Ypsi City Council discusses recreation, financial plan

Tuesday night the Ypsilanti City Council adopted a plan to place a five-year financial plan implementation schedule before the public and put proposals for a city income tax and a Water Street debt millage before the voters.

Council Member Michael Bodary pointed out the council is united in realizing that without the tax and millage, Ypsilanti would be faced with having an emergency financial manager, with authority removed from elected officials.

The original proposal was for a May vote. Mayor Pro Tem. Lois Richardson urged moving more slowly, for a vote in August, and Mayor Paul Schreiber urged a November vote. Bodary pointed out that a May vote would bring money sooner, but if a May vote failed, the city could not try again for two years.

Council Member Peter Murdoch argued for the earlier date, expressing the opinion that the case could be made by then, and a desire “not to give the opposition even more time to organize.” He also said that in a November election “people who don’t really live here” would vote and might be harder to persuade.

When Murdoch called the question, the council voted 4 to 3 to accept the proposal with the May election date.

Other matters covered at the meeting focused on recreation.

A volunteer group has made progress in planning and funding the renovation of Rutherford Pool, a public facility at 975 Congress Street. John Weiss and David Bates, leaders of the group Friends of Rutherford Pool, made a report on their progress in fundraising and presented their business and operations plan to rebuild the 40-year-old pool.

They have raised $650,000 including a $300,000 grant from the State Department of Natural Resources, $273,500 from private and group gifts, $50,000 from the Washtenaw County Recreation Department and $20,000 from Ypsilanti Township. Another $27,000 worth of funds are from an endowment. If the state grant comes through in time, the group of volunteers hopes to complete the pool rebuilding by June 15.

Cathi Duchon, President and CEO of the YMCA, reported on the ongoing programs the YMCA conducts in Ypsilanti. There are several components at various locations. At Estabrook and Adams elementary schools, and at the Senior Center, the program includes such activities as yoga, games, water safety (in Rutherford Pool) and cheerleading. The Y also has a summer camp in Ypsilanti that provides structured activities and reading clubs, as well as an after-school program. Duchon said she hoped the council would approve a new agreement for two years, and later in the meeting it did.

John Barfield made a presentation on Parkridge Community Center, at 591 Armstrong and the corner of Harriet. Parkridge is a recreational programming center for Ypsilanti youth under 18.

Rod Jones of the Work Skills Corporation described the role his group could play to provide broad job training services. Thom Phillips from the Ann Arbor architectural firm of Hobbs Black described the building plans Barfield hopes could start in the next six months.

The new building, 14,000 square feet, would be east of the existing building, which would be modified. Barfield said he wants the place to be “state of the art, to make people stop and stare, to create a canopy of trees in the park.”

Half of the new space would be office space for the Work Skills Corporation; the other half would be exhibit space for rotating exhibits of “world class African-American artists’ work, in cooperation with leading museums.”

The core of the collection will be Paul Collins’ work, which Barfield has collected for years and which is appraised at $425,000. Barfield also intends to give $200,000, which Collins will match, enabling a June start to construction.

Barfield was born and raised in Ypsilanti. His company, the Bartech Group, is a talent acquisition and management firm in Livonia. According to its website, the Bartech group does billing and managing of $1.5 billion in professional staffing, workforce management and consulting expenditures on behalf of its customers.

Mayor Schreiber asked Barfield about getting the rest of the estimated $2 million cost.

Barfield said, “I plan to go to my customers and my board of directors” to ask them to match Barfield’s gift. Barfield also said he thought artist Paul Wilson would help with fund raising.

“I don’t think we will have trouble raising money for construction and for an endowment to
keep the center going,” he added.

The council agreed to remove from the agenda the resolution to approve a public
transportation agreement between the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County, because the Ann Arbor City Council is considering modifications to the agreement and will not make a decision until after a public hearing on Jan. 23. Ann Arbor City Council member Stephen Kunselman described what the Ann Arbor City Council had done to “protect Ann Arbor taxpayers” by amending the proposed agreement and urged Ypsilanti to do the same. Kunselman also said he felt Ann Arbor should have more members on the Board of the proposed new transit authority.

In another recreation-related action, the council approved a letter of intent with the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission (WCPRC) to make plans to build a community recreation building of about 50-60,000 square feet, on about eight acres in the northwest corner of the Water Street site, effectively taking the eight acres off the market for 18 months, while City and WCPRC staff work out details of a development agreement for the Recreational Facility. This stage is important for presenting and addressing key issues or concerns to be addressed while developing the development agreement.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Board of the Parks and Recreation Department unanimously approved the letter of intent, according to Director Robert Tetens.

According to the proposed letter of intent, the Council would, at the end of the 18 months, be presented with a development agreement and more detail on the location, scale and style of the proposed construction. Details regarding the development, the terms and conditions as well as roles and responsibilities related to infrastructure construction, Brownfield
remediation, and finally, purchase price would also be included.

The intent is that in the next 18 months a full development agreement would be ready for the council and WCPARC to transfer the property. The letter of intent contains a detailed list of the items in the full agreement, including proposed site plan and building design and the roles and responsibilities of the parties.

According to Teresa Gillotti, Director of Planning for the city, “we are looking for a very substantive” document, and there are complications such as the site being in the flood plain. In addition, she said, we need to have very clear answers in order to get funding.

The letter of intent does not contemplate that WCPARC would make a financial contribution, but would instead “work cooperatively to develop infrastructure beyond the particular needs of the proposed Community Recreation Facility, to include water/sewer/road access into the site.”

Other financial matters considered at the meeting included the annual audit by Rehmann-Robson, which revealed a deficit of $9,551 in FY2011. The council approved a plan to eliminate the deficit and take steps to prevent a future recurrence.


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