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Council looks for alternatives to proposed Belle Isle lease

Saunteel Jenkins and JoAnn Watson

Saunteel Jenkins and JoAnn Watson

Will vote Oct. 11

Donald Barnes

Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT – City Council addressed its course of action and timeline regarding the proposal to lease Belle Isle to the state, during formal session Oct. 8.

According to Council President Saunteel Jenkins, council has 10 days to approve or disapprove the deal, presented Sept. 30, by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. If voted down, Council will have an additional seven days to propose an alternate plan. No action by council will result in the approval of the current lease proposal.

Jenkins has asked council to submit to her their recommendations on an alternative plan by Oct. 9.

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson suggested looking to Huron Metro parks for assistance. Watson stated she received information from Detroit Sen. Bert Johnson that the city has provided Huron Metro Parks large sums for over the past 70 years.

“There could be a claim made for reclamation (with) an investment made by Huron Metro Park,” Watson said. She requested documentation from the law and fiscal analysis departments concerning the amount of money Detroit has provided the Huron Metro parks since the 1940s.

Watson then requested the law department research to learn if the lease is in violation of the Michigan State Constitution.

According to Watson, the state constitution does not permit municipalities to extend fair credit to outside parties considering that there isn’t a dollar amount offered for Belle Isle.

Watson also said she would like an audit of the amount of funds Roger Penske has generated through the Grand Prix, which has operated on Belle since the 1990s.

Councilman James Tate says he is in favor of receiving lease proposals for Belle Isle from entities outside of the legislative body. Jenkins agreed.

“If there are proposals and recommendations for viable plans, it needs to be backed by more than six million dollars,” Jenkins said. “Actually the benefit has to be 12 million dollars for it to be equally or better for the city financially. If anyone has a plan that will generate 12 million dollars for the city, I would love to see it.”

Council will hold a special session Oct. 11 to vote on the proposed lease for Belle Isle. They will also consider recommendations at that time.

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