Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Mayor Gretchen Driskell
As we enter this new decade it is a privilege to have the opportunity to share this state of the city message with our citizens. We begin this decade with significant accomplishments to reflect on and a challenging future for governments around the country. Fortunately, as evidenced by receiving the top 100 small cities award three times in a row by CNN/Money magazine, Saline is in a strong position entering this new decade.
Since 2000, the city has been investing significantly in our infrastructure. Our $43M investment in major capital projects over the past decade has substantially improved the vast majority of our assets, providing for long term stability and lengthy life spans in our various asset categories. We entered the decade with $4M in our fund balance, some of which was set aside to pay a portion of the municipal building that was completed in 2002. At this writing we have over $3M in our fund balance.
Let’s take a look back at some accomplishments.
The city transitioned out of the former service center located on Maple Road, which is now demolished and the land is available for future development. This deteriorating facility housed our police department, building department, district court and department of public works. Due to long range planning we have been able to move the police department and building department to our new city hall. The 14th district court building held its grand opening this summer. A new public works facility was built on city property near the Recreation Complex. And a significant renovation of the Recreation Complex was completed in 2007 which has added considerable service capacity to the community.
Our water system was greatly improved by the voter approved water treatment system implemented in 2005. This filtration system removes iron and provides for a more fully protected water system. Significant road projects that have been completed include the realignment of Bemis Road, and MDOT reconstruction of West and East Michigan Avenue.
The city has been fortunate to experience economic growth, even at the end of the decade. Most recently, the ACH facility on East Michigan Avenue chose to remain open through 2012 and invest over $100M to improve production capacity. We have had several other businesses in our business park expand in the last 5 years, such as American Soy, Pattco, Liebherr, Saline Lectronics and JAC Products. We also have new businesses moving to town, most recently Molded Materials.
This past decade we initiated a new sister city partnership with Lindenberg Germany to recognize our German heritage. Since the formal signing in 2003 we have had over 300 people from all aspects of the community travel back and forth learning about our cultures. We also have added a German business, Sherer-Trier, had two German business expansions, and Liebherr bought an additional 54 acres for future expansion. The city has identified opportunities in economic development due to our positive relationship with Lindenberg, Germany.
Our commissions were very active and have accomplished a broad range of initiatives, only a few of which am I able to elaborate on here due to time constraints. The Historic District Commission established two new districts, North and South Ann Arbor Street. The Environmental Commission has developed an informational website called salinebegreen.com, labeled storm drains and promoted additional recycling opportunities. The Parks Commission has accessed several grant opportunities that have greatly improved our two major parks, Curtiss and Mill Pond. The Bixby Trust Committee holds a puppetry festival every fall, and recently moved the marionette display to the library.
Our downtown is the focal point of our community and what makes Saline unique. The Business Development Association worked with the city, the Downtown Merchants Association, and the Chamber of Commerce to develop a downtown vision, hire a downtown director, update our streetscape plan, develop a marketing website and continues to look for opportunities to bring consumers to our commercial establishments.
Two new commissions were initiated this past decade. The Youth Council is very active, representing the needs of the youth in our community. They have worked on opening a teen center, they host youth lock-in’s, provide a mentoring program, and facilitate many other events that are youth oriented. The Arts & Culture committee just finished their inaugural year, and they have already completed both a long and short term list of goals. Cultural activities are a key component to a successful, vibrant community.
The city council and staff have continued to focus on effective communications and maintaining a high level of customer service. Over the past decade, we have utilized multiple tools to help us achieve these goals. Our city website had achieved awards in the past and we just completed our most expansive website to date. Thanks to our website designer, Design Hub and our staff contributions you should be able to access an incredible array of city services and information on a 24hr 7day a week basis. Another tool the city is using is a citizen survey process that assists your city government in setting goals and learning about our level of citizen satisfaction. Additionally, we have a quarterly newsletter that is mailed to all of our residents that provides information about upcoming events, ordinances, and pending projects.
Looking back over the past decade gives a great perspective as to what we have accomplished. However our council and staff are very focused on our future and the challenges ahead. We are committed to do our best to maintain our excellent level of service within significant financial constraints.
We have a stable financial situation, with a 30% fund balance and an AA- bond rating. The next several years will continue to be difficult due to the time lag governments experience with revenue during economic downturns. During our budget process last year we looked at many alternatives. We made some very difficult choices including letting go of four excellent employees. Our staff spent many months in 2009 completing an organizational review. Items large and small were addressed and many aspects of the review are currently being implemented. Our city manager, Todd Campbell, has provided exemplary leadership wrestling with these challenging budget issues.
We have a stellar council, with a very high level of experience and expertise. Tonight we swear in three incumbent councilmembers, Pat Ivey, Glenn Law, and Alicia Ping. Pat Little has served on the city council for many years including 6 years as our mayor. David Rhoads and Brian Marl round out a very committed group of public servants.
Additionally, tonight we recognize the incredible commitment of 50 years service made by our city attorney Allan Grossman. He has provided sound counsel for all decisions made affecting every aspect of city business, from land development to basic ordinances and more.
Our strategic goals will continue to follow the same direction. A financially stable city, a vibrant downtown, a sense of community, proactive economic development, promoting green community initiatives, maintaining a healthy infrastructure and an excellent quality of life are the major assets that makes Saline an attractive community to live, work and play in. Thanks to your support we will continue to be the community you are proud to call home.