Grosse Pointe City leaders planning for near and more distant future

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 12, 2019

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — Rezoning of Mack Avenue, work on new facilities, creation of a new city website and addressing projected financial challenges are among the tasks the Grosse Pointe City Council is expected to tackle this year.

Council goals, which were the subject of preliminary discussion at a Feb. 11 council meeting, are likely to become more formalized during the council’s next meeting, at 7 p.m. March 18. That meeting will also be the first to take place at the Neighborhood Club Recreation and Wellness Center at 17150 Waterloo St. in the Village, as demolition on the municipal courtroom/council chambers addition to the City Public Safety Department building is slated to take place this month.

City Planner John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, said that officials in the City have been discussing working together to promote and improve Mack with leaders in Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe Farms and Detroit. Although coordination among four cities will take time, he said it’s been going well so far.

“I think this will go a long way toward promoting good development on Mack Avenue. … There’s been great cooperation (among the cities),” Jackson said. “I think everyone’s in favor of removing barriers to investment.”

For its part, the City hopes to create a single, uniform zoning designation for Mack that will allow for more flexibility and will encourage new businesses.

The City has been drafting five-year financial projections for the last several years in an effort to anticipate trouble and take steps to avoid it. The most recent projections suggest that revenues will be in line with expenditures in the 2019-20 fiscal year — which starts July 1 — but starting in the 2020-21 fiscal year, expenses are likely to outpace relatively flat revenues, while the unassigned fund balance — the City’s rainy day fund — is expected to plummet from more than $2 million now to about $1 million by 2023-24.

“We’re in good financial shape now,” Dame said. “We have good reserves.”

In recent years, the City has had money left over at the end of the fiscal year that could go toward projects or expenses. However, unless leaders take steps now, that might not be the case in the near future. Dame did note that financial ups and downs are cyclical.

Also in recent years, investment gains have meant that the City hasn’t had to contribute to its pension fund, which Dame said has been “a huge saving grace.” That’s likely to no longer be true in the near future.

“We’ve kind of been riding the wave of the stock market climb,” Dame said.

The City is also facing steadily rising costs for health care for both current employees as well as retirees, Dame said. In addition, there are costs to temporarily relocate the municipal court while construction on the new court facility takes place; court functions are scheduled to move to Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church — across the street from City Hall — in time for the March 28 court date, although fine and fee payment will take place at City Hall. And new, larger public safety and public works buildings will cost more to operate once those are completed, Dame said.

“You can see little pieces adding up,” he said.

Evolving plans for the new facilities occupied the bulk of the council’s time and attention in 2018, but Dame said the City sent out a request for proposal and officials hope to have bids for the council to review and vote on at the March 18 meeting.

“I’d like to keep the website front and center this year,” Mayor Christopher Boettcher said. “I think we shouldn’t lose sight of bringing that up to speed.”

He said the City wants to “continue to improve our communications to residents and businesses.”

An agenda for the March 18 City Council meeting wasn’t available at press time but is slated to be ready prior to the meeting. For an agenda or more information, visit www.grossepointecity.org.

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