Kids in the Hall

By Neal McNamara

An aggregator of Lansing government happenings

Last Thursday was a very special edition of the Committee of the Whole. The City Council took its semi-weekly power meeting to the Ingham County Department of Health on Cedar Street after the organization had invited Council a few months back.

But just because the meeting was held outside of City Hall did not prevent matters related to business in that building from being discussed.

Finance Director Jerry Ambrose quantified a little more clearly — though he said these are not definite plans — what a deficit elimination plan to cure the city’s $3 million deficit could look like.

To save about $1 million, Ambrose said, the city could take control of operating expenses like overtime, travel, eliminating additional vacant positions, or cutting 10 percent of the capital (construction and repairs) projects budget.

The other $2 million could be saved using some more grim methods: closing the city offices for 12 days, total, between now and June, which could save about $1 million and establish rolling furlough days for the police and fire departments, which could also save about $1 million. If those two options aren’t “workable,” the city would be “talking in the neighborhood” of 50 to 60 layoffs to save $2 million. Other options, Ambrose said, include an “across the board” salary reduction for city workers and changes in workers’ health care plans.

At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries asked whether the city could increase taxes right now, which Ambrose said could not be done in the middle of the year. Jeffries also asked about the possible sale of city buildings — such as the armory on South Washington Avenue — but Ambrose said that it would not be part of the deficit elimination plan.

Ambrose said the plan should be delivered to the Council at a Monday night meeting in the next few weeks.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, a public hearing was set for Nov. 30 for a new ordinance that would allow citizens to submit applications to rename streets. The ordinance came out of Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Kaltenbach’s General Service Committee, and would have citizens who wanted to change the name of a street — to memorialize someone — submit an application to the Memorial Review Board. That board, however, has had trouble finding a quorum, so built into the ordinance is a provision that would have a street name-change application come back to Council if it is not taken up by the Memorial Board within 90 days. Kaltenbach said that the ordinance was in honor of William Hubbell, a former Memorial Board member, and Ammahad Shekarakki, who has been asking for a street in Lansing to be named after Malcolm X, who lived here as a child.