State of the Cities – Madison Heights

Mayor Hartwell Touts Madison Heights Successes in State of the City Address

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 24, 2016)

Hazel Park, MI – Madison Heights Mayor Brian Hartwell and Hazel Park Mayor Jan Parisi gave residents and business owners an early morning glimpse at life in their respective cities. The State of the Cities’ Address is an annual event hosted by the Madison-Park Chamber of Commerce, with this year’s being at the Hazel Park Community Center.

Here is what Mayor Hartwell had to say:

Good morning. It is my pleasure to speak with the business community about the state of the City of Madison Heights. “A New Day” is the theme of today’s remarks.

Before we focus on that forward direction, let us first highlight the accomplishments of the past year, which provide the foundation for the new goals ahead. Some of these accomplishments include obtaining a AA- bond rating, rising property values, a 5-year budget for Capital Improvements, plus we settled all bargaining contracts.

Madison Heights is dedicated to upholding our reputation as one of the most pro-business communities in the region.

The Madison Heights Southend Downtown Development Authority, or DDA, continues its mission to improve and market the John R and 11 Mile commercial corridors. Economic Development staff and volunteers saw another successful year of DDA events including the Art Challenge and a monthly taste festival called “Around the Globe in Madison Heights”

We continued to host the Entrepreneur Lounge, or ELounge, sessions with the local Biggby Coffee Shop, educating the next generation of business owners.

Going forward in 2016, under the leadership of 2nd generation business, Creative Mobility Group, on Stephenson Highway, I’m calling for a medical-business networking group for our two cities. We should team with Oakland County’s Medical Main Street to harness the potential of our current medical industries: Creative Mobility Group, St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital, and Dorsey Schools.

I also call on our high schools to enroll their students in Oakland County’s Manufacturing Day so that our kids see firsthand that high-tech, medical field jobs exist in our backyards.

Also in 2015, the City fully reconstructed 4 residential streets under the R-2 local roads millage and repaired 14 other streets.

We completed the first year of the City’s new People Powered Transportation Program, fixing sidewalks and installing bike signage in areas south of Lincoln. By building a safe sidewalk and bike lane network we attract all generations to our neighborhoods.

Want a perfect example of how creative city planning can attract business development? Look no further than Hazel Park’s use of roadside parking and other incentives to bring in business and bring out pedestrians.

Road work and water system improvements go hand in hand. When we replace or repair a road, we also replace some water mains with new PVC pipe, in cooperation with our long-time contractor, Sunde Building, Inc.

In 2015, we installed the most linear footage of water mains since the City started water main replacement projects twenty years ago. In a normal year we install 4,000 to 6,000 feet of new water 4 mains. This past summer we replaced 12,000 feet of new pipe, on time, and within budget.

With the assistance of our energy consultant, Energy Sciences, this past year we renovated the 43rd District Court’s heating and cooling system, including the replacement of rooftop units, better temperature controls, and state-of-the-art lighting controls. Along with the Library, City Hall, and the Senior Center, the court project joins the City’s Direct Digital Control (DDC) network. The DDC system allows DPS personnel to monitor and optimize heating and cooling systems in these buildings from nearly any computer on the City network.

When Standard and Poor’s revised our bond rating, they cited our creativity in energy savings as a reason that Madison Heights is a safe investment.

Let’s talk about public safety. In 2015, the Police Department hired 9 police officers and two Police Service Aides after accepting over 200 applications. The Police hosted a bicycle rodeo to foster the relationship between the community and its youth. In the Fire Department, 5 newly hired Firefighter/Paramedics completed their one year training period.

The Department placed into service a new Advanced Life Support rescue ambulance and a new Fire Marshal vehicle. We also installed Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) in the Marshal’s and Fire Chief’s vehicles. The Department’s entire inventory of fire hose was upgraded, along with the emergency radio communication system on the fire engine housed at Fire Station 2.

While at the Library, in 2015 we continued to be responsive to the needs of all segments of the Madison Heights community by providing professional and efficient library service.

E-Books continue to be popular. In addition to books, the library now also offers access to magazines online through Zinio, an online database made up of participating libraries in The Library Network.

English as a Second Language (ESL) resources continue to be heavily used along with the Mango Online Language Learning Program and Little Pim.

Given the make-up of the Madison Heights community, these are important resources for those who want to learn a second language. The City’s new Multicultural Relations Advisory Board was also established with Madison Heights’ diverse make up in mind.

I am pleased to announce today the development of a new resource to our immigrant and refugee neighbors. Completely free legal consultations will be provided by a licensed immigration attorney, at the City Library. This is a public-private relationship between the Library and a private attorney.

Our residents will have access to information about Green Cards, Naturalization, Citizenship, and Asylum. That attorney is here today. Please welcome Attorney Chelsea Zuzindlak.

The final part of the speech focuses on three priorities for the upcoming year – public safety, people, and neighborhood preservation. In terms of public safety, I will continue to work toward the return of a Special Investigations Unit to provide focused investigation and enforcement of violations that have not been fully prosecuted. The City Council identified other public safety goals in their proposed 2016-17 goal plan. We will comply with Oakland County’s 9-1-1 upgrade, which offers enhanced capabilities such as text-to-9-1-1 and video/image upload. To address safety and efficiency concerns of our first responders, we will implement training and staffing upgrades at both the Police and Fire Departments. Plans also call for the return of the Fire and Police Open houses to educate residents and contribute to the building of positive relationships.

I also want to open the lines of communication between the City government and the residents. For example, Councilman Robert Corbett hosts open door office hours on Fridays at the library. In that spirit, I will also maintain open lines of communication between City employees and City Council, to foster a mutual understanding of each others duties.

To the elected leaders, I encourage you to job-shadow and ride-along with your city departments. My recent ride-along with Police opened my eyes to the need for special training to deal with mentally or behaviorally ill suspects. From my observations with Fire, our paramedics are challenged by language barriers.

My pledge is to lead by proposing policies that will help our employees succeed, resulting in the delivery of better services to City residents.

Neighborhood preservation is another of my priorities. The national housing crisis resulted in an increase of vacant homes and rental properties. This is no less true in Madison Heights. Unlicensed landlords, in particular, result in disrepair of our housing stock, and it’s a situation I want to rectify.

Let’s take a moment and talk about property taxes. Madison Heights voters have designed the most interactive millage system in Oakland County. That’s why we have separate protected millages for: roads, city vehicles, library, senior services, and public safety. Therefore, to further preserve our neighborhoods, we must evaluate a renewal of the local roads millage and develop an infrastructure replacement plan to take before the voters. It represents the opportunity to replace roads, sewers, and sidewalks. My hope is that it will also encourage the replacement of crumbling porches by homeowners and landlords. This type of voter controlled spending leads to greater understanding of local government’s role and a deeper commitment by residents to our community’s well-being.

royal_servicesOn behalf of City Council, I’m excited to announce the return of the free Spring Clean-Up Day and Free Brush Chipping Week with the Department of Public Services. Backyards, basements, and junk drawers – watch out! Our residents will contribute to the better condition of their neighborhoods through this free public service. The clean-up will assist neighborhoods experiencing rodent control problems and free up code enforcement to tackle other areas.

The donations from the students at Hiller Elementary have helped to build new pet kennels and sliding pet doors that allow the animals access between their inside and outside kennels. Student donations will next be used for medical treatment of all sheltered animals.

To return to my priority of people, I want to think outside the box, first by exploring the concept of a volunteer time bank in Madison Heights, where needs are met through the donation and withdrawal of volunteer time. Second, by establishing a library internship with an emphasis on grant writing to benefit the Library and other City Departments.

Under his leadership, Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss recommended that City Council divert a portion of its salary to fund soft-costs of the internship, literally turning pennies into dollars. Both concepts recognize people as the important resource they represent. I’d like to close on a positive note about property values.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, who I went to law school with, says that Madison Heights is one of the fastest growing cities in Oakland County. Our property values have risen 13% with promise to grow even higher. That simple fact is all we need to know that Madison Heights has survived the Great Recession and is beating its peers in growing for the future. To the pessimists in the room who say, “Oh yeah Hartwell, property values are on the rise, but taxable value is capped by inflation,” I challenge you to think bigger. Because property values are rising, house sales will rise bringing in new families and children to our schools. As houses are sold and transferred to new owners, taxable values will be automatically uncapped. As property value rises, so does ownership equity. Therefore homeowners, business owners and bankers will have confidence again to sign home improvement loans to build. Madison Heights is garden16_adventurehome to hundreds of construction trades workers and hundreds of manufacturing shops who will benefit from rising property values. Rising property values may not yet directly benefit city coffers but they are helping every person, every home, every neighborhood, every school, and every business. That is something to be hopeful for. It is truly a new day in Madison Heights and I’m proud to be your mayor. Thank you.

For more information on the City of Madison Heights visit their website at www.madison-heights.org. For more Madison Heights news see http://oaklandcounty115.com/category/news-by-city/madison-hts.

Posted in Community News.