8 things to watch for in Washtenaw County this year: Technology upgrades, Ypsilanti rec center and roads
Washtenaw County Administrator Verna McDaniel has big plans for local government and the community in 2013, and recently shared them with AnnArbor.com.
The county is facing a number of complex issues this year: 13 union contracts will expire in December, and new right-to-work laws allow workers to choose to stop paying union dues as of March 28. Washtenaw County’s role in the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority remains to be seen, as local entities have clashing opinions on being included in legislation approved by the state in December.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com file photo
Officials will have to again take a sharp look at the way each of their departments operate, and McDaniel said she wants to push them to develop a four-year plan for the first time.
“I’m hoping to take the board in a futuristic direction,” she said.
Here are eight items in the works for 2013:
1. Dental clinic
McDaniel said she’d like to explore a partnership between Washtenaw County Public Health and local hospitals to create a dental clinic for low-income individuals. There’s a great need for the dental care service, McDaniel said, explaining it’s an important component to help individuals out of work gain employment. The clinic would be centrally located, McDaniel said.
2. Platt Road progress
Plans likely will be unveiled this year for the former juvenile detention center and family court at 2270 Platt Road in Ann Arbor. The last of the county's services moved off of the site in May 2011. Commissioners will be discussing better uses for the space when officials hear a report on the county’s space plan for all its properties in February. There have been talks of mixed-uses for the property, including a potential site for an affordable housing project.
“It’s a prime location for county services,” McDaniel said.
3. Wellness center for county employees
McDaniel said she wants to focus on the health of county employees and is considering developing a wellness center — either in the form of a brick-and-mortar facility or in partnerships with existing organizations. Wellness centers for employees are said to bring down health care costs by 30 percent to 40 percent, McDaniel said, and cited examples like the center the city of Tampa, Fla. has built.
4. Ypsilanti recreation center
Designs for a proposed $12 million Water Street Eastside Recreation Center in Ypsilanti were unveiled last fall, and the project is expected to undergo further development in 2013, McDaniel said. The recreation center would be a partnership between the city, the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation department and the Ann Arbor YMCA. The county would enter into a potential 99-year lease for eight acres of a 38-acre, city-owned property on Water Street for construction, and the YMCA will oversee day-to-day operations. The county has some money set aside, but other funding sources are needed.
5. Five major road projects
The Washtenaw County Road Commission is planning to complete construction of five major projects this year:
- Construction of a $2.3 million roundabout at State Street and Ellsworth Road in Pittsfield Township
- $3 million replacement of the Ford Boulevard Bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad in Ypsilanti Township
- Construction of a $1.2 million roundabout at Geddes and Ridge roads in Superior Township
- $1.9 million extension of the Border-to-Border non-motorized path in the Village of Dexter and in Dexter Township
- $3 million in the county's annual overlay and road resurfacing program, using federal dollars
6. Technology upgrades
The Equalization Department, under the direction of Raman Patel, is finalizing the computerization of the county’s parcel search, McDaniel said.
The Washtenaw County Court System also is due for a software upgrade for its records system, and McDaniel said the county is waiting on the state for approval. The county has some funds set aside for the new software, which likely will cost from $2 million to $3 million, McDaniel said.
7. New youth programs
The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office is working to secure grant funding in order to be able to extend after-school programs to at-risk youth in several neighborhoods on the east side of the county.
8. Potential for upgraded bond rating
Removing the structural deficit from the county’s budget is something McDaniel said she wants to push the commissioners to accomplish this year — which could help the county push its bond rating from AA+ to AAA. Currently, the county is looking at a budget gap of several million dollars that they will have to account for this year.