Here’s a summary of the April 15 Saline City Council meeting.
In his quarterly report to council, Police Chief Jerrod Hart said there weren’t many surprises in the city’s crime data. Overall crime numbers are down so far in 2019, from 80 to 52 – thanks in large part to a major decline in reported fraud cases, which fell from 27 to 7. Hart said he’d like to see the department do a better job with clearances in Part A crimes, which include sex offenses, assaults, burglaries and motor vehicle theft. Arrests were up from 48 last year to 63 this year – most of that due to an increase in misdemeanor arrests (40 to 54). Juvenile arrests fell from three to zero. Hart said the department continues to get great support from community volunteers. The city’s seven reserves have volunteered more than 230 hours. The 11 cadets have volunteered 595 hours. And the seven members of Volunteers in Public Safety have contributed 29 hours to the department.
Holli Andrews, Executive Director of Saline Main Street, gave a report to council. She noted the organization, dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Saline, honored volunteers Jeff Spence, Renee Fonseca, Sharon Zahn, Chris Kochmanski, and Veronica Huftles. Main Street is also moving into a new building at 109 W Michigan Ave. The building, know as the 109 Cultural Exchange, will also host events by community organizations like the Saline Area Historical Society and Salt Valley Arts. The Saline Post will also have a desk in the building, which is owned by the Saline Masonic Lodge. Andrews said the goal is to have a downtown gathering space for events and meetings, creating foot traffic. Main Street has also worked to attain an MEDC Grant to help the Cheese Shop of Saline install seating in its restaurant.
The city approved the Saline Medical Marijuana Working Group, as recommended by Mayor Brian Marl. The group is composed of chairman and Councillor Jack Ceo, Councillor Christen Mitchell, Police Chief Jerrod Hart, Rosemary Blackman of the drug task force, Saline Area Schools Assistant Superintendent Curt Ellis, Local business owner Ruth Loomis, Mayor Marl and City Manager Todd Campbell. Mayor Marl is hoping for a final report or recommendation by late August. Councillor Janet Dillon had the issue pulled from the consent agenda and added to the regular agenda. Dillon said she hopes the group will provide council with all of its findings and not just recommendations. This year, after voting to opt the city out of commercial marijuana businesses, city council is now considering allow medical marijuana dispensaries. Council voted 5-1 in favor of the motion. Dillon voted no. Ceo was absent.
City council passed a resolution in support SB 54 and HB 4100, which would reinstate state historic tax credits. Saline’s Historic District Commission previously approved the resolution. 14 other communities have supported similar resolutions.
City council approved two resolutions seeking MDOT grants for two projects – including the 2020 $1.1 million Maple-Old Creek-Bemis project, and the 2019 $81,000 Keveling Drive-Bemis Road project. MDOT will provide a 50 percent matching grant, up to $250,000.
The city is nearing completion of its wastewater treatment plant odor abatement project. Answering a question from Councillor Dillon, water superintendent Steve Wyzgoski said the city the odor scrubbers were being installed and should be operational by May 15, when a 45-day performance period begins. Answering a question from Councillor Linda TerHaar, Wyzgoski said the city was far more than halfway done the project. Council approved a $542,153 payment to E & L Construction for its work.
Council awarded an $80,000 bid for overband crack sealing to Scodeller Construction. DPW Director Jeff Fordice said the crack sealing is best done early in the lifecycle of a road. He said crack sealing will be done in several locations, including Willis Road, South Ann Arbor Street, portions of North Ann Arbor Street, and Old Creek Drive.
The city is once again applying to the State of Michigan and Federal Local Bridge Program for funding to help pay for its three bridges – the Monroe Street Bridge over the Saline River, the Saline-Waterworks Road bridge over the Wood Outlet Drain, and the Woodland Drive over the Pittsfield Drain. The Monroe Street bridge is likely in most need of work, DPW Director Fordice told Councillor Dillon. Asked how long the city could put off the work, Fordice said he thought it might be 10 years before the city might have to lower the weight limits on the bridge. If the city hasn’t received funds by then, it might have to pay for the project itself. Total construction estimate for the three bridges is $400,000, which does not include engineering expenses. The city would need to match at least five percent of total grant. The city has design funds in its fiscal-year 2022 capital improvements plan, with construction planned for July-September of 2023. Past applications for the program have been rejected.
Council voted 6-0 to approve its Fiscal-Year 2020 Strategic Plan.
Council voted 5-1 to approve renew its contract with Swisher Commercial Realty. The city has used Swisher to market several city-owned tracts of land, including the property that was sold for the car wash and hotel on Michigan Avenue, and a subdivision on Maple Road. The city is also hoping to sell its last Michigan Avenue property to GBA Developments. With the Michigan Avenue property gone, the city is down to industrial properties. Tony Caprarese, VP of Swisher, recommended the city reduce the asking prices for the remaining properties. The city agreed when renewing its realty agreement for 12 months. Council voted 5-1. Mitchell, who suggested the service should go out for bid, voted no. Mayor Marl said Caprarese and Swisher have served the city well and saw no reason to change course.
Councillor TerHaar reported the Arts & Culture Committee was “delighted and shocked” to received well over 100 submissions for its Art Around Saline program. A jury will decide which art is selected for the public art display.
Fairdene should have a siteplan for 207 S. Monroe St. in front of the city’s planning commission in May.
Liebherr Aerospace has submitted building plans for expansion to the city. Plans could be in front of the planning commission as early as June.
Mayor Marl spoke with State Rep. Donna Lasinski and State Sen. Jeff Irwin about the city’s concerns about Andelina Farms – the subdivision planned for just outside the city’s western border in Saline Township. Marl said he hoped Irwin and Lasinski could help make the city’s case to the MDEQ.
The wastewater treatment plant’s Nova filters are no longer running well. After both filters were running for 45 days, one went down. The second filter continues to run despite a torn panel. Nova, the company that services the filters, will be back at the plant to repair the problems.
Wyzgoski told council the city received several odor complaints in the Old Creek neighborhood. He wasn’t sure they were related to the wastewater treatment smell because residents complained of a chemical odor.
The city was able to clean one of its pumps and make its drinking water a little less hard. The second new pump is scheduled to arrive April 22 and should be installed quickly, which should soften the water.
Despite some concerns about not putting the contract out to bid, council appeared to reach consensus on a deal with Waste Management for waste hauling. Council is supportive of a deal that would allow for fluctuating recycling processing costs – which would give the city flexibility of the Washtenaw recycling consortium were to open a material recovery facility. Councillor Dillon reiterated concerns about requiring residents to use Waste-Management-provided rolling bins for trash pickup. DPW Director Fordice said he didn’t know if there were any firms that still provided loose trash bag pick up. At least three members of council did seem opposed to the idea of a recycling center at city hall. Waste Management has talked about replacing the recycle bins there with an larger bin that would be placed in an enclosure.
The city will renew its contract with Simply Recycling, which picks up clothing and other goods.
Council went into closed session to discuss collective bargainning.
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.