Ann Arbor City Council approves $150K sculpture for Justice Center lobby
The council approved the artwork Monday night after a lengthy debate during which Council Member Jane Lumm proposed canceling the project altogether and redirecting the $150,000 back to the Municipal Center project budget where the money originated.
Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, joined Lumm in opposing the project, saying he thinks there are better places for public art.
Kunselman said he doesn't think the installation will be very visible to the public. He believes it would be better located inside the new atrium between city hall and the Justice Center.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Currently, visitors must ditch their cell phones in a locker, empty their pockets and go through a security checkpoint to enter the lobby of the police-courts building.
City Administrator Steve Powers said the city's staff has been looking into reconfiguring the security checkpoint for the building.
"We have looked at options — both for downsizing the current footprint of the screening equipment as well as the relocation of the screening equipment," he said. "There are budgetary and space challenges depending upon the option and there are four or five options."
Details about those options weren't provided.
Powers noted the lobby is still accessible 24-7. If someone wants to come in at night, he said, they can be buzzed in by the police department.
Hieftje said he was comfortable approving the art project now and continuing to work on the accessibility issue separately so as not to hold up the installation, planned for later this year.
The city undertook renovations to its 1960s-era city hall and added on the new Justice Center for the city's police and courts staff as part of a nearly $50 million project.
Lumm took issue with the fact that the city is now funding bathroom upgrades in city hall using general fund dollars.
Believing those improvements should have been funded within the Municipal Center project budget, Lumm proposed the council reject the $150,000 art installation and instead send that money back to the Municipal Center project budget to spend on the bathroom upgrades.
"By redirecting it to the Municipal Center fund, certainly something council could do, you then free up money in the general fund," she said.
Lumm's proposal sparked frustration among Hieftje and other council members who considered it yet another attack on the city's public art program.
Council Member Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward, reminded Lumm the council already has debated the issue of funding public art several times in the past, and that those who were in favor of eliminating or scaling back the program lost that fight already.
"It's kind of nibbling it to death by ducks," he said of trying to fight individual public art projects as they come along now.
Council Member Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, said the bathroom upgrades in city hall were decidedly not included as part of the Municipal Center project budget. Rather, she said, it's a standard upgrade that the city needs to have done.
Tom Crawford, the city's chief financial officer, said there's a lot of deferred maintenance in city hall that needs to be done and it was an expectation all along that once the Municipal Center project was finished some of those maintenance needs, including continued asbestos removal, would be addressed outside of the Municipal Center project budget.
Crawford confirmed Monday night that $50,000 of the $150,000 set aside for the Justice Center lobby artwork came from the city's general fund.
In light of that fact, Hieftje said he hopes to bring forward a resolution at the council's next meeting to take $50,000 out of the city's public art fund and send it back to the general fund in an effort to put to rest any concerns that general fund money is funding public art. He noted general fund dollars are now restricted from going toward public art.
In addition to the Justice Center lobby artwork, expected to be installed by November, council members heard an update on several other projects the Public Art Commission is working on, including a $400,000 project at the site of the Stadium bridges. The artwork there is expected to be installed by the fall of 2014, according to Monday's report.
Another $12,000 mural project at Allmendinger Park is expected to be done by September of this year, while two other murals — totaling $40,000 — are to be done by August 2013.
The Public Art Commission also plans to spend $27,000 as part of a rain garden project at Kingsley and First street, also with a completion date of August 2013.
Meanwhile, the commission is working on collaborating with the Detroit Institute of Arts on the installation of seven other artworks around the city in 2013.
The commission also is planning a $150,000 public art project at the site of the new Argo Cascades.
Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, was absent.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.