East Lansing’s City Council took multiple actions last night, including but not limited to outlawing lines outside of bars on St. Patrick’s Day in the Downtown Development Authority District, approving a number of big contracts, and authorizing $6 million in refinancing bonds while ditching the City’s usual bond counsel – Miller Canfield – in favor of Foster Swift, the firm currently holding the contract for City Attorney.
Here’s a quick rundown.
Refinancing bonds approved, with a subtle but significant shift in hired counsel:
East Lansing Finance Director Jill Feldpausch recommended that City Council approve a resolution allowing the City to issue bonds “not to exceed $6 million” with the purpose of refunding (meaning refinancing) bonds from 2011 and 2012. The bonds are being paid off with revenues collected from water and sewer bills and the parking system. The idea is to save money by getting a lower interest rate.
Council did not ask about, and Feldpausch did not get into, which external consultant(s) are being paid for this work, but the resolution does make clear that Robert W. Baird & Company will again be paid as the City’s financial advisor in a no-bid deal. The actions of Baird’s Brian Lefler recently resulted in controversy when he advised the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority on the Center City District bonds refinancing without making clear for whom he was working as he presented his recommendation. (He was working for the developers.)
But Feldpausch did recommend a change when it came to bond counsel. For the Center City District deal, Bill Danhof of Miller Canfield had acted as counsel and came under fire for that work. In this case, Feldpausch said, she had sought bids from Miller Canfield and Foster Swift, and when they came in at about the same amount (an amount she did not specify), she decided to go with Foster Swift.
Her remarks indicated her plan is to continue recommending Foster Swift for bond counsel, so long as that firm is contracted for the City Attorney’s job.
Council voted unanimously in favor of the bond resolution, which is backed by the full faith and credit of the City. We have sent questions to Feldpausch about the closing costs and will update this story when that information becomes available.
Update, Mar. 10, 3 pm: According to Feldpausch, “Miller Canfield was estimated at $33,000 and Foster Swift at $28,000 for refunding of both 2011 and 2012 bonds. Baird’s fee is estimated to be $23,800 for refunding of both the 2011 and 2012 bonds.”
She added, “Also, just a clarification that the City does not work with Brian Lefler at Baird. The City has always worked with Warren Creamer and his team. In addition, a price quote was requested from PFM (who the BRA utilized recently) for financial advisor services when the 2011 only bonds were being considered. Their price was $1,125 less than Baird; however, given the work history and relationship with Warren Creamer, the City elected to continue services with Baird. When working with a financial advisor, that relationship and institutional knowledge is important.”
Council approved another version of the Third Amendment to the Center City District Master Development Agreement:
That went down in another 4-1 vote; see this report from ELi’s Andrew Graham.
Lines are outlawed for St. Patrick’s Day:
City Council also unanimously backed a measure related to Covid-19 management. Under this order, in the City’s Downtown Development District, from 12:01 on March 17, 2021, through 2 a.m. on March 18, 2021:
· All outdoor social gatherings are limited to 15 people and “all participants must wear face coverings and maintain six feet of physical distance from individuals outside of their households.”
· “Outdoor queues (lines) for entry into businesses, restaurants, and bars in the City’s DDA District are prohibited while this Order is in effect.”
After a long conversation involving questions about dealing with possible big gatherings on other dates, Council unanimously voted in favor of the resolution. Violators can be fined up to $25 for an infraction of the order. The order to wear masks in the downtown area is also still in place.
Council also approved an extension of a policy resolution designed to make it easier for restaurants and bars to offer outdoor seating and to pay fewer costs for doing so.
And in other business:
Council went into closed session to discuss the class action lawsuit against the City over BWL franchise fees. No action was taken about this suit last night, so we have no idea what was discussed in the closed session with the City Attorney.
Yet another conflict-of-interest waiver was granted to Foster Swift, this time because that firm represents Innovative Software Solutions, who is also the City’s hired vendor for managing the Income Tax. Council also approved a contract with Innovative Software Solutions to pay that company up to $358,550 for handling the Income Tax.
Council approved a deal to allow the City and Delta Township “to trade services” in terms of building and trade inspections “on a limited basis when there is such a need such as vacations or medical leave.” The goal is to lower costs.
A presentation was made on All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre and on the recognition of the group with the Michigan Recreation & Park Association Innovative Recreation Programming Award.
Hundred Acre Woods, Inc., was again awarded the contract for upkeep of the Soccer Complex and Hannah Community Center fields, although this time the contract is good for up to five years “by mutual agreement.” According to a staff memo, “Hundred Acre Woods was the only vendor to submit a proposal” for this work which will pay just under $100,000 for the next year.