Ann Arbor City Council: Sewer backups, Punk Week, IT expenses, the Library Lot and a failing tree
City Administrator Roger Fraser says an investigation is under way after an intense rainstorm last Wednesday caused sanitary sewer backups in southeast Ann Arbor.
Fraser said at Monday's Ann Arbor City Council meeting that the city will be testing "system performance" at four homes near Parkwood and Oakwood streets. Affected property owners will receive letters requesting access to their homes.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Some parts of Ann Arbor saw more than an inch of rain — most of it falling in less than an hour — during a torrential downpour that left several streets flooded and heavy storm drain covers displaced.
"During the storm, Malletts Creek flow went from about 3.5 cubic feet per second to 380 cubic feet per second — over a hundredfold increase in the flow within the creek," Fraser said.
"The issues that were reported," he added, "were consistent with what would be expected from a short, intense storm: Stormwater ponding, flooding in streets, minimal issues with the sanitary system."
Fraser said the stormwater system was overloaded in low-lying areas such as Chapin Street, Huron at the railroad trestle, Depot Street, and First and Kingsley. He said the Allen's Creek drain system is known to overload during just about any storm event.
"Ponding on local streets is also to be expected and should occur during this type of storm," he added.
Knowing weather tends to run in trends, city officials are predicting more intense storms in the coming months.
Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, called for a hydrologic study of the Allen's Creek watershed. Most of Allen's Creek, running west of Main Street, is enclosed and is often thought of as an "urban drain."
"We need to put monitors somehow in the drains and come up with conclusive data," Anglin said, "so we know that if we do any major projects down the road that these projects are actually solving a problem."
Police-courts building expenses
The City Council voted 10-0 Monday night to approve $373,405 in technology-related expenses for the new police-courts building next to city hall.
Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, was absent.
The contract with AmeriNet covers the purchase of "network switches" and related equipment to upgrade and add to the city's data communication infrastructure. Funding is coming from the city's general fund and information technology services budget.
"In order for us to be able to activate the IT system in the new building, there's a set of switches that are required to interact between all of the computer systems in that building and our central system," Fraser said. "In the absence of those switches, the ability to carry data through the various ports within that building wouldn't happen."
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
According to the resolution approving the expense, "There are additional networking needs in the Ann Arbor Municipal Center, beyond what was approved and budgeted for network infrastructure upgrades and replacements for FY2011." Fraser said some IT costs for the new building "came in above what we had anticipated."
The council also voted 10-0 to approve a $200,000 contract with ImageSoft Inc. to implement the next phase of the city's "enterprise content management project," a citywide initiative that involves digitizing and cataloging city documents.
In addition to the $200,000 expense, the council agreed Monday night to establish a project budget of $470,000. Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, asked why the $670,000 expense couldn't wait until another time when the city had more money for such a project.
Russell Hanshue, the city's IT applications delivery manager, said the project is being done in partnership with Washtenaw County and allows the city to do more work with fewer employees.
"It was imperative for us to move forward with it because of the significant changes within the attrition rates for the city and the staff reductions," he said. "Basically, this system provides a lot of business process automation and a lot of control of city documents. For example, if you wanted to do a lookup on a tax parcel ... this system allows you to leverage the content from multiple systems and aggregate that and retrieve that information quickly."
Library Lot update
Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, gave an update on the Library Lot. He said a consultant selected by the city — the Roxbury Group of Detroit — will be meeting with Valiant Partners and Acquest Realty Advisors over the next month to review their development proposals for the downtown site.
Valiant and Acquest are competing to build a hotel atop an underground parking structure taking shape on the site right now. Both proposals ask the city to make a financial commitment to fund a conference center that would drive the success of the hotel.
The two projects were selected for further review from a pool of six proposals earlier this year. The Roxbury Group has been hired to help determine if the projects are economically viable and is expected to issue a report early this fall.
Rethinking Punk Week
Fraser offered a report Monday night in which he said an annual summer event known as Ann Arbor Punk Week has become "quite a nuisance" and is now under review by city officials.
The event, which took place last week, featured a shopping cart race in the middle of a city street, loud music late at night, camping overnight in a city park that closes at 10 p.m. and other activities that required police involvement, Fraser said.
"There were a couple of occasions where things got out of hand and our folks responded," Fraser said. "We've had bands playing in backyards at late hours of the night, we've had people sleeping in the streets, we've had other unmentionable activities in our parks and, in addition, the rampages on Main Street."
Punk Week was started several years ago by a group of friends who, according to a MySpace page for the event, "thought it would be a good idea to have a whole week of events just for the fun of it and to see what they could get away with."
Fraser said city officials have traced the event to a group of people who live along North Main Street. He said none of the activities surrounding Punk Week are permitted, and the city will consider requiring permits next year.
"Whether or not they get the permits will depend on whether or not they can shape their activities to meet our standards," Fraser said.
An unhealthy tree
Ann Arbor resident Kim Kachadoorian showed up to Monday's meeting carrying a large tree branch that recently fell from a maple tree outside her home.
"If it had hit a person, they'd be dead," she said, speaking before the council. "If it had hit a car, most assuredly there'd be a hole in that car."
Kachadoorian said it's not the first time a large branch has fallen from the same tree. She said the tree is rotting from the inside out, and she has tried for years to get the city to remove it.
"In 2006, they actually came out to chop this tree down and they looked and they said, 'Oh, it's tangled up in AT&T's wires and Edison's wires, and there's nothing we can do about it until they come out,'" she said. "Edison and AT&T tell me there's nothing they can do about it until the city schedules to chop it down. So you can understand my frustration when this size (of branch) falls and I'm still being told that my tree is OK. It's not OK. It's being eaten from the inside out."
Fraser said: "I don't know the answer to that, but it's one of the recurring dilemmas that we have in our integration with DTE particularly."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529.