Officials assess Madison Heights’ 2017

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 8, 2018

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Looking back on last year, Madison Heights City Manager Ben Myers said that the city’s financial picture continues to be one treated with caution.

“Although we’re starting to see some uptick in terms of revenues and the economic recovery … the city continues to be challenged to find funding for all of our capital equipment and maintenance needs,” Myers said. 

He said the city’s unfunded liabilities for other post-employment benefits, or OPEB, were a primary concern for the city in 2017. The new state Legislature has established minimum funding thresholds for both pensions and OPEB, which will factor into the city’s strategy going forward. 

Myers also said that while the Proposal V millage (0.25 mill) provides some relief for police, fire and street maintenance vehicles, the historical loss in taxable value has reduced its annual revenue by about $200,000. This is not much — only one-third the cost of a replacement ambulance, and not even the full cost of one DPS dump truck. 

Some challenges came from the neighborhoods, such as the October discovery of a hoarder home on Hecht Street with more than 130 cats. The surviving cats were rescued and rehabilitated, the home was condemned, and the owner was charged with animal abuse. 

“In terms of resource management, 2017 unfortunately saw several extreme residential hoarding cases that required an ongoing commitment of time from police, community development, the city attorney’s office and contractors to bring to resolution,” Myers said. 

Madison Heights also faced litigation when it squared off against recycling giant SOCRRA — the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority. SOCRRA filed a lawsuit against the city for barring access to its transfer site at 29470 John R Road. The city had padlocked the facility following the discovery of more than 50 code violations. SOCRRA ultimately agreed to address the safety issues and dismissed its own lawsuit. 

For Myers, highlights in 2017 included restoring the police’s Special Investigations Unit function through participation in the Troy SIU; conversion to the Next Gen 911 phone system; a new 20-year tax increment financing and development plan for the Downtown Development Authority; re-establishing the DPS Spring Cleanup; and establishing a right-of-way tree replacement program.

Other highlights included re-establishing the holiday lights awards program; implementing an electronic application process for building and planning permits; implementing the final year of scheduled Proposal R2 neighborhood road projects; and implementing year 3 of the People Powered Transportation and Sidewalk Repair Program from 11 Mile to Gardenia and Connie. 

City Councilman Robert Corbett said that managing legacy costs, retirement and health insurance benefits for retirees has been a challenge. Madison Heights is proactive in setting aside money and resources to pay down the debt. 

“Nonetheless, a large percentage of the general budget continues to be diverted to service these old commitments,” Corbett said. “Money that ought to be invested in family service such as parks and recreational programming continues to be at risk until a comprehensive solution is found.” 

With the challenges in 2017 came a number of innovative solutions, he said. 

“Implementing a voucher plan to allow residents and their families to use the Oakland County waterpark in the city — a world-class facility for entertainment and summertime fun — was a significant and popular alternative to more costly plans that were proposed.

“I’m especially proud of the decision by the council to eliminate copays for residents when being forced to utilize the Fire Department’s EMS service. When someone in the family is having a medical crisis, the last thing folks need to worry about is having a large bill hanging over their head for having called 911,” Corbett added. “2017 was another great year of community development for Madison Heights.”