City Council, City Manager Campbell, City Clerk Royal,
Distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens.
It is a privilege to share remarks again this evening, and provide our community with a mid-year update -
Let me begin by expressing my gratitude and thanks to Mr. Nick Donofrio from Grand Sakwa Homes LLC, for generously sponsoring and underwriting the recent 4th of July fireworks – it was a marvelous show and I received many positive compliments from community residents. With the assistance of Grand Sakwa LLC, we intend on making this an annual event, and in the coming months will work to establish a working committee to plan and coordinate for 2019. I envision an enhanced event in a year’s time, with additional amenities, including food, music and activities for children. Clearly, these types of community events are important – they are valued by our citizens, and help to ensure Saline’s status as unique and desirable place to live and invest in --
Now, today, as I stated in January, Saline is on a trajectory to prosper, to continue to meet the needs of residents, and to address difficult and challenging issues.
First and foremost, is odor abatement at the wastewater treatment plant. Let me be very empathic, while this has been an issue for a number of years, the current frequency and severity of noxious odors is not acceptable, and it has a direct impact on residents' quality of life. Accordingly, City Council and City Staff have spent considerable time and energy working to resolve this matter – in fact, I’m not sure any other issue that has consumed more of our time or attention in the past few years. As many are aware, our odor abatement plan will require construction, installing new equipment, and will eliminate approximately 99% of odors. The equipment is currently being manufactured, and construction will begin later this summer. Also, our constituents should know that we are taking steps in the interim to mitigate odors, specifically adding chemicals to the headworks on a daily basis. However, if residents experience offensive odors they believe are coming from the wastewater treatment plant, they are encouraged to promptly call Director Steve Wyzgoski at 734-944-2003. Steve is one of our newest employees, but comes to us with a wealth of experience and is well versed on this particular issue, and he and his staff are always eager to help. In conclusion, I believe that we now have the analysis and background to properly resolve this critical matter, we have a solid plan in place, and residents should expect tangible results in the near future.
Economic development, and business attraction and retention will remain my primary focus – it is certainly not my only priority, but it is my primary focus. Because I know that a truly strong, robust and diverse local economy benefits all of our residents. It provides jobs, supports city services, and adds amenities that increase the desirability of the Saline community.
As our residents are aware, our efforts to support and incentivize economic development have resulted in a number of tangible gains in recent years, and we will continue to proactively engage with both our large and small business communities, notably through forums and luncheons that will take place later this summer and early fall. Additionally, I am excited to announce that we have multiple parties interested in Lot 20A along Michigan Avenue, adjacent to the Zippy’s Carwash, and the future Best Western Premier Hotel and standalone Ace Hardware. City Council will have a working session sometime in the near future to discuss the various proposals.
The Community Recruitment and Retention Team, which is comprised of representatives from the Chamber, city, schools, and Saline Main Street, continues to work with property owners and budding entrepreneurs. The team is aware that one of the major challenges facing our business community is access to talent, and retaining employees. As such, and this is only mildly hyperbolic, we will be organizing what is essentially a job fair on steroids, called Find your Future. The event will take place later this year and will include transportation, connecting job seekers with potential employment in our area. As further details are finalized, please look for additional information on the internet and social media.
The city will also continue to work with businesses and property owners on both our Western and Eastern borders to ensure their success and vitality, and we will continue to extend a hand of support and encouragement to the owners of 147 West Michigan Avenue, because development of the site will strengthen and enrich our downtown, and ultimately our entire City.
Another important component of economic development is growing and diversifying our housing stock. I am intensely proud of the City’s efforts to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with our friends in Pittsfield Charter Township, to acquire nearly 72 acres for redevelopment – Layher Farms, will be a great addition to our City, offering new and attractive housing to our residents, and simultaneously growing our tax base. Further, we have been pleased to work with quality developers like Three Oaks LLC, Livonia Builders, Peters Building Company, Lewis Klein Company, and Pulte Homes. In fact, Pulte Homes, just received final site plan approval for phase III of Huntington Woods by the Planning Commission. The Phase III final site plan is on the City Council agenda this evening for consideration. We are delighted that this once stalled development will soon be completed.
We're also pleased that there appears to be a path forward for the Fairdene development on Monroe Street – Mr. Farrell is with us this evening to present his revised plans, and he has petitioned for a rezoning request that will be on the Planning Commission’s agenda this Wednesday, July 11th. We are eager to see this development finalized and will support Mr. Farrell in every reasonable way -
Finally, City Council should be aware, that later this summer I will be requesting the formation of a work group to prepare revised plans for Merchant Park, adjacent to parking lot #1. Again, this space is unattractive and underutilized, improving it will enhance the usability of our downtown, and make it more ascetically pleasing, and I am confident that we can accomplish this with nominal cost to our taxpayers –
Earlier this spring, City Council adopted their general operating budget for fiscal year 2018/2019. As I have stated in the past, our budget is a reflection of our values and priorities, and this budget invests in areas that our citizen’s value most, while maintaining the millage rate of the past several years. This budget also includes additional funds for the Department of Public Works, including a new full-time employee, and adds a School Resource Officer to the ranks of the Saline Police Department.
In addition to our improved bond rating and burgeoning assigned fund balance, we also had funds in our unassigned fund balance, that we have allocated to a few select road projects, and we have earmark approximately $300,000 to pay down our pension and health care liability, which of course, is the responsible and wise thing to do –
Similar to our approach in evaluating dispatch, the Saline Police Department, and Saline Parks & Recreation, I hope that Council will approve an organization-wide review later this year. I believe this is critically important, it may yield cost savings, but more significantly, it may provide insights on how we can better serve the people we represent.
By the end of this construction season, we will have completed important road projects, including; Harper Drive, Colony Court, the approach to the south side of the Monroe Street bridge, the entrance to Northview subdivision (Woodland Drive), South Harris Street (Michigan Ave. to Henry St.), and sections of North and South Ann Arbor Streets.
No doubt, this work will have a positive impact on our community. However, we can and should be doing more. I have used each one of my State-of-the City addresses to talk about the lack of funds to subsidize our infrastructure needs. As such, I am pleased that City Council unanimously approved a ballot proposal that is likely to generate in excess of $400,000 annually, and will allow us to improve the conditions of our local streets and roads. As we approach the November election, our citizens should expect to see additional information on this topic, and know that we will hold a series of public events to discuss the impact of this proposal, assuming it were to pass.
It is also worth noting, that we are proposing a pay-as-you–go approach, which I strongly favor. We must resist the temptation to incur additional debt to fund City operations. This approach, our approach, is both fiscally sound and prudent. To me the choice is clear, but the decision belongs with our residents. I look forward to robust discussions between now and the fall election.
As I have articulated in the past, one of Saline’s most valued public assets is our recreation complex, and as many are aware, we have invested significant funds into the facility in recent years, and I am pleased with the strong growth in membership, and I encourage my fellow citizen’s to “Check out the Rec” – we offer personal training, a number of league sports and a litany of classes, that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels.
Also, over the years, many of us have championed the Rec on the Go program, and I was delighted to hear about the current participation levels, which appear to be the best ever. This is an outstanding program, with the added benefit of being free. I encourage parents of school aged children to learn more, by going to our Parks & Recreation website.
Ensuring that our public safety professionals have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively, will continue to be a priority of the City of Saline. Our community is exceptionally well served by the men and women of the Saline Police, and Fire Departments. I’m excited about the emphasis our new Police Chief, Jarred Hart, has placed on recruitment, and on expanding volunteer opportunities within his department. He recently launched, VIPS, Volunteers in Public Safety – a program that has proven beneficial in departments across our state. If you are interested in learning more, or if you wish to participate, please feel free to contact the Chief directly.
After months of careful review and analysis, City Council adopted a revised, and strengthened Non-Discrimination Ordinance. This was a major step forward for our community, and ensures that all residents will be treated fairly, and protected under the local ordinance. I appreciate all those who helped bring this policy to fruition – thank you.
We have some exciting seasonal events coming up, and some that are taking place currently, including, our downtown farmer’s market, summer music series, Summerfest, and Oktoberfest later this fall. This week, the City will host its 23rd annual Celtic Festival at Mill Pond Park. This is a regionally recognized event, and this year, it becomes one of a hand-full of family-friendly craft beer festivals in the State of Michigan. The Celtic Festival is a marvelous event, and I hope to see you there this Friday and Saturday. Finally, to all those who help to make these events and activities possible, we say thank you – your contributions are noticed, and very much appreciated.
On a related topic, volunteerism, however it may manifests itself, will always be encouraged in the City of Saline. We are always looking for quality applicants to serve on City boards and commissions, and we know that our service clubs and community organizations are in need of support as well. Please consider getting involved, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it, and it will improve the lives of countless individuals in our area.
Also, if you ever have questions or concerns that pertains to City government, please contact us, we are here to serve you. I encourage each of my constituents to connect with us online and on social media, download the free, SeeClickFix app to your smartphone, and don’t forget to review the information that is provided quarterly via our FYI Newsletter.
Last, I also want to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of my other colleagues on Council:
Mayor Pro-tem Linda TerHaar
I would also be re-missed if I didn’t acknowledge and thank our very talented and experienced team of City employees who provide world-class service to the Saline community on a daily basis.
Finally, I know that if we continue to collaborate with area stakeholders – and focus on our shared vision that emphasizes the importance of economic development, investing in critical public services, while remaining open and accessible to the people we represent, our best days will be ahead of us.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless Saline.
Mayor Brian D. Marl