Friday, April 10, 2020

Downtown EL land sale, mental health services, more ballot initiatives pass in Michigan primary

March 12, 2020
A roll of stickers sits on a table during the election March 10, 2020.
A roll of stickers sits on a table during the election March 10, 2020. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

All six  ballot questions presented to East Lansing voters passed at the March 10 presidential primary election, according to final results.

Ingham Intermediate School District 

A ballot question proposed to voters in the Ingham Intermediate School District asked for additional millage from property taxes to increase funding for special education programs. The proposition passed with more than 50,000 voting “yes” and just under 20,000 “no” votes. The new tax money is estimated to raise about $2.3 million annually, and the policy will be in effect through 2039.

Ingham County trails and parks

Funding for Ingham County trails and parks was renewed at its current rate with 55,027 “yes” votes and 19,439 “no” votes. The passage will raise an estimated $3.8 million for recreational trails and adjacent parks in the first calendar year and is effective through 2026.

Ingham County Health Services

The Ingham County Health Services millage question, which provides health care and mental health services for low-income residents who aren’t eligible for Medicaid and don’t have medical insurance, passed with 56,348 “yes” votes and 16,681 “no” votes. An estimated $4.8 million will be raised in the first year under the new policy, which runs through 2023. 

Capital Area Transportation Authority

The Capital Area Transportation Authority Ballot Proposal passed with nearly three-quarters of respondents voting “yes”. The passage will renew the previous millage rate from 2021-2025 to fund CATA services. It is estimated to raise nearly $19 million in 2021.

Potter Park and potter park zoo

The ballot question increasing funding for Potter Park and Potter Park Zoo passed with 54,440 “yes” votes and 19,993 “no” votes. The policy is effective for six years through 2026.

Potter Park Zoo Executive Director Amy Morris-Hall said the zoo’s previous funding was enough to continue day to day operations, but upgrades are badly needed in the zoo, which turns 100 years old this year. 

Among improvements needed, the penguin pool needs major repair, the discovery center needs a new electrical heating and cooling system and the zoo pathways need to be redone, Morris-Hall said.

“The list could go on forever,” Morris-Hall said.

The overwhelming support for the passage could be due to goodwill won by some of the zoo’s outreach programs. 

Potter Park hosts a “falconers day” each month where it opens the zoo for free to people with disabilities and their families. 

Morris-Hall said she wasn’t sure if parts of the zoo would have to shut down had the ballot question didn’t pass, but that it would have slowed the zoo’s progress in the community.

MSUFCU land sale

The final ballot question approved the sale of city land at the northwest corner of the intersection of Albert Avenue and Abbot Road to Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, or MSUFCU, for $810,000. 

The proposal received 6,811 “yes” votes and 3,008 “no” votes. 

The land will be used to build a commercial office space, which MSUFCU believes will help retain Michigan State graduates and attract new talent to East Lansing. 

“We pay competitive wages and offer robust benefits,” MSUFCU Vice President of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities Erin Bowdell said. “Providing an opportunity for our employees to work downtown in East Lansing with nearby coffee shops, restaurants and MSU’s campus will help us attract and retain great talent here in East Lansing.”

The building is expected to be eight stories tall, with about 65 employees per office floor.

East Lansing Mayor Ruth Beier expressed support for the project at a discussion-only city council meeting prior to the election.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” Beier said. “When I started on council ... six years ago, I thought ‘Why can’t we get a nice office building downtown?’”

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