City of Saline Mayor Brian Marl gave the biannual State of the City address Monday,
Below is video and text of the speech.
Mayor Marl will take your questions about his speech during a Facebook Live interview Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. The interview takes place at Carrigan Cafe. You can ask questions live, right in the video, or you can send questions in advance to [email protected]. Watch for the video on The Saline Post Facebook Page.
Here is the text of Marl's State of the City.
Good evening. Judge Simpson, City Council, City Manager Campbell, City Clerk Royal, Distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens. It is a privilege to share remarks this evening, and provide the Saline community with an annual update – Let there be no doubt about it, the state of our City is strong, we have tackled many important issues in recent years, and Saline is on a trajectory to prosper for the foreseeable future.
I’ll begin by expressing my gratitude and thanks to our remarkable City Employees, who are committed, and resourceful. Specifically, I want to commend the men and women of the Saline Police and Fire Departments.
Our First Responders can rest assured that we will provide them the resources they need to effectively service and protect the residents of Saline. Further, we are grateful for the leadership that Chief Hart has provided, and I applaud his efforts to strengthen our Police Reserve Program, and his introduction of VIPS – Volunteers in Public Safety. If community residents or other individuals are interested in learning more about VIPS, and possibly becoming involved, they are encouraged to contact Chief Hart. Finally, we are pleased to welcome are newest Officer, Aaron Oliver, to the ranks of the Saline Police Department. I know I speak for the entire Council when I wish him the very best as he begins his tenure with the City of Saline. Officer Oliver’s position became available after the City reached an agreement with the Saline Area Schools for a full-time School Resource Officer. Officer Dave Ringe has assumed this position, and as we anticipated, is doing an outstanding job. His presence in our schools will have a positive and lasting impact on the students as well as the faculty.
Now, creating an environment that supports businesses of all sizes, encouraging investment, diversifying our housing stock, and creating jobs is not just a priority- it is an absolute necessity. Those communities that extend cooperation and support to private capital and entrepreneurs thrive, those who engage in acrimony or set up road blocks languish and suffer. Accordingly, I am proud of our efforts to assist new enterprises, like; Emagine Theaters, Saline’s Best Western Premier Hotel, and Navya. I am also pleased that we have reached a tentative sales agreement with GBA Associates for the sale of Lot 20A along East Michigan Avenue. I am hopeful the sales agreement will be approved by City Council later this evening - upon closing and construction, this development, along with Zippy’s Car Wash, Junga’s ACE Hardware, and Best Western will transform our Eastern Corridor, creating jobs, revenue, and economic opportunities, which will benefit our City for decades to come.
The Community Recruitment and Retention Team, which is comprised of representatives from the Chamber, City, Schools, and Saline Main Street, will continue to work with property owners and budding entrepreneurs. As many will recall, the group organized and hosted a job fair entitled Find Your Future in Saline, in October 2018. The event was well received by employers and job seekers, and many local positions were filled by the quality applicants who attended the event. I commend City Treasurer/Business Ambassador Bennett for all her efforts in organizing, and recruiting businesses to participate. The community should expect another job fair in 2019, because we understand the ability to recruit and retain talent is critically important to our community.
In 2019 we will double our efforts to support a viable and successful downtown. The City will implement our downtown parking plan and begin rehabbing an unattractive and underutilized space, known as Merchant Park. Additionally, City Council discussed high-speed fiber and public internet in the core of our downtown during our recent strategic planning sessions. I am hopeful this is another initiative we can make headway on during the next 12 months. It is not hyperbolic, high-speed internet in our downtown could be transformational, and if successful, could be used as a model for additional investments elsewhere in our community.
Of course, the City will continue to work with all businesses to ensure their success and viability. Small business development will remain a priority, and we are pleased to announce another small business forum and luncheon, scheduled for March 1st. Our local businesses in the service, retail, and food industries should expect to receive additional information about this event in the coming weeks.
Finally, I am optimistic that we will approve a concept and agreement for the Fairdene Development, at 207 Monroe Street, in the very near future. Also, we will continue to proactively engage with the owners of 147 Michigan Avenue and encourage development on the site that will strengthen and enrich our downtown. Lastly, progress will continue on Layher Farms, an important project that will diversify and expand our housing stock, which is in great demand throughout the region.
The Code Review Taskforce will continue to work on modernizing and streamlining our City ordinances, and it remains a vehicle for citizens and business owners to raise concerns and/or suggest changes to local policies or ordinances. In the coming months, the group will carefully consider the benefits and ramifications of a Clean Air Ordinance - public health and well-being are of critical importance, and local government must play a role in creating an environment where all of our residents feel safe and healthy. Over the past several years, my colleagues and I have attended several conferences and seminars, to gain additional knowledge and perspective, and to help us become more effective public servants.
After reviewing a number of case studies and best practices, it is abundantly clear to me that successful – desirable communities find ways to leverage and accentuate waterways within their jurisdiction. Personally, this is an area where I feel we have fallen short. Arguably, our most attractive park, Mill Pond, is not fully utilized, and the Saline River should be a more prominent asset in our community. As such, I am calling for steps to be taken to plan, design, and finance a River Walk – a non-motorized pathway connecting the length of Mill Pond with the new sidewalk close to the intersection of Mills and Michigan Avenue. I am under no illusion, this will not transpire overnight, and it should be the first step in our ongoing efforts for better utilization of the most significant waterway in our City - but in the spirit of striving for continual improvement, I believe this work must begin.
And speaking of recreation and enrichment, I am thrilled to announce the City has received a $75,000 matching grant from the DNR, to complete work at Salt Springs Park. As such, our constituents should expect significant progress to be made at Salt Springs - our newest municipal park, during the 2019 calendar year.
Additionally, as I have stated in the past, our Recreation Center remains a valued asset within the community. As such, we expect it to be well used, attracting new patrons, and not a burden on our general fund. Director Scruggs and I believe it’s a prudent time to hold some visioning sessions, and seek public input on how we can improve programing and identify what facility upgrades are desired by the community. These visioning sessions will focus on what is practical, and also the cost of said improvements. Residents should expect to hear more, but these events are likely to be held in March/April of 2019.
Transitioning now to infrastructure - our odor abatement project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant is on schedule, substantial completion is expected at the end of June, with final completion likely on July 30, 2019. This initiative, which is backed by professional analysis, will eliminate approximately 99% of noxious odors. Again, the current frequency and severity of odors is simply unacceptable, and we are all very eager to have this issue resolved. In the interim, if residents experience odor issues they believe are coming from our Wastewater Treatment Plant, they are encouraged to promptly call the facility director, Steve Wyzgoski, at 734-944-2003.
This past November, the voters of Saline approved a pay-as-you-go, 1 mill street millage, providing the City with earmarked funds for road maintenance. To those who supported this initiative, we appreciate your desire to do more and improve the quality of our local streets in a fiscally responsible manner. To those who opposed the ballot proposal, I have heard your voices and I understand your concerns, and the City will work diligently to gain your confidence and trust by investing these new dollars in prudent ways. The City is currently preparing for resurfacing projects on North and South Industrial this construction season, and is partnering with the Road Commission on a joint project along Woodland Drive, likely to be completed in 2020.
Subsequent to the adoption of our Capital Improvement Plan, our residents should expect the City to announce more road projects for the 2019 construction season. I’ll also stress, that if funds become available in our unrestricted fund balance, I will be an advocate for earmarking additional dollars for street projects and other infrastructure needs. There is no denying the fact that the State of Michigan must provide municipalities more funding through Act 51 for road and infrastructure needs. I am optimistic that Governor Whitmer will tackle this longstanding deficiency during her term as our new Governor. Also, I have met with our elected officials, Senator Irwin and Representative Lasinski, and have asked them to support legislation that allows local jurisdictions the ability to assess fees on developers or contractors who damage City streets. Other states have similar policies, and I truly believe this will be beneficial as we strive to maintain the quality of our roads.
The elected and appointed leaders of Saline will continue to be good stewards of public resources. City Council will thoughtfully consider our upcoming general operating budget for fiscal year 2019/2020 later this spring. It’s also worth noting, that this body has a strong track record on fiscal issues – we have adopted a fund balance policy, have an improved bond rating, are successfully managing our debt and are prioritizing our legacy costs, specifically pension and retiree healthcare.
Perhaps the most impactful decision that Council made in the previous calendar year was making an additional $560,000 payment to MERS and OPEB – i.e. retirement costs. This was made possible by growth in our unrestricted fund balance, another indicator of the City’s sound financial management and forward-thinking leadership. City Council has also reviewed proposals, and approved an organizational review of City operations. As I shared in July, I believe this is critically important, as it may yield cost savings, but more specifically, it may provide insights on how we can better serve the people we represent. Local government will continue to communicate and solicit feedback from the people we represent. I must say, I was particularly delighted by the number of attendees and the quality of comments made by members of our community at our recent Strategic Planning Public Open House. These types of events and forums will continue – I would like to invite residents to a coffee hour Representative Lasinski and I are hosting this Friday, January 11th at 10 am in Council Chambers. Also, I will be participating in a live Q & A with The Saline Post this Wednesday, the 9th of January at 2:15 pm. Interested parties should go to The Post’s Facebook page to view our live conversation and post questions or comments. Questions can also be emailed to The Post in advance of the Live Stream.
Separately, residents are encouraged to connect with the City of Saline on Facebook and Twitter – we strongly suggest that individuals review our website and download the free See-Click-Fix app to their cell phones.
Lastly, I also want to acknowledge the years of service and dedication of the entire Council: Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar Jack Ceo Janet Dillon Dean Girbach Heidi McClelland Christen Mitchell And again, I would be remiss 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 and engage with our residents – and focus on our shared vision that emphasizes the importance of economic development, and investing in critical public services, while pursuing best practices for organizational efficiency, our best days, as a community, will be ahead of us. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless Saline. Mayor Brian D. Marl