Executive Committee Meeting Minutes — East Lansing – December 8, 2018

MARP Executive Committee Minutes
08 December 2018, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, 955 Alton Rd., East Lansing 49823

Present: Tom Purmort, Adam Tauno Williams, Steve Vagnozzi (until 1:00 pm), Kay Chase, Chuck Merckel, Jeanie Merckel, Joshua Hamilton, Warren Fritz, John Langdon (by phone), Mark Miller

Absent:   Robert Patterson

Call to Order:   10:06 a.m.

Welcome, Chair’s plans, expectations and requests of the Executive Committee

Chair asks each person to jot down 3 priorities for the year.  Priorities include: increase membership, improve train service (add cars, frequency), clearly define goals, outreach to local officials, BE POSITIVE.

Approval of agenda:   Accepted as presented.

Approval of minutes:   Hamilton moves, A.Williams seconds, to approve minutes of Oct 9, Oct 16, Oct 23 conference calls. Unanimously approved.

Treasurer’s Report & Approval of 2019 budget:   As of date, net worth is $41,000. Vagnozzi presented the 2019 Budget Proposal prepared by the Finance Committee (Steve Vagnozzi, Hugh Gurney, Mark Miller). Based on 2018 spending and requests submitted by the persons responsible for each budget category, the target was to prepare a balanced budget. Anticipating increases in dues (+$1980) and donations (+$500) in 2019, obtaining another $5000 grant from the Sally Mead Hands Foundation, and withdrawal of $1000 from the VTSAX investment fund (Pratt Fund), budget totals $17,000.

Explanation of each budget line:

  • Administration (+$460) – to increase visibility of the Chair (attend RPA, MHSRA, MIPRC meetings) [TOTAL $1000]
  • Annual Meeting (+$396) – costs were underestimated in 2018; speaker’s expenses and mailing costs [TOTAL $1500]
  • Communications (unchanged) – publish 2 issues of The Michigan Passenger if no increase in printing, mailing costs [TOTAL $3000]
  • Dues Paid to TRU, MEC, MHSRA, RPA (+$75) – there may be an increase in RPA dues [TOTAL $500]
  • Gov’t Affairs (+$60) – increase to cover costs of Meet ‘n Greets with new legislators [TOTAL $1500]
  • Grants to (+$500) – increase to allow grants to historic stations in addition to Durand Union Station  [TOTAL $1000]
  • In-House printing (+$140) – anticipate more printing with legislative Meet’n Greets [TOTAL $500]
  • Membership (+25) – to reflect actual spending in 2018 [TOTAL $325]
  • Michigan By Rail(+$236) – a pass-thru from the Sally Mead Hands grant; covers initiatives to add service, including the West Michigan Express, Ann Arbor to Traverse City (A2TC), Coast-to-Coast (C2C), North-South Commuter Rail (WALLY), and Port Huron station relocation [TOTAL $5000]
  • Monthly Meetings (+$20) – includes some EC meeting costs and some equipment costs; additional meeting room rental costs not anticipated  [TOTAL $800]
  • Outreach (+$40)   [TOTAL $1000]
  • Social Media (-$375) – “boosting” selective Facebook posts accounts for most spending; anticipate producing a video in 2019 [TOTAL $625]
  • Treasurer (+$10) – cover P.O. box rent of $120, payment of mailing costs & tax filing fee [TOTAL $250]

Discussion of Budget:

Langdon:   Suggests putting Social Media under Communications (no action taken) and covering expense of Chair to attend MIPRC annual meeting

Chase:   Would like Pratt Fund monies spent only on very specific, targeted projects; grants to “historic” stations only if the station still serves as an active passenger station

Approval of Budget as presented:

A.Williams moves, Hamilton seconds, to approve the 2019 Budget Proposal as presented. Unanimously approved by voice vote

As a matter of information and awareness, Vagnozzi asks that the manager of each budget category copy the Chair and Vice-Chair when submitting a reimbursement request to him for any amount over $100. Members concur that this is a reasonable informal procedure. Langdon noted that the Bylaws require approval of the person responsible for the budget category for expenditures under $500; for expenditures over $500, approval by the Chair is also required.

Committee Reports and Action Plans for 2019

Discussion of Outreach: Tom Purmort

Envisions a SWAT team ready to go out to business and community organizations; create a deck of power point slides, also a video (Hamilton working on this); have a loop on a monitor at the shows where we table. Purmort adds we need to be looking widely for opportunities to present: Chamber of Commerce, civic organizations, etc.  Set up a schedule and go out and do it.

Objectives for next 90 days:   Outreach to students at Wayne State (C.Merckel says DeLora is interested); MSU (Hamilton working with Nick Little and Andreas Hoffrichter);  WMU (Hamilton & Chase); U of Michigan ( Yuri Popov). Regional Chairs need to be involved.

Governmental Affairs: John Langdon

Five projects are on the table: West Michigan Express Commuter (Grand Rapids-Holland) which Joe Schwartz, former Congressman and member of Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer’s transition team, thinks is the easiest to accomplish; North-South Commuter (WALLY) and East-West Commuter (Detroit to Ann Arbor) are also feasible in the nearer term; longer term are Ann Arbor-Traverse City (A2TC), Coast-to-Coast (Detroit-Lansing-Grand Rapids) and the Port Huron station relocation.

Meet ’n Greets with legislators will start in February and take a couple of months to complete. Focus on leadership in Senate and House, chairs of Appropriations and Transportation committees, and lawmakers whose districts have train service.

Langdon distributed 2 sample resolutions prepared by Westrain to EC members at the annual meeting. Langdon moves, A.Williams seconds, to approve the resolution supporting continuation of service on the Pere Marquette route. Following discussion suggesting some changes in wording, it was agreed to table this until the 8 January EC conference call. A second resolution in support of a study to connect the Pere Marquette to the Amtrak line at New Buffalo will be discussed also at the January meeting. A.Williams will follow through on this to determine the reason for advancing these resolutions at this time. )

Regional Chair Reports & Action Plans for 2019

West Region: Warren Fritz

Reflecting on meetings with officials and the public in Battle Creek (January 2016) and Niles (December 2015), it is time to focus again on educational/informational meetings with entities along the Wolverine line. Suggests putting vertical, standing banners similar to those in Dearborn station in other stations along the line.

Discussion of the electronic status boards in KAL, BTL, PNT ensued. Purmort will contact John DeLora about the history and future of these boards. Given the problems with keeping them functional, A.Williams suggests we walk away from future responsibility for their upkeep. Larry Sobczak has responsibility for the boards at this time.

North Region: Mark Miller

Continues to distribute Indian Trails brochures, MARP newspapers and information to locations throughout the region. A problem with finding offices open. Seeking help to make contacts on the west side and the UP.  There is a need to encourage the state to study passenger rail in NE Michigan and the UP. Plans for a membership meeting in the North.

East/Central Region: Joshua Hamilton

Seven goals for the year: (1) Station beautification in East Lansing; (2) Station FAQ signs; (3) Finish establishing East/Central Membership Committee; (4) More involvement at MSU; (5) More MARP outreach locally; (6) Visit Flint and Lapeer stationS; (7) Port Huron station relocation plans. Has concrete progress on #1-4. Is a member of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association Young Professionals group.

New Business:

Discussion of membership dues structure and creating new categories for corporate sponsors. A.Williams moves, Hamilton seconds, unanimously approved by voice vote, to approve revising membership classes and fees as follows:

Senior/Student     $20    (raised by $5)

Regular                   $30    (raised by $5)

Family                     $50    (raised by $20)   NOTE: Changed to $40 when Resolution #7 adopted 08 January 2019

Advocate                $50    (unchanged)

First Class             $100    (unchanged)

Life                        $500    (unchanged)

Suggested new categories for corporate entities

Non-Profit             $50

Bronze                  $125
Silver                     $250

Gold                      $500

Brief discussion of possible incentives to encourage new members: break on dues amount or registration for annual meeting, etc.

2019 Meeting Schedule:

Five member meetings and the Annual Meeting scheduled as follows: Jan 26 (St. Johns), Apr 6 (Detroit/Metro region), Jun 22 (North region), Sep 14 Annual Meeting, Nov 9 (West region). A.Williams moves, Hamilton seconds, to approve this schedule. Unanimously approved. Executive Committee conference call every 2nd Tues, 7pm; Purmort asks that decision items be submitted in advance of the meeting.


Two issues of The Michigan Passenger, monthly online issues of ON TRACK

Jack Urban, Kalamazoo City Commissioner

Attending in person, he is seeking our advice on a lobbying campaign he is initiating to add more service on Wolverine line, also Pere Marquette line if money can be found for both. Distributes sheet recapping recent conversation with Derrick James, who suggested two “asks”: (1) An early westbound train out of Kalamazoo or Battle Creek; (2) A 2nd frequency on the Pere Marquette. Urban is developing a resolution to take to jurisdictions along the Wolverine line. Kalamazoo City Manager Rietsma supports this effort. Would like us to check his facts and suggest individuals along the route with whom to collaborate. A.Williams adds that MDOT has expressed interest in such a collaboration. Purmort points out the challenge of the 1.6 miles of CN track in Battle Creek that are a choke point.

Online Activities Planning Tool:

Purmort envisions creation of such a tool to which all EC members would have access. A. Williams working to obtain a Microsoft Office 365 non-profit license for this endeavor.

Bruce Becker, Vice-President of Operations, Rail Passengers Association (RPA) spoke to the committee via phone with information about ways in which RPA can assist state ARPs in managing their member databases and in web development. In addition, RPA is partnering with the Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) in a pilot program to boost and promote membership in both organizations. When joining (or renewing) with the Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN), members are offered an opportunity to join RPA at a discounted rate by clicking on a link which takes them to a special joint RPA/VRAN membership page. This program could be expanded to serve other state ARPs.

Q&A with Becker:  Does the discounted membership program apply to renewals? Becker says it is primarily aimed at new members, but might be applied also to renewals. Purmort asks if RPA is active with American Public Transportation Association (APTA}: Becker is RPA’s representative on the APTA High Speed Rail group and says RPA is active but could always do more. The Midwest High Speed Rail Assoc. is closest thing to a regional rail advocacy organization of which Becker is aware. Niles volunteer program is going forward with 18-20 volunteers taking training led by Amtrak in January. RPA also looking at a couple stations in Carolina for pilot volunteer programs. Volunteers will not take the place of station caretakers.

All Aboard Ohio:

Purmort has talked with Ken Prendergast, Executive Director of All Aboard Ohio. AAO saw a big drop in membership when the Governor turned back stimulus money for the 3C corridor (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati); State of Ohio spends $0 on passenger rail.

APTA Membership:

Purmort cites the wealth of information (committee reports, technical papers) available from APTA. Membership is expensive, but he may be able to get a less expensive membership as a retired member and would pay out of his pocket.

Website coordination:

MARP website needs to be updated more frequently, if not totally redone. Purmort, A.Williams, Hamilton, Chase plan a conference call with webmaster Larry Sobczak.

Inventory of equipment owned by MARP:

A partial list includes: canopy, 2 printers [Langdon has both printers; one of should be with Merckels]. A.Williams has projector, screen and cords for use at meetings.


Adjournment at 3:26 p.m.



Kay Chase, Acting Secretary

Approved 08 January 2019