Local leaders from Farmington and Farmington Hills recently shared highlights from 2021 and goals for this year.

Local leaders from Farmington and Farmington Hills recently shared highlights from 2021 and goals for this year.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


From recreation improvements to power outages, officials look ahead in Farmington area

Leaders from Farmington and Farmington Hills share highlights from 2021 and discuss goals for this year

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published January 26, 2022

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Local city leaders recently reflected on highlights from 2021 for Farmington and Farmington Hills and turned their attention to goals for this year.

 

FARMINGTON
With COVID-19 continuing to linger, Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman said she was “extraordinarily” pleased with the city’s progress, despite living in “unprecedented” times.

“The fact that we were able to continue moving forward with so many of our capital improvement plans, even through the virtual world — trying to adapt and making the best use of our time and money,” she said.

From Bowman’s perspective, one of the highlights from last year was the work that was done at city parks.

“We’ve wanted to continue investments in the parks, and so refurbishing both bathrooms at Shiawassee Park and at Drake Park have been huge on my personal list, as well as the council’s priority list,” she said. “And so, completing that project, as well as redoing Drake Park — the parking lot was redone. We’ve rehabbed the tennis courts. … Just making some really strong investments in our park systems.”

Bowman also highlighted the “great job” Farmington did with maintaining its services last year, despite the challenges that COVID-19 presented.

She shared some of those challenges.

“Keeping everyone safe, particularly our residents, but as well as our staff,” Bowman said. “Making sure that we were following all the guidelines and protocols so that we didn’t have any major interruptions in our services — police, fire, DPW, the folks in the clerk’s office, the folks in the accounting office; just making sure that we had everything we needed to keep things moving so there were no interruptions to our citizens of the expected services.”

The issue that got residents’ attention perhaps more so than any other last year was the multiple power outages that were experienced, which was also a problem in Farmington Hills.

“What we’re really hearing about after the storms that we had last summer are power outages, and so we’re working closely with DTE, who has been a fantastic partner in identifying the causes of these power outages and what we can do to help minimize those (from) happening,” Bowman said.

Residents want assurances that outages will be minimized, and Bowman discussed DTE’s role in trying to help make that a reality.

“They’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their tree-trimming work,” she said. “They’ve increased their messaging to the citizens and to the city when they know that a storm’s gonna be coming.”

Bowman said there was a streetscape project for Grand River about 10 years ago. The city wants to do the same for Farmington Road, and she said that’s going to “start moving forward this spring with breaking ground.”

“It’s going to get a lot of the same look and feel that Grand River did with bump-outs, improved landscaping, improving our sidewalks on both sides — the east and west side of Farmington Road — so that we can promote more outdoor dining and seating,” Bowman said. “Those are huge, huge investments into our downtown, which we saw major rewards when Grand River was rehabbed. We’re hoping to see the same with Farmington Road.”

Another goal for the city is to continue to move forward with developing new housing in downtown Farmington.

Bowman said the city “shouldn’t have to do anything with tax rates” this year, and described Farmington’s financial health as “fantastic.”

She also added that she has “nothing but confidence in the upcoming year” and that “there’s a lot to offer in our little town.”

“I encourage people to continue exploring our city, enjoying our parks, visiting our downtown and businesses, and sharing with their friends and neighbors that Farmington has so much to offer culturally. We’re really increasing our art presence,” Bowman said. “We’re investing in our sidewalks and pathways. We have a new committee that was started last year that’s looking at ways to connect our city from one end to the other, with multimodal transportation.”

 

FARMINGTON HILLS 
Last year, The Hawk – Farmington Hills Community Center, which is located on the site of what was previously Harrison High School, was opened to the public, and from the perspective of Councilman Ken Massey, that was a major highlight for the city.

“The huge thing is that the Hawk did get, finally, opened,” he said. “That’s open, and lots of programming is starting in there.”

Something else from 2021 also stood out to Massey.

“We paved, I think, three miles of gravel roads last year,” he said. “So, the citizens are getting their money’s worth for that.”

Some possibilities for Farmington Hills City Council members to consider this year include widening sidewalks to include a bike path, as well as deciding whether or not to re-join the National League of Cities.

According to its website, the NLC’s mission is to “strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions.”

Massey said Farmington Hills has not been an NLC member for a “couple years.”

According to Massey, the Michigan Department of Transportation is going to “rebuild 696 from 275 all the way into, probably, Warren.”

That project means Farmington Hills has a decision to make.

“As part of that we can have one of our overpasses redesigned and make it more artsy, the way you’ve seen with parts of the state and/or country,” Massey said. “Cities will put in something to make their city look unique. So, we’re gonna talk about doing that with the Orchard Lake overpass.”

Massey said council members will also talk about whether or not the city’s rental inspection program should include apartments, to “ensure that safety, health (and) welfare’s being taken care of.”

Another initiative Massey would like to take up with council is one he believes could have a positive financial impact for the city.

He said there is a “very unique” opportunity on the third floor at The Hawk, where there are science labs that were part of Harrison High School.

Massey said he has offered a suggestion as to how the city can benefit from those labs.

“The suggestion was, ‘Look, if you look around at high-tech businesses, as they emerge from the universities, and we’re talking about our local universities — so there’s Lawrence Tech, Oakland University, Wayne State, Michigan State, U of M — all within the university corridor here. Those businesses that emerge from that need to go into places (where) they can develop their business, and they require chemical-resistant benchtops, safety fume hoods, that kinda thing, to be able to do their high-tech development work, and there is no place around here to do it,” he said. “So, the concept is let’s convert those labs into those types of spaces. … That would be a long-term economic development play for the city of Farmington Hills.”

From Massey’s point of view, “These lab spaces already exist. They’re there.” By implementing his vision, “you actually create new jobs, new companies, and new economic interests within the city.”

Massey said, “I know there are companies that are looking for spaces right now.”

“Ultimately, this will be a revenue positive for The Hawk, because the companies (would) pay leases,” he said. “The initial funds we’ll have to do out of city funds, but that’s pretty minimal: painting it, cleaning it up.. … just taking the old stuff and renewing it.”

Massey estimated that the cost would be, “Probably around a million bucks.”

He shared his rationale for being confident that there is enough of a demand from businesses to justify his suggestion.

“I am absolutely confident, because that’s what I do for a living,” Massey said. “I am in the administration at Wayne State, and my job is venture development for the university. So, I deal with every single faculty member’s research that spawns a new company, and then I help find places to go.”

As for the current state of affairs in Farmington Hills, Massey shared an optimistic perspective.

“I think we’re in a really good place,” he said. “Our bills are paid (and) we have a sufficient rainy day fund. … We’re a safe city; we’ve got great city services.”

Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett also agreed to share her goals for the city, after press time. Please look for a future story.

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