘attaboy.’”

Triplett said he enjoyed working with Lahanas and appreciated his work.

Healthy-living project: City staff member Kathleen Miller and Ashley Logan from “Lettuce Live Well” (a nonprofit) presented on the Metro Lansing Loses A Million and Lettuce Live Well Health and Wellness program. They seek have a partnership between the City and the nonprofit to push healthy life styles in the Lansing area. Logan’s program has built a tracking program that, through a website, allows people to connect to their peers about their healthy practices. The group also helps people learn how to shop for groceries and host a river walk and other health-oriented projects. Read more at the group’s website.

Councilmember reports: Boyle spoke as Council’s liaison to the East Lansing Seniors’ Commission. She said the group had adopted its goals for this year, including a commitment to work with local neighborhood associations on matters of common concern, to continue to work with City and neighborhoods to identify at-risk individuals who may need special assistance during emergency situations, and to continue to support the development of senior housing and the incorporation of universal access design in new housing in the City of East Lansing.

The rest of Council, the City Manager, and the City Attorney had nothing to report.

Consent agenda: The following items were passed under the “consent agenda”, which means they were approved by Council as a block without further discussion.

·      Approval of a resolution recognizing May as Employee Health and Fitness Month in the City of East Lansing; read the resolution.

·      Approval of the “Keys in the Cities’” program and license to the Capital Area Blues Society to place three pianos in public spaces; read the staff memo and the agreement.

·      Approval of the Housing Commission recommendation for 1780 Woodside for a conditional Class IV rental license; read the staff memo.

·      Approval of the Housing Commission recommendation for 3305 Wharton for a conditional Class III rental license; read the staff memo.

·      Approval of a contract with peripheral vision in the amount of $132,834.89 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; read the staff memo.

·      Approval of Policy Resolution 2015-6 which is a resolution extending the temporary moratorium on the acceptance, processing and approval of new applications for taxicab business license and extending existing licenses through August 30, 2015; read the staff memo and the policy resolution.

·      Approval of Policy Resolution 2015-7 establishing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies, procedures and guidelines for the City of East Lansing; read the city attorney’s memo and the policy resolution.

·      Approval of Professional Safety Services for Department of Public Works (DPW) Employee Safety Program contract to FTC&H in the amount not to exceed $90,000; read the associated memo from the director of DPW and the letter from the contractor.

·      Introduce and set a public hearing for June 2, 2015, to consider a modified special use permit application from CVS to extend store hours at the 240 MAC Avenue location to 24-hours. As noted in the staff memo, this location sells alcohol. Read the staff report.

·      Introduce and set a public hearing for June 2, 2015, to consider a site plan and special use permit application from Lingg Brewer for the properties at 500 Albert Avenue and 122 Division Street to construct a four-story, mixed-use building containing 13 apartments and 1,000 square feet of non-residential space; read the staff report and see the plans.

·      Approval of the appointment of Meegan Holland to the Arts Commission for a partial term ending December 31, 2017.

·      Approval of a resolution congratulating Aliera Konett for being counted worthy of earning the Girl Scout Gold Award.

·      Approval of a resolution congratulating Anna Krupka for being counted worthy of earning the Girl Scout Gold Award.

·      Approval of the appointment of Paul Cervenak to the Library Board for a full term ending June 30, 2020.

·      Approval of the appointment of Brandon Bussa to the Downtown Management Board for a partial term ending December 31, 2018.

·      Approval of the appointment of Jean Brisbo to the Seniors’ Commission for a partial term ending December 31, 2016.

Two water main easement agreements for the redevelopment of Trowbridge Plaza:  Approval of this item had been set to be on the consent agenda but Boyle moved it to the business agenda. For details on the matter, see the staff memo.

Boyle wanted to know if these changes were going to change water pressure in the Ivanhoe and Flowerpot sections of the Red Cedar neighborhood (her own neighborhood). DPW Director Scott House said these mains will ultimately improve service. House said that if anyone in the area had concerns about water pressure or water service, she or he could call DPW to do a systems check. In that case, he said, a person would call 337-9459 and someone from the meter shop would come out and take a look. The item was approved by Council.

Public comments: During the portion of the meeting set aside for public comments, Goddeeris said she was getting a lot of mail asking when Harrison Road would be paved. She said it will be paved in 2016. Oral comments made to Council last night are reported here under the topic headings to which they related, and in the case of Gateway, are reported in our Gateway story. You can read recent written communications sent to the Council by clicking here and here.


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