The annual State of the Cities address Feb. 7 at the Costick Center, presented by the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce, included speaker Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey.

The annual State of the Cities address Feb. 7 at the Costick Center, presented by the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce, included speaker Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Future may hold road millage, new community center in Farmington Hills

State of Cities address highlights outlook for ‘18

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published February 19, 2018

 The 2018 State of the Cities attendees included Farmington Hills City Councilman Richard Lerner, Farmington City Councilwoman Sara Bowman and Farmington Mayor Steve Schneemann, who presented his inaugural State of the Cities address at the event.

The 2018 State of the Cities attendees included Farmington Hills City Councilman Richard Lerner, Farmington City Councilwoman Sara Bowman and Farmington Mayor Steve Schneemann, who presented his inaugural State of the Cities address at the event.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS  — It wouldn’t be a State of the Cities address without optimistic talk of what lies ahead for the cities of Farmington, Farmington Hills and the Farmington Public Schools district.      

The annual address Feb. 7 at the Costick Center, presented by the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce, drew residents, community stakeholders and elected officials.

Chamber Executive Director Mary Martin said in a press release that the event helps people keep tabs on what’s new.

“It’s important to stay engaged in your community and understand how to support our cities’ leaders,” she said.

 

Farmington Hills
Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey said he is “looking forward to 2018 and beyond.”

Massey said there will be a number of road projects going on this year.

“We put a lot of investment into our local major roads,” he said. Drake Road, 12 Mile Road, 13 Mile Road, 11 Mile Road and Inkster Road will all be worked on at the same time this year. Massey said, tongue in cheek, that the city wants to “make it interesting for you all.”

One of the challenges of repairing city roads stems from the fact that in 1973, when Farmington Hills first became a city, over 90 percent of its roads were gravel.

“Now fast-forward to 2018 — 96 percent of our roads are paved. How do we continue to pay for local roads?” Massey asked. He said that the City Council is going to ask voters whether they want to stay with the special assessment district system put in place when the roads were gravel.

“It allowed the subdivision to determine when and how their roads were paved or paid — to today, perhaps a millage is in place in order to make sure that we do this the right way,” Massey said, adding that the goal is to not “doubly impact” individuals who are already paying on SADs.

The city is asking the Michigan Legislature to develop a bill that will allow the city to exempt people paying on SADs from also paying for a road millage. 

“That is pending as soon as we get legislation passed; it’s been introduced,” Massey said of House Bill 5453. “It is in committee right now; (we’re) hoping to have that done very soon. Later in the year, we are looking forward (to) having this on the ballot.”

The bill, according to www.legislature.mi.gov, was introduced by  state Rep. Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills;  Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township; and Kathy Crawford and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Per the city’s current directed special assessments for road improvements policy — approved by the City Council in April 2015 — local roads are given priority to be improved based on a pavement condition rating and a number of other factors, like housing density, Department of Public Works upkeep and public interest.

Under that road improvements policy, the city is responsible for paying 20 percent, while residents in the assessment district pay 80 percent of the project cost. Paying for roads through SADs has been in the city charter since the city’s inception, officials said, though the criteria for ranking road repair needs changed recently, which has caused contention among some residents facing assessments.

Other big news in Farmington Hills will be the undertaking of transforming Harrison High School into a state-of-the-art community center.

The Farmington Public Schools Board of Education voted to close Harrison in 2016.

The high school, which is closing in June 2019, was described as a community taxpayer asset because the community has paid several hundred million dollars in taxes for it.

“We on council felt that it would be a travesty, so we ... started looking at a plan,” Massey said.

A letter of intent was issued to Farmington Public Schools from the city to take over and repurpose Harrison.

“It gives us a state-of-the-art activity center for decades to come, and it will preserve the legacy that is Harrison High School — we are committed to that,” Massey said. “Developing details ... will be forthcoming.”

 

Farmington
Farmington Mayor Steve Schneemann presented his inaugural State of the Cities address at the event.

Farmington City Council members unanimously voted to appoint Schneemann as mayor Nov. 14.

Former Farmington Mayor Bill Galvin, a current City Council member, said in November that after four years of serving as mayor, he had decided to step down. While he would do it “all over again,” he said someone else should take the helm. 

Schneemann discussed economic and community development in the city, which includes 33 new single-family homes in a local subdivision.

The Flanders Elementary School site was redeveloped into single-family homes last year. Farmington Public Schools Board of Education trustees had approved the plans for the 10-acre site in 2014.

Schneemann also discussed the redevelopment of the former 47th District Court property to accommodate 14 single-family homes on the site. Boji Development Inc. — a Farmington Hills-based company — purchased the former court property after the property sat idle for 14 years. Construction of the homes is likely to start in the spring or summer at the more than 3-acre property on 10 Mile Road, east of Farmington Road. The Farmington City Council approved an offer of $250,000 from Boji Development in a 4-0 vote Oct. 2.

The city is seeing obvious growth and development, but Schneemann said the city also is on an “unstable financial trajectory and could be borrowing money in five to seven years just to keep our city at current operating levels.”

Schneemann said that there has been a “dramatic drop” in state revenue sharing and total property tax values from 2000 —18 years ago.

He also said that it is a bit of a misconception that the city has higher tax rates in Farmington.

“It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison,” he said. He said that when looking at communities in the region that are similar in size to Farmington, Farmington residents actually pay less. “We have the best of both worlds in Farmington: big city services with a small town atmosphere.”

Schneemann said the city is continually looking to control and reduce costs.

“We need to be the best we are in Farmington; we’re not Birmingham, Northville or Plymouth,” he said. “We’re  Farmington. We need to capitalize on that brand.”

 

Farmington Public Schools
Farmington Public Schools Superintendent George Heitsch said that FPS has a lot to be proud of, especially with 30 percent of its students taking college credit while in high school through dual enrollment in university or Advanced Placement courses.

He said Lawrence Technological University is teaching courses at FPS.

“Nineteen percent of our middle school kids take a (class) in technology education,” he said.

Heitsch said last year was the district’s third in a row in which its revenues exceeded expenditures.

“We’re back up to 11 percent fund equity — an important thing for us,” Heitsch said. “When your fund equity drops to 5 percent, the Michigan Treasury Department comes in and helps us.”

He thanked both cities for the conversation about the Harrison property, adding that with three current high schools open, the district has been “spread thin.”

“(The) greatest joy (is) seeing what’s happening in schools,” Heitsch said of redevelopment. 

Farmington resident and Governor Warner Mansion docent Jean Schornick, who attended the event, said in a follow-up email that “it’s good to know that the state of our cities is good,” she said, adding that it was interesting for her to learn about the future of Harrison. 

“It was also a chance to chat with representatives of various departments and organizations.” 

For more information, go to www.fhgov.com, www.ci.farmington.mi.us or www.farmington.k12.mi.us.