By Diane Madigan
Independent Special Writer
Van Buren Township Supervisor Linda Combs has agreed to lease her executive assistant Karen LaMothe to the Downtown Development Authority for 16 hours a week to help DDA Executive Director Susan Ireland with tasks she doesn’t like.
And, the DDA voted to accept the offer.
At the DDA’s regular meeting on May 27, Ireland explained that she received 12 responses to a job posting for a DDA coordinator’s position she placed with the Michigan Township Association, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Planning Association and the National Planning Association, but was not successful “in finding the right fit.”
Ireland said some were over-qualified and the nearest lives in Sterling Heights.
Ireland said she had conversations with Supervisor Combs and LaMothe, who also serves as the DDA’s recording secretary.
She said both agreed that, with the DDA’s approval, LaMothe could provide assistance for two days a week, until Ireland can find someone to “fit the bill.”
DDA Chairman Jere Dolph asked if Ireland would advertise again. Ireland replied she will wait a little, review the job description, and make changes, if needed.
Supervisor Combs added that this is short-term until Ireland is able to find a suitable person to fill the position.
Ireland said LaMothe loves the parts of the job that are “not fun” for her. She said LaMothe loves doing advertising and “stuff with computers.”
“It will short us a little bit, but we can make up for it,” Combs said. “Karin is very good at what she does in my office. She’s on top of things and I don’t think we’ll suffer too awfully much.”
The Independent asked if a recent township board-approved measure not to share services between departments will require this to go to the board for approval.
Ireland replied that the DDA is a separate entity.
“No,” said Combs. “It’s not changing her job classification and it’s not moving her job from one office to another.”
The board recently passed a resolution that an employee could not be employed by two separate departments in the township at the same time.
LaMothe explained her title is Executive Assistant to the Township Supervisor and Recording Secretary to the DDA. She said the DDA is presently reimbursing $10,222 of her salary.
The DDA voted to fill the DDA Coordinator position with LaMothe to assist Director Ireland with the DDA until a suitable replacement is hired. The amount of $190 for each eight hours will be reimbursed by the DDA in the salary wage line item of the Executive Assistant in the Supervisor’s Office.
[The Independent asked two trustees for comments after the meeting, but they said they were unaware of the situation and had no comments.] Regional detention pond
DDA member Robert Bechtel said he thought there was to be no digging on the Land Conservancy property and asked for clarification of the location and excavation proposed for a regional storm-water detention pond.
Engineer Dave Nummer of Wade Trim said there would be some excavation on the land owned by the Land Conservancy as a way to get the water from Belleville Road to the main pond area behind the RV business on the North I-94 Service Drive.
Nummer said Wade Trim walked the property and identified where the wetlands are located. The plan is to realign digging for the pipes to avoid impact on the wetlands.
Ireland thanked the Independent for a follow-up article correcting and explaining the proposed sites.
Later in the meeting Nummer reported that he met with members of the Drain Commissioner’s Office where they discussed legal issues and mechanics.
Nummer said the plan is for the township to act like a developer. The county gives the approval and when it is completed the county takes it over.
Nummer said he would like all the approvals to be completed so construction could start next spring.
Communication Associates has added a photo gallery to the DDA’s homepage at vanburendda.com. Members of the DDA, as well as LaMothe, will be meeting with CA’s new web techician to review website hits and data.
$2.5 Million Bonds
The sale of $2.5 million in new tax increment bonds is just about completed, Ireland reported. The average interest rate is 3.5% with the term to expire in 2032.
Proceeds from the bond sale will be used to help augment the Belleville Road signalization project, a new traffic signal just south of the southern entrance to Meijer, pedestrian crossings, ADA sidewalk improvements, and road repair.
She said, after the sale the DDA’s rating with Standard and Poors will drop from its current A+ rating to A-
Belleville Road fence
Planning consultants McKenna Associates reported that the Belleville Road fence should be completed soon. Additional dirt will be mounded to cover two stumps that are unable to be ground out.
Landscape architect Jim Allen reported he met with Wayne County about a break-away foam masonry wall that is planned for the southeast corner of the right of way of the Belleville/Ecorse roads intersection east of Stacks. After last winter, the planting plan was changed to reduce the amount of maintenance.
An irrigation plan for the entire median will be submitted at a June 9th meeting. Ireland brought up a concern about sprinkler heads needing to be replaced. Allen said the new sprinkler heads are 50% more efficient than they were two years ago.
There is also a new Wi-Fi controller system which uses Weather Underground to determine how much local rainfall has occurred and how much is needed to provide one inch per week. The program would cost an additional $600.
DDA member Bechtel stressed simplicity of design and durability of the plants because of where they are located and the kind of winter we just had. Allen agreed, saying with 55-mile-per-hour traffic and salt spray this needs to be considered.
The DDA approved the submission of landscaping design plans to Wayne County for review and to work separately on the break-away masonry wall for a possible easement from Stack’s.
Belleville Road resurfacing
Matt Stacey of Wade Trim engineers reported the concrete work on Belleville Road is ahead of schedule. Traffic will shift to the outer lanes and the setting of some poles will be started this week. All seven signals will be activated at the same time, possibly in July or August.
Bechtel asked that an update on the work be provided on the website.
The new traffic signal at Auto Zone will not be activated until the intersection roads are completed.
Stacey said because of actual closures to the freeway ramps for resurfacing, MDOT will put out weekly messages of closures that will be picked up by radio and TV stations.
North I-94 Service Drive sidewalk
Ireland reported that before the sale of Jacobs Boots & Saddle property on the North I-94 Service Drive and Quirk Roads, there was no easement for a sidewalk. Now that the sale is complete, she said she will work with the new owner of the property, who also owns the two motels next door and has given easements for those properties.
Belleville Road sidewalk
Engineer Nummer said he is working with Wayne County to figure out “at-grade and drainage” for the proposed Belleville Road sidewalk north of Tyler Road.
Belleville DDA letter
In discussing a letter from the Belleville DDA to VBT DDA chairman Dolph, Ireland said, “This item for me doesn’t reach the top of my priority list.”
Combs added, “Unless you all want to stand up and dress as scarecrows”
Ireland said she thought Belleville was looking for ideas and involvement and is not quite sure what it envisions.
Ireland was asked to speak with Carol Thompson, who is coordinator of the Belleville DDA. Thompson also is chairwoman of the VBT Planning Commission.
At its regular meeting in April, the Belleville DDA passed a motion to ask the VBT DDA to decorate Belleville Road from the Belleville Bridge north to continue Belleville’s Halloween/Harvest decorations for its Booville celebration throughout the month of October.
Widening Belleville Road
DDA member Ed Miller said he had been questioned by some homeowners so he asked about the status of widening Belleville Road from Ecorse Road to Tyler. Ireland said it would take a significant amount of work and cost a significant amount of money.
They would need to purchase 32 rights of way and in order to do that they would need to go through the Uniform Relocation Act.
Miller said the township puts up a sign to welcome people to the area, then puts them down to two lanes.
Bechtel said because of the real estate values being low, maybe the DDA should get re-involved.
Nummer said Wade Trim would work in conjunction of an appraiser. The appraiser comes in determines the square foot value. It doesn’t matter what the value of the home is, he said. They determine for a residential property what a square foot of land is worth.
If the “taking” is substantial enough to impact the use of the rest of the property you may have to take the entire property including the home, Nummer said. If you cannot come up with a mutual agreement between the owner and the township, the DDA can request the township do a condemnation.
It starts with doing a survey, generating an easement document. Drawings were completed a long time ago, Nummer said.
“Then we go through the process of communicating with property owners,” Nummer said. “The Uniform Relocation Act is skewed to the protection of the property owner.”
Bechtel asked Wade Trim to present a proposal to help with the right of ways. Nummer said the DDA has already authorized and Wade Trim has already completed legal descriptions and drawings needed for appraisals
The DDA approved a measure for Wade Trim to put together a proposal to determine the viability of the 32 easements needed to widen Belleville Road between Tyler and Ecorse.
Lane change at Ecorse?
Miller also suggested the DDA speak with Wayne County to change the right lane on southbound Belleville at Ecorse Road into a right-turn-only lane.
“I see it’s a problem and I’m sure there’s going to be an accident there,” Miller said. “We did Ecorse to get rid of all the people getting killed. Now we’ve got two lanes coming into one at Ecorse and it’s a race to get into one lane.”
Miller also asked about having Wayne County look at the timing on the lights at the Belleville/Ecorse intersection. He said if you’re traveling north only four cars can make it through on one light.
By Diane Madigan