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Dialog E-Newsletter 4/2/21

Dialog E-Newsletter 4/2/21


** Thanks for Staying Connected!
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Thanks for checking out the City of East Lansing's latest Dialog E-Newsletter. Help spread the word! Friends and neighbors can get bi-weekly City news and event information in their inbox every other Friday by subscribing at www.cityofeastlansing.com/eNews.


** East Lansing 54B District Court Chief Judge Andrea Andrews Larkin Announces Retirement
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Chief Judge Andrea Andrews Larkin has announced her retirement from the East Lansing 54B District Court, effective June 1, 2021.

Larkin was first elected to her position in 2012 and was re-elected in 2018. For most of her tenure, she has served as the court’s chief judge. Among her many achievements, Judge Larkin, together with the court’s probation staff, helped establish two specialized treatment courts during her tenure: a sobriety court in 2014 and a drug treatment court in 2017.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the City of East Lansing and the State of Michigan in this role. I have been inspired by the two treatment courts, which I had the privilege to preside over during my time as a judge. I am grateful for the dedication and hard work of the court staff; my mentor and colleague, Judge Richard Ball; and the court’s able administration. It was a bittersweet decision, but after much reflection, I have concluded it’s time to transition to this next phase of life,” said Judge Larkin.

“This court has benefited immeasurably from Judge Larkin’s leadership, professionalism and integrity for the eight years she has been here,” said 54B District Court Judge Richard Ball. “As her colleague, I will miss her presence and I know the devoted court staff will also be sorry to see her leave, but nevertheless we all wish her all the best.”

“Judge Larkin has provided exceptional service to the community in her role with the East Lansing 54B District Court,” said East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas. “The treatment courts that she helped to establish and presided over during her tenure have helped numerous community members take important, life-changing steps toward recovery. We thank her for her service, and we wish her all the best in her retirement.”

“Throughout her tenure, Judge Larkin’s commitment to this court has been unwavering,” said East Lansing 54B District Court Administrator Nicole Evans. “I personally have appreciated her support over the years as we have worked to transition to online technology for many court services. As a result, we have been able to increase access to justice for court users and we were better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. Our court would not be as technology-progressive as it is today without having judges who are open to its benefits.”

Michigan's constitution requires Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to fill vacancies in judicial office by appointment. There will be an application process for Judge Larkin’s vacancy, with a posting listed online at https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/0,9309,7-387-90501---,00.html. Qualified candidates who merit consideration will be interviewed and rated by the State Bar's Judicial Qualifications Committee, which will conduct a thorough background check of the applicant's fitness to serve as a judge. Certain candidates may then be selected for further consideration by the Governor's Office before an appointment is made.

“I have every confidence the governor will appoint an appropriate successor,” said Judge Larkin.

The next election for the seat will take place in 2024.


** S&P Global Ratings Affirms City of East Lansing's 'AA+' Bond Rating
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S&P Global Ratings has assigned its ‘AA+’ long-term rating to the City of East Lansing’s series 2021 limited-tax general obligation refunding bonds and has affirmed its ‘AA+’ long-term rating on the City’s previously issued debt, with a rating outlook that is stable.

Bond ratings are a way to measure the creditworthiness of a bond, which corresponds to the cost of borrowing for an issuer. A thorough financial analysis of an entity is completed by the rating agency before issuing a score. The ‘AA+’ rating is the second highest rating that a government can receive from S&P Global Ratings.

“This recent rating from S&P Global Ratings is great news for the City of East Lansing,” said East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas. “It is an indicator of our ongoing, strong financial management practices under the leadership of the East Lansing City Council and our continued financial stability despite the many detrimental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In its rationale for the City of East Lansing’s current rating, S&P Global Ratings cites the adequate local economy, with access to a broad and diverse metropolitan statistical area; the long-term stabilizing influence of Michigan State University on the tax base and economy; the City’s very strong financial management policies and practices; and a low direct debt burden. The rating agency also points to the City’s long history of maintaining structurally balanced operations through various economic cycles and the City’s ability to maintain reserve funds at close to 15 percent of expenditures.

While East Lansing’s large pension and OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) obligations remain a credit weakness for the City, the rating agency does note that the City’s voter-approved income tax should help improve the funded ratio over the long term. Additionally, while S&P Global Ratings does see some risk that the COVID-19 pandemic may have a lagging negative effect on property values, particularly in the commercial sector, the City's housing market has been performing well, which may offset declines in the commercial sector.

The City will use series 2021 bond proceeds to refund portions of the City’s series 2011A and 2012 general obligation bonds for interest cost savings. The previous bonds are related to parking facility improvements, utility improvements and construction of the East Lansing Department of Public Works building.

Community members can view S&P Global Ratings’ full report here: https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/DocumentCenter/View/10602/S--P-Rating-Report-950540-PDF.


** COVID-19 Vaccines Available to All Michiganders Ages 16 and Above Beginning Monday, April 5
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COVID-19 vaccination eligibility will be expanded to all Michiganders ages 16 and up who were not previously eligible to receive the vaccine beginning Monday, April 5.

Links are provided below to the websites of known COVID-19 vaccine providers in the area (please note that there may be others). The websites provide details on how to schedule appointments:
* Ingham County Health Department (http://hd.ingham.org/DepartmentalDirectory/CommunicableDisease/Coronavirus(COVID19).aspx#8789307-vaccine-information) (vaccinating those who live/work in Ingham County)
* Mid-Michigan District Health Department (https://www.mmdhd.org/covid-vaccine-information/) (for Clinton County residents)
* Sparrow (https://www.sparrow.org/vaccine)
* McLaren / Walgreens (https://www.mclaren.org/main/coronavirus-vaccine)
* Rite Aid (https://www.riteaid.com/covid-19)
* Kroger (https://www.kroger.com/i/coronavirus-update/vaccine)
* Meijer (https://clinic.meijer.com/)

Community members who do not have access to the internet or who need assistance navigating the vaccine scheduling process can call 888-535-6136 (press 1), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Community members can also call 2-1-1.

The East Lansing Public Library is also offering help with navigating the scheduling of COVID-19 vaccines for those community members who are in need of assistance. Learn more (https://www.elpl.org/blogs/post/need-help-scheduling-your-covid-19-vaccine-elpl-can-help/) .


** City of East Lansing's 2020 Income Tax Filing Due Date Extended to June 1, 2021
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The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced that the 2020 federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2021 to May 17, 2021.

The City of East Lansing will be following the IRS based on Sec 141.664 of the Uniform City Income Tax Act. The East Lansing Income Tax Administrator will be moving the due date for 2020 income tax filings from April 30, 2021 to June 1, 2021.

With this extension, taxpayers can defer income tax filings and payments due on April 30, 2021 to June 1, 2021 without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call to qualify for this automatic tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the June 1 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing an extension form.

At this time, 2021 estimated payment due dates have not been changed or moved. As the City of East Lansing receives additional information from the State of Michigan, updates will be provided on estimated payment due dates.

Taxpayers who are owed a refund are encouraged to file their tax returns as soon as they are able so they can receive their refunds. Income tax forms and additional information is available at www.cityofeastlansing.com/incometax. Completed forms and any owed payments can be sent to the City of East Lansing Income Tax Processing Center, P.O. Box 526, Eaton Rapids, MI 48827. Returns can also be dropped off in the blue drop box in the north parking lot of East Lansing City Hall, 410 Abbot Road.

Community members with questions can contact East Lansing Income Tax Administrator Jill Rhode at (517) 319-6862 or incometax@cityofeastlansing.com (mailto:incometax@cityofeastlansing.com) .


** East Lansing's Northern Tail Dog Park Re-Opens to the Public for 2021 Season
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Community members are advised that the City of East Lansing’s Northern Tail Dog Park re-opened to the public for the 2021 spring, summer and fall seasons today, April 2.

The park is located at 6400 Abbot Road, adjacent to the East Lansing Softball Complex and East Lansing Family Aquatic Center. The park features 2 ½ acres of fenced-in park land for off-leash dog play. Within the park, there is also a 5,625-square-foot, fenced-in area for small dogs (under 22 pounds). Admission to the park is free and daily park hours (weekdays and weekends) are from 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

Park visitors are reminded to keep at least a six-foot distance from those that are not a part of their group and to comply with all current epidemic orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-98178_98455-533660--,00.html.

Community members can visit https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/Northern-Tail-Dog-Park-16 for additional information about the dog park, including park rules.


** 2021 Spring Yard Waste Collection Information
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East Lansing residents are reminded that the City of East Lansing's 2021 yard waste collection program begins on Monday, April 5.

Regular curbside yard waste collection will be offered on Mondays through November 15, 2021 (excluding holidays and no-fee collection days). An online collection request (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/FormCenter/Public-Works-6/Yard-Waste-Bulk-Item-Collection-Request-46) or phone request, (517) 337-9459, is required. Online requests must be made by 7 a.m. on the Monday of collection and phone requests must be made by 3 p.m. on the Friday prior to the Monday collection. City yard waste stickers or bags are required for regular collection and the guidelines listed below also apply. City yard waste stickers and bags can be purchased at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road, or the East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road. City yard waste stickers can also now be purchased online at www.cityofeastlansing.com/curbsidesupplies (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/279/Carts-Bags-Sticker-Purchases) .

Containment and placement guidelines for regular yard waste collection are as follows:
* Yard waste may be placed at the curb no earlier than 8 p.m. the day before collection and no later than 7:30 a.m. the day of collection.
* Yard waste must be contained within a City paper yard waste bag or rigid plastic container (no more than 32 gallons) with a City yard waste sticker attached.
* Filled bags and rigid plastic containers must weigh no more than 40 pounds and bags should be stored in a dry location prior to being placed at the curb.
* Brush/limbs can also be bundled with string/twine with a City yard waste sticker attached. Bundles may not be more than 4 feet long and 1 foot in diameter. Individual limbs must be 4 inches in diameter or less and bundles must weigh no more than 40 pounds.

In addition to regular yard waste collection, the City will be offering no-fee yard waste collection on alternating Mondays on the east and west sides of the City this spring and fall. Spring no-fee yard waste collection days will be offered as follows:
* East Side: April 19 and May 10 (homes located east of Abbot Road to the City limits at Park Lake Road).
* West Side: April 26 and May 17 (homes located west of Abbot Road to the City limits at Coolidge and West roads).
* Community members should note that when no-fee collection is offered on the east side of the City, regular yard waste collection will not be offered on the west side of the City and vice versa.

On no-fee collection days, prior collection requests and the use of City bags and stickers is not required, but all other guidelines listed above do apply. While City bags/stickers are not required, yard waste must be contained in some type of paper yard waste bag or rigid plastic container (no more than 32 gallons). Brush/limbs can also be bundled with string or twine.

Community members with questions can call the DPW at (517) 337-9459. Additional information about spring yard waste collection is also available at www.cityofeastlansing.com/yardwaste.


** East Lansing City Council Approves Resolution to Continue Holding Electronic Meetings
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At East Lansing City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, March 23, City Council approved a policy resolution (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/DocumentCenter/View/10586/PR2021-6-a-resolution-to-hold-electronic-public-meetings-during-the-local-state-of-emergency) to continue holding electronic public meetings during the City State of Emergency declared by East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens.

With the approval of this resolution, public meetings of the East Lansing City Council and public meetings of the City of East Lansing’s boards, commissions and committees will continue to be held electronically in accordance with the Michigan Open Meetings Act, Public Act 267 of 1976, as long as the City State of Emergency remains in effect. Currently, the City State of Emergency remains in effect through May 16, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/DocumentCenter/View/10592/PR2021-2-a-resolution-extending-state-of-emergency-proclamation-and-order-requiring-face-coverings-in-City-DDA-PDF)

Section 3a of the Michigan Open Meetings Act allows a public body to hold an electronic meeting if the meeting is held in an area affected by a local state of emergency or state of disaster, and, per the East Lansing City Code (https://library.municode.com/mi/east_lansing/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIICOOR_CH10CIEM_ARTIIEMMA_S10-34AAUMAPR) , East Lansing’s mayor is empowered to declare a City State of Emergency and issue orders, rules and regulations regarding the use of public property to protect life and property during the declared emergency. Community members can find public meeting notices and agendas for upcoming electronic meetings on the City of East Lansing’s Electronic Public Meeting Notices webpage, www.cityofeastlansing.com/electronicmeetings.


** City Seeks Nominations for 2021 Crystal Awards

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The City of East Lansing is currently seeking nominations for the 2021 Crystal Awards! Community members are encouraged to think of the unsung heroes of East Lansing and consider submitting a nomination for an individual, business, nonprofit or community group. The nomination deadline is April 15. Learn more (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/crystalawards) .


** Downtown East Lansing TikTok Challenge
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Community members are reminded that the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority has launched its third downtown East Lansing TikTok Challenge, titled “Show Us Your Pot of Gold in EL,” as a part of the "Daytime. Nighttime. Anytime. Place Project." Submissions are due April 17 and the winner will receive a $200 downtown East Lansing gift card. Learn more (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1424) .


** Public Meeting Notices for Electronic Meetings
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The City of East Lansing is continuing to either cancel public meetings or hold them electronically during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. View the Electronic Public Meeting Notices (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/electronicmeetings) webpage to view details for upcoming electronic meetings.


** "You are Special to Me" Photo Contest
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Community members are reminded that the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority is sponsoring a photo contest leading up to Mother's Day, titled "You are Special to Me," to celebrate mothers and caregivers. Submissions are due April 26 and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will receive $100, $75 and $50 downtown East Lansing gift cards respectively. Learn more (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1420) .

The State of Michigan and MSU have launched a COVID-19 exposure notification app pilot program for campus and the surrounding community. MSU students, faculty and staff as well as members of the local community are encouraged to download and use MI COVID Alert. Learn more (https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-99891_102592---,00.html) .

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