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Three takeaways from the March 20 City Council meeting

March 21, 2018
The East Lansing City Council on Nov. 21, 2017 at the 54B District Court.
The East Lansing City Council on Nov. 21, 2017 at the 54B District Court. —
Photo by Carly Geraci | The State News

Here are three takeaways from the March 20 meeting of East Lansing City Council:

Citizen Engagement Survey results released

City manager George Lahanas presented council with the results of the second Citizen Engagement Survey to gauge public opinion on what the city should do to tackle its budget deficit. 

This second survey was filled out by attendees of the Feb. 22 budget discussion and was available online from Feb. 23 to March 4.

Similar to the previous results, this survey showed divided public opinion about how to best handle the city's growing unfunded pension obligation.

There were marked differences between the in-person and online voting results, potentially as a result of vastly different sample sizes — there were far more respondents during the online period than there were at the Feb. 22 discussion. 

For example, when asked which income tax option most supported, 53 percent of in person voters selected an unrestricted, indefinite income tax. Online, 51 percent of respondents voted for an income tax with both a specified purpose and a time limit. 

Officials present wide-ranging priorities for city's future

Lahanas also introduced his strategic priorities report for the next two years. The presentation broke the city's objectives into five categories: strong neighborhoods, vibrant economy, enhanced public assets, environmental sustainability and sustainable high-performing government.

Director of Planning, Building and Development Tim Dempsey, who presented the strong neighborhoods and vibrant economy sections, highlighted the Park District redevelopment project as one of the strategic priorities. He indicated Park District would likely be reminiscent of earlier downtown redevelopment projects.

"The development group is working on their concepts and coming back to the city hopefully soon," Dempsey said. "We'll see how that concept evolves or develops in the next few weeks."

Mayor Mark Meadows, in response to director of public works Scott House's presentation on environmental sustainability, voiced his support for exploring the costs and benefits of an expanded solar energy program.

The city's 2016 vote to grant a 10-year tax exemption to the developers of the MSU carports rather than the 25 sought by the company was controversial, but Meadows pointed to the Burcham Park solar installation as proof of the city's interest in solar energy.

"After we sort of got beat up about our reaction to the installation of solar on parking lots at MSU, every time I drive by, I think, 'We can do this on our parking lots,'" Meadows said.

Infrastructure projects moving forward

Two proposed projects to make major changes to Harrison and Alton Roads will receive public hearings at the April 10 council meeting.

Council is considering slimming Harrison Road down from four to three lanes between Michigan and Grand River Avenues. The city Transportation Commission recommended adding bike lanes as a part of the conversion at its meeting on Monday.

A hearing was also set for the April 10 meeting to hear from property owners along Alton Road, which will be facing its own street improvement project.

In a similar vein, a public hearing was held regarding construction of a sidewalk along Applegate Lane as a part of the city's North Hagadorn Road improvement project.

Project plans for both the North Hagadorn and Alton projects have been finalized and submitted to Michigan Department of Transportation, according to Steven Roach, staff liaison to the city Transportation Commission.


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