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Tuesday, August 3,2010

Kids in the Hall

City developments, public comment dominate City Council meeting

by Andy Balaskovitz
The majority of Tuesday’s Lansing City Council meeting didn’t feature the Council at all, but rather input from the public on today’s elections and local goings-on.

Joe Manzella, vice chairman and co-founder of Accelerate Lansing and manager of regional programs for Lansing Economic Area Partnership, kicked off Tuesday’s meeting by introducing two artists involved with the Deluxe Inn-turned-public-artwork-canvass. Manzella estimated between 1,000 and 2,000 people have stopped at the former motel since Saturday to check out the organized graffiti, though this will not last long. The Fire Department will start demolishing the site in “a week or two,” Manzella said.

Prior to public comments, the Council sent seven items into various committees and placed two reports on file.

Among the items sent to the Development and Planning Committee were referrals from Mayor Virg Bernero to approve the construction of a church adjacent to 815 W. Edgewood Blvd. by Antioch Full Gospel Baptist Church, a recommendation to rezone a former Parks and Recreation Department garage at 717 E. Shiawassee St. allowing Neogen Corp. to expand for “laboratories, warehousing, assembly, light manufacturing and offices,” and a resolution to turn the old Yellow Cab facility at 229 S. Cedar St. into a roughly 80-space, city-owned public parking lot.

Before the Ways and Means Committee is a resolution to change the way Lansing taxpayers donate their income-tax refunds. If approved, income tax forms will feature check-off boxes that designate portions of refunds to the H.O.P.E. Scholarship, the annual Silver Bells event, homeless assistance or a contribution to police overtime for “problem solving,” Jerry Ambrose, the mayor’s executive assistant, said.
Seven of the eight Council members were present. Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko was absent.

After a five-minute break, council moved into a Committee of the Whole meeting where it heard a presentation from Ambrose and Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski on the proposed 911-dispatch center.

The new center will consolidate the East Lansing and Lansing 911 dispatch services under one building at the corner of Jolly Road and Cedar Street in south Lansing to save the city money. The dispatch services will fall under sole management by Ingham County. Ambrose said the city could see up to $2 million in pension liability savings over the next 20 to 30 years.

However, a few Council members have concerns over the consolidation agreement, which they hope will be addressed before the measure is voted on at next Monday’s City Council meeting.

At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries wants to know where the backup facility will be. As the emergency dispatch currently operates, Lansing’s 911 dispatch backs up East Lansing’s in case of an emergency, and vice versa. Plans for the new backup center are “diligently being worked on,” Ambrose said.

When Ambrose expressed the possibility that the backup center could be located outside of Ingham County, Jeffries said he has “concerns about that.”

At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood requested documentation from all of the unions involved, such as the Fraternal Order of Police, that they are on board with the consolidation plans and transferring of union contracts. “That will impact my vote,” she said.

If the agreement passes at the next council meeting, Ambrose said the new facility can be expected to be up and running by late 2011. East Lansing City Council approved this agreement for the 911-dispatch consolidation at a July 27 work session.

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