City Council completes goals process for FY 2017-18

Public safety, recreation among budget priorities

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published March 21, 2017

File photo

MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights City Council unanimously approved the goals plan for the new budget at its meeting March 13.

The plan features high-priority items that will be included in the proposed budget up for adoption in May.

“I’m very proud of what we accomplished in this year’s goals process. Not just for the end result, but also because of the process in general,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss in an email. “These goals were more of an ongoing dialogue with senior staff meeting monthly for ‘innovation sessions’ that are similar to what I do in the tech space.”

Bliss explained that ideas were sourced from department heads and staff, following which council members ranked the goals and asked for additional input from staff and citizen boards, before meeting a final time to confirm the goals they would fit into this year’s budget.

“Through very responsible budgeting and some added creativity, we were able to check off two dozen goals off our list,” Bliss said. “Some were very large, like upgrading our fire engines to ALS response vehicles and restoring the SIU function, but others were smaller investments that make a big difference, like establishing a tree replacement program and waiving the resident portion of EMS transport fees. All four of these items are huge for our city.”

A look at what’s planned
The goals being prioritized by council include the following items:

• Upgrading the Fire Department’s frontline fire engines from Basic Life Support (BLS) to Advanced Life Support (ALS) to assist with critical lifesaving ALS procedures.

• Modifying the Fire Department policy to waive the resident portion of EMS transport fees not covered by insurance or Medicare.

• Restoring the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and improving the Police Department’s ability to conduct undercover investigations. This will be achieved by assigning a Madison Heights officer to the multi-jurisdictional Troy SIU Task Force and backfilling the resulting police vacancy.

• Offering a voucher program where qualified Madison Heights residents can obtain free and/or discounted tickets to visit Red Oaks Waterpark.

• Improving pedestrian and traffic safety by analyzing pedestrian crossings and making improvements where necessary and feasible along Dequindre, between 11 Mile and 13 Mile roads.

• Starting a community outreach program for the Fire Department that will offer a File of Life medical information card to all residents, with emphasis on those 60 years of age or older, to help ensure a patient receives prompt medical care during an emergency.

• Establishing a program to replace right-of-way trees that are unavoidably removed due to city road and utility projects. This program, through the Department of Public Services and the Community Development Department, aims to maintain neighborhood aesthetics, property values, energy savings, air quality and noise reduction.

• Retaining and expanding use of portable toilets in city parks by continuing to provide portable family-style restrooms at Civic Center Park, Rosie’s Park and Ambassador Park, and adding them to Huffman Park and Monroe Park.

• Providing training for library patrons on how to use digital reading materials like e-books, including instruction, handouts, and the use of Library Advisory Board members to promote it.

• Implementing the Little Free Library program, where bookstands will be set up around the city for people to freely borrow and donate books. The program’s goal is to promote the library, literacy and a love of reading.

• Providing transportation to and from the library, in the form of a Library Day, for those senior and disabled residents who are interested in its services.

• Offering a library book club to better serve the young adult segment of the population through specific programming, group sessions and other promotions.

• Bringing back the Summer Beautification Awards and Holiday Light Awards, which will help encourage residents to take pride in landscaping and home improvements, and spread holiday cheer.

• Partnering with the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Manufacturing Association to offer collaborative meetings with a goal of giving local manufacturing businesses the information and contacts needed to stay competitive.

• Promoting use of the city’s Heritage Rooms through activities such as book signings, joint advertising and open houses with other community events, increased signage and publications, and a social media presence.

• Analyzing and submitting a proposal for the Patroncity Placemaking grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Municipal League Patroncity, for creative crowdfunding of an internal city priority or project done in conjunction with an outside group.

• Converting the Police Department to the PowerDMS Electronic System format for improved officer testing, as well as the ability to work toward accreditation by the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. This will increase the department’s professionalism and decrease its liability.

• Starting a new program at the Community Development Department for electronic application, payment, comment and approval for building and planning permits. The idea is to reduce paper waste, eliminate the need to scan new permit applications and reduce staff time for processing.

• Streamlining record keeping for boards and commissions, as well as the reappointment process in the City Clerk’s Office. This will be achieved by consolidating multiple databases, analyzing semiannual term expirations, and creating a uniform reappointment procedure.

• Conducting surplus item auctions on the major online auction sites, as well as an ongoing analysis of items to be sold at auction. This helps ensure the city gets the highest possible revenue.

• Funding, recruiting and hiring a part-time seasonable intern for the recreation division who will provide enhanced programming support for the Department of Public Services during peak periods.

• Presenting a “how to” seminar via the Building Department that will teach residents how to construct their own deck, within budget and in compliance with city code.

• Providing residents with the option to purchase a 95-galloon wheeled trash bin that will help reduce rodent issues with added capacity and less exposed trash, and an attached lid that will prevent animal access. The bins also have increased durability and wheels for easy transport.

Making progress
“Overall, public safety items were our top priorities, and they totaled more than two-thirds of the financial investment. But we also found ways to help in other much-needed areas,” Bliss said, citing quality-of-life offerings like the Little Free Library program and the addition of family-style portable bathrooms in the parks.

“Finally, I’m proud to say that while we continue to discuss the potential of a splash pad for our city” — a highly requested item in two public surveys — “we’re creating a voucher program that will allow for cash-strapped families in our community to enjoy the Red Oaks Waterpark, free of charge,” Bliss said.

“Overall, this year’s goals process was an outstanding success, especially considering all of this was done in addition to the work we’re doing on minimizing our legacy costs and unfunded liabilities for city retirees and their growing health care costs,” Bliss said. “So much hard work was put in to make this happen, but it was well worth it. The city is better off with the adoption of these goals, as well as the continued focus on finding budget savings and directing them toward the things that actually improve the safety and quality of life of our residents.”

City Councilman Robert Corbett said he was pleased with how the goals panned out this year.

“The voucher program for the water park was kind of a compromise worked out with the Parks and Recreation Commission. We were a bit concerned over the idea of putting splash pads in the park due to what the costs may be, and we will continue to investigate that. But in the meantime, we will offer discount tickets to Red Oaks Waterpark, a world-class facility right here in Madison Heights, for a fraction of the cost, and we can start this year,” Corbett said.

He noted that the exact mechanics of it are yet to be decided — the city may buy tickets in bulk from the county, for example — but whatever the means, the end result is the same: discounted admission prices for residents.

Corbett also praised the waiver on the ambulance transport fees.

“A former member of City Council, Cindy Holder, had been talking to me for a while about this,” Corbett said. “What happens in the normal course of things is if a resident has an ambulance run, first we’d bill their insurance company and then bill the resident for whatever insurance doesn’t cover. But we feel that residents already pay enough to support Advanced Life Support through the millage, so we’re giving them a pass on the rest of it. On average, the difference is about $200 per run that’s normally not covered by insurance.”

Now the city will cover that difference, saving residents money.

“And just to be clear, we don’t discriminate between homeowners and renters,” Corbett added. “A resident is a resident, and renters are paying insurance through monthly rent.

“I think we have a lot of good ideas,” he said of the goals plan. “Not only the ones we adopted, but even the ones that didn’t make the cut for this year will give us a staring point for next year. There were many ideas I expect to see coming back in the near future.”