VIDEO and Transcript: Mayor Brian Marl Gives His State of the City Address

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City of Saline Mayor Brian Marl presented his semi-annual State of the City Address at the Saline City Council meeting Monday.

Below is video and the transcript.

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Good evening.

City Council, City Manager O’Toole, Clerk Royal, distinguished guests, and my fellow Salinians –

It is an honor to provide my customary mid-year update, albeit, a more abbreviated version of my January State-of-the-City address.

After more than 14 months of uncertainty and cynicism, our nation ravaged by a global health pandemic, countless sick and dying, numerous businesses shuttered, and our friends and neighbors laid-off or furloughed, our community has turned the corner – the sun is rising again, and Salinians are optimistic and confident about our future.

Make no mistake, challenges lie ahead, and Salinians should continue to be smart and take sensible precautions. However, now is the time to redouble our efforts – we will not be deterred from the work at hand – strengthening our community, making it more economically vibrant, and welcoming to all who wish to live or work in the Saline area.

A vibrant, diverse local economy is grounded by strong, stable businesses, and the true backbone has to be small businesses. Our private sector not only provides jobs, services and amenities, but also the revenue required to provide the critical services our residents rely on.

Working in collaboration with Saline Mainstreet, Saline Area Schools, and our local Chamber of Commerce, The City will host our annual small & large business summit events, along with our third Job Fair event, scheduled for October 2021. Also, in cooperation with our regional partners, we hope to launch a bulk purchasing initiative and as I’ve expressed previously, it would also be advantageous to revive the Economic Development Trust Fund, thereby providing grants and micro-loans to area businesses.

I was pleased that City Council approved a recovery zone in the heart of our downtown, allowing our local shops and restaurants the opportunity to expand outdoor seating and amenities during the summer months – I am hopeful that area businesses, especially those in our downtown, will return to pre pandemic hours, thus fully utilizing this important community gathering space.

As I expressed numerous times, our City's long-term sustainability is predicated on a policy I call "Smart Growth," or thoughtful, strategic expansion of our housing amenities, business diversification, and the promotion of place and connectivity. This will grow our tax base, increase our utility customers, and attract additional jobs and services that will improve and enhance our residents’ quality of life.

I'm proud of our efforts in support of a number of new housing projects in recent years, specifically, the completion of Huntington Woods phases II & III, Maple Oaks, and Curtiss Bluffs. Further, we have numerous projects that will likely break ground in 2021, including Layher Farms and Westgate Apartments, both along North Maple Road.

Transitioning to infrastructure, City Council and staff have held numerous meetings over the past 16 months to discuss the future of wastewater services – consensus appears to favor growing in-place and integrating new technology at our wastewater treatment plant in the coming years.

Further, by every objective measure, operations have improved, and odor complaints have declined dramatically since the establishment of our WWTP adhoc committee, which was created by City Council in January of this year.

Under the leadership of City Manager O’Toole, our ad-hoc committee has provided necessary oversight and advocated for expeditious repairs of wastewater technology – and on the issue of odor, residents are still encouraged to complete our online form anytime they experience noxious odors permeating from our plant – for the convenience of our residents, the form may be found on our City’s homepage.

Also, as mentioned at past meetings, staff and legal counsel continue to work diligently to resolve an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) with the State of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy – in fact, the process is close to completion, and City Council will likely consider a final ACO later this summer.

This current construction season, the City will complete a number of important infrastructure projects, including, resurfacing of Highland Drive, Hillcrest Drive, and Lawson Street. We will also thoroughly complete an emergency storm-sewer repair on Rosebud Lane and begin work on the long-overdue connecting sidewalk between Huntington Woods and the City limits.

Additionally, the City will continue to make progress on the completion of our comprehensive sidewalk program. As many residents are aware, this initiative has been extremely successful, and has already resolved the vast majority of sidewalk deficiencies that exist citywide.

The City’s Rec Center Sustainability Task Force is off to a strong start, and on track to issue their report to City Council no later than the first quarter of 2022. Our Recreation Center is a valuable public asset – moving forward, we should strive for a facility that is well used by the community, while not unduly burdening our general fund.

Our Risk Mitigation Working Group has now transitioned into an advisory panel, and will assist staff with the implementation of key objectives until the end of this calendar year. Again, let me emphasize the point: this initiative has been extremely worthwhile, and will ultimately benefit our City in innumerable ways.

As I have stated on so many occasions, our first responders can rest assured that we will provide them the resources they need to effectively serve and protect the residents of Saline.

On behalf of our City, I want to welcome our new Fire Chief, Jason Sperle, to the Saline community, and wish him well as he begins his tenure in Saline. I also want to acknowledge our former Chief, Craig Hoeft, for his years of exemplary service and dedication.

The Saline Police Department continues their forward progress to deliver police services to our community – SPD is working diligently to attain accreditation through the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, formally entering the self-assessment phase of accreditation on February 1, 2021. SPD has already met 498 standards in policy and is working diligently to demonstrate best practices. Our Chief, Jerrod Hart, anticipates an accreditation hearing in February 2022.

Also, the SPD Strategic Planning Committee will deliver a draft plan to the community on Sunday, July 25th
from 2 to 4pm, here in City Council Chambers. The Police Department will also be hosting an open house and the United States

Secret Service will be on hand to provide child identification kits to parents. This will be a great opportunity to provide additional feedback on the Strategic Plan and meet SPD staff.

As many residents are aware, City Council recently adopted our FY 2021/2022 Budget, and we continue to be good stewards of public resources. Salinians can rest easy, knowing we exercised the same fiscal prudence and strategic thinking that has been utilized for the past decade. Moving forward, Council will continue to prioritize the City’s infrastructure and legacy costs, specifically: retiree health care and pensions, while continuing to maintain a healthy fund balance.

The Code Review Task Force has done excellent work in recent months, particularly, on the issue of medical marijuana – I’m intensely proud of the compromise City Council broached, and the fact that regulated medical marijuana facilities were unanimously approved late last month. Code Review will have a full agenda this summer, including evaluation of recreational marijuana, and work to transition DEI and the Oakwood Cemetery Taskforces into permanent City commissions.

As I expressed in January, I am so proud that City Council has adopted resolutions and approved the creation of a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Taskforce – further, my office has connected with the MSU Extension, and the City will again host DEI trainings, including staff and any interested parties in our community.

Also, our changing demographics, coupled with the adverse effects of the Covid19 pandemic, has brought to light the desperate need for additional medical and health care services in the Saline community. Our residents’ quality of life is directly linked to accessible, quality healthcare amenities – As such, our new Healthcare Improvement Taskforce has been working diligently to rectify this matter. If residents have thoughts, or would like to get involved, feel free to connect with Chairperson Dawn Krause, Vice Chair Dell’Orco or the group’s Recording Secretary, Jack Ceo.

Also, over the past several months, I have had numerous conversations with Mayor

Pro-tem Girbach, who also doubles as the Chairperson of our community’s Historical Society, about initiatives to enhance our City’s historic assets. As such, later this summer, I will be asking that City Council establish a working group to evaluate our assets, and recommend strategies for their preservation. Our municipally owned historic structures and properties must be appropriately preserved so they can be enjoyed by future generations of the Saline community.

This past June, Assistant City Manager Mike Greene and I participated in our annual check-in with regional representatives from DTE Energy – as a result, we were made aware of new incentives to install electric vehicle charging stations. Of course, this will be evaluated further, but it’s my hope that more charging stations can be installed - we must embrace this emerging technology and continue to emphasize the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship within our community.

As many are aware, our municipal website will be redesigned and relaunched no later than the fall of 2021. If residents or business owners have ideas on how we can best create a navigable and accessible City website, I would encourage you to connect with our IT Director, Chris Shonk – I know he would welcome your feedback –

Also, on July 13, the City will be launching a new online survey pertaining to water quality – If residents experience uncommonly hard or cloudy water, this will provide them the opportunity to report their concerns directly to City staff. Our goal is to provide citizens exceptional, clear water, and to correct deficiencies just as soon as they are reported.

Finally, I will be hosting my next mayoral coffee hour on Monday, July 26th from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Saline Area Senior Center. Special guests will include Fire Chief Sperle, and our new DPW Director, Larry Sirls. All community residents are welcome, and more information will be provided in the coming weeks.

Let me end by acknowledging the years of service and the contributions made by my City Council colleagues – Mayor Pro-tem Dean Girbach, members Janet Dillon, Jack Ceo, James Dell’Orco, Kevin Camero-Sulak, and Dawn Krause.

Also, sincerest thanks to our very dedicated and talented staff, who care deeply for this community, and provide exceptional service to our residents on a daily basis. On behalf of Council, we thank each of you - our community would not be the world-class City it is without your commitment and contributions.

In conclusion, if you remember one thing, may it be this - City leadership will continue to lead Saline forward, based on our strong community values of caring for one another, especially the vulnerable and those who are often overlooked. We have a vision – a focus on improving the lives of our residents, leveraging new economic development opportunities, investing in vital public services, and pursuing best practices for organizational efficiency. In the end, however, the City’s greatest asset is our people – Saline is special because of the character and commitment of our residents, and that was never more apparent than during the past year and a half. Great challenges remain, but greater things are ahead of us. I continue to believe that our best days are yet to come.

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

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