In an 11-minute address Monday night, Saline Mayor Brian Marl announced several new initiatives. Some are already in the works. Others are just now being studied.
- The feasibility of an independent police advisor board in city government.
- The possibility of a new part-time substance abuse prevention coordinator.
- A new code enforcement officer who started work Jan. 4.
- The largest sidewalk improvement project in 25 years.
- A meeting with the health care community to address Saline’s needs.
- An ethics pledge for Saline City Council.
- Possibly linking Curtiss Park to Mill Pond Park with a tunnel.
These are just some of the new developments culled from the mayor’s speech – on top of the 2016 Michigan Avenue and downtown streetscape projects and the sesquicentennial celebration.
“Clearly, the city has a vision for the future, and we will continue to focus on the important issues – the issues that have the most impact on residents’ quality of life,” Marl said. “And of course, I continue to believe that our best days are ahead of us.”
One can’t accuse Mayor Brian Marl of trying to bury the tough issues. After a brief introduction, Marl went right to the issues at the Saline Police Department. Marl summarized Jon Hess’s general conclusions about the Saline Police Department, which was scrutinized after allegations came to light in a lawsuit since dropped by longtime officer Don Lupi. Marl said Hess’s review of the SPD confirmed the city has a strong, talented and respected police department, but he added that there can be improvements in policy and communication. He announced for the first time that the city would organize a workgroup to review and investigate the feasibility of establishing an independent police advisor board within city government.
“It is not clear at this point whether this would be beneficial in Saline, but we know that many communities throughout the region and throughout Michigan have used this model successfully, in particular focusing on community engagement and departmental policies,” Marl said.
Marl then pivoted to the city’s Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force. Formed after three young men died after using heroin in the final six months 2013, the task force hasn’t been as active in the last six months. Marl, however, said the group was re-energized. He said there are opportunities to partner with county and regional organizations working on addiction issues.
“I believe that Saline deserves, and needs, a part-time Substance Abuse Coordinator,” Marl said. “I hope that the community’s leadership will work with me to understand the benefit of such a role, and the potential impact on the Saline area.”
Marl then switched to another issue that has troubled Saline residents – health care facilities. Many residents were angry in 2014 when Saint Joseph Mercy closed the hospital that was built by Saline residents. Marl said the city is inviting the health care community to a meeting to discuss ways to meet Saline’s needs. The meeting, which will be open to the public, will be held in February.
Marl then spoke of the city’s financial progress. He said the city’s improved bond rating is symbolic of the work government has done to improve and stabilize the city’s financial position.
“Our budget is a reflection of our values and priorities, and I’m proud of the budget we are currently under, which provided additional funds to the Police Department, as well as support for Rec-On-the-Go, and a part-time, stand-alone Code Enforcement Officer,” Marl said, adding that the code enforcement officer began work Monday.
Since his first mayor election campaign Marl has made infrastructure a priority. He spoke of the work completed on Harris Street, Park Place and Echo Court. He said the city will improve Maplewood Farms streets in 2016.
The big project in 2016 is the Michigan Avenue project from Curtiss Park to Maple Road. A streetscape project will take place concurrently downtown.
“While a construction project of this magnitude will inevitably cause delays and inconveniences, I am convinced that upon its completion we will have a road and a streetscape that will serve Saline well for decades to come,” Marl said.
Marl said the city will also begin the most comprehensive sidewalk repair effort in 25 years. The city also hopes to complete its wastewater treatment plant project in 2016. He noted that the project has increased the odor issue at the plant but that city may be doing additional work to address the issue.
What Marl wants most from 2016 is economic development. He said he’s proud of the work the city has done to finalize the sale of 207 South Monroe Street and aid the development of the Houghton School property. He added that he’s pleased by the expansion of industrial companies like Liebherr and MMI Engineered Solutions.
“My hope is that when people look back on 2016, they will say that the city’s primary efforts – and the Mayor’s biggest focus – was on economic development, and creating an atmosphere and an environment where business development and entrepreneurship flourish,” Marl said. “When we talk about economic development, it’s not just about supporting existing businesses and encouraging new businesses. It’s also about cultivating new investment, especially as it relates to housing.”
Marl praised fellow members of city council and members of city staff. He also had positive things to say about members of the sesquicentennial task force and code and ordinance review task force.