St. Clair Shores is doing well and will continue striving to improve, said Mayor Kip Walby in his first State of the City Address.
“We are very strong, financially, (with) more than $15 million in the bank,” he said. “That is something that most communities cannot say. Our debt is low in St. Clair Shores. Yes, I know we have a court bond coming, (but) we have lowered our debt and it’s a strong balance sheet.”
Speaking in front of more than 100 people at the Senior Activity Center the morning of Feb. 21, Walby went through department and personal highlights for 2012, then laid out goals for St. Clair Shores to tackle in 2013.
He pointed out that many city departments had cut costs during the year and, while they each may have only saved a small percentage, “when each department works together and puts savings in there, it does add up.”
The departments have worked hard to bring grant money into St. Clair Shores, as well, he said, to pay for things like new equipment in the Fire Department, new energy-efficient lights in the library and Civic Arena, and windows in the Police Department.
Walby also pointed out that, while they have a new supervisor for the Code Enforcement Department and the department’s duties have been contracted out to a different company, it is still vital that residents monitor and care for their own properties.
“Government just isn’t always the answer; it lies, a lot of times, in the people,” he said. “They need to take care of their property; they need to clean things up.”
He said he was encouraged by development in the city — including Auto Zone and Dollar General on Harper near 13 Mile Road, Credit Union One on Harper south of 12 Mile Road, and also the Buffalo Wild Wings planned near Nine Mile Road on Harper — but pointed out several other areas of the city where they’re still working to bring in new business: Nine Mile and Jefferson, the corners of 11 Mile Road and Nine Mile Road and Harper, and 12 Mile Road and Little Mack Avenue.
“We are working hard to grow all over our community,” he said.
Over the course of 2012, the city was able to save about $4.2 million more than it had planned, instead of having to use about $2.1 million of its rainy-day fund.
“When you’re able to not take money out of the fund balance, but put money into the fund balance, it’s absolutely outstanding,” he said.
Acting City Manager Mike Smith agreed.
“For a community in this day and age to be able to say we put money” in the rainy-day fund, and to not be reporting cuts in programs or layoffs, is good news for the city, Smith said. “I’m very proud of the city.”
Walby also highlighted recreation improvements — like the weight room at Civic Arena and the new Maloof Family Pavilion in Veterans Memorial Park — as well as how much use the St. Clair Shores Public Library receives each year.
Looking ahead to 2013, Walby said his goals start with delivering a balanced budget once more.
“It’s delivering what we have in the past, which is keeping the costs down and, if possible, putting money in the rainy-day fund,” he said.
In addition, he said it’s imperative that residents approve the fourth renewal of the Police and Fire Millage. He wants to create two new committees to investigate possibilities for Blossom Heath Park and to create a St. Clair Shores winter festival, as well.
“We worked hard on hockey and it’s been very discouraging,” he said, explaining that they may look at making the hockey portion of a winter festival smaller and, instead, bringing in ice sculptures, incorporating some chili cook-offs and having other events along the Nautical Mile.
“We are going to have something down there, for heaven’s sake,” he said. “If I don’t deliver anything else (other) than that, I’m going to get a winterfest in St. Clair Shores.”
He said the city will also host its first bass fishing tournament for more than 100 boats near the Nine Mile Boat Ramp at the end of June.
“We’re the Nautical Mile. We should be hosting these types of tournaments,” he said.
Other goals include expanding the Senior Activity Center and investigating the possibility of a community center.
“Economically, it’s still tough, but I think it’s our job as elected officials to try to plan for the future and try to strive with something,” he said. “It’d be great to have a place where you could walk, play basketball. I think it’s important for St. Clair Shores.”
His message resonated with residents who saw the speech.
“I’m really proud of this city,” said Sandra Paisley, a resident of St. Clair Shores for 41 years. “I’m really glad that we have the senior center. We can be a viable community.”
She hopes to see younger residents move in, though, and supports the idea of a community center.
Terry and Lorrie Walsh, who have lived in the city for 35 years, said it sounded, from the mayor’s speech, like the city is on the right track.
“They’re making improvements and it’s a plus to have a dog park,” Lorrie Walsh said. “I love the library, I think they do a wonderful job and we use the gym here (at the senior center).”
She agreed that a community center would be the next good improvement for St. Clair Shores.
“They need places for kids, teenagers to go,” she said.
The full speech will be shown on the city’s cable access channels, as well as in the Media Center at www.scsmi.net, within a week. Check local listings for dates and times.