Corner Health unveils mural in Downtown Ypsilanti

September 25, 2008 by  
Filed under News

Corner Health in Downtown Ypsilanti is celebrating their 27th anniversary. As part of that celebration, they unveiled a new mural.

The mural entitled “Together we solve the puzzle” was painted by Mary Thiefels with the assistance of local students.

Corner Health is undergoing a an expanson of their facilities with new offices and patient areas. They are expanding into the former Ypsi Lock building on North Huron that they purchased last year.

Video: Ypsilanti Depot Town DDA September 24, 2008

September 24, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Video

Ypsilanti Depot Town DDA met this morning at Barnes and Barnes for their monthly board meeting. Topics included looking redoing the City parking lot at Ballard and Cross Street. The renovation of the parking lot including lights, planters, and complying with city planning and site plan requirements would reduce the number of spots from 32 to 25.

The DDA approved expending up to $6,500 for the repair of the Signal tower in depot town. THey haven’t selected the contractor so pre-approving the amount based on the bid submitted by Ron Rupert from Home Services telegraphs to other prospects what is the maximum bid the DDa will approve.

The board agreed to spend up to $8,000 for more holiday lights. (Whatever happened to calling them Christmas lights?)

The Friends of the Freighthouse made a report and promised the long awaited business plan would be ready by December 31, 2008. Mayor Paul Schrieber (Dem) told the board, “A rock solid business plan was needed to justify why (the DTDDA) was spending taxpayer money on the Freighthouse.

Video: Water Street Update Ypsilanti City Council September 18, 2008

September 19, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Video

Ypsilanti City Council heard an update from staff and broker on the progress made on Water Street.

Video: Ypsilanti City Council September 16, 2008

September 17, 2008 by  
Filed under Breaking News, Video

City Council reverses decision to waive past due fees and taxes owed by Housing Commission

Ypsilanti Housing Commission continues to be a hot item of discussion at City Council. The resolution to do away with inspection fees and no longer holding the Housing Commission responsible for complying with the City’s rental inspection program was back on the table.

In August the City Council had approved by a vote of 5 to 1 to allow the Housing Commission to perform their own inspections and forgive over $25,000 in past due fees. In a stunning reversal, City Council reconsidered their resolution and in a unanimous vote, defeated the resolution to waive the rental inspection fees.

It is unclear what the City Council will do next. In addition to the over $25,000 in past due rental inspection fees owed, the Housing Commission owes the City over $45,000 in back taxes stemming from an agreement the Housing Commission signed in 2004.

In other matters, Ypsilanti City Council continues to struggle with time management and time allocation during meetings. The council approved a new contract of a over $1/2 million a year for city legal services.

The council reviewed 18 firms that responded to the City’s RFQ. Yet the contract drew just one question, “Have we benchmarked legal costs against other communities” asked by Brian Robb (Dem, Ward 3). The answer from City Manager Ed Koryzno, “No.”

With no further discussion the council voted 7 to 0 to hire the Barr Law firm as the City Attorney. Barr has had the contract for City Attorney services for over 27 years.

Voting to approve over $1/2 million a year for legal services with just one question by council, the City Council next took up the leaf ordinance. The leaf ordinance was originally proposed to prevent property owners from sweeping leaves into the street.
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Video: Ypsilanti City Council September 2, 2008

September 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Breaking News, Video

(September 4, 2008) City Council meeting went well past 11pm as a number of issues were before the council.

Brian Robb (Dem, Ward 3) surprised Mayor Paul Schreiber (Dem) by asking for a reconsideration of the ordinance waiving inspection fees and forgiving PILOT payments that have remained unpaid by the Ypsilanti Housing Commission since 2005. Schreiber had told Robb in an email last week that Robb could not bring the matter back up for reconsideration.

After Robb asked for the reconsideration, City Attorney Karl Barr told the Mayor the issue could be brought back up by Robb.

At issue is the forgiveness of nearly $25,000 in past due fees for unpaid inspections by City officials. The agreement approved last month, also waived any future fees for inspections and no longer holds the Housing Commission responsible for following City Ordinances when it comes to rental inspections. It also forgave nearly $18,000 in past due Payment in Lieu of Taxes payments the YHC agreed to pay back in 2004.

YHC had been holding back those payments since they agreed to the PILOT nearly 4 years ago. Later in the meeting, Schreiber said that while he was on Chair of the Housing Commission, he did not approve the withholding of PILOT payments. It is unclear who authorized YHC Director Walter Norris to withhold PILOT payments in violation of the agreement with the City.

There was a active discussion by all members of council who had questions about what they had actually approved at the previous meeting.

Robb’s motion survived two attempts to table the matter by Trudy Swanson (Dem, Ward 1). Swanson has been a staunch defender of the Ypsilanti Housing Commission and it’s director Walter Norris. Swanson has frequently said the Housing Commission doesn’t have the money needed to make needed repairs to comply with City inspections.

Swanson was able to table the motion on a third attempt.

Robb said after the meeting the issue was not about the money owed by the Housing Commission. It is about providing safe housing for the residents. Robb pointed to a 43 page report prepared by the City that listed numerous code and safety violations. Less than 15% of all units at the Housing Commission have current Certificates of Compliance from the City Building Inspectors.

Robb said, “We have an obligation to insure safe housing for all residents in the City. This resolution put forth by the Mayor to exempt the Housing Commission from any penalties from failing City rental inspections creates a second class of citizens for the residents of Public Housing. The City is saying it is OK for the most vulnerable in our community to live in substandard housing.”

“I want all residents to live in quality housing that has passed the City inspections for safe housing”, said Robb “Any new agreement with the Housing Commission should insure that the Ypsilanti Housing Commission have a plan to bring their properties up to minimum standards. An 87% failure rate is not acceptable.”

A number of other topics were discussed including implementing new fines and fees for residents that rake leaves into the margin or street. After a 35 minute debate, the Council tabled the motion. Council had previously said that they intended to stop leaf pickup next year as a cost cutting measure.

Next was the controversial agreement with Adams outdoor to install a new double-sided LED flashing billboard on city property at I-94 and South Huron St. City Council approved the ordinance to enter into a long term agreement with Adams Outdoor. Despite objections by Steve Pierce, representing the Historic Southside Neighborhood, the measure passed unanimously. Pierce said that Schreiber had gone back on his promise nearly a year ago to have representatives from EMU, Convention and Visitors Bureau and City staff come to a neighborhood meeting to discuss their plan.

Swanson and Lois Richardson (Dem, Ward 1) both apologized for not meeting with neighbors from the Historic Southside and pointed out that EMU and city staff had me with the other two neighborhood associations that border the sign.

Then Council voted to approve a rate increase of 3.5% for sewage services. Larry Thomas, Director of Ypsilanti Communities Utilities Authority, said that they were not asking for a rate increase for water service. Thomas also said the 80% water surcharge that pays for a variety of debts and bonds including the water main work that was done during the road rebuilding would be reduced by 2%.

The beloved Freighthouse was also on the agenda. The Friends of the Freighthouse were asking the city to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the repair and operation of the Freighthouse. No one on Council asked why the group that is responsible for the sustainability of a publicly owned building, is not bound by the Open Meetings or Freedom of Information Act. The council unanimously approved the MOU and as such, gave up any public oversight of how public money is spent and how the public building is maintained or used.

Spark Business Incubator to locate on Michigan Avenue in Downtown Ypsilanti

September 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Breaking News

Mack and Mack Building in Downtown Ypsilanti is site for Ann Arbor Spark Business Incubator.

(September 4, 2008) Sources from Washtenaw County and Eastern Michigan University have told that an agreement has been signed for the Ann Arbor Spark Business incubator. The business incubator will be located at the Mack and Mack building at 211 to 215 West Michigan Avenue in Downtown Ypsilanti.

According to sources that asked to remain anonymous, an agreement was executed by Maurer Management and Spark for the Mack and Mack building within the last week. Officials from Maurer Management would not comment for this story and officials from Spark did not return our call.

The Mayor of Ypsilanti, Paul Schreiber, announced last March that Spark was looking at a second location after negotiations with James Pate, owner of Smith Furniture building had stalled.

Smith Furniture, located on South Washington, was Sparks preferred location. However, folks close to the negotiations said Pate was difficult to work with and kept changing his requirements.

Yet their were strong proponents that kept advocating for the Smith building including County Commissioner Ronnie Peterson (Dem, District 6 Ypsilanti) and David Behen at the County. At one point, Behen camped out in front of Pate’s house in Ypsilanti for nearly a day to find Pate after Pate didn’t return phone calls for almost a month.

Mike Finney, president of Ann Arbor Spark, told both the Spark and LDFA boards that he would accept an alternate location such as the Mack and Mack building if it would mean Spark could meet their fall time frame for opening.

According to the sources at the County, negotiations for Smith Furniture broke off in late July after failing to come to an agreement with Pate.

Spark announced in August that they were looking at two new locations in Ypsilanti. One building was Mack and Mack. Spark did not disclose the second location.

Terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Spark officials had previously said that they expected to be able to open the business incubator within four months of signing a lease.

The incubator space will be used for start-up companies working with Spark. There will also be classroom space to be used by EMU Business School.

Copper thieves strip Water Street buildings

September 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Breaking News

(September 4, 2008) Tens of thousands of dollars of copper and other scrap metal have been stripped out of the buildings at Water Street in Downtown Ypsilanti. Unfortunately, the taxpayers of Ypsilanti did not get a single penny for the scrap metal.

City officials admitted in a May report to City Council that scrap thieves had stripped the buildings of copper and other valuable metals making all of the buildings uninhabitable.

In a letter sent to City Council, City Manager Ed Koryzno said, “Persons seeking scrap metal removed all of the copper from every building including electrical panels, heating and air conditioning, alarm panels, and in some cases the conduit. All of the roofs leak and/or are failing and the sprinkler system in the Flea Market did not receive winterization allowing the water to freeze breaking the pipes. The former Wireless Toys/Seafood Market has enough growth on the walls and floor that it resembles sod.”

Source: Ypsilanti City Council Information Letter, May 22, 2008