Construction at the intersection of Maas and Greendale drives is part of Sterling Heights’ plans to repair and reconstruct streets.

Construction at the intersection of Maas and Greendale drives is part of Sterling Heights’ plans to repair and reconstruct streets.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Safe Streets millage to face voters again

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 15, 2019


STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights voters will decide Nov. 5 whether they want one of their city’s main dedicated millages to last a decade longer.

At an Oct. 1 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool introduced a presentation on the Safe Streets millage ballot question. He called the renewal consideration a “very important issue.”

Voters initially passed the Safe Streets millage in November 2013, and it’s set to expire at the end of June 2020.

Up until now, the six-year millage has been 2.5 mills — 1.7 mills for police and fire services, and 0.8 mill for street repairs. The proposed 10-year renewal calls for 2.45 mills: 1.65 mills for police and fire, and 0.8 mill for streets.

Should the renewal pass, $3.6 million annually would go to fix and reconstruct neighborhood streets, and $7.4 million would go toward public safety operations, Sterling Heights Finance and Budget Director Jennifer Varney said.

A renewal would mean preventing the layoffs of 45 police officers and 20 firefighters, she said.

“You will see improvements to over 250 more neighborhood streets,” Varney said. “You will see a fully staffed, professional police force that contributes to our ranking as the sixth-safest large city in the country.”

Varney said the millage currently costs the average taxpayer about $15 monthly, and renewing it wouldn’t be a tax increase over the current tax rate. Ultimately, an individual homeowner’s property tax bill may fluctuate with changes in the property’s value.

During the Oct. 1 presentation, Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski shared “a story of success” and explained some of the programs that his department has added or restarted while Safe Streets has been in effect. 

He said all three of Sterling Heights’ high schools now have a full-time school resource officer. He mentioned the Police Department’s involvement in the 10-week SMART Moves — Skills Mastery and Resilience Training — program that teaches elementary school students the dangers of vaping, smoking, drinking and drugs. The Citizens Police Academy, a public education program, has also returned after a multiyear hiatus, he said.

Fire Chief Chris Martin said a failure to renew the millage would mean closing Fire Station No. 4, on 15 Mile Road, plus possible temporary “brownouts” of Fire Station No. 5 during periods of fire staff shortages. 

Martin also praised the Fire Department’s advanced life support transportation service as “a hugely successful thing” that helped over 10,000 people in its first year. However, he said that without Safe Streets, “it’s unclear how it’ll maintain (itself) throughout the years to come.” 

During the meeting, City Engineer Brent Bashaw said a millage renewal would let his department continue to repair neighborhood streets at the same rate it has been. He said that since the millage’s passage, the city has repaired 252 neighborhood roads, including 109 full-width replacements; another 143 got full-width sectional concrete repairs. Another 250 or so streets would undergo improvements with a renewal, he said.

No residents commented on the city’s millage presentation at the Oct. 1 meeting. Before the meeting, Bashaw further explained the impact of Safe Streets on the roads.

“We’ve been fortunate over the last six years to have the Safe Streets funding to provide about 80% of our funding for the capital improvements that we do with local roads (and) reconstruction-type work,” Bashaw said.

Bashaw said the public reaction to the street repairs has generally been “very positive.” He talked about a particular bit of praise he received about Plumridge Boulevard recently being smoother and therefore less noisy for residents.

“People like the aesthetics of the road. They like how it makes their neighborhoods a little nice (with) the rideability aspect, not having to hit potholes,” Bashaw said.

“One positive feedback I recently got is that it makes the road (Plumridge) quieter, and it makes them sleep better at night,” he said. “I’ve never heard that one.”

Find out more about the Safe Streets millage by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2489.

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058.