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Posted on Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

Ypsilanti streetlight special assessment district: EMU likely to be largest payer

By Katrease Stafford

Eastern Michigan University and Ypsilanti residents may soon be paying an annual fee to help cover electricity costs, as the city continues to pursue a special assessment district.

The average resident could pay approximately $52 this year and about $66 each year up until 2022. EMU, the city's largest parcel holder, will pay the most if the district is established.


LED streetlights like these shown on Washington Street in Ann Arbor will soon be placed in Ypsilanti. file photo

Within city limits, there are 4,951 parcels and close to 40 percent of the city's land total is property tax exempt, some of which is accounted for by EMU.

City officials declined to say how much the university could pay each year, but said those numbers will be revealed Tuesday at a 7:30 p.m. city council work session.

City Manager Ralph Lange previously told that EMU will be "the biggest payer."

The city's trunk line-- which includes Washtenaw Avenue, portions of West Cross Street, Hamilton Street, Huron Street, Ecorse Road and Michigan Avenue-- handles between 15,000 and 30,000 cars per day, according to city data. The university is the primary "trip generator," according to Lange.

Earlier this month, the city announced it was pursuing the special assessment district. Lange is recommending the district encompass the entire city.

Lange and staff will present his report before council, outlining the specifics of the district and the exact need for it.

"The purpose of this presentation is to explain what the public purpose is and what we're expecting residents on average to pay," said City Planner Teresa Gillotti.

The city is recommending that the assessment be calculated using the perimeter of individual parcels, combined with a percentage of the total city land.

Future capital improvement costs for upgrading current light fixtures to more energy-efficient measures also will be factored in.

"This method will provide an equitable way of distributing lighting costs across the community, making sure that the cost for street-lighting does not exceed the benefit received," Lange wrote in his report.

There are 1,719 streetlights in the city and the estimated cost for electricity for fiscal year 2013-14 is $523,051. Within these costs are maintenance, operation and replacement fees. Electricity costs for the city have steadily increased since 2010, when the cost was $501,651.

"Though the economy has been slowly rebounding after the Great Recession, many state and local governments are still struggling to fund programs and services at pre-2010 levels," Lange wrote. "The city of Ypsilanti is no exception."

Fiscal year 2008-09 was the last time the city had an overall budget surplus. All of the years after have had a deficit and the general fund is expected to operate with a deficit for at least the next three to four years, according to Lange.

"To avoid this deficit from becoming larger, more cuts or additional revenues need to be identified," Lange wrote.

The assessment fee also will help to pay for the installation and retrofit of streetlights in the future. In 2012, the city started a streetlight conversion program to transition from mercury vapor street lights to LED. The first lights were installed along West Cross Street.

The city has scheduled 260 lights to be converted this year along East Michigan Avenue and Ecorse. The city plans on phasing upgrades of all 1,719 fixtures in eight years. Upgrading all of the fixtures will cost approximately $1.1 million.

Capital improvement costs are estimated to add an additional $133,375 to the assessment each year.

At the March 5 council meeting, a public hearing was scheduled to be held, but Gillotti said that will likely be pushed back due to at least two council members scheduled to miss the meeting.

The tentative timeline for the special district to go into effect, pending council approval, is July 1.

Other cities have established special assessment districts to help cover costs including Flint, Romulus and Garden City.

In Garden City, the average resident pays $35 and in Flint, most pay $66.05 per parcel.

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.

WHY would the Electrix cost increase, since the city has Solarpanel and need led lights.WE HAVE NO MORE MONEY TO GIVE or or any thing else . PUT a candle on the CORNERS ...DA Plus all lights in the city are rusting OUT or falling apart include the once in the park. GEt a contracter that STEEL trunks .not plasitic or china imports..and back up his work for 20-30 years.


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Mr. Murdock talks about how LED will reduce both operating and maintenance costs. Great, but why doesn't he take it a step further and talk about Magnetic Induction Lighting, which would reduce up front costs vs LED, further reduce operating costs and further reduce maintenance costs (Induction lamps have lifetime of 100,000 hours -- 20+ years @ 12 hours/day -- which is at least double and maybe more than the best LED lamps). Go ask Paw Paw Michigan why they went Induction lighting -- might be an interesting discussion. But since Ypsilanti taxpayers have so much money they are just waiting to give it away, I guess there is no reason to look at less expensive alternatives.

Pete Murdock

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

The conversion to LED will reduce the annual stret lighting operating costs significantly. The conversions that the City of Ypsilanti has completed or are programed to be completed this year have or will reduce DTE costs by 30%-33%. With the rebates from DTE the payback on those lights is ~3 years. Total conversion would reduce street lighting operating and maintenace costs $ 150K or more. The payback period would depend on the availability of rebates and the cost of purchase and installation of tha lamps. The $1.1M conversion cost estimate is the high estimate without any rebates or other incentives.


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

I hope you get the money from THE AMERICAN RECOVERY ACT !

Katrease Stafford

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

Thanks, Pete. This article I wrote has information about two programs the city is enrolling in through DTE. These programs will offset some of the costs. I believe the city is eligible for about $19,000 worth of rebates.

dading dont delete me bro

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 4:44 a.m.

" There are 1,719 streetlights in the city and the estimated cost for electricity for fiscal year 2013-14 is $523,051. Within these costs are maintenance, operation and replacement fees. Electricity costs for the city have steadily increased since 2010, when the cost was $501,651." so what's it cost to power these LEDs per year? what's the cost beyond the $1.1mil to install?

Jonathan Blutarsky

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

So is it $52 per parcel or per person?

Jonathan Blutarsky

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 11:26 p.m.


Katrease Stafford

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

I believe it will be per parcel, but more details will be available after tomorrow's meeting.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

What about solar and wind power energy? Couldn't that be used to offset some of the cost?


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

They seem to have made their decision -- why consider other alternatives?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:21 p.m.

Kat, i'm sure they "could" be used but since they are not currently used in the city, if they were to go that route I'm guessing that it would cost alot more than the $52-$66 per parcel/year that the district would cost. Infrastructure cost alot of money and solar/wind are some of the costliest infrastructure out there at this time.

Katrease Stafford

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 9 p.m.

I believe the public hearing may be pushed back, but I think the goal is to still have the district established by July 1. Here's the original timeline for the proposed special assessment district: Feb.19 - Report by city manager: Presentation of assessment options March 5 - Preliminary resolution of necessity and public hearing March 19 - City council approval, directing the city assessor to prepare the roll Last week of March 2013 - Notices will be mailed to property owners and a second public hearing will be held April 23 - Either an approval, rejection or changes will be made to the proposal July 1 - The special assessment district goes into effect