City officials share predictions, priorities for 2024

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published January 9, 2024


MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — A new year has begun, and local leaders are both cautious and hopeful about what may come.

For Andy LeCureaux, a member of the Hazel Park City Council, he wishes to see people dial down the temperature in what is bound to be a contentious election year.

“I hope people become more civil and recognize that we have far more in common than not,” said LeCureaux. “It’s sad that so many people don’t get along. But it’s easy, and what the political powers do. They seek to divide us, to demonize the other side, and use fear tactics so that people are afraid to talk to their neighbors. We need to talk more and spend less time on social media in our echo chambers with our feedback loops only looking for things that satisfy our beliefs.

“I try to always look at things from more than just my own perspective. We need to do that as elected officials, trying to understand things from different viewpoints, and not just our own,” he said. “I think that helps us come to better solutions. As the saying goes, we were created with two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we talk.”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, noted that her city is coming fresh off a busy construction season, with the completion last fall of the massive Civic Center Plaza project that included renovations at City Hall and the library, the construction of a new Active Adult Center between them, and renovations off campus at Fire Station No. 2 as well.

“I think this is the year we will sit back and ask, ‘What’s next?’ It took almost five years from the initial idea … to our grand opening in September. Now we will see the benefits of lower heating and maintenance costs, as well as more of a community feel at City Hall,” Grafstein said via email.

She sounded a note of caution regarding the economy.

“With high interest rates, real estate is expected to slow down, meaning less new property tax revenue from the uncapping of property transfers, which may mean a decrease in overall revenue to the city,” she said. “We have done an excellent job applying for and receiving grants to help offset the costs of many of our initiatives, so we will continue seeking out grant opportunities this year.”

The mayor said that she looks forward to redevelopment opportunities such as the former Electro-Plating Services site on 10 Mile Road — the source of the 2019 “green ooze” incident on Interstate 696, now in the final steps of a remediation effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

“For far too long, the residents of Madison Heights and Hazel Park had to deal with that contaminated eyesore,” Grafstein said. “After four long years working with the court system, EPA and EGLE, the end is finally in sight.”

Sean Fleming, a councilman in Madison Heights, said the city needs to shore up its emergency services personnel while staying within the budget.

“It’s critical to make sure our citizens are safe, and that we’re able to respond to crime and fires and not rely so much on mutual aid,” Fleming said. “We also have to make sure that we’re able to keep our credit rating up there, so in the future we’re able to take out bonds — if needed — for our larger projects, such as streetscapes that are planned along the 11 Mile corridor.”

Quinn Wright, another member of the Madison Heights City Council, said that he feels “incredibly enthusiastic” about the new year.

“I have more reasons for excitement than concern,” Wright said via email, noting he’s eager to see events like Motorama & Smoke — a citywide car show and barbecue — come to fruition.

“These events promise not only entertainment, but also opportunities for our community to come together and celebrate,” he said. “I’m also excited about the imminent completion of the bandstand at Civic Center Park. This addition to our city’s infrastructure opens up countless possibilities for cultural and artistic events, musical performances and community gatherings. It will undoubtedly become a focal point for creativity and entertainment in our area.”

Bill Mier, the newest member of the Madison Heights City Council, said he’s also excited for the bandstand, as well as the state’s “Modernize I-75” project wrapping up, and Madison Heights joining Ferndale, Royal Oak and Hazel Park in a co-responder police program, which will provide mental health specialists for crisis intervention.

“Looking forward to 2024, it will be an exciting year as my first year on council. We will work to restart the city/school liaison committee and work closely with the schools on projects (including) traffic safety for students,” Mier said via email. “The year will have some challenges as we continue to watch where the economy is going to go. The chance of recession is still something we have to try to protect against. Hopefully inflation continues to slowly decline, reducing pressure on expenditures.”

Ed Klobucher, the city manager of Hazel Park, advised fiscal caution going forward.

“We’ve had a good year here in Hazel Park, but of course we’re keeping an eye on the national economy to see how things shake out, and there is potential for a recession, and for a decline in support that state and local governments have been getting from the federal government,” Klobucher said. “So that’s something that we’re watching very carefully. Many communities have been receiving federal support in recent years to rebound after the Great Recession and pandemic, but that will be gone now. So, we’re trying to create a sustainable framework for the future, so that we continue to be a thriving community with outstanding services for our residents.”

Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem of Madison Heights, said he’s also cautious about the economy, but he is encouraged by the city’s ongoing contributions to a special projects fund that will allow it to fund matching grants for large-scale projects in years where revenues are lean. As for priorities now, he said he would like to see a “significant push” toward traffic safety in 2024.

“When we talk about traffic safety, we’re speaking specifically to save lives. We’ve made some strides with that last year, adding additional lighting on Dequindre Road, and we consistently have a strong crossing guard program. But I think there are more improvements that we need to make, so I asked our staff to set aside a minimum of $50,000 for our budget in 2024 for that purpose,” he said.

Bliss said the city will seek feedback from schools and the community on traffic safety.

“They all need to be part of the conversation,” he said. “We need to listen and learn from them, so that every dollar we invest has a significant impact on the safety of our residents.”