Officials upbeat on 2014’s potential
EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — While 2013 had its ups and downs in the local communities, officials are largely positive on what the new year will bring.
Both cities had to deal with the bad news of a fall in property tax values, Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins and Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane said, but it was not nearly as bad as initially feared. Adkins added that the collapse of the proposed Emagine Theater plan was also a blow to Roseville.
However, both city managers said the good outweighed the bad in a lot of ways for the two cities. Adkins said Roseville has been able to move forward on its redevelopment plans, most notably with the announced Macomb Mall revitalization, LA Fitness taking over the former Continental Lanes bowling alley property, and RCO Engineering’s expansion.
“A number of big projects that are looming on the horizon bring a lot of promise to 2014, and we’re seeing the financial side of things being much brighter in 2014,” Adkins said. “Property values seem to have stabilized, the real estate market is improving, the foreclosure rate decreased. All of those are good things.”
Duchane highlighted the work with Macomb County on redeveloping a brownfield at Nine Mile Road and Kelly Road, where a CVS Pharmacy is currently being planned, as a major boon for the city. The big boost the city has seen has been in giving it a more environmental atmosphere, he said.
Danielle Bare, executive director of the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce, said both communities have seen a number of businesses join their ranks and get involved, such as Tim Horton’s and Ideli in Eastpointe, and Premier MRI and Seeburger’s Cheeseburgers in Roseville.
“I believe that 2013 was an exceptional year for the businesses in Eastpointe and Roseville,” Bare said. “More and more families are choosing to shop locally and support continued growth in their local economy.”
She acknowledged that, financially and economically, things are still shaky for the average business, but she added that is a national issue, as opposed to a strictly regional one.
Duchane said Eastpointe has purchased and is utilizing a new street sweeper, has put newfound emphasis on street inspectors, and has passed a special assessment to not only help maintain streetlights, but replace them with new LED bulbs, which are more energy efficient and long-lasting.
The city also plans to continue work on replacing and repairing sewer lines and sewer mains, and it will be working on portions of Kelly Road and Stephens Road in 2014, Duchane said. Additionally, he said the City Council and administrators were able to help slim down the city’s budget through a new refuse collection program.
“Part of the story is our economization of city operations,” Duchane said. “We reduced employee cost centers considerably, which is not a highlight to some. It has had some impact on the service level, but when we did concession restructuring, we were able to reduce our fiscal challenge by $2.2 million.”
Adkins said Roseville has some of its own infrastructure planning underway for 2014. The city will be working with DTE to begin upgrading its own streetlights with LED bulbs and is also working with the Michigan Department of Transportation on a proposed reconstruction of Gratiot Avenue.
What sections of the road could be worked on currently is up in the air, but Adkins said he believes it will be beneficial for the long-term, if annoying for drivers in the short-term.
“That brings opportunity, too,” he said. “It’ll enhance the aesthetics of the city along the route, and there will be environmental improvements — storm drains, lighting — that are all part and parcel of the project.”
Beyond the roads, he said that early in 2014, the City Council is going to receive a draft on a full Gratiot and Groesbeck redevelopment strategy. It was commissioned in 2013, Adkins said, and will serve as a road map for additional redevelopment along those roads. The city also is trying to preserve and rebuild neighborhoods by turning surplus city property into single-family homes geared toward families.
“It’s a great strategy for council to adopt in conjunction with the school district, because they obviously want more families moving into the city, so we’re using surplus property to get those assembled and back on the tax rolls,” Adkins said. “It means new construction. We’ve already had developers coming to us about constructing new homes, so that’s positive, because we haven’t seen that happen in a while.”
Duchane said Eastpointe has sworn in several younger people to city positions, which he thinks is indicative that the city is attracting new residents to replace the older generation with affordable starter homes, though he added that the city is still aging overall. As such, the city government has been supportive of efforts to get senior living townhouses constructed, he said.
Both city managers are keeping an eye on developments in Lansing. Duchane said he is hopeful that the Michigan House of Representatives will pass a bill that would allow most cities in the state to set up special assessment districts for police and fire protection. It has already cleared the state Senate, and, if then approved by voters, would take a lot of financial pressure off the city.
“I expect Lansing to really understand there can be no state health without local communities being healthy, and saving them in an emergency room is not the same as preventative care,” Duchane said. “I want them to understand that hoarding money in Lansing while bragging about balancing the budget while cities fail is not succeeding by any metric.”
Adkins said he is watching to see anything that has to do with taxation, from property taxes to the gas tax, and how the state could restructure its transportation funding.
“I’m interested in seeing what the future of rapid transit may be in the area,” he said.
Adkins added that he’s still watching the proposal to loosen property inspection guidelines, which would make it harder for the city to make sure properties are in good condition and up to code.