The Ypsilanti Garbage Report… Chapter Two: The DDA Responds

Last night, I vented online about the trash situation in downtown Ypsi, and, quite rightly, I was called out for it by Downtown Development Authority Treasurer Adam Gainsley, who asked in a comment why I hadn’t reached out to anyone at the DDA for their side of the story. Following, with his consent, is our subsequent conversation.

garbagegate

MARK: So, Adam, if you’re up for it, let’s start at the beginning… The rules regarding use of the downtown dumpsters managed by the DDA just recently changed, correct?

ADAM: Correct. Until recently, access to the dumpsters was essentially free and unrestricted. There were locks on the enclosures, but they were rarely locked, and the keys that opened them were shared pretty freely from what I understand. Starting last month, though, the traditional locks were replaced with keypad locks. Business and building owners can get access codes by signing an agreement with the DDA to pay for the use of the dumpsters. To get started, all people need to do is contact DDA Director Joe Meyers. His phone number and email address are on our contact page.

That’s really all that has changed. The dumpsters in question are still 100% available for use.

MARK: So trash is still being picked up like it had been in the past. It’s just that people now need to pay, and some aren’t…

ADAM: Yes. Pickup service has not been interrupted. In fact, in June of this year, we just renewed the contract through June of 2017. So everything is the same. The DDA is managing the service contract for the dumpsters and looking after the enclosures, monitoring for oversized objects and anything else that requires immediate attention.

MARK: On the subject of those who have opted not to pay the DDA for dumpster access, some of our larger downtown landlords have apparently told their tenants to start leaving their garbage at the curb instead of paying the fee, correct?

ADAM: Yes. From your article, and the comments folks have left on Facebook, it sounds like tenants near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington have been instructed to put their trash in cans either next to their building or at the curb. Given that our outreach efforts were quite thorough, I’m operating on the assumption that this was an intentional decision on the landlord’s part, and didn’t just happen as a result of a lack of information. (I would be happy to find out I’m wrong on this point though.) Other than that, I don’t know that we can categorize all large downtown landlords as having opted to take this route. In my conversations with landlords, most have agreed that putting trash on the curbs is generally bad for everyone involved, and agree that paying for trash service is more desirable.

MARK: So some downtown landlords are paying so that that their tenants have access to the dumpsters?

ADAM: That’s correct. Seven residential units have signed up… and, as far as I know, they were all signed up by the landlord, as opposed to the tenant.

MARK: Am I right to assume that this is perfectly legal on the part of these landlords who have chosen to opt out, or is there an ordinance against putting one’s garbage on the curb in areas zoned for business?

ADAM: My understanding is this it’s legal, but it’s limited to a certain number of bags and certain timing, meaning that bags can only be put out so far in advance of pickup.

MARK: So, going back a moment, what instigated this DDA policy change? Why is the DDA no longer just picking up the tab for local businesses and residents to use what had, up until now, been communal dumpsters?

ADAM: The short answer is the usual one: Money.

When I joined the DDA in late 2013, our overall budget was pretty heavily in the red. We had been eating into our reserves for a couple years at that point, and, if we didn’t shape up quickly, we were going to run out of money altogether.

We reduced our grant programs, reduced the amount we spent on streetscaping and planters, and, in general, cut back or ended programs across the board. In the Michigan Avenue district, we were still solidly in the red after more than a year of nothing but reductions. So, starting in late 2014, and continuing into early 2015, the board decided to implement a voluntary fee system for garbage collection. We reached out to stakeholders, and, not surprisingly, uptake was minimal. I believe the contributions we received covered less than 5% of the costs associated with maintaining and servicing the dumpsters, which are about $22,000 a year.

Starting in late 2015, and going into early 2016, taking into consideration the fact that our budget decreased approximately $60,000 per year as a result of our our revenue sharing contract with the City [we agreed to pay for certain expenses that that City had previously paid for], there was no amount of cutting we could do and stay above water while continuing to pay for the dumpster service. At this point we decided to implement a mandatory fee for the use of the dumpsters.

I should also point out that, over the years, some board members have expressed the opinion that we shouldn’t be involved with dumpsters at all. And, for what it’s worth, I agreed with this position initially. As we’ve discussed the transition to a fee-based model, though, and engaged with the business community, it’s become abundantly clear that local stakeholders feel as though we should continue to have this as a priority. So, while we can’t support it financially, we can, and will, continue to manage and organize the dumpsters and service.

MARK: As I understand it, from our earlier email exchange, this wasn’t something that was just decided by the DDA in isolation, correct? I mean, there was a process that you went through before deciding to change the system, right? Can you describe that process, and tell us who was involved in those conversations?

ADAM: Correct. I’d estimate that we’ve talked about the dumpsters and trash collection at more than half of the board and committee meetings I’ve attended since joining the DDA three years ago. My understanding is that the modern incarnation of this discussion dates back to 2011, when the board began to recognize the strain this was putting on our budget.

And, at each stage in this progression, we’ve made an effort to reach building and business owners in the areas that use the dumpsters. Most recently, as we began transitioning to mandatory fees, we sent a letter to all the building owners in the district. Additionally, staff took copies of that letter directly to the businesses and spoke to any managers and owners who were available. We also had the dumpsters on the agenda for most of our board meetings, and even added it to a couple of agendas at the request of certain business owners so they would have a chance to speak. Then, in April of this year, I chaired a special meeting devoted entirely to this topic. We had around 20 business owners and operators attend.

Finally, in May, we had a public, ad-hoc committee meeting. I missed it, but it was attended by: Dave Heikkinen (Heikks Decorated Apparel), Karen Maurer (Maurer Management), Brian Brinkley (Tap Room), Patrick Williams (Corner Health), Eli Morrissey (The Rocket) and John Cool (Red Rock). The notes from that meeting state that those present indicated that they wanted the DDA to tell them what they should pay. At that meeting Karen Mauer indicated that she would not pay for service.

MARK: OK, before we go forward any further, I should probably ask if you think the current situation is acceptable? Do you think that downtown renters should be putting their garbage on the curb, in front of local businesses? I mean, we can agree that’s not optimal, right?

ADAM: I am very much against putting trash on curbs in our commercial districts. Enclosed dumpsters are the appropriate place for trash in these areas. I don’t want to see trash on the curbs as a citizen, as I walk through the district almost every day. Also, as a former restaurant manager, I know it’s a bad move to have garbage, especially restaurant garbage, visible where people are eating. And, as a DDA board member, I’m against it because our goal is to maintain a clean, safe, vibrant commercial district. This is why we made absolutely sure not to actually interrupt service. This is also why the board capitulated when business owners told us that we needed to continue to provide this service. Unfortunately we are simply unable to capitulate with regard to paying for the service.

MARK: OK, let’s talk about the costs that have been quoted. What has the DDA told our downtown business owners and landlords? As I mentioned in my post, I’d heard from one downtown building owner that he and another landlord had been quoted a price of $975 per month for their tenants to access the existing downtown dumpsters. Is this correct?

ADAM: The thinking behind the rates was based on covering our costs only. We are making no effort to profit from this. From my understanding we end up being significantly cheaper than any of the privately or individually maintained dumpsters around town.

As I write this, our staff just added the agreement and fee schedule to our website. You’ll find it at the bottom of this page.

Here, though, are the *monthly* fees:

$125 per restaurant
$50 per commercial-non-restaurant-business
$25 per residential unit

So the $975 per month fee that you cited is possible with some combination of these, but certainly not for any single unit or business. And I’ll repeat here, the fee schedule and agreement are now up on our website for anyone who would like to look.

MARK: Just so I’m clear on this, we also pay for garbage collection through our taxes, correct? Don’t all property owners in the City pay 2.8 mils for trash collection?

ADAM: This is correct. However my understanding is that the 2.8 mils don’t come close to covering the costs associated with the City’s curbside trash pickup. Those numbers are part of the City’s budget, which I’m less familiar with than the DDA’s budget, so I would defer to members of City Council, the Mayor, or City staff on that point. As a TIF collecting body, we do capture a piece of that millage as well, though. I believe the DDA’s share is less than $2,000 annually, which is just a fraction of what the downtown dumpsters cost.

MARK: This downtown building owner that I spoke with said that he’d reached out to Waste Management directly and received a quote for a new dumpster. To have a private dumpster for his tenants, he said, would cost $120 a month. I have no idea what size dumpster he requested a quote for, or whether it would be sufficient to service all of the units he manages, but, on the face of it, it seems like something’s amiss… How much is the DDA currently paying for downtown dumpster service? How many dumpsters do we have? And how frequently are they emptied?

ADAM: The total cost of the dumpsters, which includes pickup and maintenance, is approximately $22,000 per year. There are seven dumpsters total and they are picked up twice per week. For a private dumpster, in addition to the monthly cost of pickup service, there would also be costs around installation. These full-size dumpsters and enclosures cost around $10,000 to install. Other ongoing costs include maintenance, which in turn includes dealing with illicit dumping. Not a month goes by where there isn’t a couch or some other oversize object placed in one of our dumpsters, in fact today there is a mattress and boxspring leaned up against the outside of the enclosure. Each such removal costs $250, so that adds up very quickly. We’re hopeful, by the way, that having properly locked enclosures reduces this particular cost.

A quick back of the napkin calculation based on $120 per month for one dumpster pickup gives me:

$120 per month * 12 months * 7 dumpsters * 2 pickups per week = $20,160 a year

So I don’t think our total costs, including maintenance and the removal of large items, coming in close to $22,000 are unreasonable.

MARK: Given space constraints, the landlords are claiming that, even if they wanted to get their own dumpsters, they wouldn’t have anywhere to put them. Furthermore, they’re claiming that the City is insisting that, if they do get dumpsters of their own, they’d have to build enclosures around them, which, according to them, would cost about $8,500. Given this, what would you say to the idea of allowing our downtown landlords to place their own dumpsters inside the existing enclosures? Might that be a solution that all parties could live with?

ADAM: This is my understanding as well, though I think the $8,500 estimate is probably a little low. As for adding dumpsters, I don’t know that it makes sense, given that we already have dumpsters available that are more than adequate for our current use. I think, when you factor in the additional costs of actually maintaining a dumpster and enclosure, our fees will end up being lower than anyone can possibly expect to pay… I don’t see adding more dumpsters as a good outcome here. There are enough dumpsters to cover demand.

As for allowing landlords to maintain their own dumpsters within the existing enclosures I would not consider that option off the table. There are two reasons I wouldn’t put that forward as a better solution to our current arrangement.

One is that there doesn’t seem to be desire among business owners to manage their own dumpsters. Understandably, business owners would rather just have this distraction taken care of.

The second is that there isn’t enough room to support individual dumpsters for each business. So there would have to be sharing and coordination of contracts, payments and maintenance. It’s not impossible, but centralizing this effort with the DDA results in less headache for business owners and hopefully in the long run lower costs.

MARK: OK, so what are our options going forward? How can the DDA and the downtown landlords work this out?

ADAM: Right now, there are two and a half options that I am aware of for business owners. They are legally allowed to put their trash on the curbs right in front of their business (within limits on quantity and timing set out by City code). That’s one option. The other option is that they can pay to use enclosed dumpsters behind their businesses. The other half option is to try to install and use their own dumpsters. I call this a half option because I don’t think it’s very realistic, and my understanding is the costs would be prohibitive when taking into account pickup service, installation costs, and maintenance. Also, as you mention, this would require cooperation from the City, and I think generally they’re not going to support installing more/redundant dumpsters.

For now the things that DDA can provide are full management and maintenance of the dumpsters and related contracts. In addition, we can continue outreach to make sure no one is left without knowing how to get access to the dumpsters. Finally, I don’t think this will be the case, but if we do prove that our fees are outrageous based on costs for comparable dumpsters and service I for one will be open to revisiting our fee schedule.For what it’s worth, I just confirmed with Jessica French that they paid $450 last month for their service at Sidetrack. Granted, they’re one of the higher volume restaurants in Ypsilanti, but I still think this is an indication that our fees are reasonable.

My hope is that our business community will understand that in the past they have been receiving more service than they have been paying for. While this is great when we can afford it that just isn’t the case anymore. I know it’s a bitter pill to swallow but the hard truth is that this is a service we can no longer afford to provide.

MARK: OK, let me know if I’ve got the math right here… The DDA manages three downtown dumpster enclosures (on Adams, North Hamilton and South Hamilton) with a total of seven dumpsters. The annual cost of maintaining these dumpsters, and dumping them each twice weekly is $22,000, if we don’t count the costs associated with taking care of larger items that are illegally dumped. And the DDA is only looking to recoup those costs, charging local restaurants $1,800 a year and the owners of residential units $300 a year. Do I have that right?

ADAM: You’ve basically got it. The $22,000 number does include large item removal as well as maintenance, though. I don’t have the actual breakdown, but the contract fees are approximately $18,000. Additionally each request to remove a large item costs $250, and we average about two of these requests per month.

MARK: Do we know how many apartment units and businesses we have in the vicinity of these dumpsters, and what percentage of them have already signed on to participate in this new fee-based garbage service managed by the DDA? Are we close to having the half a dozen restaurants and 40-some apartment units we need to cover the DDA’s expense of $22,000 a year?

ADAM: I don’t have the total numbers in front of me. I do know that, when we look at that number, we only take into consideration the buildings adjacent to the parking lots with dumpsters the DDA manages. So, for example, we don’t include Abe’s or Haabs because they have their own dumpsters on their respective blocks.

As of today we have the following number of participants signed up:

6 restaurants
10 businesses
7 residential units

So we’re on track to recoup $925 per month. Ignoring other costs for now, our dumpster contract alone costs us $1,500 per month. So we’re off to a reasonably good start, but we need to get as many owners on board as possible. Further, we will be reviewing these fees annually and if we are more than covering our costs we’ll reduce fees. So the more folks that get on board, the lower everyone’s costs will be.

MARK: You mentioned that some landlords were already on board. Does this really just come down to Stewart Beal and Karen Maurer refusing to participate?

ADAM: I don’t know who has or hasn’t signed on. I know neither of them are happy with this development, though, and I understand and appreciate their frustration. I don’t know specifically whether they have or have not signed on, nor am sure it will be appropriate for me to pass that along when I do know.

MARK: I’m just trying to get a sense of how bad this issue really is, and whether or not it all really comes down to just a couple of our biggest downtown landlords, who between them operate several dozen units in close proximity to these dumpsters.

ADAM: I think a healthy portion of business owners so far see that working with us is much more beneficial than going it alone. And, as time goes on, I’m hopeful that we will continue to build momentum so that we can make this as frictionless and low cost as possible. Ultimately I think we can make this a good deal even for the larger property owners who would be receiving discounts based on their scale. We all have the same goal of a clean downtown. I’m confident that we’re putting together the best way to achieve that within our means.

MARK: Earlier today on social media, in response to my post last night, you attributed the garbage problem to “landlords lashing out because they are no longer being provided free trash service.” If that’s the case, do you foresee any opportunity for compromise? Do you think they’ll be happy with anything more than free?

ADAM: I don’t know that the DDA has much more it can provide toward a compromise. Not because we are unwilling, but because we are unable. The resources we have essentially boil down to two things. Our money and our staff’s time. The only benefit our staff can provide here is taking on the responsibility of managing the dumpsters and the related contracts, which is already happening. In terms of money, we are already very much overextended.

I don’t mean to be obstinate here, but we’re already putting as much of our resources into this as we possibly can. So, in the end, I would recharacterize this current solution as the compromise. When we set out, there were two ends to the spectrum. On one end, it was argued that the DDA should completely divest of their involvement in dumpsters altogether. And, on the other end, people were arguing that the DDA should continue to fully pay for the dumpsters. This is where our conversation started. And neither end of that spectrum is workable permanently. So the DDA is offering as much as it can: ongoing management of the dumpster contracts and maintenance. And, in return, we’re asking for what we cannot provide: the money to pay for the dumpster service.

Further, I don’t expect we’ll cover 100% of costs with the fees that we’re charging. And, as I said earlier, I’m committed to not making a profit off this. So this isn’t some money grab, and the goal here is not to free up money for other expenditures. The goal here is to keep these dumpsters available and in use.

MARK: One last thing, speaking of other uses for DDA funds. It’s been suggested by some that this is happening because the City recently took over the management of the DDA in order to access the organization’s revenue stream, which comes directly from the incremental tax increase we’ve seen in the DDA district since 1983, when the district was established. According to these folks, the City wanted that money for other things, took over the DDA, and began reallocating dollars away from critical services, like garbage collection. Do you see how people might think this is the case?

ADAM: I do see how people can think this, but it’s not accurate. The City has no control over the DDA’s budget or any other decision making. The agreement that diverted some DDA revenue back to the City was agreed upon by both the City and the DDA, and is the result of both parties recognizing just how drastically tight money is in our City. While the City and DDA do communicate and listen to one another, we are distinct decision making bodies. Members of City staff do also function as DDA staff, but they’re not involved in decision making. To date this has been a solidly positive development for the DDA. Our outreach efforts have improved drastically, our budget organization is improving, and, in general, we’ve become a more organized and effective body. In fact, I would not have considered the ongoing management of the dumpsters feasible until the City staff took over management of the DDA.

MARK: Earlier you mentioned that the DDA budget has shrunk because of a deal you’ve entered into with the City, under which the DDA contributes $60,000 annually to the City, and the City, in turn, does a number of things that the DDA had done in the past. Do I have that right?

ADAM: This is correct. The net change in revenue for the DDA was approximately -$60,000. (Again, I don’t have exact numbers in front of me. I just working from memory here.)

MARK: Can you tell us specifically what the City does for that $60,000?

ADAM: The downtown police officer’s salary, and pedestrian trash removal (the green trash cans on sidewalks) are the two line items highlighted in the agreement between the City and DDA.

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33 Comments

  1. Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t want to put it in the post itself, but I don’t understand the logic behind the Maurer’s resistance in participating… I get the fact that they’re saving themselves some money, but it seems as though they’re just making things harder for themselves by running the risk of pissing off their downstairs tenants. The photo above was taken just few feet away from the outdoor tables at Bona Sera, at the corner of North Washington and Michigan Avenue, and they also rent from the Maurers. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re closed on Mondays, when people put out their trash, but they can’t appreciate that their landlord is encouraging the upstairs tenants to pile their bags full of dirty diapers and rotting food right next to their sidewalk tables.

    The same goes for Beal, who, if I’m not mistaken, is managing the building that Go Ice Cream just opened in.

    Everything in this little ecosystem of ours is connected. And these same people who are encouraging their tenants to leave their garbage on the curb are also renting to people in the retail spaces below them… Maybe I’m overthinking it, but it just seems very shortsighted to me. But, then again, I’m not a successful landlord.

  2. Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Also, I know that Adam pushed back when I mentioned that some in the community felt as though DDA funds were being diverted to pay other City expenses, but I can certainly see why people would think that, given that, for instance, the DDA has taken on, among other things, the expense of a downtown police officer, while transitioning to a pay-for-use system for garbage collection. I know that these decisions aren’t easy, and I can see why an officer might be deemed more valuable to the downtown business community than free garbage service, so it’s not a fight that I’m looking to get involved in, but I can see how some are upset. And I do find it ironic that some of those who are most upset about these decisions that are being made also voted against the most recent millage, which would have eased the financial pressure on the City considerably, making moves like this less likely.

  3. Adam Gainsley
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    The police officer salary was part of the revenue loss that came about as part of our intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the city.

    While I don’t want to rehash the whole story here the short version is that a group of councilors garnered enough support that they would have been able to block renewal of the Depot Town TIF. In order to renew the TIF, they said, they need to a portion of the revenue that we capture back. After several months of back and forth we agreed to pay the city $100k per year but that they would earmark that money for a couple particular things. The biggest line item in that agreement was the salary for a police officer dedicated to the districts.

    So this wasn’t exactly prioritizing a police officer over trash service. This was first, us making a deal with the city to ensure that we not only continue to have revenue but also the revenue that goes back to the city pays for things that still benefit the DDA districts. Then later, in part due to the IGA with the city but also due to revenue declines going back several years and essentially flat revenue more recently, we had to cut expenditures across the board.

    I would have preferred to renew the TIF untouched, but I don’t think that would have happened without the IGA.

  4. Paul Schreiber
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Mark and Adam for an outstanding piece on the machinations of the YDDA and trash removal.

  5. Jcp2
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    I think the nonparticipating landlords have a different business plan than maximizing rental income. They might have large cash reserves or not be highly leveraged into the property so a sub maximum occupancy still pays the annual maintenance. They may be taking a chance that in the long term (think decades) the value of the properties will increase substantially because of the proximity to Ann Arbor, a strong economic engine, and the exit plan for the property is a sale for substantial profit. That’s the mark of a successful entrepreneur, rather than a small business owner. In Ann Arbor, there was a lot angst over an out of town ophthalmologist buying up large blocks of property in the past few years for a lot of money. But it takes two to make a sale. Many of those properties were purchased at a time when Ann Arbor was a cheap sleepy college town, and those sellers were counting on the buildings sale value to retire on. In this scenario, it actually benefits these landlords in the long run if you were to improve Landline substantially, but then have to sell it at a relative investment loss because the business climate went through a down cycle in the relative short term, so they could buy it on the cheap.

  6. Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Let the free market work its magik.

  7. EOS
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    “This was first, us making a deal with the city to ensure that we not only continue to have revenue but also the revenue that goes back to the city pays for things that still benefit the DDA districts.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if every taxpayer could make a deal to ensure their tax dollars would only pay for things that benefit them personally. In most cities, tax revenue from businesses make up the bulk of the general fund and pay the majority of police, fire, roads, etc.

  8. Dan Blakeney
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Mark. I appreciate the journalism. Its great to read your notes and accounts (which strike me as fair, and complete) of your conversations with our community actors. Thanks!

  9. Posted August 5, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    In most cities, tax revenue from businesses make up the bulk of the general fund

    Which cities are those? Looking at the summary from the county’s equalization department, residential properties make up more of the tax base in every single township, village, and city in Washtenaw County than commercial/industrial/ag properties.

    (Maybe you’re looking at the extra mills paid by non-homestead properties? But that goes to school funding, not police/fire/roads.)

  10. Posted August 5, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Oops, meant to include a link: http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/equalization/2016-washtenaw-county-taxable-summary

  11. Anonymous
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    How can you argue that this change doesn’t have anything to do with the city’s budget when DDA funds that once paid for garbage collection are now being used to play for public safety?

  12. Kim
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    How many downtown residential units do the Mauers operate?

  13. bee roll
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I’m absolutely on board as a contributor; it was a bit of bummer to get hit with a quarterly cost upfront; it’d be easier to swallow on a monthly basis, but I get it. I had not anticipated that the tenant garbage would be such a disaster. As a friend mentioned, I guess we wouldn’t like New York much, given their municipal garbage… but we’re not New York and anything we can do to keep ypsi looking beautiful and morning oriented [hi thriving breakfast spot! what is more appetizing than overflowing garbage cans!] seems like a solid move.

  14. Eel
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Sounds like we need an intervention with Karen Maurer.

  15. M
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I can see the other side of it too. What landlord would want to pay $25 a month per apartment for something that they can get for free by leaving their trashcans on the curb, especially when they’re operating a few dozen units? Perhaps each building could be assessed individually, so that there’s a discount built in. As the big problem seems to be the building at North Washington and Washtenaw, which probably has about 30 apartments in it, why not just set a rate like $300 a month? It would help get the DDA closer to break even, and it would take care of the garbage problem. I don’t know what the number should be, but the objective should be to get everyone to buy in, and get the prices as low as possible.

  16. EOS
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    @Murph,

    You are right. My statement was wrong. I stand corrected. Here’s what was reported on MLive for statewide property taxes:

    “More than two-thirds of Michigan property tax revenues comes from residential property.

    In 2014, 69 percent of property taxes paid statewide came from residential owners, 14 percent from owners of commercial property, 6 percent from industrial property, and less than 3 percent from agricultural. Another 8 percent came from personal property, which is equipment and furnishings in commercial and industrial facilities.”

    Only 28% of the property taxes paid to local municipalities in Michigan comes from business.

    Do you know what percentage of the total business tax paid in Ypsilanti is diverted to DDA’s or TIFF’s or some similar program and therefore not added to the general fund?

  17. Rat
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Watch out or Karen will threaten to punch you in the throat.

  18. Posted August 6, 2016 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Paying for services on the backs of tax payers!!!!??

    UNBELIEVABLE!!! That’s un-American!

  19. Dave Heikkinen
    Posted August 6, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    It will take much more time that I have tonight but… at their very inception the dumpster enclosures were controversial. Many did not want them because of the cost of roughly TEN parking spots per enclosure. But the DDA director got a grant and was hell-bent on forcing these on the businesses without any coherent plan on managing them whatsoever from Day One, Depot Town was also given the opportunity to have an enclosure but they could not reach an agreement on where to put one so they declined.

    Also note that the keypads have NEVER worked until just recently and that is because until just recently there was never a coherent plan, not that I agree with the present plan, but there was no plan.

    I proposed by letter a few plans that we never even discussed. Instead, there was no management by the DDA except that when too much garbage or crazy items ended up on the pad, the DDA Director would just call for a clean up at I think it was $250 each time… again without any plans in place. It was a disaster except that related businesses got in the habit of actually using them instead of putting recycled items or garbage on the street on collection days, which was the original intent. It was convenient, it looked better but it did cost the DDA some dollars.

    When Kevin Hill was the DDA Chair, I worked with him on a plan to entice people to help pay and that included adding cameras for safety as well as covering a bigger piece of the collection fees. But DDA Director and some others got all whacked out about cameras, but they don’t have businesses here in the Downtown and don’t really know what goes on in our parking lots and even the dumpster enclosures, so by packaging cameras to help with security and garbage collection the goal was to get people to pay. But again, poor DDA management just blew this all up.

    If a DDA Director doesn’t want to do something, it is amazing how many things can impede progress.

    Also note coincident to this, the DDA was terrible at managing money, spending over $100K of just under $400 K on staff costs, a staff that did not bring in one single grant other than what was arranged through Eastern Leaders, So the cash burn was out of bounds, the DDA Director effectively being paid out of reserves. It was all just a mess.

    Next new DDA Leadership came in and for the good, they were focused on better budget management, but the hole was deep and then the City waggled a way to take money back for whatever it is, a list yet to be understood.

    Now Depot Town reps have always been fixated on the free use of these enclosures and with Depot Town Reps back in charge of the DDA, is was actually stated that having free dumpster pickup in the Downtown was a “competitive advantage. It was unbelievable coming from a business district that has totally free parking and that isn’t considered a competitive advantage. Anyway, several proposals were made, numbers were acquired and a few meetings had with businesses BUT the DDA was insistent on doing what they did, a DDA with NO MAJOR Downtown business owner on its Board. The sanitation millage is 2.7814 percent and I have charts from a City rep. The Downtown portion of the DDA will collect $11,901 in 16-17 from this millage, the Depot Town portion is $5140 and Cross Street is just $332. So the DDA collects over $17K from the sanitation millage, which would cover a pretty portion of what it costs. But the City and the DDA are using these dollars for something else. Is that right????

    Also note that the City has a sanitation contract will allows for single users to put out 1 bulky item and three trash bags each week, and multiple units get 3 bulky items and 9 trash bags. Even more interesting as I have observed is that the sanitation truck that collects our garbage, is a dumpster truck with an empty dumpster on the front to throw trash into. So the suggestion was made to have this truck, which is already dumpster capable, simple empty the dumpsters in the enclosure instead of having 20-30-50-60 extra stops now. Well this suggestion was greeted with rolled eyes and no effort whatsoever to investigate.

    So now we are where we are. 6 restaurants pay and they get a really good deal, 10 businesses pay and 6 residences pay. The rest of us are simply doing what we are allowed to, putting our garbage out now on either Wednesday morning or Thursday mornings, all completely legit and basically how it used to be. Meanwhile the ten wasted parking spots times three are being scantly used and people are now just dumping items over the enclosure. It is really a very sad story but at least the competitive advantage is no longer there for Downtown businesses.

    I am not proof reading this so I apologize for typos but I think you get the story. It is basically a cluster #$%& as is the entire DDA right now which has no money left and a very weak slate of established businesses on the Board. And once again, the Depot Town tail controls the DDA dog as they believe is their right. The DDA could close tomorrow and NO ONE in the Downtown would care.

    Let me add that if I was a building owner and paid taxes that the DDA captured, I would be more than irritated over the gross mismanagement of this organization.

  20. Janette Rook
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    This whole thing is ridiculous. After just 3.5 years in business I’m already so tired of this artificial, distracting spat between Depot Town & Downtown. I propose a muddy pit tug of war. The winner takes all the dumpsters for free, infinity. Linda French & I will donate tshirts “DDA Death Roll 2016”

  21. Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    EOS —

    Do you know what percentage of the total business tax paid in Ypsilanti is diverted to DDA’s or TIFF’s or some similar program and therefore not added to the general fund?

    Interesting question. I don’t, but we can figure it out. When you’re talking about “business tax”, I assume you mean property tax paid by non-residential properties? Because anything else (sales tax, MBT, etc) goes to the state, and wouldn’t be affected by the DDA or other TIF.

    If I’m reading that linked county document right, looks like City of Ypsi has a total taxable value from non-“Residential” sources of $103,337,442; the YDDA is included further down the page and has a non-“Residential” taxable value of $19,533,225. Far as I know, there aren’t any active TIF districts in the city other than the DDA, so the YDDA TIF incorporates about 18.9%of the city’s non-residential taxable value. (About 6.6% of the city’s total taxable value.)

    For comparison, looks like Milan DDA incorporates about 16.5% of that city’s non-res taxable value, and Chelsea’s about 21.4%; those cities may have other TIFAs as well. Ann Arbor DDA isn’t listed for some reason.

  22. EOS
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    @ Murph,

    I’m trying to corroborate what is reported in the City budget with your spreadsheet. The City has a Depot Town Development Authority as well as a Downtown Development Authority.

    http://cityofypsilanti.com/DocumentCenter/View/1048

    The reported revenues for the DDA for 2015/16 are $270,024 and for Depot Town Authority are $11,830. It looks like on p. 31 that the City’s general fund transferred an additional $120,434 to the DDA and another $31,703 to Depot Town (p. 31) from the general fund. This is a total of $433,991 that isn’t contributed to the general fund this year and helping to pay down the Water Street Debt. So is $381,854 equal to 2.8 mils on $103,337,442? I’m no expert in reading City budgets, so tell me if I am wrong.

    Does the DDA and DTDA ever give an accounting of their expenditures to the city residents? Is it published online somewhere or can a person go to city hall and inspect the documents? I’m told that they use the money to get grants to pay for things that the city can’t afford. What things? Are they more essential than paying debt obligations to keep the Emergency Manager at bay?

  23. EOS
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, Depot Town revenue should be listed as $111,830. My typo.

  24. Linda French
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    This is kind of crazy since a lot of people in depot town own buildings in downtown including me and my daughter, Jessica. We own the building that houses Salt City. We are not just Depot Towners we are Ypsilantians. I also live on Huron Street. We all care about ALL the business districts as it affects all of us. But being a building owner uptown, we put our money where our mouth was. Jess and I both pay DDA taxes in both districts. We love ypsi so much that not only do I live here but we have buildings in both business districts.

    Janette, I actually like the idea of a tug of war as a fundraiser….bring on The DDA Death Roll 2016!

  25. Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    The DDA has several years worth of budgets online, if you’re trying to figure out what money is spent on — http://ypsilantidda.org/about_dda. Probably much easier to find numbers there.

    Not sure about the fund transfer table you’re looking at; those may be the city treasurer collecting the DDA’s operating millage and TIF and transferring them to the DDA? As of last year’s agreement, though, I believe the DDA is paying $100k / year into the city general fund for various services, rather than the GF subsidizing the DDA.

  26. facebook stalker
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Stewart Beal to Amanda Gaytan on Facebook after Gaytan said “Why not join the rest of the business owners and pony up to keep the city clean. I blame you and Mauer directly for this fiasco.”

    STEWART BEAL: “I am not a person who lames blame, but when a decision has been made that needs adjustment you will hear from me. The answer to your question is 1.) The DDA proposed we pay $975 a month for the West Michigan Lofts and 17/23 N Washington (this didn’t include the other Maurer buildings downtown) when the market rate for the trash disposal would be $120 to $200 per month. 2.) We already pay for trash service, it is include in the taxes we pay, we shouldn’t have to pay twice. 3.) Adam said who has signed up and when you say “join the rest” do you mean join the less than 10% of residents and business owners who have signed up? Look at the list he says signed up. 90% have not signed up. 4.) Neither Beal tenants nor I would ever set trash on the street of downtown Ypsilanti. I took the picture in the article, it wasn’t my trash. 5.) The city and DDA staff should convince the waste management vendor to pick up the downtown dumpsters at no cost (or at least at a greatly reduced cost) to the city because it would save them over 100 stops if everyone in downtown starting putting their trash to the curb.”

  27. M
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Beal has a good point. Assuming that it’s the same company that picks up at the curb and from the dumpsters, it seems like it would be in their best interest to have people using the dumpsters, so that they don’t have to make so many individual stops.

  28. EOS
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    @Adam,
    It’s hard to tell from the website Murph linked to what it is exactly that residents get for 3-4 hundred thousand a year. Garbage pickup, free facades for businesses, paths in alleys, more renovations to the Freighthouse… Can you elaborate exactly what the DDA has done for the city in the past couple of years? Is it a better value than spending it paying down the existing debt?

  29. facebook stalker
    Posted August 11, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Adam Gainsley updated things on Facebook earlier this evening:

    The money is not there. I’ve stated this before and will continue to restate it as long as necessary.

    I’ve also said we’ll revisit our fee schedule if we find that it’s unreasonable. Only today Stewart provided some numbers comparing what one of his buildings would cost if he went solo on a dumpster vs using the DDA dumpsters. The DDA would cost significantly more. His cost doesn’t take into consideration any maintenance or other costs other than the actual trash pickup fee but even allowing for that it looks like we’re still coming in quite a bit too high for some larger, low trash volume buildings.

    Today I started a conversation with the DDA board to amend our fee structure to make it more equitable for high volume landlords who want to contract for a whole building. Nothing firm yet but we’ll be discussing it next week at our DDA board meeting Thu 8/18 at Spark East. Like all our meetings this will be a public meeting and all input is welcome and encouraged.

    Ahead of that meeting I’ll be meeting with Stewart with the goal of getting an understanding of what our fee schedule would have to look like for him and other landlords to be able to get on board.

    One other thing I learned today. I knew it was unusual for a DDA to provide a service like this. I did not know until today that The Ypsilanti DDA is the only DDA *in the state of Michigan* to provide dumpster service. I don’t know about outside of MI.

  30. Beal Says
    Posted August 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Stewart says they’re making progress.

    “Update: On Saturday I met with Adam Gainsley with the DDA and he acknowlegded the proposed pricing might not work for larger buildings. He said that the DDA would propose a new fee schedule as soon as possible. Then I met with Eric Maurer for lunch and he said he would be very agreeable to participating if the fees were reasonable and he/we are looking forward to the new DDA fee schedule. Bottom line is, if the fees are market rate, this can be worked out.”

  31. kjc
    Posted August 15, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    why these people couldn’t have talked to each other in the first place…

  32. kjc
    Posted August 15, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/08/trash_fee_fight_leads_to_piles.html#incart_2box_news_ann-arbor

  33. XXX
    Posted August 15, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Because it took Mark to bring them together.

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