State of the City: Mayor Marl Highlights Infrastructure, Economic Development in the Biannual Address

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 07/02/2019 - 00:31

Watch the video and read the text from Mayor Brian Marl's State of the City address, given July 1, 2019.

Tuesday, at 5 p.m., log on to The Saline Posts, and you can ask Mayor Marl questions about city issues he raised in his speech.

 

 

Mayor Brian Marl delivers the State of the City address. Join us tomorrow at 5 p.m. for a live interview with Mayor Marl on topics from his speech.

Posted by The Saline Post on Monday, July 1, 2019

 

Good evening.

City Council, City Manager Campbell, City Clerk Royal, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens -

It is an honor to provide remarks this evening. As I have stated previously, Saline is a very special place. We're not without our challenges, but we're a great community nevertheless. Our City is thriving, and I know that great things lay ahead of us -- 

Tonight, I am pleased to announce two exciting community events. First, partnering with Grand Sakwa Homes, the City is delighted to host our 2nd Annual 4th of July Fireworks. The event will take place this Thursday at Crabtree Field, with fireworks beginning around 10 p.m. This year’s festivities will also feature additional amenities, including; children's activities, music, and refreshments. Also, on July 12th &13th, the City will be hosting our 24th Annual Saline Celtic Festival at Millpond Park. The event includes food, drinks, and a plethora of activities for visitors of all ages. It promises to be a great event, and I hope to see you there --

 

To begin - increasing the economic vitality of the Saline community will remain a top priority for me, and the City, in the ensuing months and years. Our citizens' quality of life is directly tied to the economic health and strength of the Saline community. Make no mistake, quality of life and economic growth are intertwined - they are not competing goals. To that end, I am proud of our efforts to assist new and existing enterprises, and I'm committed to supporting ongoing projects, like: Saline's Best Western Premier Hotel, Junga's Ace Hardware, and GBA Associates' plan to develop lot 20A, along East Michigan Avenue.  

Our small business community is the bedrock of our City, and understanding their needs and supporting their interests is an absolute necessity. On March 1st of this year, we hosted our annual Small Business Summit - it was a very successful event, and staff received positive feedback from those who attended. Our large business luncheon and summit is currently scheduled for August 1st. This event will be more free-flowing, and we plan to have a facilitated discussion and dialogue with attendees to better understand their challenges and needs.

 

Partnering with regional stakeholders, the City will host our Second Annual Job Fair event later this fall. The event we hosted in October 2018 was widely successful and worth repeating. However, as an organization that strives for continual improvement, we expect some changes and additions to our 2019 Job Fair, entitled Find Your Future in Saline. Job seekers and employers should expect another outstanding event later this year, and interested parties should expect more information to be disseminated in the coming weeks and months.

 

My office is attempting to schedule another meeting of the Community Recruitment & Retention Team, a group comprised of representatives from the City, School District, Chamber of Commerce, and Saline Mainstreet. In the coming months, I believe our primary focus should be working with property owners and landlords to eliminate vacant storefronts, and identify potential tenants and new businesses for our community.

 

Additionally, in the next six months, the City will work to revise our LDFA agreements, hopefully begin evaluation of high-speed fiber and public internet in the core of our community, and it is my fervent desire that we consider reestablishing the Economic Development Trust Fund - thereby supporting budding entrepreneurs who wish to create jobs and offer amenities in the Saline community.

 

Lastly, the Code Review Task Force, which was established nearly six years ago, continues to work on modernizing our local ordinances. The group will reconvene in late July, and if any resident or business owner have ideas about how the City can streamline or improve local ordinances and regulations, we welcome your insight. Please feel free to email my office, and we will make sure your ideas are considered and discussed -

 

Transitioning now to infrastructure, the odor abatement project at the Waste Water Treatment Plant is nearly complete, with final completion expected in late July or early August. We are currently reviewing and evaluating the capital upgrades, and the other changes that were made on site. City Council should expect a work meeting on this topic subsequent to final completion, as I believe a comprehensive review of the project will be necessary. If any lingering deficiencies exist, we will move swiftly to correct them. Next week, the City Manager’s office will be reaching out to City Council to schedule some on-site tours so that each of us on Council can see first-hand the scope of the work that was completed. I strongly encourage each of my colleagues to make this a priority. Lastly, following final completion of our odor abatement project, a public open-house will be scheduled, allowing our residents the opportunity to tour our facility and ask questions. This open-house will likely occur in early fall, and more information will be shared in the near future. As always, and especially during this interim period, if residents experience odors issues they believe are coming from our Waste Water Treatment Plant, they are encouraged to promptly call Facility Director Steve Wyzgoski at 734-944-2003 or City Manager Campbell at 734-429-4907 ext 2211.

 

This construction season, the City will complete resurfacing projects on North and South Industrial Drive, Keveling Drive, Riveroaks Boulevard and we continue to work with the Washtenaw County Road Commission as we prepare to reconstruct a significant portion of Woodland Drive, which will be completed during the 2020/2021 fiscal year. Also, I am pleased that the Washtenaw County Road Commission saw fit to resurface their section of Saline-Milan Road, which enters the City, and ends at the intersection with Willis Road.

 

Further, I applaud Governor Whitmer's strong and unambiguous approach to improving infrastructure funding in the State of Michigan. I believe the Act 51 formula for road funding needs to be revised, and local municipalities require additional resources from the state in order to meet our infrastructure needs. If additional funding becomes available from the state, through federal grants, or via local land sales, it is my hope that dollars can be earmarked for local or major streets - many projects need to be expedited, including; Marlpool Drive, Highland Drive, and Maple Road, to name a few - 

 

The City will continue working on our comprehensive sidewalk program later this summer and fall. This program, once completed, will resolve nearly 100% of the deficiencies and defects that exist in our sidewalk inventory. Those affected residents and business owners will receive a written communique in the coming weeks, but in the interim, if any of our constituents have questions or concerns, they should contact the Department of Public Works.

 

We also have consensus on moving forward with rehabbing Merchant Park, an underutilized parcel located in the heart of our City's downtown. City staff and I will be meeting with Merchant Park Task Force Chair Rebecca Schneider in the very near future, and City Council should expect something tangible to be considered at an upcoming meeting. 

 

Now, reference our Parks, I am pleased that during the first half of 2019 we've made progress on a non-motorized pathway, a river walk, spanning the length of Millpond Park, and allowing us to leverage our greatest natural asset - the Saline River and our mill pond. This initiative will take several years to complete, and we are prudently beginning with a design and feasibility study. We are also asking for financial support from Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation - a county entity the taxpayers support, but historically we have not seen substantial dollars invested in our community. It goes without saying, we will work to correct this -  

 

Many residents have been interested in the proposed growth on the City's western border - specifically, the Andelina Farms development, and the tentative plans to develop the former Edwards property directly west of the Torwood Subdivision. While these parcels are currently in Saline Township, the City has been very engaged, and has advocated for a more strategic and managed approach. Let me be emphatic: private initiatives with private utilities sprinkled around the City's borders is not the standard we should strive for. This approach is problematic in a number of ways. As such, the City will remain engaged, and negotiate in good faith in the hopes of finding a more equitable resolution.  

 

I'm also announcing this evening that I have begun evaluating the community-wide planning initiative from the late 1990's. The group's work resulted in many tangible items, the largest being a recommendation to plan and construct a new high school. Further thought and analysis is needed, but this may be an approach that would benefit the Saline community today. Issues involving growth, inclusion, transportation, transit, and human services are not just City of Saline issues; they affect the greater community. Therefore, we need to look at them holistically and cooperate with every regional stakeholder if we want to resolve long-term and systemic problems that challenge our community.

 

As I stated this past January, our first responders can rest assured that we will provide them the resources they need to effectively serve and protect the residents of Saline. Both the Saline Police and Fire Departments are well managed, and on strong trajectories, under the leadership of Chief Hart and Chief Hoeft, respectively. I am very pleased that the Saline Police Department will be adding another full-time officer under the 2019/2020 budget, allowing for more staff flexibility and a higher police-to-citizen ratio. Some changes are also likely at the Saline Fire Department, following the retirement of Deputy Chief Charles Schaible. Charlie dedicated more than 30 years of service to our local fire department, and I want to wish Charlie and his family the very best as he enters retirement -

 

As many of our citizens are aware, City Council adopted a dangerous building ordinance in 2018, and we've executed said ordinance following the unfortunate and avoidable mishap that recently occurred at Thorncrest Apartments. This ordinance may also be utilized if a speedy resolution is not found for the long-abandoned Clean-Get-Away Car Wash -

 

In the past month, City Council unanimously adopted our General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019/2020, our City's annual budget. I'm pleased that our fiscal prudence resulted in two additional FTEs: one; that I previously mentioned in the Saline Police Department, the other is a hybrid position that will focus primarily on Code Enforcement, while also providing some assistance to our Assessing Department.

 

City Council has a strong and impressive record regarding financial management, we have made strategic, and in some cases, difficult decisions regarding the use of public funds. In recent years we have adopted a fund balance policy, and have seen our restricted and unassigned fund balances grow to healthy amounts. We have an improved bond rating, and have prioritized legacy costs, specifically pension and retiree healthcare.

 

Additionally, we recently completed on organizational review, predicated on the notion that we should continue to look at improving operations and better meeting the needs of the people we serve. Some rather significant changes are forthcoming; specifically, our Building & Engineering Department will be transformed into a new department within city government, entitled Community Development. This department will handle planning, zoning, building permits, code enforcement, and will eventually include the Business Ambassador position, along with assessing. These changes and others will not happen overnight; implementation will take several years. Further, since this matter is of significant importance, and quite comprehensive, it is no surprise to me that some disagreement exists regarding both the recommendations and schedule for implementation. However, I honestly believe there is more that unites us on this subject, than separates us as Council, and I'm sure all of my colleagues are committed to making this work, and strengthening our already strong municipal services.

 

The City of Saline will continue to proactively communicate and solicit feedback from the people we represent. We encourage our residents to connect with us online and on social media, and to download the free SeeClickFix App to their smartphone or electronic device. 

 

Recently, I was delighted by the number of residents who attended my 8th Annual Senior Conference, hosted at the Saline Area Senior Center. We distributed a lot of timely and pertinent information, and I received great feedback from those who participated.

 

Speaking of timely information, many residents are aware that changes are forthcoming to the City's waste management services. The most significant is that garbage will need to be placed in a waste management container, and will no longer be retrieved in a private bin or trash bag. The new containers will be delivered to property owners, smaller containers will be available, and are on display at the entrance of City Hall. If a resident would like one of the smaller options, you will simply request one from Waste Management, it will be delivered and your larger container will be removed. More information regarding trash, yard waste, and recycling pickup will be disseminated in the near future. I strongly encourage residents to review forthcoming information in our FYI Newsletter and City's website. Last, please be mindful of the rules and restrictions regarding what materials may be recycled. Of course, we want to be good stewards of the local environment, but we must remain cognizant of the additional costs, and strive to recycle material that can actually be reused and not end up in our landfills.

 

I want to acknowledge the years of service and the contribution made by my City Council colleagues. Also, I want to thank our very talented and committed staff, who care deeply for this community, and provide world-class service on a daily basis. I also want to take a moment and congratulate our City Superintendent & Engineer, Gary Roubal on his pending retirement, and to thank him for his 30+ years of service to the City of Saline. We wish Gary and his family many years of health and happiness in this new chapter.     

 

Finally, we have a vision - a focus on economic development, investing in vital public services, and pursing best practices and organizational efficiency. But our community's greatest asset is our people. Saline is great because of the character and commitment of our residents. As such, I continue to believe that our best days are ahead of us -

 

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless Saline -

 

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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