The following is a transcript of Mayor Brian Marl's State of the City Address:
City Council, City Manager Campbell, City Clerk Royal,
Distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens.
As is my custom, I want to begin tonight by expressing my appreciation to the residents of Saline for providing me with the privilege of serving as your Mayor. As I have stated numerous times in the past, Saline is a very special place: a community with a rich history and an extremely bright future. But of course, that future can only be secured with hard work and dedication, and a clear vision.
In the next 6 months and in the coming years, City Council and staff will continue to focus on the issues that matter most to our residents. Paramount among these is business attraction and retention, and creating an environment where our local economy can grow and mature. As I expressed in January, I feel that it is imperative that as Mayor, I am not only an ambassador for the community, but also someone who aggressively recruits and works with businesses to invest in Saline.
In the last 6 months with the City’s assistance, the community inaugurated our first movie theater in many decades with the opening of Emagine Theaters Saline. We are excited about the additional economic activity on our City’s Eastern border. There is renewed interest in the vacant storefronts in the Sauk Commons Shopping Center, and progress continues on the development of a standalone Ace Hardware, boutique hotel, and Zippy’s Car Wash, to name a few.
The City has either encouraged or supported the development of other small businesses, including Matty J’s Bakery and Restaurant, McPherson Local, the Saline Cheese Shop, Sweet Lai Lana’s Desserts, and Smokehouse 52 Barbecue. Most of those small businesses that I just named, are within the commonly accepted boundaries of our downtown. Needless to say, our historic and aesthetically pleasing downtown is one of the things that makes Saline unique and these new additions will enhance the quality of our downtown.
However, that is not to say that there aren’t challenges that exist within the core of our downtown. Historically, one of those challenges is parking. The dedicated members of Saline Main Street will conduct a parking analysis, and in August City Council will meet with Main Street, local business owners, and property owners to discuss strategies and approaches to resolve this potentially growing issue.
I would also remind my fellow citizens to remember that our downtown will also host a number of signature events this summer and fall that are enjoyable and fun for all ages. These include the Summer Music Series, Summerfest, and Oktoberfest – not to mention the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
While we’re excited about the increased commercial activity on our Eastern border and in our downtown, it must continue to be our goal to increase the economic vitality of our West side. In that vein, in the coming months I will renew efforts to engage businesses and property owners in that area, including organizing ongoing discussions.
Momentum is developing with the Community Retention/Recruitment Team, uniting the City of Saline, Saline Main Street, Saline Area Chamber of Commerce, and Saline Area Schools to find ways to attract new investment to our area.
Of course, another component of economic growth is improvement to residential housing. I’m proud to say that the City, and the Planning Commission specifically, have been very thoughtful and strategic about the proposals that have been presented for consideration. Progress continues on a number of appealing and attractive developments, including Cypress Ridge, Curtiss Bluffs, Risdon Heights, Maple Oaks, Linden Square Phase II, Fairdene, Cascade Pointe and Maple Cove.
As I mentioned this past winter, the City of Saline supports smart, strategic growth. We know that there are many developers who are interested in annexing parcels into the City limits. Later this month, I will chair a work meeting with City staff and legal counsel so that everyone on City Council is informed about the process and the potential rewards and ramifications of annexation.
It’s a great relief that the community no longer has to deal with US-12 being under construction. While there are some minor components still outstanding, I think it’s clear to say that the Michigan Avenue makeover was extremely successful.
This construction season, the City will complete projects on Austin Road and Old Creek Drive. And we will continue our efforts to improve our City’s sidewalk inventory.
As it relates to infrastructure funding, I hosted two coffee hours this past spring to inform the public of what our needs are, and to solicit residents’ opinions on how best to move forward. Because road funding and maintenance are so timely and important, we have included an infrastructure questionnaire in our upcoming “FYI Newsletter,” and have information available online and at the front counter of City Hall. We welcome our residents’ thoughts and opinions on this quality-of-life issue.
While I was absent, City Council had a thoughtful and robust discussion at its most recent meeting on the Wastewater Treatment Plant, specifically ongoing efforts to mitigate odor issues. As has been discussed previously, Webster Environmental Associates will complete its second round of testing to identify the deficiencies that exist. Subsequent to that report, the City of Saline will move expeditiously to resolve these issues. In fact, we have already begun efforts to secure and identify funding for additional improvements. Let me be emphatic: I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and discomfort. The frequency and severity of odors as of late is not acceptable. In the interim, if residents or business owners have questions or concerns, or if they experience particularly noxious odors, they are encouraged to call the Wastewater Treatment Plant at 734-944-2003 or until mid-July, Tetra Tech at 734-320-5336.
In these challenging times, or perhaps because we live in challenging times, it’s even more prudent to be wise stewards of public resources. The City of Saline has a strong track record of protecting precious public dollars. As many are already aware, City Council recently adopted its budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018, which strategically invests in areas critical to our community’s wellbeing. As I’ve stated in the past, our budget is a reflection of our values and priorities as a community.
This year, we have spent considerable time scrutinizing and evaluating renovations to our Recreation Complex. There were certainly mistakes made during the design and implementation of the roof at our Rec Center. But the wise and appropriate thing to do was to acknowledge the facility as an invaluable community resource, while at the same time moving forward in a fiscally prudent, forward-looking manner. I believe we’re on track to doing just that. I strongly encourage all Saline community members to check out our Recreation Complex. There are a number of valuable programs and special amenities for people of all ages and physical abilities. The true benefit of the Complex is that it can help us lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Later this summer, we will also have a detailed and robust discussion about employee compensation, employee contracts, and severance pay. I’m eager to develop consensus on this important issue.
Quite frankly, it’s beyond debate that ensuring public safety is the most fundamental responsibility we have as a city. We are proud of the service that our police, fire fighter, and EMS professionals provide. We will continue to strive to make sure they have the resources they need to do their job, that they are performing effectively, and that they are meeting the needs of the community. In that vein, Council Member Ceo will be chairing a Police Advisory Board Workgroup, tasked with determining whether an advisory board would be beneficial to the City of Saline. We look forward to them completing their important work.
We also continue to appreciate the efforts of the Saline Community Addiction Prevention Task Force. We are hopeful that the group can assist in fighting the scourge of addiction and substance abuse in our area.
Finally, significant progress has been made on the development of a non-discrimination ordinance – something that City Council and the Code Review Task Force will be discussing in the near future. I think every reasonable person can agree that every member of our community should feel safe and welcome, and should be protected under the law. Because in the United States, we must work to do that for everyone.
Speaking of the Code Review Task Force, the group will reconvene later this summer to discuss the non-discrimination policy, but also a property maintenance ordinance.
The City of Saline will continue to engage and interact with the people we serve. We encourage residents and business owners to use our website as a tool, but also to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and download the See, Click, Fix app to report problems or concerns.
For those who own and operate large or small businesses in the community, we will hold a large business summit on July 14 and a small business forum later this fall. We look forward to better understanding the needs of our business community.
I will hold two upcoming coffee hours, and all residents are welcome to attend: the first will be August 12th beginning at 10 a.m. at Carrigan Café and the second will be held on October 19th beginning promptly at 5:30 p.m. at Saline Area Senior Center.
The best way to understand the pulse of the community is to become engaged, and find an outlet for your passion and energies that might help your community. There are countless volunteer opportunities on City boards and commissions, but also with a number of community groups, organizations, and churches.
In the coming months and years, there may be additional opportunities to support the community – specifically, through the work that is being done by the Community Foundation Workgroup, which is evaluating other community foundations in the hopes of developing the infrastructure for a Saline Community Foundation. I want to thank Council Members Christen Mitchell and Heidi McClelland for their leadership on this group.
Finally, I want to extend an invitation to all Saline community residents to attend our upcoming Celtic Festival on July 14th and 15th – this is a tremendous event with activities and amenities for people of all ages.
Every successful community relies on civic-minded individuals who are willing to serve causes greater than themselves. That even includes those who seek elected leadership positions. Firstly, I want to thank Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar for her advice and counsel, and her extraordinary commitment to the Saline community.
I also want to acknowledge the efforts made by all of my colleagues on City Council:
- Jack Ceo
- Janet Dillon
- Dean Girbach
- Heidi McClelland
- Christen Mitchell
Last, I am reminded by a sentiment that former Mayor Don Shelton once expressed: While the roles of Council Member and Mayor are important, 90 percent of the work done by our City is done by our tremendous staff. From those on the front lines to those who serve as department heads, we thank you for all that you do to make Saline a wonderful place, and we welcome our newest employees, Steve Maciag as Building Inspector, Gary Scheske as Code Enforcement Officer and Maile Weberlein as Assistant Treasurer
In a time of increased cynicism and negativity, I am reminded that the Bible tells us time and time again to be thankful. And indeed, we have much to be grateful for in the Saline area. Our strategic position is strong, our vision for the future is clear, and the character and commitment of our people is unwavering.
As such, I continue to believe that our best days are ahead of us.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless Saline.
Mayor Brian D. Marl