washtenaw county

Homeless Ask Washtenaw County Commission for Help

Jan 22, 2014
Vlastula / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The homeless and their advocates filled the Washtenaw County Administration Building Board Room Wednesday night, asking the County Commission to help improve services available to them. 

Commission chair Yousef Rabhi says a task force is going to be convened in the next few days. It'll be made up of various stake holders, and will examine the best ways to fill gaps in services.

SEE ALSO:  Issues of the Environment: Habitat For Humanity Stewards Energy Savings

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.
 

Courtesy / Facebook / Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley

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. 

SEE ALSO: Washtenaw County Looking At Adding Program to Help Businesses

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.

Read the full 2013 Nonprofit Economic Impact Report.

— Andrew Cluley is the Ann Arbor beat reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him acluley@emich.edu.

Test Kits on Sale during Radon Action Month

Jan 13, 2014

A sobering fact during National Radon Action Month:  nearly half of all homes in Washtenaw County contain high levels of radon gas. 

Radon is a potentially harmful gas. It is tasteless, colorless, and odorless.

Angela Parsons is Washtenaw County's Environmental Health Education Coordinator. She says there's no easy way to determine if a house has radon other than to test for it.

Washtenaw County Public Health is offering radon test kits for half price this month.

Kits cost $5 and are available at the Western County Service Center.

Where can I get a long-term radon test kit?

  • 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. 
  • To order an alpha track detector online, visit LandauerAccustar Labs or RSSI.

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.

Warmer Weather Could Lead to Flooding

Jan 10, 2014

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.

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.

*Listen to Rabhi's comments in the audio above.

Ann Arbor News, Ypsilanti News
WEMU-FM

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.

Andrea Matthies

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 Right-of-Way Plan Presented

Dec 11, 2013
Bob Eccles

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.


Wednesday night is your chance to take a look at improvements being recommended as part of the ReImagine Washtenaw project and have some input on the issue. 

Nathan Voght is project manager for ReImagine Washtenaw.  He says they've been working with a consultant on the right-of-way study being presented at a public meeting Wednesday night.

The study addresses issues such as bike lanes, sidewalks and safer ways to cross Washtenaw Avenue from the Ypsilanti water tower to the Stadium Boulevard split. 

Find out more about the plan from 6:30 to 8 Wednesday night  in conference room "A" in the County Service Center Learning Resources Center off Washtenaw Avenue.

SOS Community Services is asking the community to consider helping feed 20 needy families this holiday season by donating food items Wednesday.

Development Director Chelsea Brown says SOS Community Services holds holiday food distribution for families in need every year.

Brown says anyone interested in donating food items can drop them off at the SOS Communitiy Services offices at 114 North River Street in Ypsilanti.

Monetary donations can be made online via the link below.

http://soscs.org/

Starting in 2016 Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority will have new limitations on the tax increment financing revenue they can capture. After nearly a year of discussions Ann Arbor City Council has given final approval to an ordinance amendment that limits the tax increment financing revenue the Downtown Development Authority can collect.  Last night, City Council voted 9 -  2 in favor of the change. 

WEMU's Andrew Cluley has more:
 

Ann Arbor Public Schools have still not determined how much they will participate in three county-wide high school options.  The school board last night postponed a vote until next week's study session on how many seats they will use in the Early College Alliance, Washtenaw International High School, and Widening Advancement for Youth.  The delay comes with Ann Arbor Schools wanting to use many fewer seats than the consortium has allocated to the district. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says much of the confusion has been blamed on the superintendent transition, but she believes both parties are to blame for the communications issues.  Swift recommended the district use 80 seats total in the ECA and Wi-Hi and 15 for WAY.  The allocation approved by the consortium last month would give Ann Arbor 80 new seats in the ECA  alone, and a straight lottery for Wi-Hi.

David Dugger is the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Director of Secondary Options.  Dugger says the other consortium members  in October opted to continue to use a straight lottery for Wi-Hi and a proportional system to assign slots to the ECA.


The Washtenaw County Weatherization Program is taking applications to help low-income households reduce their energy bills this winter.

The program helps increase energy efficiency in applicants' homes by adding insulation and inspecting and repairing water heaters, furnaces and refrigerators. 

Program coordinator Aaron Kraft says the first thing they do is audit a home to determine what problems it faces.

Kraft says the service is only applicable for people living in certain kinds of homes. 

The weatherization program helps around 100 households a year, and has assisted thousands since it began.

Homeowners and renters in Washtenaw County may be eligible for FREE weatherization services to help reduce energy bills.

The county can help  provide energy saving repairs, which may include but are not limited to:

  • Insulation in the attic, walls, and crawl-spaces
  • Furnace and water heater inspections and repairs
  • Caulking around drafty windows and doors
  • Inspections and replacements for inefficient refrigerators
  • Weather-stripping around doors and attic accesses

For more information, including eligibility requirements, please review the Weatherization FAQs page.


Last Week's Election Results to be Certified Soon

Nov 12, 2013

It won't be long before we have the official results of last week's elections. 

Ed Golembiewski is Washtenaw County's Elections Director. He says the results will be certified first thing Wednesday morning.

Golembiewski says one provisional ballot was added in Ann Arbor elections, and Ann Arbor city council 5th Ward write-in candidate Chip Smith got an additional 100 votes - not enough to change the results.


Tax Credits / Foter.com / CC BY

The Washtenaw County Sheriff says if the proposed four year county budget is approved he will likely be unable to maintain current service levels if he hits budget targets.  

The County Commissioners Ways and Means Committee voted 7  to 2  for the budget last night that ranges from $103 million in 2014 to $106.5 million in 2017. 

Sheriff Jerry Clayton says he hopes his warning on possible service reductions starts a community conversation because he won't be running up overtime.  Clayton says he proposed a gradual reduction in the sheriff department returning a half-million dollars to the county annually. 

The county commissioners will have a public hearing on the budget proposal in two weeks.


Washtenaw County is increasing a tax for economic development and agriculture, but is likely also facing a lawsuit over the tax. 

The County Commissioners voted seven to one last night to levy a .07 mill public act 88 tax. 

Bill McMaster is the chair of Taxpayers United and served as director for the Headlee Amendment campaign in 1978.  McMaster says the tax is unconstitutional because it wasn't approved by voters.

County officials however say voter approval isn't needed because the act is from 1913, well before the Headlee Amendment was approved.  They say the state legislature recently reviewed Act 88 and didn't change it.


Washtenaw County Trying 'Peacemaking Court'

Nov 6, 2013
Morgue File

The Washtenaw County Circuit Court is getting some state funding to try a new - or actually very old - brand of justice.  

State grants will help create a "peacemaking court", which uses Native American principles to help resolve disputes. 

Circuit Court Judge Tim Connors says it gives the court more options, with an emphasis on the importance of admitting wrongdoing and apologizing for it.

"Peacemaking courts" will find everyone involved in the process working together to make things right and re-integrate offenders into the community. 

They'll follow what they call the three R's: respect, responsibility, relationships and re-direction. 

If successful, "peacemaking courts" could be expanded to other jurisdictions.

Credit James Marvin Phelps / Foter / CC BY-NC

In this week's edition of WEMU's "Issues of the Environment", David Fair talks with Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, Evan Pratt. 

This interview is a follow-up to an earlier conversation with Jennifer Lawson, Water Quality Manager for Ann Arbor, that followed the large sewage spill into the Huron River in June or 2013. Evan will address the fact that several spills have occurred since then and talk about projects that Washtenaw County is working on to update the water treatment system.

Overview

  • There have been at least four breaches of the water treatment system in Ann Arbor since this summer.
  • These spill have prompted concerns that Washtenaw County’s aging water treatment network and sewage system may not be robust enough to handle the demands of today’s residents.

Listen to "Issues of the Environment" with David Fair and Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Evan Pratt below.


Ann Arbor's first ward council member, Sabra Briers is being challenged by independent Jeff Hayner in tomorrow's election.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley has more:

Election Day is tomorrow, and in Ann Arbor's 4th ward, the outcome is just about certain. Democrat John Eaton, or Jack, as he prefers to be called, defeated current councilwoman Marcia Higgins in the August Primary, and appeared to be unopposed for the general election. 

But, as WEMU's David Fair reports, voters do have the option of a registered write-in candidate:

Washtenaw County Election Preview

Nov 4, 2013

There are a handful of ballot issues being decided in Washtenaw County tomorrow.

WEMU's Bob Eccles has more on elections throughout the county:

Wasthenaw County / ewashtenaw.org

Washtenaw County has launched a new website to educate motorists on the environmental and financial costs of unnecessary idling. The website is part of a larger educational campaign being run by Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County officials. 

Jeff Kruchmerrick is the Environmental Program Supervisor for Washtenaw County. He explains that there is some simple advice people can follow if they want to help cut down on unnecessary idling.

Kruchmerrick adds that unnecessary idling costs Americans millions of dollars each year and is responsible for about 5 percent of the gas used in the US each year.

More information is available at www.motor-smart.com

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