State of the City
City Council, City Manager Campbell, City Clerk Royal, Distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens. I'm honored to provide a mid-year state of our city update. As you all know, Saline is a very special place with many strengths, the most significant of which is our people. And I know my colleagues agree that it's a privilege to represent this great community as members of City Council. Clearly, the most timely and noticeable issue impacting this community today relates to infrastructure - the 2016 Michigan Avenue makeover. As most of our citizens already know, a significant amount of time and planning went into this project, not only at the state level, but locally. There were a number of meetings and forum events where public input was solicited, and I believe that many of the comments and concerns raised there were prudently addressed. The project is proceeding on schedule, and as has been noted on numerous occasions in the past, with any project of this magnitude there will be inconveniences. The good news is that when the project is completed later this fall, we will have a new road through the most critical part of our downtown, and a new streetscape that will serve us well for generations to come.
Once the downtown streetscape is completed, people will find there are a number of pedestrian safety enhancements that will emphasize walkability and encouraging people to gather - and stay - in our downtown. The professional grinding of Saline's sidewalks has been completed, which resolves approximately 80-85 percent of the defects citywide. Of course, communications have gone out to residents responsible for repairing their own damaged sidewalks. If residents are unable to conduct repairs, the city will have a multiyear program to resolve those issues. This approach represents the most significant focus and investment in our sidewalks in more than two decades. As I mentioned in the past regarding investments in our infrastructure, work continues to modernize and rehabilitate our wastewater treatment plant, which should conclude later this summer. We added additional work to the odor scrubbers to help mitigate some of the smells. Projects of this magnitude and complexity take time, and require patience. and I appreciate everyone's
Flexibility and understanding.
In addition to the ongoing work on US-12, we will be working on the streets in the Maplewood Farms subdivision, which is important to the residents of
that neighborhood as the existing streets are original to when that
development was completed.
As I expressed in January, one of my hopes is that when people look back on
2016, they will say that the city's primary efforts - and the Mayor's biggest
focus - was on economic development, and creating an atmosphere and an
environment where business development and entrepreneurship flourish.
Economic development is not just about supporting existing businesses and
encouraging new ones. It's also working to bring additional investment into
the community, especially as it relates to housing.
Earlier this evening, City Council discussed an issue I find quite exciting: the
potential sale and development of long-held municipal lots on Michigan
Avenue across from Rentschler Farm. Also on tonight's agenda is an issue
relating to the development of 207 Monroe Street. While progress continues
on the residential developments at the former Houghton School property,
Curtiss Bluffs (also on Monroe Street), Risdon Heights on East Henry Street
and the very innovative proposal by Three Oaks, Incorporated to develop the
former service center site on North Maple Road.
I also want to congratulate four of our city's large businesses on recently
completed or ongoing expansions of varying sizes: MMI Engineered
Solutions, Liebherr, Condat Corporation and PSMI. We are excited by their
success and growth, as well as their investment in our community.
Because of the significance of economic development - and because it is
truly a team effort - I have reached out to the leadership of the Saline Area
Chamber of Commerce and Saline Main Street to arrange a discussion with
city government about economic development in Saline, and strategies that
we can take to leverage new opportunities.
I also want to note my personal excitement about the recent announcement by
Emagine Entertainment to create their first Washtenaw County location in
Saline. While it's not a done deal, if it were to come to fruition the
development would breathe new life into the Sauk Commons shopping
center. Of equal significance. it would fulfill one of my goals, which is to
provide new opportunities, jobs, and amenities to the Saline community.
I wanted to take a moment to commend the Code and Ordinance Review
Task Force, which is essentially on hiatus at this point, for their work to
modernize and improve various city ordinances. This is a topic that I've
thought a lot about in recent months, and to ensure that this community
remains an attractive place, I believe that we need to have a discussion again
about implementing a property maintenance ordinance. Also, in this next
fiscal year, City Council will work on a non-discrimination ordinance to
ensure that all of our citizens are treated with respect and feel welcome and
safe - in the Saline community. I also want to thank the members of a
Planning Commission subcommittee charged with making updates to the
city's Master Plan that work is ongoing.
As I shared this past winter, being good stewards of public resources will
continue to be a top priority during this calendar year. Council recently
approved our 2016-2017 budget. As I've noted in the past, budgets are a
reflection of one's values and priorities. While the anemic economy still
continues to adversely affect us, I think we're managing things quite
prudently. We continue to scrutinize and assess various programs and
expenditures, and Council will continue to focus on the big fiscal issues like
managing health and pension costs, and identifying a reliable funding stream
for our infrastructure needs.
Clearly, the Parks and Recreation Department, and the Recreation Complex
specifically, have a significant impact on our budget. Staff, volunteers, and
community members recently gathered to celebrate the Rec Center's 25th
anniversary. It's a great facility, and its financial viability is based on
memberships. More important than the financial side, as someone who uses
the Rec Center frequently, I encourage people to "Check out the Rec," and
consider a membership.
I'm proud to report in my capacity as Chair of the Saline Area Fire Board that
our budget has grown for the first time in many years. In keeping with our
commitment to effectively serving the community while emphasizing officer
safety, we recently hired three new fulltime firefighters.
We have a great deal of respect for the men and women of the Police
Department who put their lives on the line, and work tirelessly to protect the
wellbeing of our citizens. As a follow-up to the comprehensive review of the
Police Department conducted in 2015, I will be bringing a proposal to City
Council in the coming months to conduct a more abbreviated review to
review our progress. Work continues to transition the Substance Abuse
Coalition from a city entity to a 501(c)(3).
I'd like to acknowledge that I recently completed my fifth annual Saline
Senior Conference. Which was well received. I've held two coffee hours this
year, and will organize a third sometime in August or September. We've also
had two events and good discussions regarding how we can meet the Saline
community's health and wellness needs.
As I've said on numerous occasions, it will continue to be a personal goal of
mine to encourage volunteerism in the community. I encourage my fellow
residents to check the city website for board and commission vacancies. We
are always looking for good people to serve in these capacities. The Arts and
Culture Committee specifically comes to mind - a group that I hope to work
with later this summer and fall to create a program where local artists' work
can be displayed at City Hall. I'll kick off this effort by donating a marvelous
piece by local photographers at d2 Saline.
Also, I encourage everyone in the Saline community to volunteer or find a
role to play in the celebration of our sesquicentennial - our l50th year as a
community. There will be many events and activities, culminating in a
fireworks display at Crabtree Field in October.
Needless to say, our efforts and recent successes would not have been
possible without our dedicated and talented staff members and my colleagues
on City Council. Again, I want to acknowledge the tremendous efforts made
Mayor Pro Tem David Rhoads
Clearly, our city has a vision for the future, and we have a strong track record
of focusing on the issues that have the most impact on citizens' quality of
life. And, I have no doubt that our best days are ahead of us.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless Saline.
Mayor Brian D. Marl