In 2020, Maple Road in downtown Birmingham will be closed for an extensive  road reconstruction, similar to the project on Old Woodward Avenue in 2018.

In 2020, Maple Road in downtown Birmingham will be closed for an extensive road reconstruction, similar to the project on Old Woodward Avenue in 2018.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

Eagle leaders share their vision for 2020

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 6, 2020


BIRMINGHAM/BLOOMFIELD HILLS/BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP/FRANKLIN — We could make a joke here about how hindsight is 2020, but for municipal leaders, this new year is about looking forward.

But we won’t.

The government officials in the Birmingham-Bloomfield area don’t have time for laughs. They’ve got big goals to achieve in the next 12 months.

We asked local leaders what their New Year’s resolutions are, and here’s what they had to say.

Joe Valentine, Birmingham city manager
After a year of heavy research, and surveying and engaging residents, the city is about ready to wrap up its master plan process.

“This will drive activities in the city for the next 20 to 30 years,” Valentine said. “We have initial concepts that we’ve put together from the public engagement process, and over the next several months we’ll work with the Planning Board to get further input from the public on those concepts.”  

There could be a solid master plan presented to the Planning Board by July of this year.

Part of that package will likely be an idea on improving Birmingham’s infrastructurem — in particular, the 26 miles’ worth of unimproved streets. The city’s official process to update water and sewer systems on roads that haven’t been redone in approximately a century is to have homeowners on that block petition to have a special assessment levied to fund the work.

That’s even more important now: Last fall, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy announced that some private properties in Birmingham had actionable levels of lead in their drinking water.

“We need to look at how to replace the lead service lines in the city over the next several years. That’s our responsibility,” Valentine said.

Then there’s the reconstruction of Maple Road downtown, scheduled for this summer, and city officials need to take a good hard look at what the city’s aging population is going to need in the coming years in terms of parks, facilities, services, recreation and more.

Along the way, Valentine said, he and the rest of the folks at City Hall have a plan to up their game in the communications realm.

“We’re bringing in some additional expertise to assist us in that, and I think it will be beneficial,” he said. “We’ve done quite a bit in the last several years, like the direct email communications where people can sign up for updates on specific topics. We’ve expanded social media platforms, but the world of communications is ever changing, and we need to be responsive to that.”

Leo Savoie, Bloomfield Township supervisor
A failed public safety special assessment proposal, budget cuts and a heap of unflattering social media chatter were really the highlights, or rather lowlights, of 2019 for the supervisor.

Looking ahead, Savoie said he’s got a lot of things on his to-do list to “make sure Bloomfield Township is the best it can possibly be,” he said. But really, he’d welcome a bit of civility.

“So many people are sitting behind a keyboard and say whatever it is they want to say regardless of whether it’s true or not,” he said, citing accusations from residents of poor budgeting and a lack of transparency on the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees. Those allegations have grown to a dull roar in the community, with even fellow Trustees Dani Walsh and David Buckley calling for Savoie’s power to be stripped and handed over to an appointed administrator.

“Eighty percent of (the community) is this silent majority, and I really hope they start speaking up,” Savoie said of his supporters. “Have them say, ‘Do we want these vocal people out there to establish and dictate the dialogue? Even if they’re stating their opinions as facts?’ If we do, we get what we deserve.”

Despite the public safety SAD going down in flames and the major cuts made to the township’s budget, Savoie said he thinks some of the programs scrapped last fall could potentially be saved with some savvy planning.

“Animal control — I really felt it was so important, and I begged the township board not to get rid of animal control,” he said. “Hopefully, in the first quarter we can figure out how to get animal control back. There are wild animals out in this area that die in people’s yards, and it costs $300 to $400 to have a deer removed (privately). Hopefully, we can get that back and then maybe next year bring some of the other things back that were cut, like the open house, hazardous waste disposal days.”

William Hosler, Bloomfield Hills mayor; David Hendrickson, Bloomfield Hills city manager
Why fix what isn’t broken? The name of the game for 2020 will be to keep the status quo going.

“We have reason to be optimistic,” said Hendrickson. “Bloomfield Hills is financially sound, with a AAA bond rating and an approximately 35% in fund balance — which is good.”

He added that, like other communities, changes to retiree benefit funding laws mean budget planning and proactive fund management are important parts of making sure retiree pensions and other post-employment benefits don’t pull the city into the red.

Hosler said he’s looking to adopt some priorities and annual goals to keep the City Commission and administrators on track to check off items in the city’s master plan, which was revisited last year.

“The 2020 goals for the city will continue on their established course,” Hosler said in an email. “A big part of our effort goes to maintaining and improving city roads and the related infrastructure.  We are proud of the innovative ways we have managed our road rehabilitation budget, all without borrowing funds and staying within cost projections.”

The two said that the Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department, which combines police and fire services, is rated by the Insurance Services Office among the top 3% of similar departments across the nation. Keeping that “elite status” will be among their tasks in the new year.

Pam Hansen, Franklin Village Council president
Though Village Administrator Jim Creech resigned in late 2019 after five years — replaced in the interim by resident Roger Fraser — Hansen said the village hasn’t lost momentum for big projects, like a facelift and safety upgrades for the idyllic downtown.

“After nearly two years (of) planning, we hope to complete the new streetscape project in the downtown this summer, now that all the residential roads have been repaved or rebuilt over the last two years,” Hansen said in an email. “Franklin residents have been asking for pedestrian walkways to safely connect neighborhoods with the downtown area. It’s a major step that will include some downtown lighting and landscaping.”

While most residents pride themselves on being the village that time forgot, Hansen said she hopes there will be more discussion in 2020 about moving away from well water in light of numerous reports of local groundwater contamination, including a 2018 environmental hazard discovery that evacuated and closed the Franklin Village Plaza.

“We are monitoring the situation closely with the state, and Village Council is discussing our options, including taking the first steps toward a municipal water supply,” she said.

Beverly Hills Village Administrator Chris Wilson and Bingham Farms Village Administrator Ken Marten did not respond to requests for comment about their New Year’s resolutions for their municipalities.