2014 State of the Township
Presented by Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon
A COMMUNITY OF EXCELLENCE
Thank you Mark Hackel and thank you Grace Shore and the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce, for providing this opportunity to address our business community, state and national elected leaders, and of course the 100,000 residents who call Clinton Township their home.
Also thanks to Library Director, Larry Neal for the use of this spectacular Clinton-Macomb District Library. Board President Camille Silda, the rest of her dedicated library board, and library volunteers and staff…congratulations to you for making this one of the premier facilities in all of Michigan.
Let me introduce, and THANK, my fellow board members who serve our residents. It is a great honor and privilege for us to serve this outstanding community.
The state of Clinton Township as we enter 2014 is GOOD…and it is good because our Township Board and employees have worked hard and made sacrifices over the last six years. We have seen significant reductions in staff, substantial wage concessions from all employees and the consolidation of many operations…all made necessary by the worst recession our nation has experienced since the Great Depression.
Over the past 6 years, Clinton Township lost 28.8 Million dollars due to decreases in property values—most of it in the police and fire budgets, as well as over 30 million dollars in state revenue reductions which greatly affected the general fund.
This year we expect a one percent reduction in property taxes, but the good news is that the pace of decline has slowed considerably. In 2015 we may see a 1.6 percent increase in property taxes as long as the economy continues to improve.
Safety and security are the fundamental principals of a successful community. This is why I want to thank our voters for overwhelmingly approving a police and fire millage proposal last November. By a 2 to 1 margin, this community spoke to the importance of public safety.
You may recall that one year ago I announced a process of appointing two separate citizens committees to study our safety services operations and bring to the board a recommendation. I want to thank these committees comprised of community leaders and citizens who volunteered their time and expertise. We now have reason to cheer because we are restoring public safety operations to personnel levels, not as high as they may have been, but to a reasonable level that should serve our community for many years to come.
I should point out that at least one member of each committee told me they were originally dead set against a request to increase taxes for police and fire until they were given all the facts on the issue. We also did not bring forward a request for additional dollars from the community until both the police and fire departments had long-term concessionary contracts in place.
I want to welcome back the last 7 firefighters who were laid off due to budget shortfalls several years ago. I was quite surprised when one of the 7 stopped in to see me in December, thanked me, and the township board, for doing what was necessary to preserve the department so that he could return to his job. It was very difficult for me to recommend, and the board majority to approve, the layoffs over the past several years.
At our peak, we had seven companies that operated from five fire halls. We dropped to a level of 5 companies, and had the millage not passed we would have been down to 3 or 4 companies, which means that one, or two, of our fire halls would have been closed.
We are the most densely populated Township in Michigan and only eight cities in the state have more residents. Additionally, the 3 branches of the Clinton River run thru our township and merge near George George Park. This makes for a lot of beautiful park land and home sites, but as you know can make getting from east to west very difficult. To top it off, we have railroads that make regular runs thru our township.
These are just a few of the reasons all 5 of our fire halls are significant to the safety of our residents. Response time for fires and medical emergencies would have increased significantly if we had to close any fire halls.
Let me describe one incident where timing was everything. A 60 yr. old male collapsed while cutting his grass last summer. Our medics arrived and assessed the condition of the man as grave. Our crew electronically transmitted an EKG to the ER physicians at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.
They made the decision to send the patient immediately to the Cath lab where a team was prepared to treat him. MEDSTAR handled the transport.
The rapid recognition of this patient’s condition, along with the rapid transport are credited with the patient receiving the needed treatment in record time–and that record will soon hang on the “wall of fame” at Henry Ford Macomb. This particular life saving incident is thanks to Engine 3 Shift A, and represents just one in more than 11,000 runs and 300 fires responded to by our fire department last year.
In continuing our efforts to consolidate when it makes sense, we are participating in a study to see if a Central Macomb County Fire District can save us money and/or improve our fire service delivery. We are working with the County, Sterling Heights, Mt. Clemens, and Harrison Twp.
The study will take some time to complete, and you can be sure that I will not recommend it to our board for approval unless it is in the best interest of all 4 communities.
A month ago, Macomb County unveiled its new state-of-the-art Communications and Technology Center. I was proud to hear Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and Executive Mark Hackel explain the awesome power of this facility. I am also proud that Clinton Township is part of this project because it will upgrade this critically important service while saving money for Clinton Township residents.
I’ve read many of the reports which detail crimes and how our excellent police department solves them. I will just give 2 examples to show you what they do on a daily basis. In May, 2013 a C.T. resident was shot and killed. Responding officers quickly determined the identity of the shooting suspect, even though he had fled and no-one with knowledge of the shooting was talking. C.T. police detectives took over the investigation and within 72 hours the suspect was arrested in Battle Creek.
The next example I am going to refer to as the “Hall Road Armed Robberies”—YES plural! On November 6th, there was an armed robbery at the Harbor Market on Hall Rd. A lone male followed an employee into the market and robbed the employee at gunpoint. Taken was money, cigarettes, a bottle of liquor and lottery tickets. The victim fled on foot, and there was no working video surveillance and no available suspect information.
On November 18, a robbery was reported at the M-59 smokers shop. Taken were lottery tickets and $300 from the register and $10,000 from the safe.
Now steps in Detective Joe Burns of the C.T. P. D. He was advised that some stolen lottery tickets were presented for redemption in Detroit.
He followed up and took note of a possible suspect vehicle and the clothing the suspects were wearing.
On December 2, a bank robbery took place at the Chase Bank on Hall Rd. Detective Burns checked the area for the suspect and located a subject wearing a Tigers sweatshirt—the same sweatshirt as that worn by one of the suspects before. He then observed surveillance of the suspect from the Chase Bank and confirmed the subject he was speaking to was the one who indeed robbed the bank. A search warrant located clothing and items that were stolen in the prior robberies. Two other suspects located in the residence were also arrested. The FBI obtained a full confession from the 3 in all of these robberies.
Please thank Detective Joe Burns for taking 3 more criminals off our streets. Detective Burns is a fine example of the type of detective we have working on our behalf daily. And he is the type of officer we plan to hire to replace retiring officers thanks to your yes vote on the police millage.
In 2013 Police Chief Fred Posavetz’s staff responded to 51,525 calls for police service and 1,832 arrests were made in Clinton Township.
Our first major consolidation plan merged our engineering, water and sewer and department of public works into one department now called public services. Township engineer, Mary Bednar, stepped up to head all three divisions when the department heads in the former water and sewer and public works departments retired. The salaries of two former department heads were eliminated, and cross-training has occurred with the entire clerical ranks to reduce staff and become more efficient.
I thank all those who helped make these office changes including Sally McGowan and Lisa Supanich.
Our public works division moved into their new facility on Zuckero Drive. We saved money by buying an existing building at a very depressed price as opposed to building new. Trustee Ken Pearl was very involved in this project which will save us countless thousands of dollars in utilities and repairs well into the future.
Public Services Brian Girard and his very talented staff continue to maintain township facilities and parks to the highest standards. They also maintain dozens of County Tax Forfeiture properties as well as keep up private properties that individual owners refuse to do themselves. We of course then bill those property owners for the work, but that workload continues to increase each year.
Our building department inspectors are very busy due to a welcome workload increase as the economy rebounds with additional construction. Mike Gentry’s staff has seen an increase of 10% in the housing starts and even greater increases in other areas of construction.
New business projects like LA/Fitness, the ongoing improvements at WalMart, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital and Macomb Community College, façade improvements at the Regional Shopping Center on Gratiot, and an expanded south branch of the Clinton Macomb District Library are all restoring growth to Clinton Township.
Under the direction of Chief Assessor, Jim Elrod, the department is responsible for over 36,000 assessments. They stay very busy verifying that they are valuing property correctly, as the assessment role provides the funding that allows the township, schools, library, county government, police, fire and public services among others to operate.
Our taxable value in 2013 is $2.56 billion which is a decrease of 2% from 2012. The 2012’s decrease was more than 3%, so the decreases are shrinking each year.
For the first time since 2007 we expect an increase in all three classes of property. Currently, our residential values have stabilized with a projected average increase of 4%. Commercial is also increasing 4% and industrial 2%. I am proud of all the assessing department does with 50% of the staff it had five years ago.
After one year as township Clerk, Kim Meltzer too has seen a 50 percent reduction in her staff but at the same time oversaw a very successful election last fall with her deputy clerk Kim Irvine. In my book that is taking the bull by the horns.
Finance Director Donna Lauretti and Assistant Finance Director, Mary Hein again had a very busy year. 100% of their staff retired, yes, you heard that correctly, and they had to replace long-term talented employees, which they did by hiring very qualified individuals to fill their shoes. They also implemented new accounting software for the entire township, oversaw a successful financial audit by Plante Moran, and we again received an unqualified opinion which is the best audit opinion that can be issued. Our entire township staff relies heavily on Mrs. Lauretti and Mrs. Hein along with HR director, Bill Smith, for the best possible financial advice.
PARKS & RECREATION AND SENIOR CENTER
Communities are often judged on how they treat their young and older populations. I am proud to say that Clinton Township receives high scores on both counts. Both of these departments have improved and increased programs to better serve our population in these age groups.
Our “Day Camp Accountability—Policies and Procedures received special awards from the Michigan Recreation and Park Association. CTPR is one of the safest places for your child to play as all staff members and volunteer coaches now undergo mandatory concussion awareness and CPR training.
In fostering an understanding of giving back to one’s community, 167 middle and high schools students donated over 5,000 hours of community service through our Teen Volunteer program.
For the 4th consecutive year, our Teen Advisory Council has actively participated in the Relay for Life cancer walk. Thank you to all who volunteered and participated, as well as thank you to Superintendent Ron Roberts and the Chippewa Valley School board for the use of your facilities.
Linda Walter and Frank Pizzo also make great use of school facilities for parks and rec summer camp. Thank you Dave Richards, Superintendent of Fraser Schools and his board as well as George Sassin, Superintendent of Clintondale Schools and their board.
Matt Makowski and Debbie McClellan continue to expand services at our award winning Senior Adult Life Center. Just as our economy has changed significantly in the past decade, so have the demographics in Clinton Township and Macomb County as baby-boomers reach retirement age in record numbers. Our center continues to address the needs of our aging population in order to continue to provide quality programs and services for our current and future senior residents.
POINTS OF PRIDE
In addition to all the outstanding accomplishments of this past year, I would like to give you a thumb nail sketch of other points of pride in Clinton Township:
1.) Thousands of college students converge on C. T. daily to attend classes at MCCC on Garfield which also houses 8 Universities participating in the one-of-a-kind University Center, and not to forget Michigan State’s Medical School also at the Garfield Campus.
2.) Nearly 5,000 full-time students attend Baker College classes at two campuses in our community. Both Macomb Community College under the direction of Jim Jacobs, and Baker College, under the direction of Don Torline, continue to invest millions of dollars in their campuses to expand educational opportunities in Clinton Township.
3.) Henry Ford Macomb hospital, under the direction of CEO Barb Rossman, and McLaren Regional Medical Center—Macomb, under the direction of CEO Mark O’Halla, continue to make major investments in their hospitals to expand their world class facilities for our health care needs.
4.) We again successfully sold the tax foreclosed homes that we received from Macomb County for non-payment of property taxes. By selling these properties, delinquent taxes are paid, and we help stabilize neighborhoods. County Treasurer Ted Wahby points to Clinton Township as a shining example of how this program should work. Thanks goes to Planning Director Carlo Santia and Treasurer Bill Sowerby for taking the lead in this program.
5.) Very few communities can boast of having cable franchise agreements with THREE providers for residents. Thanks to the efforts of Linda Badamo, Joe Peruzzi and John Brooks, residents can see a variety of locally produced programs as well as Township Board meetings on Comcast, Wide Open West and AT&T U-verse.
6.) Treasurer Bill Sowerby heads up the largest Red Cross drive in all of Michigan which this year will be held on March 11th and 12th. Mary Ann Hosey will head up her 25th annual blood drive this year to be held in November.
7.) Again we had many positive changes in the Gratiot Downtown Development Authority district. This historic thoroughfare now is our fastest business development area based upon data from our planning department. Avanti, Enterprise Car Rental and Greco Title highlight some of the redevelopment in the DDA this past year alone. Of course, it is nice to have Dorian Ford, Pat Moran Chevrolet and Causley GMC on the strip—3 of the most outstanding car dealerships in the Country. And speaking of new car dealerships, I am proud to say that Clinton Township is the home of some of the most successful car dealerships in the United States…that’s right, in all of the United States. Causley Buick is ranked number four in the country while its GMC unit is number 9 in the country; Pat Moran Chevrolet is number 8; Dorian Ford is number 2; Jim Riehl Cadillac is number 45; and Parkway Chrysler is the number one Chrysler dealer and the number two Chrysler Jeep dealer in the US. And if you like Harley Davidson, our own Wolverine Harley dealer on north Gratiot is one of the top 20 Harley dealerships in the nation. What a tribute to Clinton Township and these all-American nameplates.
8.) Our planning department processed 61 plans for new sites in 2013 highlighted by Partridge Creek Senior Living, LA Fitness and a Kia Auto Dealership. 164 new businesses were approved to occupy vacant space in existing developments. Notable among these are: Cellar 59, Massage Green spa, Wise Guys on Harper, Strika Candy and Gift’s, Bad Brad’s Carry-out and commissary, and Kuhnhenn’s Micro Brewery. That makes a total of 225 new businesses that Carlo Santia and Joe Silbernagel helped open in 2013. Our 12 annual Gratiot Cruise is Sunday, August 3rd.
9.) The 8th annual Festival of the Senses will be held on September 20 and 21. This event has grown to be a premier Art event headed up by Mary Ann Hosey. She coordinates many volunteers for this program as well as our Sister City program with Yasu, Japan now in its 21st year.
10.) Don Green, Ray Glime, and Jim Hungerford continue to lead a dedicated group of community volunteers working on the Arboretum and bike trail down the 18 Mile corridor. I think everyone will agree that it adds a great value to the community.
11.) Resurrection Cemetery has become a wonderful community partner by honoring our veterans, service personal and police and fire departments. The township partners and hosts the following with Bob Schragge and his staff: Our annual 9-11 Patriot’s Day ceremony, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Wreaths Across America—all in their very beautiful War Memorial Grounds.
12.) Our employees donate thousands of dollars to local charities. I would like to thank Debbie Staller, Jessica Holden and Mary Ann Hosey for coordinating this very positive program.
13.) Thank you Trustee Dean Reynolds for spearheading the fundraising for the summer fireworks event we plan for the week after July 4th. And thank you to the many businesses and vendors who donate to make this program such a big success.
14.) And, no surprise here—Partridge Creek Mall, under the direction of Wendy Batiste Johnson, was again voted the Best Mall in Metro Detroit.
15.) Paul Brouwer, our emergency manager continues to get grants for public safety. The most recent was $30,000 to work with our schools to meet requirements of new legislation concerning lock down procedures.
16.) Along with many “technology improvements” that will help service our community, our new technology director, Dave Pearce, would like you to take a look at the township’s new website which is more streamlined and user friendly for our citizens and works on all platforms and devices.
17.) The Clinton Twp Goodfellows serves hundreds of families assuring that no child in C.T. goes without Christmas.
Decision makers in Southeast Michigan communities and counties have faced a lot of agony over the past several years to provide quality services in the face of continually eroding revenues. Your township board, and very highly trained and motivated township employees, can hold their heads high as we look toward the future.
Even though we have done well and have weathered the storm in the face of serious adversity, the services we provide in the future will depend on sustainable revenue and the ability to continually adapt as changes occur.
We need to continue to make positive, and sometimes difficult, changes because we can not be content to leave “things” as they are. Our residents deserve nothing less.
What I can say with certainty is: The State of Clinton Township is Good and we continue to be a “Community of Excellence”.