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Posted on Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor City Council: Sewer backups, Punk Week, IT expenses, the Library Lot and a failing tree

By Ryan J. Stanton

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.


Ann Arbor resident Kim Kachadoorian showed up to Monday's Ann Arbor City Council meeting with a maple tree branch. She said the branch fell from a decaying tree outside her home, which she wants the city to remove.

Ryan J. Stanton |

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."


City Administrator Roger Fraser gives an update to the council Monday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

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 Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 12:56 a.m.

That's some great generalizing hate monger...ahem i mean ShadowManager. Thankfully I haven't seen a child with any of these travelers; but are you punk-haters jealous of all young people or only ones who make you think you wasted your life tied to a desk?


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

Ah dear Punk Week! How nice is to see a rabble of unwashed transients with sad-eyed malnourished abused leashless dogs march down the street, some of these teens with unwashed children of their own, contributing nothing to the great commonweal & culture of our fair city as they pan-handle and get out of town, leaving nothing but a wake of used needles and dog feces and fond memories in their stead!


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.

I am getting very tired of the over-the-hill hippy week held late every July. These middle age hippies descend on the city and shut down half a dozen entire blocks for five days. Their wind chimes and chatter wakes me up in the morning, and their crappy food makes my stomach churn. Furthermore, these musty layabouts spend the nights in camped in parking lots and yards across town. They also make it hard for me to bike around town for a solid five days. It is such a nuisance. I am sure the police overtime must cost a fortune. Now Punk Week is something I enjoy. Free live shows and events every night. Free classes on a variety of do it yourself projects using recycled materials. Lots of interesting and insightful young people who lie around all day and don't even work (if they were 40 years older we would call them retired). Camping and events in the parks where people are enjoying themselves so much they *gasp* may have sex (remember this never happened in the sixties). The whole thing concludes with a combination of shopping cart race and parade down Main Street. This parade perhaps blocks traffic for two hours late on a weekday night. Punk Week is not centrally organized led or highly orchestrated event, and everything is supposed to be free or nearly free. I don't think standards or permits will really work to curtail this event. The city should only really interfere when there are grave safety concerns. Furthermore, an event does not need to be a revenue generator for businesses to justify city expenditures. To me Fraser's suggestions seem to be loaded with ageism and class devision. In Ann Arbor there are plenty of events that cater to older couples and families, but very few events for young people who aren't students. We've lost the Naked Mile, the old Performance Network / 555 Gallery building, and Hash Bash has been curtailed. Concurrently events like the Shadow Art Fair, The Dreamland Theater, and other events have opened up in Ypsilanti. We've lost some of these events on the basis that they may upset some of Ann Arbor's more sensitive visitors. It is as if someone on high decided that whacky self-organized events that involve naked people, marijuana, or young people having fun for free was bad for Ann Arbor's image and its property values. Whatever happened to the cool cities project? This is not the city I moved to ten years ago and I can't say if it is any better, but it is more expensive. If Ann Arbor cracks down on Punk Week we might as well just give up and change the city's name to Royal Oak.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 12:43 p.m.

A bunch of kids smoking pot in a park or hysterically racing shopping carts once a year? Big deal. You know what is "quite a nuisance", football season, fraternities, and drunk kids almost all year long.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

Anyone that knows anything about computer networks knows that network switches are a BASIC component of a network. Those weren't 'overlooked'. They were intentionally left out so that the general fund could, once again, pay for city hall. Many people should be losing their jobs because of these lies.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 8:57 a.m.

Too bad she can't hire a forester to remove the tree, pay him and send a copy of the bill to CC. But we all know what would happen there, don't we? She would be fined up the patootie for unlawfully removing city property. So, I guess she and the rest of us concerned citizens will have to wait until it comes down, pulling all the power lines with it and landing in pieces on cars, houses and possibly people. No power for who knows how long, home damage that requires moving out while it is repaired and a possibly tragic outcome should a piece land on a passerby. Apparently city council doesn't care about any of this. So boo hiss to them. Tree City? How about Rotten Tree City?


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

Since we have to spend our very limited neighborhood pennies only where they can make a real difference, let's spare no expense to stop Punk Week. When Iggy bellows "No Fun!" into a microphone on a stage somewhere, our city council soberly listens. Just as, in the distant past, the Republicans on city council once exiled a group of local ruffians, driving their scruffy blues & jazz festival all the way to Windsor — will Punk Week one day end up having to ride the WALLY to resettle in Allen Ginsberg's Howell? Prediction:  Next August there will be no shopping carts racing downhill in the general direction of the mighty Huron. These old dragsters will be replaced by souped-up porch couches on wheels, the plush SUVs of the punk world.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 8:34 a.m.

It's a downtown-centric world at city hall. The majority of city council members, along with their Loyal Opposition (who lose in the August primaries more often than not) like to debate over which downtown priorities most deserve subsidy. Will more funds go toward city hall construction, the library lot, or additional LED lighting? Or maybe we should spend every dime on turning much of downtown into a big park? As the mayor likes to repeat over and over, city governments everywhere struggle with declining revenues. In this light, rational people will go out of their way to show understanding when they see the city straining to juggle priorities, setting criteria that will put some neighborhood projects near the top of the list while others will have to go on hold until a later date. However, city council instead casually reaches into the general fund and grabs big wads of cash to throw at city staff who spew IT blather about "content management," doing this at a time when bits & pieces of neighborhood infrastructure all across town fall into decay, with no fixes in sight for so many of them. If city hall wants something installed, it gets it now, but don't demand that city staff visit your block anytime before 2015. Of course, if we're willing to approve a city income tax, that could change....


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 8:52 p.m.

Gee. I thought the IT costs were covered by the IT overhead the city charges Huron Hills golf course (and other entities).

Kim Kachadoorian

Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 8:51 p.m.

@Ken - thanks I will keep bringing in branches until they take it down. My biggest fear is that it will fall on my house.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 7:02 p.m.

fyi... referring to this article

Kai Petainen

Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 6:53 p.m.

investigate sewer backups and it makes the news. have a spill in the huron river on july 19th and hardly anyone knows or cares??????

Stephen Landes

Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 6:27 p.m.

First we had Skyline high "requiring" additional funds to upgrade its network capability in a brand new building. Now we have the city doing the same with a building that hasn't even been completed yet. Why weren't the switches included in the original design specs? Why are we permitting the city to run over its budget for this building? Let them sacrifice something else if this IT equipment is so important. Can you spell accountability? Council certainly can't.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 5:16 p.m.

They say we get the government we deserve, and when only 15% vote in an election which determines, in effect, who is going to be running the city for the next 2 years, it is hard to argue with that. It can take awhile for a critical mass to develop in local politics - lots of things have to go wrong for a prolonged period of time - things that really rile large numbers of voters. An effective opposition needs to gel and organize, too. So take heart - the Hieftje and his minions have no shortage of cluelessness, and will, doubtless, continue to piss-off large numbers of voters in the weeks and months to come. The problems they swept under the rug, or kicked down the road will return to haunt them, yet again. I just hope we get a more effective opposition slate that more people will go out and vote for. As for Punk Week - no one should be too surprised that bourgeois, old, Ann Arbor is recoiling from its' excesses. Who says Ann Arbor isn't just another Royal Oak?! LOL!


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 2:06 p.m.

i always liked the shopping cart race. I believe that was here before "punk week." There is NO buisness generated by punk week


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

"You should be thinking about how much business is generated by punk week" True, 40oz sales and Fleetwood business really skyrockets!


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 11 a.m.

I have a corner lot with six city maples. One tree is dead, another is nearly dead. I have to cut and gift wrap branches for compost pick-up all the time. Two years ago, I had to borrow an electric chain saw to remove branches I had been waiting for the city to remove for two years with no reply. Some branches that fall are 5" to 6" in diameter. Now I will have to pay a professional to haul all the leaves away. The mayor has NO IDEA of the volume of leaves we are talking here. These are all city trees! Not to mention the $1150 I had to pay to fix the sidewalks that the roots had damaged. I'm fed-up with all of them.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 10:58 a.m.

It is a very sad situation because it happened to My children and I, City Council members sitting passing notes, whispering as you have lost everything no insurance took thousands to clean up black stuff shooting out of drains, sink 4 feet of sewage and what? OUR HEALTH NEVER WILL BE THE SAME black mold, asbestos released.My children and I were forever separated. It was dog poop they wrote on the paper work. You are so traumatized and bewildered at there interrogation and numb from so much destruction and loss. Your daughters once in a life time graduation party destroyed. City tree's destroy your cars You are at the what mercy of whom? The people you and I voted for.Ordered out 48 hour notice above a health hazard to humans and animals after highly toxic chemicals professional cleanings couldn't kill it. My heart goes out to think there still playing the same old same old games. Every time I go down the basement everything gone gutted I still choke up I also noticed after reading 100's of complaints on sewage back ups. Single people and mothers are denied a lot.I think as a community everyone that has filed out there tedious paper work should come together and hold all these people accountable for there trap malfunctions.You the City of Ann Arbor can't pick and choose you need to finally stand up and except responsibility for your bad actions.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

So we can find over a million dollars to fund various IT projects, but we can't fix storm drains, bridges or cut down a tree? As a former VP of a Fortune 50 company I can certainly recognize IT baloney when I hear it. I am heartened that ONE council member asked an affordability/priority question. Of course the reply was pure hogwash. And, somehow the Mayor is blaming DTE because the City can't provide a schedule of when they will be out to remove a tree? Keep bringing those branches to meetings Kim. Maybe someone will finally get the idea!


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 9:43 a.m.

Ann Arbor = no fun You should be thinking about how much business is generated by punk week and how it gives Ann Arbor that local color / distiction instead of how to shut it down. Turn it into a big event instead of trying to squash the fun times around town.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 9:16 a.m.

Was IT overlooked in the crush to get the city hall addition funded & approved?... or was it a deception to reduce costs? "Overlooked" is hard to believe of a council as computer savvy as ours.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 8:52 a.m.

I can already look up the taxes on parcels. Is this money so we can maintain that current ability? Couldn't we have hired a consultant from the ann arbor area (at least metro detroit is close.) (unlike U of M, who if you have noticed have vans with OHIO license plates in front of their facilities doing work)


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 8:44 a.m.

I still remember with the mayor was pissed when asked about the building and the general fund and said there would be no money from the general fund to support the building. Yet everyone votes in favor of taking more from the fund. Remember the 'buckets'? Funny how money is safe everywhere else, but the money for public safety can be used for IT and any other pet projects they come up with. Keep electing these people. Ann Arbor will get everything coming to it that it deserves.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 7:55 a.m.

Oh, those are punks? I had mistaken them for young hippie hobos.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 7:40 a.m.

"allows the city to do more work with fewer employees" Yeah, BUT WILL IT ACTUALLY SAVE ANY MONEY? We have far less police and fire than we did years ago, but it doesn't seem to be saving the city (taxpayers) any money.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 7:05 a.m.

Punk Week. The house responsible for the mayhem is located at the corner of Summit and North Main Street. Why not just ticket the folks and get on with it? Clearly, if this is an annual event, asking for permits now is a little late, don't you think. Besides, does the city even provide permits for fornication in our Parks?


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 6:17 a.m.

That's alot of money being spent by a city that is so broke it has fire fighters laid off.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 5:26 a.m.

So, that explains all those ragged looking people hanging out in the parking lot of Cottage Inn pizza on Packard & Hill last night. But a permit was not required? Those cost for the new City Hall/Courts building, why is anyone surprise? Former City of Ann Arbor Water Utility Director Frank Porta was fired for the 100 year rain when storm drains backed up. McCormick? Oh wait, she has much more power than Porta!