Two new notes on the City Council’s decision to take the parks back from the Depot Town CDC

I don’t want to flog a dead horse, but, over the past few days, a couple of interesting comments have been left on this site pertaining to the City Council’s decision last year to take back management of Riverside and Frog Island parks from the Depot Town CDC, and I thought that they should be moved up here to the front page. [For those of you new to this, I’d suggest you start by reading my last post on this topic before venturing any further.] The first letter comes from Erik Dotzauer, the head of the Depot Town CDC. And, following it, is an email sent recently by City Council member Brian Robb to a reader of this site, in response to a comment that he had left here.

Here’s the comment from Erik Dotzauer:

I debated whether or not to comment to this post, but I wanted to clarify our position so that community members can make informed conclusions and we can learn from the past and progress as a collective people committed to improving Ypsilanti. I’m sorry for the length of this comment and any redundant points that I’ve made in previous conversations on this site.

Prior to the CDC’s involvement with the parks, some city officials had stated that they were considering closing down the parks, due to not having enough money in their budget to maintain the parks. With this news, the CDC started to organize a plan that began by hiring Mueller Landworks to create a conceptual site plan for the parks, which we planned to implement. We paid for this service out-of-pocket, which was over $20,000. Shortly after, the City and the CDC came to an agreement and committed to a contract that gave the CDC management of Riverside and Frog Island Parks.

I want to again stress that the CDC entered into this relationship because our first and foremost priority is to improve the quality of life in the community. Well-maintained parks benefit the community; more people will spend time in the parks and in Depot Town and will consequently spend money at our local businesses. In this way, Ypsilanti’s money circulates and helps out the local economy. A few people have suggested that the CDC took on this project to gain power, make money, and have control over the parks and therefore have free reign to hold events and festivals; this is not the case. The CDC took this opportunity as a way to reinvest in local projects while creating a healthier environment for Ypsilantians to live and play. In total, the parks produced roughly $5,000 in income for the CDC in 2009.

During the year that the CDC managed the parks, we spent approximately $42,000 on maintaining the parks and all that it encompasses, while only making $5,000 in return; I hope that this demonstrates that we had no financial incentive but rather took on the project to improve the community.

On a different note, we’ve heard that a few community members feel like they have not had an opportunity to give their input in the process. Prior to the CDC taking over the park operations, we held a series of community meetings to which we invited community members to attend. At these meetings, we presented our conceptual plans and welcomed individuals to ask questions, give their opinions, and become directly involved in the design process. Other people still question if a non-profit should even be in charge of a public space that is traditionally run by the City. In response to this, I would like to point out that Central Park in New York City is maintained by a non-profit organization. Moreover, Riverside and Frog Island Parks were neglected for over ten years and consequently became rundown and attracted undesirable activities. Since the management of the parks transferred from the City to the CDC, many improvements (including a new dock and gazebo) have been made.

I would like to reiterate that the CDC is a private non-profit organization in which we raise all our money through our own means; taxpayers do not fund our operations. The one instance when we received taxpayers’ money is when the DDA allocated $5,000 annually for a three-year period to the CDC. I would like to emphasize that our organization is not unique in this way; the DDA also allocated $10,000 to the Crossroads Festival and $5,000 to Dressed, an Ypsilanti fashion show, among others. The CDC’s long-term goal is to generate enough money through events such as The Jamboree and ElvisFest to be a self-sustaining entity.

Some months ago during a council meeting, the name “Ypsitucky” and the commotion it caused was discussed; the ensuing discussion resulted in our contract being terminated. We were not aware that our performance was even an issue and were not given the chance, much less asked to respond to the allegations made against us. I would therefore like to take the opportunity to address the concerns pertaining to the CDC’s performance in the parks, including trash removal, lawn care, and flooding. I first want to start off by humbly saying that I’m not perfect, the CDC is not perfect. We made mistakes and we most definitely learned from them.

The CDC had an agreement with the Washtenaw County Sheriff Community Service Department outlining that they would pick up trash and empty receptacles in the parks every Monday. On Memorial Day, the clean-up crew did not pick up the trash in the park; I assumed that this was due to the holiday. However, they did not come the following Monday either. At this point, I contacted the department and discovered that there was a change in leadership and that the clean-up duties had fallen through the cracks. Let me stress that the neglect only happened two Mondays and was corrected as soon as possible. On the same note, some have complained that the CDC allowed its dumpsters to overflow, especially after events. The dumpster is managed by the City, and as such, it has never been the CDC’s responsibility.

Others have commented that the parks’ lawn was not maintained. On the contrary, the CDC had the grass cut as often if not more than the City did when they managed the parks. When the CDC first took responsibility for the parks, we consulted with the City and found that the grass had been mowed fourteen to sixteen times annually; we not only upheld this standard but also had the lawn mowed a few additional times in preparation for events.

Lastly, we have heard complaints about the “lake” which was caused by Huron River’s flooding. Let me start off by saying that the pool of water that formed was due to an act of nature, which I obviously had no control over. The CDC paid to have the water pumped once, but it rained shortly after and the pool reformed. Later when the water dried up and fish were left stranded, the CDC hired people to pick up the fish.

We can only hope that the City has realized the cost-saving benefits that it reaped when the CDC managed the parks. Just because they did not make any employee cuts when they turned over management of the parks, does not mean that it does not take any money to maintain them. Even if the City did not necessarily save money, they did save time and resources as their employees could put their energy into other projects.

Let me reiterate that the purpose of this post is not to further fuel the controversy. Like you, I live in Ypsilanti and want to see our town thrive and our quality of living improve. My intent is simply to clarify the facts so that the public can draw its own conclusions about what has happened and how we can move forward as a community.

And, here’s the note from Councilman Brian Robb to a reader of this site who calls himself the Kingpin. As the letter was unsolicited, and the author didn’t ask for it to remain private, the recipient left it here on the site, in a comment:

Like a lot of things in Ypsilanti, it’s less about the issues than it is about the argument. The DTCDC fight has gone on for nearly eight months. Why? Because people want it to continue. Because it continues, Council can be compared to Hitler, or you can call me an asshole, or you can accuse me of lying and never have to prove your side of the argument. Isn’t that awesome?

You may not appreciate my sardonic comments, but Maynard’s blog isn’t my blog and I don’t have office hours there. If you are really concerned about issues, email me, call me, or meet with me. When I’m not at work and you can’t reach me by email or telephone, I’m either Downtown or in Depot Town. I’m hardly a person that is difficult to track down.

The DTCDC originally wanted to be involved in the Freighthouse. For a variety of reason unrelated to the City, that fell through. They then wanted to manage the Riverside and Frog Island Parks.
One of the more unfortunate things to come out of the City Income Tax debate was the threat to board up and close the parks. And people question whether or not there was fear-mongering going on in that election?

The DTCDC started to organize their plan to manage the parks. I met with Sandee and Gerry French on many occasions to discuss this. Prior to this, I always had a good relationship with Sandee (she supported me in my first campaign) and the DTA. Depot Town is obiviously in my Ward and I was willing to give this a try.

The hope in all of this was that the Parks Department could be reduced to one person if, in addition to purchasing some new equipment, we privatized the City’s two largest parks. If that could happen, we would save money.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

When the Ypsitucky thing rolled around, I met with Gerry and Candace (along with the Mayor) and told him if they went with the name, the name could overshadow the event and hurt it. When the issue started building up steam, a petition opposing the name was circulated. Three Council members signed that petition: Bodary, Nickels, Schreiber.

Bodary and Nickels brought a resolution to Council opposing the name and that’s where you got involved. If you recall, I never opposed the name. I never said that if they changed the name, they could manage the parks again. I was even the one Council member who paid for his own tickets to the event. I brought up the motion to cancel the contract because it obviously wasn’t working out. For any partnership to work, it needs to be collaborative and not antagonistic.

It’s true, we transfered $22K from the Clerk’s budget to the Parks budget. So? It wouldn’t surprise me if we transfered it back out to fund Parkridge and the Senior Center. Just because we transfer money into an account doesn’t mean that’s what stuff all of sudden costs. Prior to approving that budget, there had been talks about not spending enough money on parks. Maybe you don’t know this, but we spent $4K on 400 cu. yards of fall protection (i.e. engineered wood chips) for the playground equipment in Propsect Park. Just because Andy Clock says something 100 times doesn’t make it true.

Remember, the argument is more important than the issue.

So there are my facts. When you get some of your own, give me a call and we’ll hang out.

And, once again, for what it’s worth, I’m not seeking to drag this out in order to hurt anyone in City government. This isn’t about retribution, as at least one reader has suggested. The reason I’ve posted on this a few times now is relatively simple. We, the taxpayers of Ypsilanti, were told, when the parks were first signed over to the Depot Town CDC, that the City would save upwards of $20,000 per year as a result. Now, in this letter, Mr. Robb states that the savings never materialized. And I’m curious as to why not. Why didn’t City Council compel the Parks Department to make the cuts which had been agreed to? And, yes, I know there are bigger budget items than this, and I know that we’ve got more serious problems to face as a community, but something isn’t right here. And, while it may only be $20,000 a year that we’re talking about here, it would put us that much closer to keeping one of the fire fighters that’s currently on the slate to be laid-off in March.

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30 Comments

  1. Posted January 24, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    I know I said it at the beginning of the post, but do go back and read that last thread if you haven’t already.

    And, I know I’ve said it before, but, just to be clear, I’m not saying that the DTCDC did a stellar job of keeping up the parks. There might very well have been issues. I just think that they should have been given an opportunity to address concerns. The way it went down, without warning, and in the middle of the whole ridiculous “Ypsitucky” debate was just stupid.

    And it amazes me that some folks claim that the only reason this issue is still alive is because we (or I) love the drama of it. Believe me, I’d much rather be writing about something else. I derive no joy whatsoever from this kind of thing.

  2. Stephen R
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    All the pieces are starting to come together for me. Here’s what I’m hearing.

    1. Someone on City Council suggested that the parks may close if an income tax wasn’t passed.

    2. The DTCDC offered to take on the parks.

    3. City Council voted to do so, saying that we’d save at least $20,000 a year, and probably more.

    4. The DTCDC took care of the parks for approximately 8 month, when the City pulled the plug on the arrangement, saying vaguely that things weren’t working out. When pressed, they mentioned that there were complaints about the work being done by the DTCDC. They never, however, discussed this with the DTCDC, giving them an opportunity to improve.

    5. As the cancellation of the contract came, without much explanation, during the “Ypsitucky” debate, it looks like most people thought that the two things were connected, and that the contract was canceled solely because the DTCDC tried, against the wishes of the City Council, to call their big summer roots music concert the Ypsitucky Jamboree.

    6. Later, when pressed, Brian Robb says, ‘there weren’t cost savings for the city anyway.’

    7. No one can explain why money wasn’t saved during the DTCDC’s tenure, and why Parks and Rec wasn’t made to trim their budget accordingly. Furthermore, no one can explain how the upkeep of the parks will be paid for by the City from now on. In fact, it doesn’t sound like the City, even after all of this, knows how much it costs to run the parks.

  3. Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Stephen R, I think that is a pretty fair summation.

  4. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I’m going to say this one more time, and only because Brian calls me out by name in his letter: just because I say something 100 times does not mean it’s true; but the number I repeated “100 times” is the number quoted by the city for one year of park maintenance. If that is wrong, please tell us what is correct.

    And, like Mark, I’m not talking about this, or any other issue, because I want to drag anyone through the mud. I talk about it because it is an important issue and part of our troubled city budget; our biggest and most important issue. Brian, your name keeps coming up because you were the person who led the charge to remove the DTCDC in council, you were the one who gave the $22,000 number in council, and you are the one who claimed on this site that the city realized no savings during the parks contract. How and why is that slinging mud and calling names? If you want this all to go away, take care of it the old fashioned way: answer the questions, and do it here, where it was your comment that renewed the debate in the first place.

  5. Not From Ypsi
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    When I read this comment I had a thought.

    Like a lot of things in Ypsilanti, it’s less about the issues than it is about the argument. The DTCDC fight has gone on for nearly eight months. Why? Because people want it to continue. Because it continues, Council can be compared to Hitler, or you can call me an asshole, or you can accuse me of lying and never have to prove your side of the argument. Isn’t that awesome?

    And my thought was this.

    You’ve elected yourselves a douche.

  6. ClarkW
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    My eyes might be fooling me but not only are the bales of hay in front of obstacles in the sledding area, but I think the paint color on the building covering the graffiti is now matching (not the case in Prospect Park).

    Baby steps…

  7. Kim
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    This blog works miracles!

  8. Curt Waugh
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    This is fun:

    “I brought up the motion to cancel the contract because it obviously wasn’t working out.”

    Followed by:

    “So there are my facts.”

    Nope. A fact has a lot more, whadda ya call it… FACT in it. That there, sir, is an opinion. I think I’m starting to understand better what happened here.

    And the minute someone starts in with the whole “you’re just doing this because you like drama” thing, they pretty much conceded that they lost the argument, eh?

  9. Ypsiosaurus Wrecks
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Brian Robb, from what I’ve seen, is a Douche. Schreiber is a dull Gomer – and the rest of that ship of fools (city council) are an entrenched lot with little ability to get anything productive done…

    This dinosaur is heading for extinction.
    Down with Ypsi..!

  10. Andy C
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Ypsiosaurus Wrecks, very insightful! Your contribution to this discussion moves it forward by leaps and bounds. It reminds me of the helpful people at the movies who yell at the screen. Their comments are also insightful and a asset to the people around them.

  11. Leo
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you City of Ypsilanti DPW for putting up bales of hay and for painting the restrooms. Give some credit where credit is due.
    Now stop reading the blogs and get back to work.

  12. kingpin
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Ypsilanti DPW. Your hard work is appreciated. Just wanted you to know that.

    Andy C, if they did make a movie about the council, it would have to be yet another remake of “Inglorius Basterds”. Sometimes they go in that room…and you just have to shout at the heroes, “Don’t go in there!”…and *bam!* They get their parks cut off.

  13. Brackinald Achery
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I do love the drama of this thing, absolutely. It’s wonderful. But I’m pretty sure it’s a given that I don’t speak for everybody. Like, ever.

  14. kingpin
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Brackinald…everytime I see one of your posts, my mind pictures it being read by Brack, from Space Ghost. Thank you.

  15. Elf
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    So, when’s the next Council meeting?

  16. Brackinald Achery
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Actually, my name is kind of a play on words.

    Brack = salty
    ald = auld = old

    Achery = HRE = Holy Roman Emperor

    …obviously referring to Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor who built the Old Salt Route (or road).

    Otto = auto = autobot
    I = first = prime

    Put it all together, and the clues add up to Optimus Prime.

  17. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    The next council meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, February 2, 7pm. I’m not too sure what could be accomplished at a council meeting; no matter how many people speak on an issue, the response would come in the Mayor’s Remarks after the public comment session. I think the best we could hope for is having Mayor Schreiber ask Mr. Koryzno to put together some numbers and report at the next meeting, and then someone could post those numbers here. I’ll be honest, I’ve mentioned this issue in front of council so many times I wouldn’t be surprised if my words get tuned out. That’s not intended as a shot at council; I’ve just been talking about this a lot. I might ignore me at this point, too. So anyway, if anyone else wants to take a turn, I encourage it…

    I’m not going to lie; I am glad this issue is being talked about again. Not because I want to make anyone look bad, but because I think this whole thin was swept aside with Ypsitucky without any thought of the financial ramifications of the decision. No one wanted to talk about it then, but it looks a whole lot more important when we can’t afford fire and police protection. I just wish we didn’t have to wait until zero hour to examine these kind of financial decisions.

  18. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    A little bird told me that the CDC’s former head of park maintenance, Ernie, heard about Marks’s sledding accident and and grabbed a couple some hay bales he had arounnd and dropped them in front of the boxes in the park because it was the right thing to do; just like he did last year when he was working in the park. I don’t know if he put all of the hay bales there, but knowing the man, it is certainly the kind of thing he would do. Working in those parks was one of the joys of his semi retirement.

  19. Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I think that about sums it up, Stephen. Maybe a letter to the editor of A2.com is in order.

  20. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Are you volunteering, Mark? (and don’t forget to send a copy to the Ypsi Citizen…)

  21. Erik Dotzauer
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Hey Andy…. A bigger bird told me that Ernie didn’t put the bales of hay in the park. If I heard correctly, he put the cones out to mark the utility boxes. My guess is that the city put out the hay.

    With that said I’ll shamelessly take this opportunity to thank Ernie for everything he has done in the parks. I don’t think anyone in this city cares more about keeping those parks in good shape.

  22. FedUpwithYpsi
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Andy C – blogs should serve as a place to vent and possibly move a discussion forward.

    If you are concerned about productive discussions that move things forward I wouldn’t waste your time at any council meeting.

  23. kingpin
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    hey, check out what Ann Arbor is thinking about doing…

    http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-officials-consider-selling-parks-privatizing-huron-hills-golf-course-to-trim-city-budget/

  24. Peanut
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s awesome that Brian Robb said he doesn’t hold office hours here. He sure used to, when the topics where more to his liking.

    “I’ve kindly invited City Council — past and present — to attend. We’ll see who has guts and who doesn’t.”

    Precisely!

    P.S. Does Robb hold office hours at any blog anymore, even his own?

  25. Peanut
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Anybody remember the scrappy young fellow who said this?

    Mayor Schreiber issues his periodic “Mayor’s Update” emails, he could start a blog.

    We should all have blogs.

    Rather than take the time to organize all of these public meetings, we could begin this discussion online…

    Inspiring! That’s the type guy I’d elect to public office! Someone willing to hold office hours online! Brian Robb, you should find this guy and get him on your reelection committee!

  26. Old School
    Posted January 30, 2010 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Peanut,

    I’ll see your “classic Robb” and raise you:

    “I could have saved the City twenty grand if they had only listened to me. Instead, they are asking us to screw over the poor because council doesn’t have any ideas.”

    source: http://east-cross.com/?p=120

    Saving twenty grand used to mean something more than buying a political favor. Really sad thing is a vocal Robb could be providing some leadership at this point instead of becoming part of a larger system and retreating into a defensive shell. Winning really is losing, isn’t it? I worried about him the first time he soaked in those backstage passes. Seemed a little too happy about it. Minor league ballpark turns Burger King. What a loss.

  27. Posted January 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the investigative work, Peanut.

    (And you aren’t my friend Nina’s little dog Peanut, are you?)

  28. John on Forest
    Posted January 30, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Don’t listen to the people, just form your own opinions and ideas and then implement them when you can.

  29. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    City council is proposing tonight to level a 10% tax on total receipts of any ticketed festival in Frog Island and Riverside Parks, to pay for capital improvements. That’s not just 10% of ticket sales, but 10% of anything; beer, merch, ticktes, you name it. The Beer Fest and Jamboree have already come out and said that this is a deal breaker, and will move to another location if this passes, and it looks like Ton-Up is considering the same. As far as I know, the Camaro/VW/Orphan/ect cars shows don’t know about this yet but I can’t imagine they could afford this either. Please come out tonight, or at least write or call council to express your displeasure with this action.

    It also strikes me that this pretty much proves Brian Robb lied when he said the city had plenty of money to pay for the parks. It looks more and more like his proposal to remove the DTCDC contract was less in the interest of the City of Ypsilanti and more in the interest of his personal politics

  30. Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Classic.

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