Below is video of Saline Mayor Brian Marl's State of the City address, as well as the full text of his speech. On Wednesday, at 2:30 p.m., join us on our Facebook Page for a live, streaming video interview of Mayor Marl. All city residents are invited to join the interview and ask questions as we go. If you can't make it, email your question to [email protected] and we will pose the question for you.
City Council, City Manager Campbell, City Clerk Royal, distinguished guests, and my fellow Saline community members -
It is an honor to provide remarks this evening. As I have stated many times, Saline is a special place. We’re a community with engaged citizens, numerous resources, and a shared vision for our City’s future. Saline is thriving, and I know that great things lie ahead of us -
As I stated in years past, 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 our community. Make no mistake, quality of life and economic growth are deeply intertwined.
Accordingly, a key component of economic health is thoughtful expansion and diversification of our community’s housing stock. To this end, I’m proud of our efforts to assist new housing developments in our area, specifically: Fairdene, Layher Farms, Cascade Pointe, Maple Oaks, Maple Cove, and Huntington Woods Phases II & III, to name a few.
However, the most significant development looming on the horizon is the Andelina Farms project, located at the cross-section of Michigan Avenue and Austin Road, currently within the boundaries of Saline Township. As many of our citizens are aware, the City of Saline recently approved a settlement agreement with MI Homes/Saline Ventures, and it’s clear that the City’s approach on this matter produced tangible and unambiguous gains. The settlement agreement, which is the culmination of these efforts, is a win for the City, but more specifically, for our residents.
The agreement outlines two separate outcomes. The first would require the developer to upgrade their private utility system, with an emphasis on treating chlorides and sulfates. The second option, which is far more ambitious, but is my preferred choice, would result in the Andelina Farms property being brought into the City of Saline. Utilities would be extended to the parcel, and the necessary infrastructure upgrades would be completed in the next 12-18 months, allowing the developer to sell units and have homes occupied by the final quarter of 2020. It has also been negotiated that the developer would contribute up to five million dollars to assist with utility services. Finally, in order to execute the second option, several issues would need to be resolved, including: a favorable annexation agreement with Saline Township, development of a firm construction schedule, timing of financial contributions, with specific dollar amounts, along with a number of other issues.
Annexation of this property is in keeping with the “Smart Growth” policy I have been advancing for a number of years. Moreover, acting timidly, or failing to take decisive action on Andelina Farms will not prevent or deter growth in our area. Instead, future generations will be beholden to private utilities for their community services, rather than their municipal counterparts.
Due to its significance, engaging the public on this topic has been a key priority – for example: Councilmember Girbach did an excellent job discussing this matter at our recent community vision session, it was the primary discussion item at my recent coffee hour with special guest County Commissioner Beeman. In addition, a community update was provided at the most recent membership luncheon at the SASC, in late December my office submitted an op-ed to the Saline Journal on this topic, and information has been disseminated to adjacent property owners and local HOAs. If residents or other parties have concerns, they are encouraged to contact my office.
Last, we must think more holistically about growth in our area – we must plan for it, and exercise as much control as is reasonable and appropriate. As such I am pleased that City Council approved a joint working group, comprised of Saline Township officials, and representatives from the City of Saline: including myself, Councilmembers Dillon and Girbach, along with Planning Commissioner Beardsley to discuss and develop a broad annexation plan along our southwest border. I’m eager to get to work on this, and present something tangible to City Council in the coming months.
As I’ve expressed previously, our small business community is the bedrock of our City, and understanding their needs and supporting their interests is an absolute necessity. The City will host our 8th annual Small Business Summit later this year, along with our annual Large Business gathering – we are committed to presenting on timely and relevant issues to both groups.
Because recruiting and retaining talent is of paramount importance to our local business community, this past November, the City organized and hosted our 2nd annual Job Fair, entitled; Find your future in Saline. It was a great event for both job seekers and employers. We are committed to improving the event, and we look forward to planning another job fair later this year. Special thanks to our City Treasurer/Business Ambassador, Mickie Jo Bennett, for her leadership on this, her efforts were noticed and very much appreciated.
I’m also pleased to share that significant progress has been made regarding the sale and development of Lot 20A along East Michigan Avenue, and City Council should expect to review a sales agreement for Lot 13 in the Redies Industrial Park in the next month or so. There is no doubt, transitioning these properties from public ownership to private, creating jobs, and offering new services/amenities to the residents of Saline will benefit our community for years to come.
Finally, on December 30th, my office sent a letter to Guenther Homes regarding their property at 147 West Michigan Avenue. Our community has looked upon this vacant, non-contributing lot for more than a decade; frankly, that’s long enough. This parcel occupies a strategic position in our downtown. A mixed-use project would be ideal, one that combines apartments/condos with retail/office space. I’m committed to moving this along, and will do what I can to support the project.
Transitioning now to infrastructure, the odor abatement project at the Waste Water Treatment Plant was completed this past summer. City Council had discussed a community open house at our WWTP, but considering some ongoing maintenance issues, specifically with the RBCs and Nova filters, it seems prudent to wait until the appropriate repairs are completed. We are working aggressively to get all RBC units back online, and recently approved a settlement agreement, with the manufacturer of our Nova filters, which is very advantageous to the City. In the meantime, if residents have concerns or questions pertaining to our plant, they are encouraged to call WWTP Superintendent, Steve Wyzgoski at 734-944-2003 or City Manager Campbell at 734-429-4907 ext. 2211.
Also, the future of our wastewater operations will be discussed later this week, at a special Council work meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, January 8th at 6:30 p.m. here at City Hall. At Saline’s request, Tetra Tech has completed a comprehensive analysis of this key function of city government, with recommendations on how to proceed in the future. We hope to expand capacity, but also better meet the needs of our existing utility users. Wednesday’s meeting is open to the public, and interested parties are encouraged to attend.
This upcoming construction season, the City will complete a number of resurfacing projects, including two initiatives we had hoped to start in 2019, but due to a lack of bids, will commence later this year, 2020 – those streets are Keveling Drive and Riveroaks Boulevard. The City will also complete projects on Mills Road and Woodland Drive, running from the intersection of Textile Road to the entrance of Davco in our Industrial Park.
The City and our subcontractors, completed additional sidewalk repairs in the northwest quadrant of our City this past fall, and will continue working on our comprehensive sidewalk program later this construction season. This program, once completed, will resolve nearly 100% of the deficiencies and defects that exist in our sidewalk inventory. As we proceed, those affected residents and business owners will receive a written communique from the City, but in the interim, if any of our constituents have questions or concerns, they should contact the Department of Public Works.
I am delighted to announce that the City has received a $40,000 grant from the Washtenaw County Connecting Communities program to design and evaluate the feasibility of 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, but this is an important first step. Additionally, receiving financial support from Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation - a county entity the taxpayers support, has been a key priority for the City, and with our advocacy, I’m glad they are supporting recreation and connectivity in the Saline community.
This past spring, the City hosted two visioning sessions for our Rec Center. Not only were they well attended, but we received excellent feedback from community residents and Rec Center patrons. The City will be organizing a follow-up discussion on January 15th at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers. A press release promoting the event is forthcoming, but we strongly encourage public participation as we consider what changes/improvements would enhance the viability of this valuable public resource.
As I state every year, 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 and additional dispatchers to the department’s roster, allowing for more staff flexibility and a higher police-to-resident ratio.
The Medical Marijuana Work Group, under the leadership of Council member Ceo, has completed their research and analysis, and their final report has been forwarded to City Council. A formal presentation will take place at our February 3rd City Council meeting – I look forward to the discussion, and thank all those in the community who provided feedback and/or completed the group’s questionnaire.
Later this spring, City Council will consider, and subsequently adopt a general operating budget for FY 2020-2021. Our constituents can rest assured that we will exercise the same fiscal prudence and strategic thinking that we have utilized this past decade. As our fund balance grows, we will continue to prioritize the City’s infrastructure and legacy costs, specifically: retiree health care and pensions.
Additionally, Council is eagerly awaiting the results of a recently approved Compensation Study which, once completed, will be a valuable resource as we begin the budget process and establish long-term objectives for our community.
The City of Saline will also continue implementation of the 2019 Organizational Review, with an emphasis on improving operations and more effectively meeting the needs of the people we represent.
In that vein, streamlining bureaucracy and reorganizing certain functions of City government will remain a personal priority – later this year, I will be asking City Council to approve the transition of the Code Review Task Force into a permanent City board or commission. This group should be meeting on a fairly regular basis, and must remain an outlet for the City to improve and/or reduce the regulatory burden that is placed on our citizens and business owners.
Further, the Oakwood Cemetery Task Force, first established by my predecessor, Mayor Driskell, should potentially be merged with our Cemetery Board of Appeals, creating one cemetery committee, this may eliminate certain redundancies and create more cohesion.
Also, for some months now, I have been working with a local expert on risk mitigation and reviewing/ strengthening our local policies and internal safeguards. Issues involving risk assessment and emergency planning are of critical importance, and I hope to establish a Risk Mitigation Working Committee before the end of the second quarter 2020.
In keeping with a promise I made this past July, I have emailed a number of community stakeholders to begin discussions on resurrecting the community-wide planning initiative of the late 1990’s. This is a matter I began evaluating during the second half of 2019, and as I stated this past summer, issues involving growth, inclusion, transportation, transit, housing, and human services are not just City of Saline issues: they affect the greater community. Therefore, I believe a broad coalition must be established to resolve long-term and systemic problems that challenge our region.
Affordable housing/income-based housing will be a priority for the City and City Council during the upcoming calendar year. City Manager Campbell and I recently met with representatives from the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development to discuss this issue, and much, but not all of the conversation focused on duplicating the success of Millpond Manor, located on the campus of EVH-Senior Solutions. Future stakeholder meetings will occur soon, and community members should expect updates in the near future.
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.
On January 8th, I will be participating in a live-stream interview with The Saline Post. I’ll be discussing this state-of-the-city address, and responding to questions and concerns from Saline residents. If you’d like to participate, please log on to The Saline Post this Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. – If you are unavailable, but would like to ask questions or share ideas, you are encouraged to email the editor, Tran Longmore, in advance of Wednesday’s interview -
To conclude, I want to acknowledge the years of service and the contribution made by my City Council colleagues. I also want to take this opportunity to welcome our newest members, James Dell’Orco and Kevin Camero-Sulak. I’m confident that City Council will be strengthened by their ideas and energy. Also, I want to thank our very talented and committed staff, who care deeply for this community, and provide world-class service to our residents on a daily basis. I’ll also acknowledge one of our newest employees, Mr. Mike Greene, who is heading up the new Community Development Department, and also serving as Assistant City Manager. Welcome Mike, we expect great things -
Finally, as City leaders, we will lead this community forward, based on principles and the power of our ideals. We have a vision - a focus on economic development, investing in vital public services, and pursuing best practices and organizational efficiency. But our community's greatest asset is our people. As I’ve said before, 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 -
sThank you, God bless you, and may God bless Saline –