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Posted on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Council gives priority to Rutherford Pool rebuild over pedestrian bridge project

By Tom Perkins

The Ypsilanti City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to give priority to rebuilding the Rutherford Pool over constructing a pedestrian bridge across the Huron River.

The city is submitting grant applications seeking money from the same state pot for both projects. Should the state determine that the projects are equal on all of the grant's other criteria, but not enough money is left to fund both, then the prioritization will serve as a "tie-breaker."

Rutherford Pool 1b.jpg

In choosing to favor a project to rebuild the Rutherford Pool over constructing a pedestrian bridge, Ypsilanti City Council members cited the importance of the pool to the community.

Tom Perkins | For

Council members Mike Bodary, Dan Vogt, Ricky Jefferson and Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson voted to support the pool.

The Friends of the Rutherford Pool and the city, supported by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, are each applying for $300,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants to help fund their respective projects.

Since the Friends are not eligible to receive grant funds, the city must submit the applications and receive the money. The Friends will prepare that application, but the city prepared the application for the bridge. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the funds can be used for developing recreation facilities.

The prioritization won't be weighed in the DNR’s initial assessment of the applications, which uses a point system to score each. Council’s prioritization will only be considered if there is a tie between the two applications and only enough money left for one.

That means council’s support is likely to be symbolic, but the issue was an emotional one for residents, who gave more than 90 minutes of impassioned public input that even brought one speaker to tears.

The city is seeking $300,000 in grant funds and Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation is offering $275,000 of its own matching funds for the $589,000 bridge project. The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority will contribute up to $25,000 to the effort. The city would be responsible for providing some funds for regular upkeep and bridge maintenance.

The pedestrian bridge would connect the Border to Border Trail from Riverside Park to the Water Street property under the Michigan Avenue bridge.

The Friends are seeking to raise $850,000 for capital costs to replace the aging South Congress Street community pool. They hope to raise $550,000 by the end of 2011 to start phase one of the rebuild and focus on phase two funds in 2012. The Friends are asking for a $300,000 Natural Resources Trust Fund grant and would match $150,000, or 50 percent, through their own fundraising efforts.

The city has no obligation to the Friends except to support and submit the application. But the city is offering its support only if the Friends complete the grant application without city assistance by the April 1 deadline. They also must generate the matching funds by Dec. 1 and develop a five-year operating plan, which may include incorporating as a non-profit.

Lisa Wozniak, who is a member of the Friends, said she was pleased the council chose to give the Rutherford Pool project priority, but she called both options “top notch” projects and applications.

At the beginning of council’s discussion, council member Dan Vogt sought a "definitive answer" from Assistant City Manager April McGrath on whether council’s choice would only affect a decision if there is a tie and no money left to fund both projects.

McGrath said that was the only scenario, to which Vogt replied that the chances of that happening were “one in 100,000."

“More like one in a 100,000,000,” McGrath replied.

Proponents of both projects offered a range of reasons council should give priority to their respective causes. Both made cases for how each project would benefit Ypsilanti economically. Those supporting the bridge said it costs less and better fits the Natural Resources Trust Fund's criteria, while those who favored the pool contended it needs roughly the same amount for a rebuild.

Pool supporters — including several who came from surrounding municipalities — said the facility provides recreation for children and families from a diverse background.

“I don’t use the pool very much, but I have never seen a community of people come together as they have around this pool,” Ypsilanti resident Jacque Eccles said.

Bodary said council members were to vote on which project was more important to the community, not which better fit the grant criteria.

“I don’t feel there’s any question that the pool is more important to the residents of the city, young and old, from all walks of life, and even out in the township,” he said.

Vogt said he was surprised to discover the amount of support the pool has within the community as he began talking to residents about the issue over the last month. He also said he thinks it plays an important role in the city.

“Recognizing how important it is for those children having (something) constructive to do, in my mind, that was the tipping point,” he said.

Council member Pete Murdock said he could see reasons to support both, but ultimately joined Mayor Paul Schreiber and Brian Robb in voting against the resolution giving priority to the pool.

“From a project-ready standpoint I think the trail is No. 1, from other standpoints I think the pool is No. 1,” he said.


Bill French

Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 11:18 a.m.

Councilman Bodary, You and i haven't had the opportunity to meet and talk about the issues facing Ypsilanti but many of those that do know you, hold you in hight regard a person, but your effort to explain your vote for the Rutherford Pool project is beneath common sense and you. Your comment below lacks 'a basic reality check' and 'appears you were looking to hang your vote on someone other than yourself'. The community expects more from you than this kind of putting the blame for your vote on some one else. If your council votes are based on business principles, vision, and benefit to the entire community; you should be able to proudly stand up, give a transparent reason for your vote, and leave supporting your 'friends' out of the equation of your decision making. Bill French " I Mike Bodary at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2011 I copy directly from the REQUEST FOR LEGISLATION March 25, 2011 From: April L. McGrath, Director of Administrative Services Subject: Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant There are three purposes for this special meeting: 1. Hold a public hearing for both grant applications as required by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant. 2. Approve the applications for submittal 3. Prioritize the projects in order of importance Nowhere does it ask the question which prioritize which application has the best chance of success."

Bill French

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 9:40 p.m.

The Ypsilanti City Council appears to have a difficult time separating politics from fiscal responsibility and just plain old common sense. The latest example of 'you've got to be kidding me' is the Council's decision to give priority to Rutherford pool project over Riverside pedestrian bridge. One project lacks an application or funding while the other is a shovel ready and fully funded; yet our leaders chose the under-funded project. If this fiscally irresponsible decision was an isolated case it wouldn't be such a worry, but it's not. The City has contributed over $185,000 to the Freighthouse that has evolved from a worthy restoration project with an unrealistic business plan to a never ending, constantly redefining, unfinished project that does not have a financial end in sight. The topper for this project is there is a plan afoot to put another $25,000 to develop a café while the public doesn't know who is going to be responsible for the operating cost and any losses occurred by this city developed business. Logic would suggest when a project doesn't have financial constraints it is time to pause, draw a line in the sand, do an honest re-evaluation, and then develop a new plan base on hard numbers before move forward. But this doesn't appear to be happening. Instead the Council has endangered a long planned regional project which is fully funded by outside sources, in favor of a project that doesn't have hard numbers or a business plan. During a crisis, we expect strong leadership from our Council and we aren't getting it. Bill French


Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

You're getting strong leadership from Pete Murdoch. He's running the show. You're just afraid to give him the credit he deserves. In times of crisis, we should be lining up behind the people willing to lead. I'm lining up behind Mayor Murdoch!


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

This was nothing but an emotional hijacking by a bunch of pool supporters which is ultimately going to turn off others in the community to their cause. Rather than create both a sound organization and solid business plan, to include both realistic build and operations funding, they relied on little kids and crying babies. With the bridge, Ypsilanti has a chance to be a part of something bigger, something county wide, basically a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get a bridge built under Michigan Ave and paying zero dollars for it. The Downtown area should be all about this. ZERO DOLLARS to be part of a pathway from Dexter to Ford Lake and beyound. I hope those making the decision see through this charade of pool support and do the right thing and fund the bridge. Meanwhile, I also hope the pool supporters grow up and start doing the right kind of organizing and planning needed to get a decent pool built as soon as possible. But this might take more work than bringing children and crying babies to the table!

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

I seriously doubt there will be any chance of this bridge being built if it doesn't happen now. I don't think the Washtenaw County Commissioners or Parks & Rec will be willing to ever work with Ypsilanti on the B2! Trail again after their efforts have been turned away by councilm Would you keep throwing money at Ypsilanti if council keeps squandering the opportunity? This also doesn't bode well for Ypsilanti in the face of state mandated regional cooperation. It should also be noted that this grant will only rebuild the pool, not fund opperations. Council refused to ask where future opperating funds will come from. Of course, the pool would have to win the grant, and it is not likely, certainly much, much less likely than the bridge, to win that grant. Two awards for pools from the trust since 1976 are not good odds.

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.

Um, ok Depot Town. Please tell me what part I made up.

Depot Town

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

You're just making stuff up now. should have some kind of policy about this. The Rutherford Pool was the right decision because it's about COMMUNITY. It's not about dumping all over other groups in the city like you seem to be doing. Go pool!

Tom Perkins

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

The story has been updated to clarify that the city, not Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation, is seeking the grant funds. Also, the plans call for a steel truss pedestrian bridge, not a floating pedestrian bridge.


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

Following up on Craig, the kids certainly cannot swim in Huron River. While I would love to see the floating bridge project happen someday, I think repairing an already existing structure should be the priority. If your water heater were to die, would you decide to spend the money on a 50" flat screen instead? To me it just makes more sense to repair the pool - especially one that is already so important to the community. I hate to see things go to unsalvageable disrepair. Let's fix the pool first - before we lose it. We all can revisit the floating bridge idea later.


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

If there was a grant program available to replace your TV, but not your water heater, you'd be a fool to apply for a replacement for your water heater. Yes, it's higher priority, but that's irrelevant.


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

Every year I seem to remember the children collect pennies for this pool to keep it open every year. So glad to hear the children no longer have to beg to have a pool to swim in every year. Someone finally got it right.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

I haven't lived in Ypsilanti since the mid 80's so I have no vested interest either way. But it seems to me that if only one of the two projects is viable a pool is a bigger asset than a floating pedestrian bridge. I say that because the alternatives to cross the river are less inconvenient than the alternatives to find a place to swim.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

I might add that I don't swim in pools and would be much more likely to use the bridge if I still lived in Ypsi.

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

No, Mike, common sense says you choose the project with the best chance of success. Instead, you voted in favor of political pressure from your supporters. When it comes time to make tough budget decisions, is will you also be basing your vote on emotions in your district instead of common sense?


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

I found it shameful that four of our council members caved like this over political pressure. It seems some are more interested in getting re-elected than than doing what's in the best interests of Ypsilanti.

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

If midtowner and I agree on this issues, we must be on to something. I'm pretty sure this has never happened before.


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

I agree with Andy. If, from the state's point of view, we get money for both (if there's enough left over. !??!) or neither (because the priority project isn't chosen), common sense would put the most qualified, most prepared, most properly targeted project for the grant in front. Poor decisions by ward 1 and 2 this time. Poor, poor, poor. I'm glad I can save I voted for none of them. My question is, if the Friends can't complete everything by Friday, does the trail completely lose out? Or is it the only project submitted?

Mike Bodary

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 12:49 p.m.

I copy directly from the REQUEST FOR LEGISLATION March 25, 2011 From: April L. McGrath, Director of Administrative Services Subject: Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant There are three purposes for this special meeting: 1. Hold a public hearing for both grant applications as required by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant. 2. Approve the applications for submittal 3. Prioritize the projects in order of importance Nowhere does it ask the question which prioritize which application has the best chance of success.


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 1:17 p.m.

Mike - Common sense would tell you that if both can be submitted, you choose the one that has the higher probability of success and put the Ypsilanti stamp on that. Read between the lines! Don't make the city look like ignoramuses by putting the city's stamp on the least prepared, least thought through project. It makes us look ripe for EFM picking.

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

I ask you, what other community would allow years of work and regional cooperation to be swept aside in less than two weeks and be eclipsed by a much less prepared plan? If council continues to vote on emotion instead of fact, Ypsilanti will be under the control of the state in no time flat. Shame on council for following the political tide instead of leading. Contrary to what some members of council are saying, this had nothing to do with which project is more important to Ypsilanti. It had to do with which project was better positioned to win a grant. Council chose to support a far weaker bid. I just hope this politically spineless decision doesn't cost Ypsilanti the chance to win any grant.

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

EyeHeart, a visit to my profile will tell you that I'm the director of the Water Street Trail Project, so yea, I had a horse in this race. The city approached me to write a letter of recommendation for this grant two or more months ago. I take from your doge you haven't compared the two grants yet, have you. Chime in any time.


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

So, I'll go with "biker". You can chime in and say "swimmer" if you like, but your non-answer/dodge was really very telling.

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

I support common sense in government, which would mean you vote for the grant application that has a chance of winning. I urge you to read the pool proposal and get back to me on that.


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

So, I take it you are a biker and not a swimmer?

Andrew Jason Clock

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

Last night, Ypsilanti city council displayed an amazing failure of common sense and made the politically spineless choice to support a less prepared grant application. Don't take my word for it, you can read both in the council packet: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> City council asked no questions of the pool grant and plan. Much like the situation with the Ypsilanti Freight House, council has supported a plan with nothing but promises of funding and organization in place. There was no question on how the cost of a new pool was whittled from $1m down to $500k, council took the word of the planners as fact. Some members of council clearly had concerns about the lack of preparation in the pool application, but allowed those concerns to be swept aside. It became clear that council had no intention of looking at facts when they allowed the resolution supporting the pool to be amended by shout from the gallery. I guess Robert's Rules of Order are more of a guideline than a rule for Ypsilanti City Council. Council ignored the advice of the Parks and Recreation Committee and Non-motorized Transit committee in this vote. They thumbed their nose at the money and work that Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation have provided since 2009 for this project. If I were a county commissioner, I would think very hard about cooperating with Ypsilanti in the future, if this is the value council places on that cooperation.


Wed, Mar 30, 2011 : 10:56 a.m.

Whether the trail or the pool is more important to the community, they are both good projects. Whether the trail or the pool is more important to the community, the trail is much, much more likely to get funded. Ypsilanti is struggling financially. Wise leadership would maximize the opportunity to get funds wherever they become available by acknowledging the constraints on the funds and maximizing the odds of a successful application. This was NOT wise leadership.