Oakland County Parks and Recreation Executive Director Dan Stencil said he hopes residents will get out and explore winter activities in the parks this new year.

Oakland County Parks and Recreation Executive Director Dan Stencil said he hopes residents will get out and explore winter activities in the parks this new year.

File photo provided by the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department

Oakland County leaders share resolutions for the new year

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published January 14, 2020


OAKLAND COUNTY — Heading into 2020, things are looking pretty good in Oakland County.

But they could always be better.

At least that’s what the leaders say in the Executive’s Office, the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Sheriff’s Office.

Here’s what they had to say about their New Year’s resolutions for Oakland County.

Dan Stencil, Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department executive director
Despite what the name might imply, working for parks and rec isn’t all fun and games.

Stencil has the task of asking residents to vote on a millage renewal to fund the parks, which would expire at the end of 2021.

“We’ve got a millage coming up on Aug. 4,” Stencil said, explaining that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners will be working with his department and the Executive’s Office to decide what amount will be proposed.

The current millage was originally for 0.25 mill, but it was reduced to just over 0.23 mill because of restrictions from the Headlee Amendment. There’s a chance voters will be asked to approve the original amount with a Headlee override, since there’s a lot of work to be done in the county parks to keep them in tip-top shape.

“We’re catching up on all the maintenance we’ve been deferring for 10 years,” Stencil explained. “We’re a 54-year-old park system, and we’re starting to show our age. The cosmetic and structural repairs are needed to bring the parks system back to the high level of maintenance and safety residents expect.”

Also coming this summer is the highly anticipated opening of the new off-road vehicle park in Holly, which is expected to eventually be self-sustaining from visitor fees.

But before summer can arrive, we need to brave the rest of this Michigan winter. So we might as well make the most of it, Stencil said.

“My No. 1 resolution right now is to promote people getting out and enjoying the parks, and the parks in general nationwide,” he said. “Get out and walk in the fresh air and enjoy this winter wonderland.”

Michael Bouchard, Oakland County sheriff
For the county’s top cop, 2020 will be about bringing his 2019 resolutions to fruition by breaking ground on a new communications and training center. The Sheriff’s Office facilities, built in 1971, currently don’t meet recommended guidelines.

That became especially apparent in December, when officers from all over the area responded to Bloomfield Hills High School for what was believed to be an active shooter situation. That was later determined to be a false alarm.

“(That) was a stark reminder of the importance of real-world training and the need for state-of-the-art effective communications,” Bouchard said in an email.

To fill the training center in that shiny new facility, Bouchard hopes to bring on a few more good men and women.

“We need to increase recruiting efforts to bring the brightest and best people to the Sheriff’s Office,” he continued. “It is more difficult than ever to attract people to law enforcement given the challenges of today’s world.”

Bouchard said he wants to continue to promote the office’s peer-to-peer program, aimed at reducing law enforcement suicide rates and highlighting the importance of mental health care.

Robert Gatt, Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center manager
It was a rocky start to 2020 as Gatt and the rest of the county animal control staff came to terms with the injury of one of their own after a severe dog attack at the facility in December.

But from every setback is the opportunity to learn, which is what the team did at the shelter by enacting new and more rigorous training and safety policies, particularly in the building’s dog quarantine room, where the incident occurred.

Now, though, it’s time to move forward.

“I resolve to continue working each day to help make the Oakland County Animal Shelter even better,” Gatt said in an email. “Joanie (Toole, the shelter chief) and I have a staff filled with dedicated and passionate workers, and we all promise to do everything that we humanly can to help every animal that comes into our building.”

Jim Nash, Oakland County Water Resources commissioner
Nash spent much of 2019 making his way around the county to talk with residents during a library discussion series. His goal, he said, was to educate the public about their water system and how people can all work to protect water resources.

In 2020, he plans to host more of those events.

In addition, Nash said, there are projects on the horizon to make the county’s water and sewer infrastructure more sustainable and, of course, as clean and safe as possible.

“I resolve to continue expanding our green infrastructure efforts in communities all across Oakland County. Last year we completed a project coordinating local ordinances in the 14 communities that make up the George W. Kuhn drainage district, making it easier to implement green infrastructure to more efficiently control our stormwater issues,” he said in an email. “This year we start projects to show how effective it can be.”

Along with that, Nash said his office plans to open a new addition to the Clinton River Water Resource Recovery Facility in Pontiac. That addition includes a new technology called Thermal Hydrolysis Processing, and the system will be just the third in existence in the United States, and the first in Michigan.

“We create natural gas for sale to the energy market and safe Class A fertilizer residents can use on their lawns and gardens, while saving millions in operating costs.”

David Coulter, Oakland County executive
Busy with his new duties as county executive and plotting out a 2020 reelection campaign to keep his appointed seat, Coulter didn’t have much time to share his resolutions.

But he’s already got the ball rolling on a few of them.

“My New Year’s resolution is that everyone in all parts of our county has the opportunity to participate in what makes Oakland County great,” he said in an email. “My goal is to lead a county government that is innovative, collaborative, fiscally responsible and gives voice to the diversity of our residents.”

How will Coulter accomplish that? To start, he’s asked residents themselves for advice. A countywide online survey just wrapped up last week, and the results should be released in the coming weeks, illustrating what topics are most important to participants.