MINUTES OF BOARD MEETING
TRUSTEES OF BARTON HILLS VILLAGE
April 14, 2008
The regular meeting of the Board of Trustees was called to order by President Laporte at 6:08 PM at Barton Hills Country Club.
ROLL CALL Present: Trustees Al-Awar, Boddie, Bogat, Butterwick, Langford, Laporte, Lindstrom, MacKrell and Wilkes. Absent: None.
Others attending: ZPA Perry, Asst. Treasurer Redies, Supt. Esch, BHMC President Bultman, Ann Arbor Township Supervisor Michael Moran, six representatives from DTE Energy and 14 residents/guests in the audience.
DTE ENERGY PRESENTATION Ms. Laporte introduced Bob Buckler, president and CEO of Detroit Edison Company (also resident of Ann Arbor Township and treasurer of BHCC). Mr. Buckler introduced the other members of his group, and explained the general format of the presentation: background, system overview, BHV system overview, DTE Energy (DTE) programs and a question/answer session. Following is a summary of the presentation given by the various DTE staff members.
Background BHV has experienced a number of power outages in the past few years, causing many in the community to express their concerns. This DTE presentation will provide information about the situation and outline the steps being taken to improve the reliability of the DTE system.
System Overview Based on benchmarking, DTE is the third best electric utility in the U.S., with excellent overall reliability. The national average is 1.5 outages/customer/year; DTE’s average is 0.82. However there are pockets in the system with higher outage averages, and BHV falls into this category (1% of total customers), with an average of 6 outages/customer/year. DTE is working to improve this situation, investing about $300 million in maintenance and another $300 million in capital projects. Monthly analysis of the outages helps DTE engineers identify problem areas, which are then inspected to determine what factors are causing the outages. A plan is developed, approved, designed and implemented.
BHV System Overview Electric power in BHV comes from the Phoenix substation east of US-23 on Dhu Varren Road. At Whitmore Lake Road/Underdown the line splits, with one branch serving Barton Shore Drive via Barton Lane and the other branch serving Barton North Drive/Country Club Road. The lines are divided into sections by devices that split the load to minimize the impact of outages. Records indicate pockets of higher outage rates in certain areas of the village,
DTE Programs There are two key programs being used to lower the rate of outages: line clearance and pole top maintenance. A clearance of 10’ is maintained around the wires by regular tree trimming. Hardwood trees that are taller than the lines are often left overhanging above the 10’ distance for aesthetic reasons, even though this increases the risk of damage to the lines. Maintenance of the equipment on the poles and tree trimming are done on a 3-5 year cycle (BHV was last trimmed in 2006). Cost of these programs averages $240/customer impacted; when pockets are addressed more aggressively the cost can rise to $5,000/customer impacted.
A new type of equipment is now being used. Instead of crossarms at the tops of poles, square-shaped spacers are used to hang covered wires from a steel cable. If a tree falls, many times the wires are protected by the steel cable. In one area where the new equipment was installed, the average of over 17/outages/customer/year dropped dramatically to 3 or less. Another strategy, using fuses to break up the circuits into smaller sections, has also been successful.
A DTE capital improvement program is already underway in BHV. Line clearance was completed in 2006-2007, with pole top maintenance being done in 2008. Every pole will be evaluated for integrity and replaced if necessary (red tagged). Equipment on the pole will be inspected and installation of the new spacer cable and fusing will be completed. Three areas have been identified within the village where efforts will be concentrated: Barton Lane near Barton Shore Drive, Country Club Road west of Forest Road and Spring Valley Road (through the woods) to Country Club Road, with resulting improvement throughout the entire system. Of the $953,000 to be spent on upgrades for our circuit, $610,400 has or will be spent in BHV. All of these areas have many trees with power lines tunneling through branches, difficult access and a number of splices where lines have been previously repaired.
Underground Wires Burying electric lines underground requires a substantial amount of work. The main lines are housed in concrete conduits, with the secondary lines buried without conduit. Primary switch cabinets (24’ x 12’) and pad-mounted transformers (14’ x 12’) require flat areas free of obstacles with safe access for employees. All services to houses must be converted and individual meters rewired. The overhead lines/poles must be removed and arrangements made with other utilities that use the poles. If there is not enough space under the roads (due to other utility installations) it is necessary to remove 10-20 feet of trees to the roots along the edge of the road to accommodate the lines. The uneven terrain, winding roads and proximity to the Huron River in BHV would add to the lengthy construction time. Given the rough estimate of 20,000 feet of line in conduit, 13,000 feet of line without conduit, 40-50 switch cabinets and 70 transformers, the cost to completely bury the electric lines in BHV would be about $20 million, not counting the cost of any other utilities. The reduction in maintenance costs is offset by the difficulty in repairing underground cable when problems do arise (longer time to locate the source extends the duration of the outage). Overhead lines last 50+ years, compared to the 25-35 years of useful life for underground lines. While DTE is willing to bury lines, the strict rules of the Public Service Commission make it a very expensive project that would quadruple customer rates. Several communities have explored the possibility of underground lines following especially severe weather events in past years, but none have actually decided to pursue the option due to cost. DTE is sensitive to the aesthetic issues, as evidenced by tunnel trimming and the new spacers that require a smaller cleared area, but must balance this with the cost of providing efficient, reliable power service.
Questions (Q) and Answers (A)
Q. It seems like more tree trimming was done in the past. Wouldn’t better trimming reduce the number of outages? A. Trimming was done throughout the entire community in 2006. DTE is limited to the 10’ easement around the wires. Large trees, especially ash trees attacked by the emerald ash borer, often fall from the roots into lines that are a distance away. The policy is to leave an overhang for mature hardwood trees and remove overhang for weaker trees down to below the wires.
Q. Are the new poles larger and taller than the old ones? The replacement poles lying along the roadside look so big and will certainly have a greater visual impact. A. The poles may be a bit thicker than the ones being replaced. They are generally 45’ tall. The larger end is buried 8’ into the ground, so you’re seeing more of the pole than will be seen when it’s in place.
Q. What is the goal for BHV? A. An average of 1-2 outages/customer/year is the threshold for reasonable satisfaction. Q. Can your program accomplish that? A. Yes. These improvements are expected to provide significant impact on reliability.
Q. Is this the best technology, or just a compromise to avoid going underground? A. The new equipment is the best technology and performs well.
Q. In your statistics, do you consider duration of an outage as well as number of outages? A. Yes, duration is a factor that is used to prioritize the areas that are targeted for improvement.
Q. How low does the voltage go before it is considered an outage? A. Below 110 volts is given the same priority as a power outage.
Q. What about the areas in between the three targeted for the new equipment? When will those be upgraded? A. Most of the outages have occurred due to problems in the areas where work is being performed. It is expected that these improvements will improve performance of the entire circuit.
Q. When I’ve phoned in an outage, I’ve received a variety of very unreliable estimates of the time power will be restored. Giving false hope that the problem will be fixed in three hours, then another three hours, is worse than saying the time is longer or unknown. It’s hard to plan—should we go to a hotel or not? This can be very difficult for older folks, or in very cold weather. Can that system be improved? A. Yes, we are working on improving the communication system. The automated system is almost too automated, forcing us to give answers when there is not enough information known about the problem. We know this is a weakness and we’re making changes.
Q. During one outage I heard that the repairs were slow because so many of the crews were sent to the Hurricane Katrina area. Crews came from Ohio to fix our lines. A. We try to have adequate crews available, but yes, we do also send crews to areas that are suffering from major outages like the hurricanes in the south. We prioritize restoration efforts based on emergency health and safety, then by how many customers are affected by an outage.
Q. The phone system isn’t helpful on weekends, when you can’t get through to an actual person. We’ve called in problems on weekends and heard a recording saying to call back on Monday morning. A. The automatic system is on 24/7 to receive your information. Billing and general questions are taken during normal working hours. It’s hard to predict when large-scale problems will occur and when more staff may be needed. When bad weather occurs the automated system handles calls that a customer representative can’t.
Q. I’ve lived here 50 years and the problems have been the worst in the past few years. A. The improvements being made in BHV will make a significant difference.
Q. At a recent meeting at Ann Arbor Township(with DTE representatives and area citizens) the question was raised about why homeowners and governmental units aren’t notified when work is being done on the system. There is no opportunity for understanding and input on long range projects—equipment and personnel just show up. A. DTE does communicate through local newspapers when line clearance is being performed. We will review our communication with local communities when reliability work is being performed.
Q. What causes underground wires to fail? A. Underground failures are caused by dig-ins (people digging in the ground and hitting a line) and water entering the cable causing corrosion.
Q. Are there other things that cause damage to the overhead lines besides trees? A. About 80% of damage is related to trees. Lightning strikes are also a problem that damage both above and below ground lines. With underground cable, insulation breakdown and dig-ins are also significant factors.
Q. Since our situation is more troublesome, shouldn’t we go to the top of the list when there is an outage? A. Attention is given first to customer health and safety, depending on the particular situation. Many circuits have some small pockets of higher incidence. We aim to be as efficient as possible in getting the most customers back on line in the shortest time. In the example of last year’s Christmas storm, a downed tree on Whitmore Lake Road that was taken care of first restored power to 1100 customers. The second downed tree in Barton Hills was causing a partial power interruption. Crews repaired other areas that were totally out before returning to BHV.
Q. So the new equipment should cut down on the number of outages? A. Definitely. The situation will be much improved—we can’t eliminate outages altogether due to tree density in the area but you will see the difference.
Q. Is power produced at Barton Dam? Can that be tapped into for temporary power during an outage? A. There is electricity being produced at Barton Dam that goes into the general power system. However, precautions must be taken to make it safe for personnel working on the lines when power is coming from another source like that.
Q. This has been an impressive presentation—you are taking the situation seriously and working hard to improve it. Will you give us an update in another year or so to see how the new equipment is working? A. Absolutely.
Q. In the past notices were sent when the tree trimming was to be done. I haven’t seen any notice in recent years. A. We need to look at communications overall and determine where we can do better.
Q. During the Christmas storm our maintenance crew knew exactly where the trees were on the wires and were frustrated that they couldn’t relate that information to anyone at DTE. Is there some other way to contact you? A. Fire departments and emergency services have special contacts—you have one here too. We’ll give you your number.
Q. I’d like to thank the team for the presentation and open forum. I’d also like to say that we are part of the problem—we have 50-year-old trees that should be taken down and we don’t do it. We need to take responsibility too. A. Great point. Homeowners can trim trees around the lines in a more aesthetic fashion before we come along and cut them straight off. Planting new trees a good distance away from the lines, and taking down dead trees would also be helpful.
Q. The cable TV equipment boxes have been placed with no thought of aesthetics. Since they share your lines and poles, can you influence them? A. If it’s our equipment we’ll address the situation, but the other utilities have a lot of latitude. We had to take them to court to keep up our standards. We do what we can.
Q. If we spend $20 million putting the lines underground, what is the cost to maintain them? What happens in 25-30 years? A. When the system begins to wear out after that time period, the entire system would need to be replaced. The cost of materials have historically gone up. Q. And would that be our responsibility? A. If it’s our equipment, repair and maintenance would be our expense. As for replacing the system, we don’t know—we’ve never done it. The overhead wires are aluminum, while the underground wires are copper. The high cost of copper is a world-wide economic problem.
Q. Are the new spreaders less prone to catch fire if a tree falls and breaks the line? A. Yes, they help prevent fires by keeping the lines from coming together even if a pole is damaged. Most of the wire is covered, except near the transformers. They won’t eliminate fires, but they will help.
Q. Are there PBB’s or PCB’s in the transformers? A. New transformers are filled with mineral oil; however, we treat all transformers as if they have PBB’s or PCB’s. Our computer map system helps indicate the age of transformers which can be used to give a better indication.
Q. When work is done, can DTE commit to respecting property? I recently did $70,000 of landscaping, and wrote a letter because it was obvious work was going to be done near my property, but I still suffered a lot of damage—torn up landscaping, broken sprinklers, broken stone wall. Then a worker put up a sign about “landscaping by DTE”. A. I am aware of this situation and have nothing but apologies. It was totally unacceptable behavior. The person involved has been disciplined. I will follow up to make sure the things that were supposed to happen in regard to this have actually been done. It was totally unacceptable.
Ms. Laporte expressed appreciation to the DTE representatives for their presentation.
DTE representatives and residents/guests in audience left. Trustees enjoyed cookies in honor of the late Bill Redies’ birthday
PUBLIC COMMENT None.
MINUTES Motion Mr. Boddie moved that the minutes of the March 10, 2008 Trustees meeting be approved with one correction: Page 3, Motion “Mr. Lindstrom moved that the proposed 2008-2009 budget be approved including the 10 mil tax levy pending further discussion...”. Mr. Lindstrom seconded; the motion carried.
FINANCE Mrs. Redies distributed the Cash Balances Comparison Report, revised budget and legal expense summary. Mr. Boddie distributed a report addressing questions from the March 10, 2008 meeting regarding:
Police (Question was why the budgeted amount didn’t go up for the new police car). 80% of vehicle expense is assigned to roads, 11% to sanitation and the rest to water. The police car is included in those amounts, but is not a separate item under police.
Roads (Question was why the budgeted amount is less than last year). Amounts for vehicles were not allocated properly; that has been corrected. Completion of the tennis courts has been moved to the Parks account.
Water (Question was how much to include for new equipment/repairs). More funds were added to the water budget for repair of well #3.
BHV/BHMC RoadLease Mr. Boddie and Ms. Laporte met with BHMC representatives regarding the lease. They recommend (and BHMC agrees) that the amount above taxes for operating expenses be set at $9,000 (up from $7,500) and that the advance against this year’s lease be forgiven. Legal fees for BHMC last year were about $13,000; in prior years the amount was around $3,000 which is about what is expected in the coming year. The raise in the lease doesn’t include greater legal expense, but does allow for additional time for Mrs. Esch to complete the copying of old records into electronic format. It was agreed at the meeting of BHV/BHMC representatives that $9,000 is a reasonable figure that will cover expenses and build up savings a bit (barring unforeseen circumstances). The lease will be for five years, with half the payment made on April 1st and the other half on October 1st of each year. If at the end of the lease a large surplus has built up, the amounts can be adjusted then. It was noted that funds have been used for worthwhile projects like the Boat Club Barton Pond project, and there is value in having some surplus to work with if a need arises. Mr. Bultman affirmed that BHMC supports the proposal. MOTION Mr. Boddie moved that the proposed lease between Barton Hills Villageand Barton Hills Maintenance Corporation be approved as described, and that Mr. Boddie be authorized to work with Barton Hills Maintenance Corporation to write the contract. Mr. Lindstrom seconded; the motion carried.
In regard to the cash disbursements in was noted that Mr. & Mrs. Boddie received a tax refund due to an adjustment of their tax assessment. Motion Mr. Lindstrom moved that the 4th Quarter Cash Disbursements be approved as printed (see Aux. Book XX D). Mr. Boddie seconded; the motion carried.
PLANNING COMMISSION Mr. Boddie reported that the Planning Commission interviewed a third professional planning company at its April 10, 2008 meeting. After consideration the Commissioners decided to hire Carlisle/Wortman Associates to advise them on the development of a master plan. It is anticipated that the plan can be developed and approved within the $10,000 budgeted for the Planning Commission. This does not include revision of the BHV Zoning Ordinance, which cannot be done until the master plan is completed because the plan provides the basis for the ordinance. Preparation of the master plan is expected to take about six months, with another three months for the approval process. Mr. Perry suggested that BHV representatives attend the training session in Ann Arbor Township led by Carlisle/Wortman regarding recent changes in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.
Village Administration Center Motion Since consideration of two bids and changes resulting from discussion with Building Inspector John Hamlin have required more of Mr. Wier’s attention than anticipated, Mr. Lindstrom moved that an additional $1,000 be approved in payment to architect Ed Wier for services during the bid process. Mr. Wilkes seconded; the motion carried. The proposed timeline for the project includes determination of the winning bidder and authorization to negotiate the contract at the April 17, 2008 Special Trustee Meeting, approval of the contract at another Special Trustee Meeting in early May and the project underway by the time of the Annual Meeting on May 20, 2008. Three alternates were included in the bid:
1) Heat pump. The VAC Committee recommends adding this piece of equipment since it is modest in cost (about $1,300) and will save on the cost of heating and air conditioning. Concern was expressed that the pump might not work well in lower temperatures; Mr. Lindstrom will contact suppliers to obtain more information.
2) Cork flooring. The additional cost would be $10,000. The VAC Committee recommends using carpeting made from recycled materials instead.
3) Metal roof. The cost of installing a metal roof was $22,000 from one bidder, $29,000 from the other, in addition to the cost of an asphalt shingle roof. The VAC Committee doesn’t feel this is money well spent and recommends the shingle roof. Trustee comments included:
--What is the life expectancy of a metal roof? Mr. Lindstrom responded that the provider won’t warranty the roof beyond 25-30 years, although the sales representatives say the roof will last much longer. A shingle roof costs $6,000-8,000 and could be replaced several times for less than the cost of the metal roof.
--Metal roofs have been around a long time. This information doesn’t agree with other sources that say a metal roof will last 100 years or more.
--This is a matter of aesthetics—it makes no financial sense to choose the metal roof.
--In relative terms, if asphalt costs $1, painted metal costs $2 and copper costs $3. This is not the easiest roof design for metal, with the slope and awkward valley. The prices quoted by the bidders indicate they’re not anxious to do metal and hope the higher price will dissuade us from that choice.
--A more highly trainer worker is required to install metal rather than asphalt.
--Metal has to be very well insulated against the noise of rain, etc.
--This is a question of what is the best way to spend limited funds.
The question was called (Boddie/MacKrell/P). Motion Mr. Al-Awar moved that the recommendations of the Village Administration Center Committee not to include the metal roof and the cork flooring be approved. Mrs. Langford seconded; the motion carried with Trustees Bogat, Butterwick and Wilkes voting no.
Water Mr. Wilkes referred to his written report, noting:
--MDEQ has still not responded regarding the Phase II Stormwater permit exemption.
--A leak on Barton Shore Drive was repaired.
--Results from the hydrant testing have been received. A number of hydrants need some sort of maintenance which will be done as the staff has time.
--Well #3 needs a new pump, which has been ordered at a cost of about $10,000. The motor is still fine, which is good news. The new pump is a complicated 11-stage unit that is custom built in Texas (shipping costs $850).
--A resident on Barton North Drive sent a letter complaining about the water quality; Mr. Wilkes talked with him and gave him a copy of the BHV report on iron-removal methods.
Roads/Vehicles Comment was made on the need for new tires on one of the trucks.
BHMC Liaison No report.
Environmental No report.
Finance No report.
Long RangePlanning No report.
Maintenance Area/Buildings No report.
Ordinance Revision No report.
Personnel No report.
Recreation No report.
Security No report.
Zoning/ZO Revision No report.
ZONING AND PLANNING ADMINISTRATOR Mr. Perry reported that Mr. and Mrs. Edwards (304 Juniper Lane) asked for reconsideration of the condition to provide evergreen screening attached to their variance approval. Since there is no procedure for reconsideration, Mr. Perry visited the site. It is his judgment as ZPA that there is adequate screening already in place and the condition of the variance has been met.
Bike Race Comments about the race held on March 30, 2008were positive, both from BHV residents and from cycling club participants/officials. Mr. Esch heard from one motorist who was uncomfortable driving around the people gathered in the road at the starting line on Barton Shore Drive. There were no security issues or problems associated with the event.
Deer Management Program Motion Mr. Al-Awar moved that discussion of the deer management program be tabled to a future meeting. Mr. Butterwick seconded; the motion carried with Mr. Lindstrom voting no.
NEW BUSINESS None.
The meeting was adjourned to closed session (personnel) at 9:01 PM (Boddie/MacKrell/P).
Janice K. Esch, Deputy Clerk