As is customary, Mayor Marl delivered his annual State of the City address at the first Saline City Council meeting of 2017 on January 9. The speech lasted 12 minutes and covered a variety of issues.
He began by acknowledging that he was born and raised in Saline and that this provided him with “extraordinary privileges and opportunities.”
“I strongly believe that to whom much is given much should be expected,” Marl said, paraphrasing Luke 12:48 in the Bible.
He said that among issues that matter most to Saline residents, the most important is economic development. He believes that the essential job for community leaders is to encourage and support the business community.
With respect to such support, he said he was very proud of the recent deal to establish a stand-alone Ace Hardware store and Best Western Plus Hotel on Michigan Avenue. He also took pride in completing the deal for the first Emagine Theater in Washtenaw County to open not far away. He said the two deals would “bring new life into commercial areas on the east side.”
Marl said that a key objective for 2017 would be to reduce the number of vacant store fronts in the city. One way he is doing this is through a Community Recruitment-Retention Team that will work to attract investors and entrepreneurs.
Regarding housing, Marl noted a number of ongoing developments, including Cypress Ridge, Curtiss Bluffs, Risdon Heights, Maple Oaks, Linden Square-Phase II and the rehabilitation of Maple Heights Apartments. He said that on the very day he was speaking, the city had closed on a deal to sell city property at 207 Monroe Street for Damian Farrell’s Fairdene Condominium project.
Marl expressed his excitement that the Michigan Avenue makeover and streetscape project was finally complete – or nearly so.
“While we will not all agree on every aspect of the improvements and changes, I think it’s easy to concede that the overall project was greatly beneficial to our community,” Marl said.
In November, county voters approved a millage for additional road improvements over and above what the state is able to provide. Marl expressed pleasure with this outcome, but said that additional funds must still be found for infrastructure upgrades in Saline.
Marl celebrated completion of the multimillion-dollar renovation of the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), saying that “these improvements streamline operations and improve the safety of the facility.” However, he also noted that it still stinks.
“While it is a waste water treatment plant, and some odors are unavoidable, the frequency and severity of these odors is simply unacceptable,” Marl said.
City Council recently awarded a contract to Webster Environmental Associates to study the source of the stench and come up with solutions. He said that initial measurements have already been taken, but they still need to be evaluated. He also apologized to residents affected by the smells.
Marl noted that the city carefully monitors its expenditures and tries to reduce them. He also stated in particular that expensive repair costs for the failing roof at Saline Rec Center would be challenging.
“While there is no denying that the Rec Center requires a substantial investment from the City of Saline, it is beyond a doubt an important community resource,” Marl said.
He seemed to consider it a cost worth paying and further encouraged fellow Salinians to hold firm with their commitments to exercise and maintain healthy lifestyles.
Marl praised the public safety sector of the community, the fire department and the police department. He noted the addition of one fulltime firefighter per shift in the fire department and the recent renovation of the police dispatch center. He also reported that a second review of the police department by Jon Hess had been completed.
The Saline Substance Abuse Task Force has been officially granted 501c3 status, so that contributions to the group will be tax deductible. This should clear the way for new contributions.
Marl promised that work on a nondiscrimination ordinance will continue in 2017, so that all residents can feel safe and accepted.
He said that two new work groups would be created, a police advisory board and a community foundation. The former would help facilitate positive interaction between the community and the police, while the second would be a local philanthropic organization.
In closing, the mayor praised many individuals and groups. Among them were the members of the Sesquicentennial Task Force who helped celebrate Saline’s 150th birthday by providing a historic homes tour, cemetery tour, fireworks and a Saline history book which he called “extraordinary and extremely comprehensive.”
He also gave a shout out to former Mayor Pro Tem David Rhoads who just left the City Council after ten years of service.
“David’s thoughtfulness and dedication have contributed to this community in tangible ways, and Council will definitely miss him,” Marl said.
As is his wont, Marl concluded his remarks with optimism.
“I continue to believe our best days are ahead of us,” he said.