What City Council Did This Week

Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 6:07 pm
Alice Dreger

Above: 303 Abbot Road as seen from the park soon to be named Sharp Park.

This Tuesday’s East Lansing City Council meeting lasted a bit over two hours and again packed in a lot of action, with all five members of Council in attendance. We’ve already reported to you on what happened with the question of whether to grant a tax abatement on a big solar array that may be constructed at MSU and the results of a discussion about how to contractually manage the Confederate flag issue from the Folk Festival last year. Now here’s the rest of your weekly Council Capsule, a service brought to you only by East Lansing Info (ELi).

“No Name Park” to become “Sharp Park”: Following the recommendation of Mayor Mark Meadows, a park-naming committee recommended to Council that “no name park” at the corner of Abbot Road and Albert Avenue be renamed after William B. Sharp. Council approved the decision. (The photo above shows the “faces” statue in that park.)

Details of demolition of 303 Abbot Road approved: Council approved various contracts related to the demolition of 303 Abbot Road, known as the “little bank building” downtown (shown above). See our separate report on this.

Finance Director Mary Haskell and team recognized again: For the 31st year in a row, the City’s Finance Department was recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association for excellence in financial reporting. City Manager George Lahanas praised Finance Director Mary Haskell and her team.

Garten Haus balconies in play: Council approved a new, undated application from landlord/developer DTN to install Juliet balconies at its new Garten Haus apartment complex in the Bailey neighborhood, with the understanding that DTN will come back and request approval from Council for conventional balconies later. See our separate story on this.

Costco project negotiations with Meridian Township: Costco wants to build a new store at the southeast corner of Park Lake Road and Saginaw Highway (the site most recently of the Fiesta Charra Restaurant), and as part of this, East Lansing and Meridian Township are entering into various agreements, including an annexation of land by East Lansing. In written communications, area resident Mary K. Thomas recommended against the project for environmental and economic reasons.

AARP Age-Friendly Community? Under its consent agenda, Council approved a letter of commitment and application to AARP’s Age-Friendly Communities Program.

Owner seeks to rent out landmarked house in College Grove Historic District: We previously reported that Mark Terry wanted to de-landmark the house at 343 MAC Avenue, known as the Harold Childs House because it was designed and later occupied by architect Harold Childs.  Council then declined to demarcate the house.

Terry is now seeking to obtain permission to rent the house for up to seven unrelated people. This week, Council set a public hearing on the matter for August 9. In public comments, John Kloswick asked Council to consider the importance of the house and to attend to the need to have it preserved as an historic landmark.

In a memo regarding the matter, City Housing Administrator Annette Irwin said that Terry was trying to move quickly on converting the house to a rental. (His relatives currently live at the house.) An inspection letter attached to the memo indicates a large number of building violations for a rental property that must be remedied if the property is to be rented.

Other public communications: William Strong, a new homeowner in East Lansing, wrote to ask about the City’s consideration of a new income tax and Mike Vasievich of the Pinecrest neighborhood wrote to convey frustration over the City’s treatment of street parking from Pinecrest resident Lisa Bolton-Hunt. Additionally, in written communications, Larry Hogue and Sue Nowak wrote in support of giving a tax abatement to the MSU-based solar project.

In public comments at this week’s meeting, Okemos resident Steve Vagnozzi, Vice Chair of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, presented on the group’s interest in improving passenger rail options in Michigan.

Storing alcohol on “party bikes”: Council set a public hearing for August 9 for consideration of amending the rules regarding the “transportation and possession of open alcohol in commercial quadricycles.” The revision would allow transportation of alcohol “in a locked glove compartment, behind the last upright seat, or in an area not normally occupied by the operator or a passenger.” The matter seems to refer to party bikes like the JoyRide Pedal Tours vehicle.

Art projects recognized, supported, dedicated, and funded: City staff member Kelly Arndt provided Council with a special presentation on the intergenerational art mural that was recently dedicated and unveiled. She said that it was a huge success and thanked many people for making it possible.

Under its consent agenda, City Council approved a contract with Laux Construction in the amount of $81,900 “for the renovation of Room 211 at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center into a ceramics studio and meeting room.”

In Councilmember reports, Susan Wood recommended that people attend the fundraiser for the ceramics studio, Shanna Draheim reminded people of the upcoming dedication of the second Artists’ Alley mural this Friday, and Mark Meadows praised the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival.

Federal grant requirements lead to ethics and finance policy revisions: Finance Director Mary Haskell advised Council in a June 16 memo that “the federal government has revised their directives for recipients and subrecipients as it relates to purchasing, cash management, certifications, monitoring, etc. of federal dollars,” and so this required updating the City’s policies.

As a consequence, under its consent agenda, Council approved Policy Resolution 2016-6, which is resolution establishing policies for Federal Grant Awards. Council also later approved Ordinance 1374 which is an Ethics Code addition to comply with the federal government’s grant requirements.

The changes tighten up the requirements with regard to management of conflicts of interest. They also mean that the City cannot use its “purchasing preference” policy when spending federal grant money. That policy calls for the City to give preference to local businesses when local businesses can match low bids.

Various finances-related approvals: As part of its consent agenda, Council approved amendments to the FY2017 Budget, Tax Rate and Fee Schedule Resolution and also approved of Policy Resolution 2016-7 which is a commitment of Public Art Fund Revenues.

Board and Commission appointments approved: Without discussion, Council approved the appointment of Chanelle Riley and Jen Flood to the Downtown Management Board; Jeffrey Kusler, Tricia Foster, and Eric Sudol to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), and Chris Wolf to the Planning Commission.

Various contracts approved: As part of its consent agenda, Council approved a contract with Pylman Power for replacement of the Charles garage emergency lighting battery inverter system in the amount of $31,350 and a contract with Kone Elevator for Charles garage elevator floor replacements, sill work & pit electrical repairs in the amount of $43,150.

Council also approved a revised agreement with GDI Services, Inc. “for the provision of custodial staffing services. The General Labor Bill Rate will increase from $14.95 per hour to $16.45 per hour (not to exceed 367 hours per week). The $1.50 per hour increase will be applied to current and future GDI employee’s wages and benefits.”


Reminder: You can speak to Council at its public meetings during the public comment portion, and you can write to Council at council@cityofeastlansing.com.