The big news: a time and place for the Board "Visioning" session has been set.

It will be held at the Links of Whitmore Lake clubhouse,1111 Six Mile Road, on Friday, February 27th, at 4:00 P.M.  This is west of Nollar Road.

Also: The Board approved hiring architect Joseph Phillips to design the Board Room Construction.  The ZBA fee was reduced to $295 from $850.  State Representative Gretchen Driscoll and  Manager Fink discussed the WALLY commuter rail transportation scheme.  Driscoll said the project cost only $4.3 million.  [The AATA's own presentations show capital costs of up to $41 million.  This presentation is available on our WALLY Resource page.]



Meeting Notes:

(@00:04:30 livestream time)

The meeting is called to order.


Call to the Public

Mary Devlin:

"At the January 28th workshop, I couldn't believe what I was hearing from some of the residents.  Accusations were made [unintelligible] comments for growth.  Then I heard a resident state that this area's not stagnant.  Does he live in the same township that I do?  Maybe he should look at the unoccupied places on Main Street, go past the vacant land that Meijers purchased, or better yet, go check out the vacant middle school building.  And as a result of no growth and people moving out of the area, consolidation may be the next step.  Now go to some of the surrounding townships and see why they are progressing and why they are...   The answer would probably be because growth helps everyone and they work together unselfishly accomplish this goal.  I understand wanting to keep some of the rural area rural but you can't farm land that can no longer be farmed.  I also think it's selfish, on the part of people, that are not thinking of the best interests of this township in its entirety.  If we get development started here everyone can prosper, including our school district.  So let's move this township forward.  And by the way, to the best of my knowledge, Biltmore hasn't even presented any site plans.  And I just want to add, um, one thing before I sit down.  I would hope that all of you would keep the family of David Spencer in your prayers and thoughts this evening.  He passed away last week."


Jim Nelson:

"I'm going to read a prepared piece because I'm really not that good speaking ex tempore.  This is an apology.  Apparently at the last meeting I muttered something under my breath that was not so much under my breath.  I would like to apologize to anyone I offended.  In my defense I'll say simply that it is very difficult to listen to person after person insist that the Northfield Neighbors, people like me, are not invested in this community.  Many of us have lived here as long as many of you.  Our roots and our families are here.  I guess what pushed me - personally - over the edge, into imprecation and mumbled profanity, was the fact that I've been doing the video for ten years.  For the first eight of those ten years this was an unpaid volunteer position.  Which by the way, was perfectly fine with me.  If eight years of doing that isn't an investment in this community, I don't know what is."


Engstrom: "Great.  Thank you.  Is there anyone else that would like to speak this evening?  All right.  That takes us on to our next agenda item, which is Board Member Comments."


Wayne Dockett asked questions about fire department purchases.  They were for tires, for which bids had been solicited.  He questioned Public Safety Director Bill Wagner about civil asset forfeiture and the changes in Federal Policy relating thereto by Attorney General Holder.  A brief exchange ensued.  [For those interested in this issue, here is the original Department of Justice press release.  Click here to download a pdf of A.G. Holder's signed order.  Legal commentators on this policy shift agree that little will change.[


Reports & Updates: Department Head Reports

Public Safety Director Bill Wagner reported for both Police and Fire Departments.


Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor Tim Hardesty reported on the Plant and asked the Board to authorize an expenditure, which it did.


Manager Fink reports for Community Center Director Tammy (something).  Meals on Wheels


MF discusses and asks authority to rid Building of excess "stuff" with a public auction.  The stuff comprises old file cabinets, office furniture, chairs, tables, supplies no longer needed. 


Manager Fink discusses the WALLY Commuter rail project.  State Representative Gretchen Driscoll is in the audience and may speak later.


Manager Fink updates.  Still have not heard from People's Express.  Township is asking for increased insurance coverage.


At next workshop will be discussing personal policy manual.  Refining and defining pay and raises.

(@00:36:10 lt) Wayne Docket discusses Flying Dutchman property, its history, its original owner, Dutch Weber, in whose family this property has been for over one hundred years and who was also the Northfield Township Supervisor for 25 years


Wayne Dockett voices opposition to holding Board Retreat, a public meeting, elsewhere, away from microphones and cameras.


Jackie Otto cautions Manager Fink about Assistant Assessor's overtime.


Manager Fink: A time and place for the Board "Visioning" session has been set.

It will be held at the Links of Whitmore Lake clubhouse,1111 Six Mile Road, on Friday, February 27th, at 4:00 P.M.  This is west of Nollar Road.


Manager Fink asks permission for Representative Driscoll to address Board re WALLY.  Driscoll defers, preferring to speak later.


Agenda Item 1


Agenda Item 2:

Manager Fink recommended an architect for the board room construction project and the Board voted its approval.  The next step will be selection of a construction manager.  Discusses OHM bid.  Board votes to accept the contract with Joseph Philips in the amount of $5,500 plus expenses.


 Manager Fink states that he will not sign the Architect's contract until "we get a construction manager on board."

Fink states that the cost will be around $100,000, or a little bit more.  The biggest cost and the biggest complication is the HVAC work.  Wayne Dockett asks when there will be a pricetag on the project.  Manager explains why a Construction Manager makes the process cheaper than hiring a General Contractor.. 


Agenda Item 3: CDBG Sidewalk Project.

Agenda Item 4: Horseshoe Lake Sewer District Refund.  Howard sought approval of refunds based on a spreadsheet.  Refund will go to property owners who own the property as of December 1, 2014.


Agenda Item 5:  Manager asks board to approve Meals on Wheels coordinator job description.  17 hours per week.  Catchall clause.  Wayne Dockett asks Manager to clarify source of funding, apparently $3,000 to be provided by the Township, $20,000 by the County.


Agenda Item 6

Dockett makes a motion to reduce ZBA fees from $850 to $495.  Discussion ensues, Otto observing that because each ZBA member is paid $100, the lowered fee will result in a net loss.  Manager observes that the majority of petitioners are individual property owners who seek to improve their property.  "We should not think about these fees from a break-even perspective."  The motion passed..


Agenda Items 7-9


Manager Comments on importance of reviewing all fees annually.  Promises to prepare a document listing all fees and entities to which fees flow.


2nd Call to the Public.

Gretchen Driscoll explains $800,000 planning grant allocated for North-South Rail/WALLY environmental impact study.  $600,000 from the Federal government and $200,000 from Washtenaw County.

Chick: asks for total cost. 

Driscoll: "It is a multi million dollar capital project." 


"The $800,000 is the Planning Grant.  It's the study.  So there is no; there's no money right now for capital improvements.  Hopefully, and one of the reasons why I'm excited to be on this committee and to be representing Northfield Township on this; and that's why I asked for the Board's thoughts... We don't have to talk about everybody's thoughts today but in general, where are you going to stand on this because I do intend, obviously with the board's support, to lead on this... And when I mean lead is that the big next step for I think WALLY is going to be trying to figure out, what is the political mechanism to gather all the communities on that train line?  And what is that transportation authority look like?  Is it, and there are various, there are various authorities under the statute that can be created... to put this group together.  Politically what is that gonna look like from a representation standpoint and from there, that's when we'll really start diving into where is funding gonna come from and how is this project going to be funded on an operating basis rather than a capital basis."


So I'm also ... because, you know, you're on a Board... Government takes a long time so we run parallel paths on some of this stuff.  I was on transportation last term but I'm not this term.  But I still am working on something that's called public-private partnership which is opportunities for getting investors using private dollars and getting investors and they get a payback maybe by the passengers/people that are using it.  There's creative solutions; people are doing it all over the country.  Canada has some really great model projects, so, I'm actually trying to get some conversations on that to make sure that if that is a model that we can use we actually have the capacity legislatively to do that in Lansing.  So we're sort of running; I'm sort of running that finance model along with the governance.  The governance is a really big piece.  But if we can run some parallel on that I think it would take, hopefully not as long as a period of time, and the other thing Michael told me there... we have been talking on, he's been working on is an Art Fair Demo Train which could be really cool.  A train that would go from Howell and one of the things that's cool, that caused us to be bogged down is that Ann Arbor Rail was not friendly to this project, so we didn't have a place to land people in Ann Arbor, and so that was really a problem, and then you had to build a station, there was a lot of challenged there so, what's happened since a couple years ago is that that land was bought by Watco and they're much more open and so they, there's actually a landing place right downtown over by Washington Street.. And so, Michael has said that he's working on that.  The big clause is that they're having insurance, it would be a Demo train, so there are some challenges around railroad insurance, so it's definitely not a done deal, but, we're working on it and they looking at it.  I think it would be a great opportunity and the other thing that I'm really pushing for is when 23 is going under that shared shoulder piece where it's gonna be kind of a nightmare for everybody that's driving.  It's bad now; it's gonna be even worse when they do the construction.  I'm hoping that we could have, take the demo train that we had this summer and actually make it a more regular thing so people get used to it, and actually get on a train...  And to your issue [gestures toward Otto] around the fencing I know safety is number one issue for rail and they definitely do not wanna have any kind of problems and they want to be good neighbors, so that will all come... they're going to be doing public meetings with the stakeholders along the route and identify what the issues are along the route and make sure that those issues addressed before this gets ... It's gonna be at least a couple more years, so...

Otto: commented on sub/rail/replacement crossing lights


The one thing I would just add to Representative Driscoll's kind of presentation is that one of the reasons why I think, for myself and for this Board, obviously again, I'll lead to the direction of this Board.  My personal opinion, just me, is that it's a very good asset for Northfield Township and it really has the potential to be something special but why it's so important for us to lead on this issue is because we're the first stop.  And so, as Representative Driscoll has pointed out, if there is a demonstration model, that it's put forth, for example, we don't have the opportunity to look or deal with the transit throughout the whole line... If, for example, they set the demonstration approach for a year or two, that demonstration project's gonna be in Whitmore Lake cause we're the first stop on that train line.  And so we really are a critical piece in this, in this cog, if you will... And, uh, funding is important, we've, I don't know the exact number but it's, I believe it's more than ten million a year to operate it, so it's expensive, but uh, as we all know, light transit can be a huge economic benefit, so, anyway, I'll, I'll stop.


Board Member Comments:


Gretchen Driscoll reappears at the public microphone.  She found a Powerpoint describing the WALLY operating costs.  "It's one and a half million dollars annual operating cost net of fares.  And it's 4.3 million dollars capital.  I'll send this to you and it's going to have four stops, starting in Howell.  I just wanted to clarify that since the ten million dollar figure was mentioned..."

[Editor's note: I found a very different cost analysis here, in the 2013 update of the AATA powerpoint labled the Case for WALLY Commuter Rail.  Capital investment comes in at $41 million.  Annual operating costs were estimated at $7.1 million, only $2.1 million of which are paid for by ticket sales,  a projected fare box recovery ratio only 30%.]

Board Member Comments, continued


"Please vote no on the increase in the Michigan Sales tax.  We will be paying for it for the rest of our lives.  It's bad for everybody in the Township; we already pay enough."


The meeting was adjourned at about 8:30 P.M.


Click here to watch the Feb. 10th Meeting on Livestream

Click here to download the Feb. 10th Meeting Agenda

Click here to download the Feb. 10th Meeting Packet

Click here to download the Feb. 10th Meeting Minutes (draft)

The Agenda, Packet, and Minutes come from the Township website.   The Minutes may be revised by the Board and recording secretary at a subsequent board meeting, so until they are accepted by the board, they are marked "draft" and may change.