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Mayors forecast cities’ development plans in State of Cities address

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published February 25, 2015

 Farmington Mayor Bill Galvin speaks to a crowd during the State of the Cities address Feb. 18 at the Costick Center.

Farmington Mayor Bill Galvin speaks to a crowd during the State of the Cities address Feb. 18 at the Costick Center.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — If you ask Farmington Mayor Bill Galvin, redevelopment is where the city is headed, while Farmington Hills Mayor Barry Brickner says improvements keep the city looking up and forward.

During the annual State of the Cities address at the Costick Center Feb. 18, a large crowd gathered to hear the highs — and seemingly even more highs — of city improvement projects, redevelopment plans and goals for 2015.

Galvin said the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce — under the helm of new Executive Director Dan Irvin — is an important part of the Farmington community.

“We’re all here today because we’re interested in the condition of Farmington and Farmington Hills, and Farmington Public Schools,” Galvin said. “We are neighbors who make our entire community a better place to live, work and play.”

Galvin added that as he was preparing for his speech, he continued asking himself how he could sum up the state of the city of Farmington.

“As I drove by the old Kmart yesterday, I saw a sign that summed it up: ‘hard hat zone,’” he said. “The city of Farmington is experiencing more redevelopment, more tax-base growth than in any time in recent history.”

Last year around this time, Galvin discussed reviewing initial conceptual site plans for the Grand River Halsted Plaza.

The plaza’s Kmart closed about five years ago, and rehabilitation for the property includes restoration, upgrades to existing facilities, exterior renovations and infrastructure updates, among other improvements — which will enhance and improve the value of the property.

Galvin also referenced how much has changed since he discussed the Flanders Elementary School site during last year’s address.

“For a small built-up community like ours, a project with 33 single-family homes is a significant accomplishment — it has been over 40 years since Farmington saw a similar project,” Galvin said. “This project was important for another reason: It will lay the foundation for the city, and our partners at Farmington Public Schools, to work together in redevelopment.”

The former Flanders Elementary School site, 32600 Flanders St., will be developed in the next few years.

With Fresh Thyme opening up shop in Farmington’s downtown shopping center  — among 22 new businesses opening up downtown in one year — the city continues to “experience positive transformational growth,” Galvin said.

With crime down and changes in the ranks in the Farmington Public Safety Department, Galvin added that change is evident, even with the upcoming departure of City Manager Vincent Pastue.

Pastue, whose term will not extend past May 31, will leave big shoes to fill, Galvin said.

“Whomever is hired will have to hit the ground running,” Galvin said.

Brickner, who gave his fourth and final State of the Cities address, said he always enjoys giving the annual address because it gives him a chance to tell great stories and offer inspiring statistics.

“I know how much effort goes into making the city of Farmington Hills such a great place to live and do business,” he said. “Like many cities, we’ve weathered some tough times the past few years, but we can honestly say things are looking up in the city of Farmington Hills, and I mean that literally.”

Brickner discussed how the city’s biggest accomplishment last year was the 209-foot water tower constructed over the past two years. Operational in June 2014, the award-winning water tower can hold 3 million gallons of water and is the largest structure of its kind in Michigan.

Brickner also wanted attendees to know that there is a lot to look down at in Farmington Hills, too.

With voters passing a road millage during the November election, there will be an increase in reconstruction and preventative maintenance “starting very soon” in the city.

“The city has not had an increase in road funding since 2004,” Brickner said. “Saying ‘yes’ to the millage means roads will be safer, and there will be less wear and tear. Plus, we’ll be able to attract and retain more businesses to the area if we have better roads.”

Brickner added that if residents see a pothole, they can report it by calling (248) 871-2850.

The city will see the construction of another roundabout on Orchard Lake, at 14 Mile and  Northwestern Highway, to open in late 2015 to “improve traffic flow,” Brickner said. 

He discussed the upcoming Middlebelt Tunnel Project, a 7,600-foot-long, 9-foot-deep tunnel capable of holding 3.6 million gallons of storage. It will intercept raw sewage discharge — sewage mixed with rainwater. The tunnel will be built under Middlebelt Road, from I-696 north to 13 Mile Road, and encompasses four communities — Farmington Hills, Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake and West Bloomfield — that are tributaries to the tunnel.

The estimated $36.9 million project will also reduce basement flooding, officials said.

Brickner talked about how the city is at a 42-year historic low with burglaries and auto thefts, which caused “safe ratings to go up.”

He also discussed how the Farmington Hills Police Department is using ProQA Dispatch software, a new software that allows agencies to trade in their medical flip cards, which provide dispatchers with structured medical questions and prompts, for software that interfaces through computer-aided dispatch.

From property values going up to introducing the city on a national scale via “American Idol” runner-up Jena Asciutto, Brickner said, “It was quite a year of accomplishments in the city.”

“It was a year of looking up and looking forward to a bright future for our city,” Brickner said. “Farmington Hills is a better place because we have been able to work together.”

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