Council Approves Archeological Dig, Study of Rec Center Roof Issue, City Hall Job Shuffle

 06/26/2016 - 20:51

As usual, the items on this week’s Saline City Council agenda were many and varied. Sesquicentennial fireworks, changes in the office of the treasurer, luminaries for cancer victims, local archeology, fixing the Rec Center roof and traffic flow during the Michigan Avenue renovation were among the items discussed.

Plans are being made for a fireworks display to be presented by Wolverine Fireworks Display, the largest such company in Michigan, on October 15 at Crabtree Field. Saline has not had professional fireworks in a long time.

Karen Ragland and Jill Durnen spoke for the Relay for Life “Night of Hope.” A luminaria ceremony had been cancelled due to inclement weather, so they were asking to reschedule it to follow the June 23 Summer Music Series concert.

“The Luminaria Ceremony Features the display of small white ‘Luminaria’ bags decorated in honor of loved ones to help us honor and remember those we have lost to cancer,” wrote Saline Main Street Director Riley Hollenbaugh. “The meaning behind each bag is an important part of why we Relay for Life each year.”

The ceremony was approved and was held as scheduled.

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City Approves Archeological Dig

Jim Peters spoke on behalf of the Saline Area Historical Society to request a renewed contract permitting archeological digs in Salt Springs Park. Appearing with him was professional archeologist Deva Jebb-Albaba who is overseeing the study.

Mastodons and other Pleistocene megafauna were drawn to the area thousands of years ago because of the salt. These were followed by native Americans and white settlers drawn both by the salt and the abundance of game. The earliest version of Saline was once centered there.

Last year, volunteers from the historical society dug numerous test pits in the park searching for artefacts. The current petition was to allow them to continue the work.

As before, the group will act according to accepted guidelines, directed by a professional. They also asked that they be allowed to leave a job box on site during the work so that they would not have to haul heavy tools up and down steep slopes every day they excavate. The contract was approved.

City Approves Independence For Substance Abuse Coalition   

The group now called the Saline Area Substance Abuse Coalition (SASAC) was formed about two years ago to address a growing number of heroin-related deaths in the area. They subsequently expanded their focus to deal with chemical dependence in general.

  Recently they decided to reorganize the group as a nonprofit, separate from the city government. This would allow them to hire and pay a professional coordinator and would increase their eligibility for grants.

The first step was to obtain permission from City Council. They prepared Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws with the help of attorney Nicholas Curcio of Dickinson Wright PLLC.

The group will be initiated with nine members appointed by city council. Three of the members are city staff or officials and are deemed ex officio members. Once the group becomes a separate entity, they can add or replace members as needed except for the ex officio members.

The bylaws establish many functional aspects of the group such as setting a quorum (50 percent), rules for subcommittees, meeting notifications, elections, finances, record keeping, etc.

Council unanimously approved the application for separate legal status.

Rec Center Roof Issues to Be Explored

Parks and Recreation Director Carla Scruggs spoke about problems with the roof of the Rec Center. They investigated two companies who could assess the problems and make recommendations.

The two companies were Structure Tec Group and Mays Consulting and Evaluation Services, Inc. Although the bid from Mays was slightly higher, Scruggs recommended choosing them for the job.

Mays had specific experience with aquatic facilities similar to Saline’s Rec Center. They also proposed a more thorough investigation to help identify how the problem happened and who might be responsible. They were recommended by past clients.

“The recommendations were outstanding. I think we would be well served to bring them on board,” Scruggs said.

The evaluation will cost not more than $12,784. After the assessment, Mays and other companies might be asked to bid on the repair or the company who built the roof will do it if it’s determined to be covered under warranty. Council approved.

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Expansion for West Henry Historic District?

Ron Koenig, Chair of the Saline Historic District Commission, asked for authorization for a study committee to look into expansion of the West Henry Street Historic District.

“The sesquicentennial is upon us and we are at a point where we want to celebrate our history, who we are, because who we are is based on who we were,” Koenig said.

DPW director Jeff Fordice noted that it has been 10 years since the last historic district was created. He said a variety of factors made this a good time to reopen the study and possibly expand our districts.

When the previous district was designated the State Historic Preservation Office criticized the Saline approach as being too piecemeal. Koenig said that this new study could be a way to correct this, making it more neighborhood based.

Council member Jack Ceo asked what happens with newer developments within a historic district. He was told that these are still considered part of the district, but are labelled “non-contributing” and are subject to more lenient rules.

City Salaries Approved

Council also passed a number of resolutions pertaining to appointments and salaries for city officers and staff. There was some discussion about whether it made sense to reappoint staff on a yearly basis.

Marl referred to recommendations by lawyer Steve Gerard that this system was too cumbersome. Councilman Dean Girbach said he liked the way it was because it afforded more transparency. They decided to take up that debate at a later date.

Ultimately all contracts and salaries were approved without changes.

Corfman Reassigned from Business Ambassador Position

A related discussion involved the department of the treasurer. Mickie Jo Bennett came forward to explain the situation.

She said that based on recent recommendations by business consultant Luke Bonner, formerly of Ann Arbor SPARK, they decided to reassign certain responsibilities. Kathy Corfman, who has been Business Ambassador for four years, will step down from that position.

Bennett will assume the duties of Business Ambassador as well as Treasurer and Corfman will take on many of the treasurer’s behind-the scenes administrative tasks, freeing Bennett to perform the new responsibilities.

Bennett’s new duties will include retention visits, meetings with local business owners to encourage them to stay in the community and expand. She will also provide regular reports to the city manager.

Fireworks Discussion

In the discussion section of the council meeting they first discussed individuals discharging fireworks in neighborhoods. Under state law, a law which mayor Marl described as “poorly written,” individuals are allowed to use fireworks on the day of, the day before and the day after any of ten national holidays, including, of course, the Fourth of July. The only limitation is that it is not allowed between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Saline Police have been enforcing this regulation, confronting citizens who started their pyrotechnics too early. Still, with 30 days per year of legal fireworks, the community can expect a lot of noise.

Old Maude Tracks

Council discussed what to do with the “Old Maude” trolley tracks found during Michigan Avenue reconstruction.  Fordice said that DPW could use a torch to cut the track into short sections and remove the concrete stuck to the cast iron rails.

Councilman Rhoads suggested that sections of track be sold to individuals, first come first serve, for $25 a foot and a minimum fee of $25. The profit would be applied to the down town streetscape project.

Traffic Issues

Engineer Tom Grey spoke about traffic complaints at downtown intersections. He said they are continuing to study the problems and making adjustments as needed. They have added signage and tweaked the timing of some lights.

“It’s going to be a long summer,” Grey said. “We are working to take care of things as much as possible.”

The next meeting of Saline City Council will be held on July 11 at City Hall.

Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at bobcphotography@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.