Ann Arbor City Council Newsletter (February 4, 2024)

Feb 4, 2024 | Newsletter

Hello neighbors!

Welcome to my Ann Arbor City Council newsletter, where you can connect with primary sources to understand the work of your local government. My goal is to provide clear explanations of all the issues your elected representatives will be discussing at their next meeting and alert you to local policy and decisions that have been assigned to unelected Mayoral appointees.

Tomorrow, Ann Arbor City Council considers only three items on the regular agenda: two liquor licenses and a new fee structure for ambulance and lift assist service from the Fire Department. There are also two public hearings: one for the ambulance/lift assist fee structure and another for a sidewalk assessment district at Stone School Road.

One item on the Consent Agenda is worth special attention – I wrote about it in my “Additional Thoughts” section below.


Sports Illustrated Resorts: Withdrawn

The biggest news this week: a proposal for a Sports Illustrated Resorts hotel and conference center was withdrawn by its developers. To learn more more about how this deal originated, the last six months of negotiation behind the scenes, $30,000 in legal expenses, and the public engagement meeting this week, see my video summary:

MLive published several articles about the January 29th public meeting and subsequent withdrawal of the proposal.

‘A hard no.’ Ann Arbor officials ready to vote down Sports Illustrated resort proposal
https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2024/01/a-hard-no-ann-arbor-officials-ready-to-vote-down-sports-illustrated-resort-proposal.html

Sports Illustrated Resorts withdraws proposal for downtown Ann Arbor lot
https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2024/01/sports-illustrated-resorts-withdraws-proposal-for-downtown-ann-arbor-lot.html

New video shows virtual flyover of Sports Illustrated resort concept Ann Arbor passed on
https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2024/01/new-video-shows-virtual-flyover-of-sports-illustrated-resort-concept-ann-arbor-passed-on.html

Does downtown Ann Arbor need a big conference center? Group argues yes
https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2024/02/does-downtown-ann-arbor-need-a-big-conference-center-group-argues-yes.html


Ann Arbor Democracy

In 1974, a Democrat named Colleen McGee narrowly beat a Human Rights Party candidate and a Republican to win the Ward 1 City Council seat previously held by Jerry DeGrieck (HRP). During her term (1974-1976), Colleen served first under Republican Mayor James Stephenson and – after the contested election of 1975 – then Democratic Mayor Al Wheeler. In Part 3 of our conversation, Colleen talks about moving Lansky junkyard to make room for Wheeler Park, community debates around development, and what it means to be a progressive!


Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Agenda

Below is my summary of issues on the City Council Agenda this week, with links to more information about each of them. If you have comments about any of these issues, you can email all of Council at CityCouncil@a2gov.org

Ann Arbor City Council Meeting
Monday February 5, 2024 7:00PM

Ann Arbor City Hall (2nd Floor)
301 E Huron St, Ann Arbor 48104

The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda, and instructions for dialing into the meeting) is on the A2Gov Legistar website:
https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1141231&GUID=181C1BAF-EFAE-4F78-9B9C-CA9142D298C7

City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99) and online at a2gov.org/watchCTN
Meetings are also streamed live on the CTN YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/ctnannarbor

How to reserve public comment

People that wish to comment at a City Council meeting must sign up with the City Clerk’s office in advance. Speakers are allotted 3 minutes, with the first 15 speakers allowed to speak in a 45 minute session near the beginning of the meeting. Remaining speakers will speak at the end of the Council meeting. Public comment can be made either in person or remotely via phone/Zoom audio.

To sign up for public comment, please go to or call the City Clerk’s Office at 734-794-6140 on the day of the meeting between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. At 4:00 PM, all speakers that have signed up are randomly ordered in “priority groups”. After 4:00 PM, speakers are added to the end of the applicable priority group in the order received. No new speakers will be added to the list after 5:00 PM. For more information, visit the City Clerk’s webpage about electronic meetings, section “City Council Public Commentary Time”
https://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-clerk/Pages/Virtual-Meetings-.aspx

Questions to the Agenda

In preparation for a Council meeting, Council members can ask questions of staff about scheduled agenda items. Questions must be submitted by noon on the Wednesday before a Council Meeting, and answers are returned the next day (Thursday) by 5pm.

AC-1 (24-0144) Agenda Response Memo and eComments – February 5, 2024
This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff. 

Communications from the Mayor

MC-1 (24-0104) Appointments – Confirmations
These appointments from the Mayor were presented at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting.

  • Lisa Campbell – Transportation Commission
  • Lorraine Buis – Commission on Disability Issues
  • Elizabeth Martin – Board of Review
  • Daniel Adams – Planning Commission (NOTE: This appointment was added to the agenda on the day of the previous Council meeting, and was therefore not listed in my previous newsletter) 

MC-2 (24-0169) Appointments and Nominations for February 5, 2024
This appointment from the Mayor is being presented at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Curt Zell – Board of Review

Consent Agenda

Below is the list of items included on the Consent Agenda. If no one on Council specifically requests that an item be pulled for discussion, the whole of this list will be approved in a single vote.

CA-1 (23-2122) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Pamar Enterprises, Inc. for the Huron West Park Sanitary Sewer Replacement Phases 2 & 3 ($8,483,440.00)

CA-2 (24-0015) Resolution to Authorize the Purchase of Golf Course Equipment from Spartan Distributors Inc. (Omnia Partners – $534,189.62)

CA-3 (24-0003) Resolution to Support the Leslie Science and Nature Center Nature Playscape and Appropriate $250,000.00 (8 Votes Required)

CA-4 (24-0002) Resolution to Approve a Five-Year Lease with the University of Michigan for Parking at Riverside Park (8 Votes Required)

CA-5 (24-0004) Resolution to Approve a Five-Year Lease Agreement with the Ann Arbor Public Schools for the Eberbach Cultural Arts Building (8 Votes Required)

CA-6 (24-0043) Resolution to Approve Five-Year Professional Services Agreements for As-Needed Architecture Services for Parks & Recreation with A3C Collaborative Architecture, InToto Studio, and Hubbell, Roth & Clark, Inc. (NTE Annual $300,000.00 Per Firm)

CA-7 (24-0079) Resolution to Approve a Professional Services Agreement with G.O. Williams & Associates, L.L.C. for Circular Economy Planning and Stakeholder Engagement ($80,000.00)

CA-8 (24-0071) Resolution to Accept a Community Project Funding Grant from the State of Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity for Advancing the Wheeler Center Solar Park and Approve a Grant Agreement with the State of Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity ($5,000,000.00) (8 Votes Required)

CA-9 (24-0058) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 2221 Winchell Drive from St. Francis of Assisi Parish Ann Arbor (8 Votes Required)

CA-10 (24-0064) Resolution to Accept a Water Main Easement at 999 Maiden Lane from Morningside Nine99, LLC (8 Votes Required)

CA-11 (23-2133) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with DiPonio Contracting, LLC for the Crescents Water Main Replacement and Resurfacing Project (RFP 23-61; $7,691,341.70) and to Appropriate $6,601,000.00 in Contributing Funds. (8 Votes Required)

CA-12 (24-0117) Resolution to Approve the 2024 Insurance Renewals for Policy Premiums exceeding $75,000.00 effective March 1, 2024

Public Hearings

Anyone wanting to comment on these issues may speak for 3 minutes, without having specifically reserved time. Issues subject to public hearing will also be up for a vote by Council later in the meeting.

PH-1 (24-0083) Resolution to Approve Fees for the Fire Department Ambulance Transport and Lift Assists And Appropriate Funding (8 Votes Required)
New proposed fees would be charged by the Ann Arbor Fire Department: $470.00 for basic life support transport (ambulance) and $225.00 for lift assist. The fee schedule for ambulance service contemplates various levels of insurance and for those lacking insurance, the fee is waived. The fee schedule for lift assist is different across defined categories of customers. For businesses and medical facilities (e.g. assisted living facility, group home, skilled nursing facility, etc.) the first lift assist service is free. In providing services to people living in private residences, the Fire Department will provide up to six lift assists over 12 months for free (fees would apply to the seventh and all subsequent lift assists). With this new policy, the Fire Department anticipates the collection of $7,500 in fees for FY2024.

PH-2 (24-0129) Public Hearing for the Stone School Road Sidewalk Special Assessment (District No. 64 – Eisenhower to Packard)
A public hearing will be held for a special assessment district that includes seven parcels within Pittsfield Township. Property owners of seven parcels on Stone School Road (2853, 2907, 2931, 2941) will be assessed a total of $144,849.79 to pay for installation of a new sidewalk. The new sidewalk will close gaps in the sidewalk network and provide a continuous pedestrian connection along the east side of Stone School Road from Eisenhower to Packard. This item will not be voted on by City Council. 

The City has a webpage about this project:
https://www.a2gov.org/departments/engineering/Pages/Stone-School-Road-Sidewalk-Project.aspx

Ordinances – Second Reading

In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances were approved at a previous Council meeting, and are also subject to a public hearing as listed above.

There are no ordinance second readings on the agenda

Ordinances – First Reading

In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances are being introduced for “first reading”. If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting (“second reading”), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.

There are no ordinance first readings on the agenda

Motions and Resolutions

The following agenda items are motions and resolutions, which are approved or rejected in a single meeting. Agenda items marked “DC” are proposed by Council members, items marked “DB” are proposed by City boards and commissions, items marked “DS” are proposed by City staff.

DC-1 (24-0112) Resolution to Approve a Request from Hearsay, Inc. for a New Micro Brewer, Small Wine Maker, and Small Distiller Liquor License and an Entertainment Permit to be Located at 2350 W. Liberty Street
A new Micro Brewer, Small Wine Maker, Small Distiller Liquor License and Entertainment Permit will be awarded to Hearsay, Inc. at 2350 W. Liberty Street to run a craft microbrewery with performance venue. It will be open six days a week from approximately 3:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., with live comedy shows 3-4 nights per week.

DC-2 (24-0110) Resolution to Approve a Request from AOC North Ann Arbor Opco, LLC for a New Nonpublic Continuing Care Retirement Center Liquor License, Issued Under MCL 436.1545(b)(ii) to be Located at 1901 Plymouth Road, d/b/a Atria Park of Ann Arbor
A new Nonpublic Continuing Care Retirement Center Liquor License will be awarded to AOC North Ann Arbor Opco, LLC at 1901 Plymouth Road (Atria Park). The license will be used in a Continuing Care Retirement Center that offers assisted senior living and memory care.

DS-1 (24-0083is the same as PH-1 above


Additional Thoughts

I also published this on my website:
https://a2elnel.com/post/another-million-dollars-and-counting/

Another Million Dollars And Counting

One item on the Consent Agenda of the February 5, 2024 City Council meeting is worth special attention.

CA-11 (23-2133) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with DiPonio Contracting, LLC for the Crescents Water Main Replacement and Resurfacing Project (RFP 23-61; $7,691,341.70) and to Appropriate $6,601,000.00 in Contributing Funds. (8 Votes Required)

Since community approval of a “Best Value” contracting policy in 2021, City Council has approved a number of contracts with prices higher than the lowest submitted bid. Such contracts are easily identified by looking at the scoring sheets attached to these contracts. A low score in the row “Part E – Schedule of Pricing/Cost” reflects the fact that a contractor is charging more than others. In this week’s agenda item CA-11, staff recommends awarding a contract to DiPonio, based on the scoring sheet below:

Crescents proposal evaluation sheet dated Dec 2023 as found in the Feb 5, 2024 Ann Arbor City Council agenda

(Direct link to scoring sheet)

This scoring sheet shows that two contractor bids scored better than DiPonio in “Schedule of Pricing and Cost,” meaning that their bids were lower. In assessing these bids by the “Best Value” standard, City staff recommend awarding the contract to DiPonio, but bids from Verdeterre and Fonson scored better on price. How much better? Below are the prices from those three contractors:

  • DiPonio $7,691,341.70
  • Fonson $6,626,059.00
  • Verdeterre $6,073,973.70

It’s worth looking more closely at all three of these contractors. Since 2008, Verdeterre has been awarded only two contracts with the City, adding up to less than $500,000. However, Fonson is a trusted City contractor that has done millions of dollars in work for the City, including multiple large contracts since 2020. Most recently, Fonson was awarded a similar contract for water main and resurfacing work at Madison/Madison Place (May 2023) and prior to that, Fonson was awarded the much larger construction project on South State Street (May 2022) 

  • May 16, 2022 (link) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Fonson Company, Inc. for the South State Street Reconstruction Project ($6,727,358.01) and to Appropriate $9,083,000 in Contributing Funds (8 Votes Required)
  • May 1, 2023 (link) Resolution to Approve a Construction Contract with Fonson Company, Inc. for the West Madison – Madison Place Water Main and Resurfacing Project ($2,122,850) and to Appropriate $1,133,000 in Internal Contributing Funds (8 Votes Required)

NOTE: Submitted bid prices are available for anyone to see at the RFP page on the City’s website. Click on the links for “proposal tab” to see the bid prices on any given contract:
https://www.a2gov.org/departments/finance-admin-services/purchasing/Pages/Proposals.aspx

In Council questions to the agenda this week, no one asked about this contract or requested any details about why it costs so much more. It is worth noticing that in this single contract, the flexibility and discretion of the “Best Value” standard is costing the City over a million dollars. 

The “Best Value” standard, as implemented by a majority (and now unanimity) of City Council has resulted in arbitrary decisions, awarding contracts to specific companies favored by individual Council Members. I wrote about it a year ago in my post “A Million Dollars And Counting“:
https://a2elnel.com/post/a-million-dollars-and-counting/

This problem is not new. Watch Council Members in action – switching contracts at the Council table to favor specific companies – in a video I made in December 2022:


Thank you for taking the time to be informed about our local government!
Elizabeth Nelson