The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority expects to complete work on the new Blake Transit Center in late January.
CEO Michael Ford says they will talk with Dennis Dahlmann who is buying the former YMCA site next to the transit center. Ford says hopefully the development and the Transit Center can be mutually beneficial. Ford says they will also have discussions about portable trailers that are on the Y-Lot as a temporary operations hub for the transit center during construction.
Ford says only about 30,000 dollars remain in the contingency fund but hopefully the project will come in on budget.
As Ann Arbor Public Schools officials look to again address a projected budget shortfall for next school year they are also gathering information on a possible new revenue source. An ad-hoc committee is collecting information on a possible recreation millage.
School Board member Glenn Nelson says determining what this type of millage can be used for will be a first step. He says checking with some area districts on how they use a recreation millage will be a valuable resource. Nelson says the committee should have a report ready for the full school board by the middle of January. He says they would then have the background details needed to consider a recreation millage compared to other options such as trying again on a county-wide enhancement millage.
The committee should have a report by the middle of January so a recreation millage request could be considered among other options when the budget discussions really get going in earnest. Nelson says a recreation millage wouldn't be able to directly fund core academic programs, but it could free up money that's currently funding other programs.
A comparison to peer public transit organizations finds the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority's cost per passenger trip is about 17 percent below the median cost of similar organizations. The lower cost is thanks to The Ride having about 50% more passenger trips per service hour, and despite a higher cost per service hour than the median of their peers.
The study looked at 20 transit authorities selected through a methodology developed for the National Transit Cooperative Research Program. It included Lansing and Kalamazoo.
Chair of the AAATA board Charles Griffith says the study is done every few years and the information will be useful as service expansion is contemplated. Griffith says the board is now asking staff to dig deeper into the report and find areas The Ride can do better.
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra has reached a five-year agreement with Local 625 of the American Federation of Musicians.
Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra Board President Bob Gates said the new contract shows that everyone at the bargaining table shared the goals of "artistic excellence, commitment to financial sustainability, and service to our community."
Musicians spokesperson and Principal Oboist Tim Michling said the increased compensation levels included in the contract will help the symphony "attract and retain the highest caliber performers."
Ann Arbor Schools officials say eight years of providing quality, on-line classes have the the district well positioned to meet new state regulations mandating more online offerings. Starting in January, all public districts in Michigan are required to allow students from fifth grade through high school to take up to two online classes, per academic term. Anthony Lauer is the Online and Options Coordinator in Ann Arbor, and says the district is working with the state to finalize details on its online options.
Some school board members expressed concern the new law lacks assurance of quality of education and is more focused on driving down educational costs. Some also questioned whether expanding online options to elementary and middle schools students serves the nest interests of the students.
For a complete report, listen below to the full report from WEMU's Andrew Cluley.
Ann Arbor Public Schools will continue to participate in three county-wide, alternative programs for high school students. The Board of Education Thursday night voted to maintain it's relationship with the consortium that includes the Early College Alliance (ECA), Washtenaw International High School (WI-High) and Widening Achievement for Youth (WAY) program. The resolution calls on Superintendent Jeanice Swift to target no more than 10 spots in the WAY program, 35 new slots in the E-C-A, and 40 new slots for Wi-High. District officials had called into question whether Ann Arbor should continue in the consortium, citing a lack of transparency and communication with Washtenaw Intermediate School District officials that op[erate the program. WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel apologized for communication issues and says they will do better in the future. Ann Arbor school board members also accepted some of the blame in the communication break-down and for missing consortium meetings. For a full report, listen below.
The University of Michigan Medical Center will be conducting research on the effectiveness of video games and technology in creating more independence for young people with spinal cord dysfunction and neuro-developmental disabilities.
The U of M Medical Center just got a $4.5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research. It will be given over a five-year period, and will help launch U of M's Rehabilitation and Research Center.
The City of Ann Arbor and the owner of the Campus Inn and Bell Tower Hotel have reached an agreement for the sale of the former YMCA property.
Dennis Dahlmann agreed to all of the conditions required by City Council in addition to his purchase price of $5.25 million for the property at 350 South Fifth Avenue.
Mayor John Hieftje says he's excited to have the sale moving forward and have the land providing income to the city and bring more vitality than a surface parking lot.
The sale is expected to close by the end of the year to meet the city's deadline to payoff an interest only loan on the property. Dahlmann will be required to build a project including ground floor retail, large plate office space, and residential units.
Efforts to increase public transportation in Washtenaw County's urban core took another step forward last night. Ann Arbor City Council has approved a plan for Ypsilanti Township to join the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Council voted 11 to nothing in favor of the resolution last night.
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.
Four Teams of graduate students at the University of Michigan have won Dow Distinguished Awards to pursue projects dealing with sustainability solutions.
Three of the winning teams will work on projects in Southeast Michigan, and the fourth is heading up a water management project in India.
Drew Horning is Deputy Director of the Graham Sustainability Institute. He says one of the winning proposals is the retrofitting of a 112-year-old house in Ann Arbor to be self-sustaining.
Horning says other winning projects include a pilot project aimed at enabling energy efficiency in rental properties in Ann Arbor, a greenhouse gas inventory for the City of Detroit, and water demand management for improved adaptation by small farmers in India.
He says these projects have the ability to impact how we address and implement sustainability solutions in the future.
Supporters of Pizza in the Park say an ordinance change Ann Arbor City Council will consider Monday is important in keeping the event going year round.
The City Council will consider second reading of the amendment that will waive the rental fee at all parks for events that are primarily designed for the charitable distribution of goods for basic human needs.
Seth Best is with Camp Take Notice and a volunteer with Vineyard Church. Best says the amendment is needed because they can't always hold Pizza in the Park at Liberty Plaza where council has already waived the fee.
Best says as a former homeless person, Pizza in the Park is an important chance for homeless people to see a smiling face and meet kind people. He says the Pizza in the Park volunteers work to clean up after the event and often leave Liberty Plaza cleaner than they find it.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor City Council considering final approval of an ordinance amendment to waive park rental fees for events that are primarily designed to share goods to meet basic human needs.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the possible routes for the Ann Arbor Transit Connector.
Ann Arbor area residents have a chance to review and comment on six possible routes for a high capacity public transit connector service. The routes linking the Plymouth Road U-S 23 area to the University of Michigan, downtown Ann Arbor, and Briarwood Mall were shared at recent public workshops.
Ann Arbor Public Schools used less fund balance last year than approved in the final budget. The School Board last night received a briefing on the 2013 fiscal year budget audit. The audit shows the district used $7.2 million dollars in fund balance, compared to projections of up to $9.8 million.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says halting furniture and most equipment purchases, travel restrictions, and other measures starting in March saved about $1.5 million. Swift says many of these restrictions are back in place following student enrollment numbers not reaching projections in September.
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.
People looking for something to eat in Ann Arbor's South University Area are getting some more options thanks to a new food truck program. Eat the Street is the new program that's a partnership between the South University Area Association and Eat the Hub.
Alex Perlman is with Eat the Hub and owns two food carts. Perlman says they hope the former Pinball Pete's site at 1215 South University will be a successful location for food carts. He says they have done some basic landscaping and worked with the Health Department on prepping the site for food carts. He says hopefully the mix of food will attract both students and some Ann Arbor residents that don't typically come to the South U area.
The carts are expected to last in this location until April when the site will be used for something else. A mix of food carts including Indian, Grilled Cheese, Healthy California inspired, and other options are coming to Ann Arbor's South University area.
Ann Arbor City Council has adopted a resolution asking the University of Michigan to decommission its electronic billboard outside Michigan Stadium.
The sign is the largest billboard in Ann Arbor and city officials say it's too large, too close to the road, and is distracting to motorists.
3rd Ward council member Christopher Taylor acknowledges he and his colleagues can't actually influence U-of-M's decision on this matter. The most they can do is ask the university to take the sign down.
Taylor doesn't expect council to spend much more time discussing the issue, instead focusing on other issues of mutual interest with U-of-M.
A pair of consulting firms are working with Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority to create a framework to be used to make more active streetscapes. The DDA approved a $150,000 contract for the downtown street framework plan.
DDA board Member John Mouat says the framework will be designed so streets that face different challenges and issues can be tailored to meet their particular needs. He says the DDA, the city, or private developers should all be able to use the framework. Mouat says some additional civil engineering work may be done for the city to look at infrastructure under the streets.
City Council last night voted nine to two in favor of the first reading of a new ordinance amendment limiting the DDA's TIF capture.
Chair of the DDA board Sandi Smith says this is a better plan than council originally considered but she thinks it will still hurt the city in the long run.
City Council member Stephen Kunselman says the amendment will allow the DDA to continue to do great work downtown, but force the authority to be more responsive to the city and other taxing authorities.
The amendment also caps DDA board members to three consecutive terms and requires annual contributions to the DDA's housing fund.