Snowy Owls don't make it to Washtenaw County every winter. They made it this winter in greater numbers than usual. Why? Where might you see one? In this week's installment of WEMU's Issues of the Environment, David Fair seeks out answers to those questions.
Energy conservation is low-hanging fruit--no new technology, power plants or pipelines are required. But it can be a stubborn nut to crack if there is no financial motivation to conserve, and the question of motivation all depends on who pays the bills.
Rain and melting snow has caused widespread flooding across Washtenaw County. County Road Commission Operations Director Jim Harmon says crews worked hard Wednesday to clear storm drains, but as the rain fell and snow melted, those same drains clogged again. Harmon says flooding is reported anywhere from a few inches to several feet. He urges motorists to expect flooding, and not to try to drive through areas where you can't tell how deep the water is. Harmon welcomes reports of flooding at 734-761-1500, and if residents can safely do so, trying to clear neighborhood storm drains would be a big help.
Washtenaw County home owners are seeing a rise in their property values for the first time in five years. Values are rising all across the county and properties are spending less time on the market before selling. Catherine McClary is Washtenaw County's Treasurer. She says the rising values is good news overall, but the county still faces challenges, especially when it comes to making sure there is enough affordable housing. McClary says the area's homeless are often families.
Washtenaw County Public Health is accepting applications for its Healthy Workplace Awards. The awards honor businesses and organization that promote a healthy living environment in the workplace. Kathy Fellabaum is a Health Educator with Washtenaw Public Health. She says businesses that promote healthy living in the workplace are a real benefit for employees. Fellabaum says you can nominate a business or organization for the Healthy Workplace Awards by filling out an online nomination survey. Businesses can also nominate themselves. Nominations are due by 5:00 pm March 15 and awards will be announced the week of April 7.
Washtenaw County has been listed as one of the top five counties in Michigan for creative industries. ArtServe Michigan released the findings in their Creative State Michigan 2014, Creative Industries Report. Deb Polich is the Director of the Arts Alliance in Ann Arbor and a Board Member of ArtServe Michigan. She says Washtenaw County being in the top five is no surprise: Polich says Washtenaw County attracts people because of the two large universities, and cities like Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti that offer arts and culture experiences and education.
Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber says he looks forward to residents of his city enjoying the benefits of enhanced transit options outlined in the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority's transit improvement plan.
Schreiber says improved public transportation will benefit both Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.
The Mayor says better bus service will help those who live in Ypsilanti and work in Ann Arbor, and will help the economies of both cities.
Schreiber says the local business infrastructure will also be a beneficiary of better transit.
The city of Ann Arbor is now working with local non-profit organization MISSION as well as Washtenaw County's Project Outreach Team to assist a group of homeless individuals living in tents along the Huron River and under the Maiden Lane bridge.
Ann Arbor Police had previously visited the site and posted notices on two tents, warning their owners they had 48 hours to vacate the area. MISSION's Vice President, Greg Pratt says public outcry helped reverse the decision. Pratt adds they are assisting the homeless living in the camp with trash removal, and are also providing them with necessary supplies such as propane, batteries and foodstuffs.
19 warming centers have been established throughout Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti to provide assistance to those that need it, including a newly opened warming center hosted by St. Mary's Student Parish on Williams Street in Ann Arbor.
Pratt says some individuals are unable or unwilling to go to such places either due to mental illness or the desire to remain autonomous.
Sub-zero temperatures and frigid wind chills have once again forced many schools to close throughout the region. The record cold temperatures may cause many in the WEMU listening area to develop cold-weather injuries like frostbite and hypothermia.
For road conditions and frequent weather updates, stay tuned to 89.1 WEMU for the latest developments.
The Washtenaw County Road Commission spent $565,000 - one fifth of its budget - to clear snow and maintain roads during the severe weather earlier this month.
Nearly 3000 tons of salt and sand were dumped onto roads, and plow crews and other road personnel worked non-stop for five days to make sure the roads remained clear.
Washtenaw County Road Commission DIrector of Operation Jim Harmon says costs generated so far this season will not affect services going forward. He says the cost of cleaning up from a storm of that size is not unusual.
This week the discussion centers around dispelling the myths of affordable housing. New affordable housing is often equated with being "cheaply built." We didn't have a definitive answer on the subject, so we went looking. We found that quite opposite is true.
Our guest this week builds affordable homes in the Metro Detroit Region; quality and efficiency is what makes them affordable.
Rob Nissly, Housing Director for Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley will discuss the connection between reigning in energy costs and homeownership for lower income residents of Washtenaw County.
A new Washtenaw County study says a local investment of $4.4 million in non-profit agencies has an economic impact of over $90 million. The non-profits provide assistance to the community well beyond the direct help individuals receive.
Director of the Office of Community and Economic Development, Mary Jo Callan says unfortunately non-profits as a sector are underfunded and it will take more than government action to solve the funding problems.
“This report provides a clear justification for the continued investment in our local nonprofit sector – in addition to providing critical services to vulnerable residents, these small businesses save taxpayers money by preventing the need for costlier government services and impact our local economy through their direct employment and purchasing power.” -Mary Jo Callan, Director of the Office of Community & Economic Development for Washtenaw County
Callan adds that benefits non-profits provide the community include bringing in 10 dollars of outside funding for every 1 dollar of local funds, stabilizing the local work force, jobs, and spending money at local businesses. She says this assistance is needed as the economic recovery continues to not reach lower income residents.
Washtenaw County Environmental Health has alpha-track test kits available at our office for $20 each, which includes the cost of postage and laboratory analysis. The test kits can be purchased at the Western County Service Center. Test kits can also be mailed to you for an additional $2 to cover postage and handling. For questions or to order a test kit by mail, please call (734) 222-3869.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on a possible Washtenaw County Property Assessed Clean Energy program.
Washtenaw County businesses may be able to get energy efficiency upgrades without paying for them upfront.
The County Commissioners later this month will hold a public hearing on a proposed property assessed clean energy or PACE program.
County Commissioner Conan Smith says he hopes energy saving upgrades can be made soon. He says if the County Commissioners approve the PACE program this month, plans should be in the pipeline by spring and construction underway during 2014.
Ann Arbor already has a PACE program but their effort includes a pool of public funds, the county's plan will only use private dollars. Smith says the two programs are complimentary and businesses in Ann Arbor will be able to choose which program best meets their needs.
The weekend's warmer weather could pose a new set of problems for Washtenaw County.
Temperatures are expected to rise into the mid 40s over the weekend. Melting snow combined with the anticipated rainfall over could cause flooding in parts of the county.
Dennis Wojcik is Washtenaw County's Deputy Water Resources Commissioner. He says the build up of snow on the county's storm drains and other catch basins could be problematic where drains are clogged with snow.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the Washtenaw County Commissioners again choosing Yousef Rabhi to serve as their board chair.
The Washtenaw County Commissioners have re-elected the same officers that led the board in 2013.
Yousef Rabhi was unanimously voted chair of the county commissioners again Wednesday night. Rabhi says passing a four year budget was a big accomplishment in 2013 and he expects it will give the commissioners time to work on other issues this year.
Rabhi says some of the things he wants to work on this year are efforts to make the county's procurement process more environmentally friendly and better for the local economy, and to work on improving the board and committee structure.
Alicia Ping was re-elected as vice chair, and Felicia Brabec will again serve as chair of the ways and means committee.
The commissioners also approved their rules and regulations. One change in board rules is resolutions that are at the regular meeting the same night they are introduced at the ways and means committee will no longer require a two-thirds majority for final approval. County officials determined this long standing super majority requirement didn't comply with state law.
All Non-Essential Washtenaw County Government Operations and Buildings are closed.
Pittsfield Township Government offices are closed.
Ypsilanti Township government offices and the 14-B District court are closed. People with scheduled court appearances should contact the court on Tuesday.
The 15th District Court in Ann Arbor is closed and those scheduled to appear at Court today will be contacted by Court representatives to reschedule.
The Ypsilanti Community Schools Board of Education meeting scheduled for tonight has been canceled.
The Ann Arbor Housing Commission is closed
The Ann Arbor and the Monroe Social Security Administration offices are closed
The Ann Arbor Hands on Museum is closed.
Garbage and recycling will be delayed by a day for Pittsfield Township residents.
The Ann Arbor District Library will open at noon today.
Saint Joseph Mercy Health System is urging all patients who have non-urgent appointments at any of our hospitals and outpatient care centers to stay home. Contact your care provider to cancel your appointment and reschedule for a later date. The Michigan Heart offices are closed through noon today. Radiation Oncology for outpatient services are closed for the day. Most other offices as well as St. Joe's emergency departments will remain open.
The U of M Health System says it will keep all of its hospitals and outpatient care centers open.
High numbers of White-tailed deer in the southern Lower Peninsula are causing concerns about deer-car collisions, rising auto insurance premiums, crop losses, Lyme Disease borne by deer ticks, lack of forest regeneration, and ecosystem imbalance, to name just of few of the many issues. Opinions on what to do about the abundance of deer are even more wide-ranging. In this installment of WEMU’s The Green Room, Barbara Lucas examines some of the complexities involved, and some of the solutions offered.
ReImagine Washtenaw presented its right-of-way plan to the public at a meeting Tuesday night.
The plan covers the corridor from the water tower in Ypsilanti to the Washtenaw-Stadium split in Ann Arbor.
Ypsilanti city council member Pete Murdock says the city is dealing with a lot of traffic issues as part of its master plan revision, and those will have to be coordinated with ReImagine Washtenaw.
The ReImagine Washtenaw right-of-way plan includes improvements such as refuge islands to help pedestrians safely cross the street, buffered bike lanes, and eight "super stops" for Ann Arbor Area Transportation busses along the corridor.
The next step in the implementation process is to have municipalities along the corridor adopt the plan.