Washtenaw Community College votes to reject offer to buy Country Club

March 24, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Video

In a unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees of the Washtenaw Community College, the board has decided to reject the offer to purchase the Washtenaw Country Club.

While several of the board members wanted to purchase the property saying that it was a good deal, they said the perception was it was a bailout of the country club.

Vice-president Pamela Horiszny, who in the past was a vocal supporter for the purchase said, “In these tough economic times, this purchase does not fit with the mission of the college.”

The board had been offered the 122 acre property for assuming the $1.9 million existing debt and a pledge to continue to operate the club for a minimum of 5 years.

Trustees said part of the agreement required the College to preserve the green space and it would have been a better offer had the College had the option to build on the property in the future.

Trustees thanked the board of the Country Club for the generous offer.

Ypsi Planning Commission Meeting Regarding Ann Arbor-Detroit Commuter Rail Service

March 19, 2009 by  
Filed under News

freighthouseYpsilanti citizens and the city planning commission learned more details about the Ann Arbor-Detroit rail line Wednesday during a presentation from the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG).

The SEMCOG presentation by Director of Transportation Programs, Carmine Palumbo, introduced the commission and citizens in attendance to the rail line and communicated more specific details about the service. Palumbo was on hand as a part of SEMCOG’s effort to include communities in which the new rail service will stop. He gave an overview of the vision for the service, an update of the council’s progress, and provided details about the proposed Ypsilanti stop.

The Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail line is proposed to serve five stops — Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Dearborn and Detroit. The council is negotiating agreements with the three railroads — Norfolk Southern, Conrail Shared Assets, and Canadian National — that own the rail lines, and Palumbo indicated talks are going well. The commuter train service will share rail lines with freight and Amtrak trains.

The Ypsilanti stop’s proposed location is in Depot Town along the tracks north of Cross street. Publicly owned land on both sides of the tracks would accommodate parking and boarding areas. The meeting included discussion about three options for a boarding location. A representative from the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse (FOYF) organization delivered a proposal for the old freighthouse to be used as a station. The freighthouse was used for the Ypsilanti farmer’s market and community events until it failed a number of building code requirements and was no longer allowed to be occupied.

The FOYF organization was formed to repair and find use for the freighthouse. Another proposal was to purchase the old depot from its current owners and renovate it for use as a station. The final option was presented by Palumbo to build a 450-foot platform in the railroad right-of-way on one side of the tracks. The planning commission has been asked to make a final recommendation to SEMCOG for the location of a boarding structure and indicated the recommendation would come after more analysis and discussion at the April 15 meeting.

During his presentation Palumbo warned the project still has a long way to go and that there will be issues the project may need to work through.

“There are going to be some bumps along the road,” he said. “Funding is going to be a huge bump.”

SEMCOG is applying for state and federal funding and is planning on raising all the capital costs to get the project off the ground. Palumbo also indicated some of the money could come from the Obama administration’s stimulus plan allocation for high-speed rail projects.

All who spoke to the commission during the public comment period were in support of the rail line project. Some concerns were raised, however, about parking capacity, the environmental impact of the trains, locations of the boarding structure and safety at crossings in light of increased train traffic.

Planning Commissioner Gary Clark spoke in favor of the freighthouse station idea and urged the commission to continue to move forward with the commuter rail plan in spite of some concerns that had been voiced.

“I don’t want us to worry it to death,” he said. “We’re creative enough that if we step things along we’ll be able to handle it.”

Lecture by Interventionist specialists and best-selling authors Jeff and Debra Jay

March 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Announcements

WHAT: A FREE presentation by Jeff and Debra Jay; internationally-known Intervention experts, best-selling authors and popular media personalities!

Can others help when an addict/alcoholic doesn’t seem to want help? Do family and friends have to wait for the addict/alcoholic to “hit bottom?” What if the “bottom” is death, jail or insanity?

Through the intervention process, people who care learn how to use love and honesty to break through the denial that keeps an addict or alcoholic locked in the downward spiral of his/her disease. The intervention process helps “raise the bottom” to where the alcoholic/addict is, rather than waiting for him/her to become sicker and “hit bottom” on his/her own. Intervention brings about a moment of clarity that allows an addict/alcoholic to accept help.

Through their work in intervention, Jeff and Debra Jay have found that love is a powerful force for confronting addiction. Unlike practitioners who espouse a “tough love” approach, they found that love breaks through denial more effectively than toughness. With love first and good planning, “tough love” is often unnecessary.

WHEN and WHERE: “Intervention” is scheduled for Tuesday, March 31, 2009, from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm; in the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Education Center auditorium, 5305 Elliott Drive, Ypsilanti, Michigan.

WHO: Jeff and Debra Jay are dynamic, highly experienced speakers whose presentations are liberally interwoven with compassion, humor, personal stories and real-life descriptions

Jeff Jay is the co-author (with Debra Jay) of Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction. A standard-setting book on intervention, Love First has helped tens of thousands of families, friends, and professionals create a loving and effective plan for helping those who suffer from addiction. First published in 2000, the second edition of Love First, revised and expanded, was published in 2008. Jeff also co-authored At Wit’s End, a book on co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders. Jeff heads a private practice that provides intervention and crisis management services nationally. His work has appeared on CNN, the Jane Pauley Show, PBS, Forbes Online, Moyers on Addiction and other national broadcasts and has been featured in Parade Magazine, the Washington Post and numerous publications and professional journals. “I am passionate about intervention for a very simple reason,” says Jeff, “Intervention saved my life.”

Debra Erickson Jay is an addiction specialist, professional interventionist, and author. She provides intervention training and consultation services, with an additional specialty in older adult intervention. Debra has appeared frequently on “Oprah” and other nationally broadcast programs. She is a co-author (with Jeff Jay) of “Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction;” the author of “No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcoholism and Drug Addiction;” and a co-author of “Aging and Addiction: Helping Older Adults Overcome Alcohol or Medication Dependence.”

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT NEWS: This free program will bring PRACTICAL INFORMATION, HELP and HOPE to anyone who cares about an alcoholic or addict, and to anyone who wants to learn more about the intervention process. We’d like to ask your help to inform your readers of this unique opportunity to learn how “Love First” can help addicts and alcoholics find recovery.

BOOK SIGNING: Books by Jeff and Debra will be available for purchase and to have signed by the authors.

CONTACT INFORMATION: The Education Series is organized by Dawn Farm, a non-profit community of programs providing addiction services. For information, your readers can contact Dawn Farm at 734/485-8725 or info@dawnfarm.org, or see the web site at http://www.dawnfarm.org.

CE: Intervention and each program in the Education Series provides 1.5 free CE hours.

Contact Matt Statman at 734/669-8265 or mstatman@dawnfarm.org, or see their web site at http://www.dawnfarm.org for more information.

Ypsi Ordinance Officer resigns after snow debacle

March 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Breaking News, News

Some Ypsilanti residents and property owners have complained bitterly about the recent enforcement of sidewalk clearing after a snow storm. For years, numerous property owners in the city would not clear their sidewalks after a storm. Ypsilanti City Council in December 2008 toughened the Snow ordinance with fines and fees for failing to remove snow.

Most residents that spoke before City Council last week said they supported the new, tougher snow ordinance.

However the complaints were not criticisms of the new snow ordinance, but rather how it was enforced.

Most of the complaints centered around Ronnie Monroe, the City of Ypsilanti’s Ordinance Officer and concerns over how notice was given that snow and ice would be removed by the City contractor. Monroe resigned on Thursday evening.

In late January, the City Building Department began to enforce a new snow removal ordinance approved by City Council in December 2008. After a snowstorm, the City identified 441 properties where property owners had failed to clear the snow 48 hours after the storm.

According to Assistant City Attorney Karl Barr, notices must be given to each property owner 18 hours before the City or City contractor could remove the snow.

Much of the discussion on local blogs had centered around the ordinance and the use of the word “May” when it came to notification. (Full text of the snow ordinance).

However many had missed the point. The ‘may’ had to do with notifiying the property owner that they were in violation of the ordinance. The city “may” notify the property owner they are in violation of the city snow ordinance.

Barr’s interpretation of the ordinance is the City “MUST” notify the property owner before abating or removing the snow.

The city could have issued a $50 ticket for failing to remove the snow and the city is not required to warn owners before writing the ticket. The City decided to remove the snow rather than just write tickets.

Since the city planned to remove the snow and ice, according to the city attorney, the city must notify each property owner in writing 18 hours before work is to begin.

Monroe was to affix 441 Final Notices to the property notifying owners they had 18 hours to remove the snow or the City’s contractor would remove the snow and the owner will be billed.

Barr said he saw Monroe heading out on Thursday, January 29th, with a stack of notices in hand.

Monroe had Thursday and Friday, January 29th and 30th, to post the notices on each door. Assistant City Manager April McGrath later told City Council that a City Intern also helped Monroe post the notices.

Time doesn’t add up

In testimony given to City Council by staff they said Monroe spent part of the time on the morning of Thursday, January 29th photocopying the notices, Monroe also hand wrote a expiration date and time on each notice.

Monroe is generally at City Hall from 8am to 9am and 1pm to 2pm each day to take calls. After that he goes out on patrol.

We asked the city for Monroe’s time records for this period to find out how long Monroe spent handing out notices. The City has not gotten back to us with that information.

Given that we are missing some data, lets make the best case scenario.

Lets assume that Monroe did not spend the two hours a day he spends in the office answering calls or printing notices. Lets assume Monroe worked non-stop, 8 hours a day for two days delivering notices.

The 441 properties were scattered across the city, many of them were not adjacent to each other.

Presumably, the sidewalks were not clear and free from snow and ice, that was the reason for the notice.

Monroe and the City intern would have to drive to each location, get out of the truck, traverse piles of snow and treacherous ice and place the notice on each door.

Monroe and the intern would have to post one notice every 2 minutes and 10 seconds. That is assuming no breaks and an eight hour work day.

It was hard to see how 441 notices could be posted in less than two days.

Search for notices

YpsiNews interviewed dozens of property owners over the last two weeks and found two had received the Final Notices. Neither of them received a bill from the city.

McGrath told City Council that 348 of the 441 were billed for snow removal.

We then took the list of properties provided by the city and visited many of them them to see if we could find the notices either on the door or somewhere nearby. Many of these properties were boarded up, vacant, foreclosed, or for sale. There were no notices at any of the properties we visited.

City officials had initially said that perhaps the notices had blown off. Yet it was hard to imagine that 441 notices all blew off.

While going door to door, besides the collection of pizza flyers and stacks of water soaked Ann Arbor Community News newspapers, we found campaign literature from the November 2008 General election. So while there was campaign literature on the doors and tucked behind mailboxes, we could not find a single notice posted by Monroe.

Continuing our investigation, YpsiNews asked the City for copies of the photographs taken of the properties requiring abatement. Before the City contractor was to remove or abate the snow, the City told the contractor to take a picture. McGrath said the contractor would not be paid for their service unless they provided the city a photograph prior to work beginning.

The photos were for the most part taken on Saturday, January 31st. Less than two days after Monroe posted the notice on each door.

We wanted to see the extent of the problems with the snow and ice on the sidewalks and to see if any photos showed evidence that a notice had been posted on the door. Out of 441 photos, perhaps one would show a notice posted on the door. We have not yet received those photos.

In addition, we asked the City for time records for Monroe for the week and the names and hours of any other city staff that had assisted in handing out the notices. We also asked the city to describe the manner used to affix the notices to the property.

After repeated requests for this information, on Thursday evening March 12th, McGrath told YpsiNews we would need to submit a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request. We immediately submitted our FOIA request.

YpsiNews has learned that Ronnie Monroe resigned from the City of Ypsilanti on the very same evening we were told to FOIA the records.

No reason was given for the resignation and it is not clear if his resignation is tied the snow enforcement problem or our request for documents.

YpsiNews called and emailed McGrath on Friday, March 13th, asking for comment. Besides being Assistant City Manager, McGrath is head of the HR department and she oversees the Building Department where Monroe worked. We are waiting for her response.

UAW/Ford Daycare Center in Ypsi for sale for $4.2 mil (Update1)

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under News

daycare-smThe former daycare center run by UAW/Ford in Ypsilanti is on the market for $4.2 million. Constructed in 2001, the building at 850 S Hewitt is nearly 33,000sf. The asking price is $128 per square foot.

Drew Chorney with CB Richard Ellis is the listing agent. Chorney is also the agent for the City of Ypsilanti’s Water Street Project.

Update1: March 11, 2009 6:00pm. The property was originally identified as belonging to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. That is incorrect. The error was in reporting.

Video: Ypsilanti City Council March 3, 2009

March 9, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Video

Tonight’s City Council forecast: Snow

Snow and sidewalk shoveling was the highlight of tonight’s City Council meeting.

Richard King, chair of the ann Arbor/Ypsilanti LDFA Smartzone gave his annual report. Ann Arbor City Council Steve Rapundalo who also serves on the LDFA board joined the festivities.

Ypsilanti City Council Packet, March 3, 2009

Video: Superior Twp Mar 2, 2009

March 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Video

Superior Township Board of Trustees announced this evening that future meetings will move to Wednesday’s at 7:30p. Here is the schedule of upcoming meetings.

Superior Township still releases their agendas and minutes as a Word document rather than a PDF. We converted the document to PDF and have made it available.

It would be very helpful if the Superior Township Clerk Dave Phillips would use Adobe Acrobat PDF files. Far too many users cannot read Word documents on the web.

Agenda Superior Township Board of Trustees, March 2, 2009

Brandy’s Liquor Shoppe to remain open

March 6, 2009 by  
Filed under News

brandysOwners of Brandy’s Liquor store and the City of Ypsilanti have resolved a nuisance lawsuit and the store will remain open. Judge Timothy Connors signed the Consent Order on Thursday.

Brandy’s is located at 902 West Michigan Avenue and has been owned by the Cathy and Samir Hanna since 1999. Before then it was called Forbes Market.

Residents and neighborhood associations have long complained about chronic problems with trash, loitering, crime, and drug sales in and around the store.

In 2008, the City of Ypsilanti filed suit against Brandy’s declaring the business a public nuisance.

The police department had documented some 200 calls for service over a nearly 14 month period in 2007 and 2008. That was three times as many calls as other party stores in Ypsilanti.

Samir Hanna had denied any wrong doing telling Ypsilanti City Council in December his store was no worse than any other liquor store in town.

The terms of the agreement are as follows:

  • Brandy’s will join and attend regular neighborhood association meetings in Midtown and Heritage Park.
  • Brandy’s and City will meet monthly to discuss compliance with this order.
  • Brandy’s will provide the Ypsilanti Police Department access to their video surveillance system as needed to identify potential criminal activity and will maintain video system in proper working order.
  • Brandy’s will take all necessary actions to operate their business in an orderly, lawful, peaceful, and quite manner and to not allow or permit any action or behavior that would be a nuisance.
  • Brandy’s will decrease hours of operation by closing at 12 midnight Sunday through Wednesday, close at 1:30a on Thursday, and 2am on Friday and Saturday.
  • Brandy’s’ will maintain private security for two years from 6pm to closing. In 2009 security is from April 1 until September 1. In 2010 Brandy’s must have private security from Memorial Day until September 1.
  • No consumption of alcohol on the premises by employees or patrons.
  • Brandy’s will maintain proper lighting around the store and parking lot.
  • Brandy’s will monitor the premises at all times to discourage loitering and will use private security, when present, to address violations before contacting police.
  • Brandy’s will sell no drug paraphernalia (i.e., small baggies, pipes, screens, etc.)

Upon compliance with these terms, the Consent Order between the City and Brandy’s expires September 1, 2010.

Consent Agreement City of Ypsilanti v. Brandy’s March 5, 2009