Phone: (734) 429-4907 Hours: M-F 8:30am-5pm

One of America's Best Places to Live, Work and Play

Navigation

State of the City

Good evening.

 

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

My friends, like you, I never imagined a 2020 quite like this - Saline in the international news for incidences of racism and intolerance, the COVID-19 global health pandemic, millions of Americans sick and tens of thousands deceased, our economy shut down, with friends and neighbors laid off, furloughed, or living with countless unknowns -

As I have stated before, these are challenging and unprecedented times - but we will not be deterred or discouraged. Uncertain times call for strong and steady leadership, and that is precisely what we shall provide.

Discrimination and bigotry will not be tolerated by the Saline community, as demonstrated by the many Saline community members standing up against systemic racism and injustice. City government, partnering with our regional stakeholders, will work to create a more inclusive and welcoming community - one where diversity is celebrated, and all our residents feel safe and valued.

Later this year, with the assistance of the MSU Extension, specifically, Mr. Dionardo Pizana, the City will require DEI (diversity, equity, & inclusion) trainings for all City employees. We also plan to include other community leaders and individuals from marginalized or underrepresented groups in these efforts.

Additionally, with the assistance of Council Member Camero-Sulak, we are evaluating the creation of a diversity task force - needless to say, the group's mission must be clear and focused and the membership should appropriately represent the perspectives of all groups in our area, especially those which are often overlooked.

Early this winter, the listening session we co-hosted with County Commissioners Beeman and Brabec was very successful. As soon as it is safe to do so, I hope to organize and host another such session later this year, or we may explore our virtual options.

Finally, following the example of the City of Ypsilanti and the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, I'll be presenting to City Council at our July 20th meeting a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis. Racism is insidious and destructive - if we are to resolve the inequities that exist in our society, we must begin by acknowledging it as a community. 

Throughout this national crisis, the effects of the global pandemic have been devastating. But as I'm fond of saying, Salinians always do their part, and I've been impressed by the vigilance, creativity, and generosity of our residents and business owners.

In the coming weeks and months, it's imperative that each of us continue to act appropriately, especially in the wake of increased infections rates in our state and elsewhere. Please continue to avoid large group gatherings, engage in routine cleaning and disinfection, and please wear a mask or face covering when you leave home or associate with individuals that you do not cohabitate with. No one likes to wear a mask, but we wear it to help one another, and especially the most vulnerable in our community.

Our constituents will notice that services are returning, and as of July 1st, City Hall has fully reopened. However, for the foreseeable future, municipal services will be provided with special adapted protocols to protect the health of both our employees and the citizens we represent.

Businesses in Saline face a daunting new set of challenges, with changing health and safety restrictions related to the pandemic and an uncertain economy. Now, more than ever, we must do what we can to support our local businesses - some of which are struggling to adapt, and re-adapt, while continuing to conduct business in the Saline area and serve Saline community members.

Working in tandem with Saline Mainstreet, I'm 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 on Fridays and Saturdays. The proposal to intermittently close Ann Arbor Street from McKay to US-12 and Henry to Michigan Avenue should be carefully evaluated, as I believe this approach may improve the vitality of our downtown. In fact, I see it as something we should consider in future years, even after the pandemic has passed.

With the support and cooperation of the Saline Community Television Network, we plan to film an economic development PSA, highlighting a number of local businesses and encouraging additional investment in the Saline community. The video shoot had been scheduled for May 15th, but in light of the circumstances, had to be postponed. However, we are looking to reschedule, as this video will be a useful tool in our ongoing efforts to attract additional jobs and amenities to our area. 

Further, as soon as we are safely able to do so, the City will organize our 8th annual small business summit, our annual large business gathering, and our 3rd job fair event, entitled, Find Your Future in Saline - the City remains committed to sharing timely and relevant information with our local entrepreneurs, and assisting them with talent recruitment and retention.

As I've stated publicly, during challenging economic times it's essential that we find new and innovative ways to support our local business community. Accordingly, I am attempting to schedule a meeting of the Community Recruitment and Retention Team, composed of representatives from the City, Saline Mainstreet, Saline Area Chamber of Commerce, and Saline Area Schools. I’m excited to collaborate with this talented group to find new ways we can support our businesses.

As I expressed in January, our City's long term sustainability is predicated on support of a policy I've referred to as "Smart Growth" - thoughtful, strategic expansion of our housing stock and business diversification. This will grow our tax base, increase our utility customers, and attract additional jobs and services that will improve and enhance our citizen's quality of life.   

I'm proud of our efforts in support of a number of new housing projects in recent years. However, I deeply regret that we were unable to approve a development agreement with MI Homes, Andelina Farms, located at the intersection of West Michigan Avenue and Austin Road. However, approving the proposed agreement would have placed the City in a precarious position, subject to additional liability and potential litigation. Approving the agreement would not have been prudent. As stability and certainty return to the market, I hope MI Homes reconnects with the City to discuss our options moving forward - from a growth, land management, and environmental perspective, I still believe it's in the community's best interest for Andelina Farms to become part of our City.

Affordable housing will also remain a priority, so that our community continues to be home to people and families from all walks of life. The City looks forward to continuing partnership with the Washtenaw County Office of Community & Economic Development, along with other regional stakeholders, such that Saline can make tangible progress on the availability of quality affordable housing options.

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, 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 enhancing overall public safety services.   

I’m also delighted that our 2020/2021 General Operating Budget includes funds to restore the department’s Deputy Police Chief position, which was vacated in 2011. Chief Hart will likely make a public announcement later in the week – needless to say however, our new Deputy Chief has stellar credentials, deep roots in the Saline area, and will be an excellent addition to Saline City government. 

As was reported this past spring, we’re pleased that fair and unbiased policing standards have been integrated into the SPD’s policy manual. Additionally, as we will discuss later this evening, the Chief is spearheading another initiative I strongly support: offering sponsorships for young people to attend the police academy. Sponsorships will provide financial support to individuals who might lack the resources required to pursue their academic objectives – further, if Saline intends to maintain a competitive edge and attract a diverse workforce, this is a program we must support and approve.

Also, this evening, I am requesting that City Council approve the creation of a Risk Mitigation Working Group to review all operations and divisions of City government to reduce our risk and liability. As I’ve mentioned at our most recent meetings, deficiencies exist, along with some internal safeguards. However, under the leadership of Ms. Laurie Champion and Mayor Pro-tem Girbach, I am confident these issues can be resolved.

Transitioning now to infrastructure, I was on-site at our wastewater treatment plant this past Monday, June 29th, and was pleased with the status of the RBCs, Bioscrubber, and Nova filters. Additionally, noxious odors were almost nonexistent. In fact, I only detected sewage odors near the head-works when I first arrived on site. However, rest assured, the City will continue to monitor these issues closely. Also, in the spirit of openness and transparency, we will host tours and a public open house at our WWTP later this fall –

Also, staff and legal counsel are working diligently to resolve an ACO, Administrative Consent Order, with the State of Michigan, more specifically, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

Earlier this evening, City Council continued our deliberations on the future of wastewater services, the genesis of our discussion was a siting study completed by Tetra-Tech in January of this year. The City’s focus will be improving this vital service, investing in new technology, and gradually expanding capacity. Council will take additional action later this summer and fall.

This 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 be completed this summer – those streets are Keveling Drive and Riveroaks Boulevard. The City will also complete projects on Mills Road and Woodland Drive, and hopefully we’ll approve work for Watson Drive, Whittier Court, and a portion of Nichols Drive as well.

In January, I was delighted to announce that the City had received a $40,000 grant from the Washtenaw County Connecting Communities program to 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. We are now beginning work on design and engineering and will aggressively compete for dollars to construct said pathway in the ensuing years.

In the spring of 2019, and again in January of this year, the City hosted three visioning sessions for our Rec Center. They were well attended, and we received excellent feedback from community residents and Rec Center patrons. Later this summer, specifically in August, City Council will receive a report and analysis from our Parks & Recreation Department, and subsequently consider what changes/improvements would enhance the viability of this valuable public resource.

Earlier this spring, City Council considered and adopted a general operating budget for FY 2020-2021. Our constituents can rest assured that we exercised the same fiscal prudence and strategic thinking that we have utilized this past decade. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize the City’s infrastructure and legacy costs, specifically: retiree health care and pensions – in fact, I hope to make additional contributions to MERS and OPEB later this year –

The Code Review Task Force will be meeting again on July 22nd and will begin work on drafting the necessary ordinances and policies to permit regulated Medical Marijuana establishments in our community. The Code Review Task Force will also be discussing the City’s property maintenance policies and transitioning Code Review and the Oakwood Cometary Task Force into permanent City boards or committees – allowing them to meet more frequently and effectively deal with pertinent City business.

As many are aware, this is a time of transition here at the City of Saline – Firstly, I must acknowledge and thank former City Manager Todd Campbell for his more than 12 years of extraordinary service to our community. I join my colleagues in wishing Todd and his family the very best in the future. Subsequent to Mr. Campbell’s departure, we formed a Transition Team which has met weekly, and later this evening we’ll establish a Search Committee for a permanent City Administrator, along with the hiring of an independent third party to assist with a thorough and comprehensive search.

Mike Greene, our Assistant City Manager and Director of Community Development, will serve as Acting City Manager for the time being – In collaboration with his colleagues, he’ll work expeditiously to fill other key positions within our organization, including the DPW Director and HR Consultant. In the ensuing weeks and months, City staff will continue to provide the world-class services our residents and business owners have come to rely on.

In conclusion, on July 7th, I will be participating in a live-stream interview with The Saline Post. I’ll be discussing this address and responding to questions and concerns from Saline residents. If you’d like to participate, please log on to The Saline Post this Tuesday at 3 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 tomorrow’s interview –

Also, my next Mayoral coffee hour will be held on Friday, August 7th, beginning 8 a.m. – A number of issues will be covered, but the primary focus will be on the future of wastewater services in the Saline community. Additional details will follow, if appropriate, the coffee hour will be hosted in Council Chambers, if not, we will hold it on Zoom –

For the foreseeable future, I will continue my weekly PSAs, if you’d like to view them, please connect with me on Facebook or go to the City’s Facebook page. Please know that the City 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.

Let me end by acknowledging the years of service and the contributions made by my City Council colleagues. 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 –

As City leaders, we will continue to lead Saline forward, based on our strong community values of taking care of one another, especially the disenfranchised and most vulnerable. We have a vision – a focus on caring for our residents, economic development, investing in vital public services, and pursuing best practices for organizational efficiency. In the end, the City’s best asset is our people – I’ve said it before, Saline is special because of the character and generosity of our residents, and that’s never more apparent than in crisis. Great challenges remain, but greater things lay 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 -