The Official Blog of the City of Saline, Michigan

The City of Saline has partnered with SeeClickFix

As you’re driving through your neighborhood, you spot an ugly pothole. Wouldn’t you love to be able to report it as soon as you see it? Now residents will have the ability to do just that! The new mobile app, called SeeClickFix, allows residents to submit requests for non-emergency service via mobile application and web tool. Issues can be reported using a widget on the City Website, City Facebook /cityofsaline, and Twitter @CityofSaline), or with a free phone app (for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone devices, search for SeeClickFix on Google Play Store, iTunes or Marketplace).

Just a few examples of issues you can report using SeeClickFix include graffiti, potholes, trash in a park, tall grass, or an abandoned vehicle. Requests reported through SeeClickFix can provide location, description and photographic information regarding the problem. The new service is available in different languages and requests can be submitted anonymously. Residents can also report issues to the Department of Public Works at (734)429-5624 and these issues will be added to the SeeClickFix database.

The SeeClickFix app on iPhone

SeeClickFix allows citizens to not only report the non-emergency issues, but to monitor them as well. Once the issue is documented with SeeClickFix, the reporting citizen will receive a notification and tracking number. The request is then automatically forwarded to the appropriate department. Once the issue is addressed, the status will be updated and posted on SeeClickFix. City staff will monitor SeeClickFix during normal business hours.

The new system eliminates the same request being submitted multiple times and allows staff to work more efficiently by filtering requests regarding type, status or department assigned.

SeeClickFix is strictly for non-emergency services; any emergency should still be reported to 911.

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18th Annual Saline Celtic Festival

July 12-13 – Come see why Bloomberg Business Week and Money Magazine recognize the Saline Celtic Festival as one of the reasons Saline is a great place to live and the #1 city in Michigan to raise a family.

New this year.
The Michigan Brewers Guild will bring a little more “beer” culture to the cities signature event with craft beers from Bell’s, Arcadia Ales, Ann Arbor Brewing Company and New Holland Brewing Company.

The Mastodon Mayhem Challenge Run organized by the Saline Main Street group  will open the festival with a unique obstacle run. This 3 mile dash thru the park will feature mud pits, wall climbing, tire cross, log carry, sit-up and push-up stations water obstacle and more.

The 18th Annual Saline Celtic Festival kicks off on Thursday, July 11 with a Highland Athletics demonstration downtown at the Summer Music Series.  Friday, July 12th with Pub in the Park starting at 5:30 p.m. Good food, Michigan craft beers, great music and entertainment. The popular Tartan Terrors band will provide the music. There will also be dance and music workshops for participants to enjoy for only $8.00. Additionally, families can come and enjoy a free evening of jousters, merchants, and enjoy a great night! Come hang out and relax with neighbors and friends while strolling through the beautiful Millpond park. Friday will also host the popular Mr. Pretty Legs Kilt competition. Saturday, July 13, is Festival Day! The festivities begin Saturday with the Mastodon Mayhem Obstacle run. Followed by the opening ceremonies with an “inside the park” parade, mass pipe bands, national anthem, dignitaries and more starting at 11am.

And what would the festival be without the Highland Pipe Bands? The bands, individual pipers, and drummers will compete for medals and bragging rights. The color and sounds will lift your heart.The performances begin at 9:00 am with the Scottish and Highland Dance Competition followed throughout the day with Irish Dance Competitions. The always popular Highland Athletes with the caber and sheaf toss will highlight a 7-event competition.  Saturday’s stage entertainment will begin at noon with three stages of live entertainment throughout the day and will feature rock and traditional Celtic music by Solas, Brother and Blackthorn bands. Great activities for families to enjoy on Saturday include Jousting Knights on Horseback, Clans and Societies, Golf chipping, Celtic Survivor, Haggis Hurl, Textile Arts. Shopping, Sheep Dog Demonstrations, The Wee Folk Area, Medieval Reenactments, Tug-of-War and Millie the Millpond Monster.

There will be food and many merchant vendors available at a variety of locations within the park selling authentic Celtic food and great merchandise. There’s something for everyone to enjoy during the Saline Celtic Festival! The Festival runs through 11:00 pm. Tickets will be available at the Celtic Festival Office, Saline City Hall and other local businesses beginning June 1st. Please visit the festival’s website for ticket locations at salineceltic.org. Would you like to attend the Festival for free? Just become a volunteer. For a few hours of work (really more like play) you are given free admission as part of the great party.

For more information on the Celtic Festival or to volunteer, contact the Saline Celtic Festival office at 734-944-2810, by e-mail at celticfest@cityofsaline.org. Come and enjoy the party!

SATURDAY TICKET PRICES:

• Children under 12 -Free
• Active Military -Free.
• Advance tickets are $10.00.
• Tickets purchased at the gate for adults 18 +: $15.00
• Tickets purchased at the gate for youth ages 13-17: $5.00
• Tickets purchased at the gate after 8:00 p.m.: $5.00

All parking and shuttle rides are free.

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Annual Police Award Ceremony

The Saline Police Department would like to honor the following officers and civilian for their outstanding efforts going above and beyond the call of duty.

Citizen Citation:
On July 31, 2012, LaMare Hopkins was driving his Chevrolet Suburban east on Michigan Avenue.  He stopped for an accident at US12/Industrial.  Shortly thereafter Mr. Hopkin’s vehicle was struck in the rear by another eastbound vehicle.  LaMare told police he could see through his rear window, the driver of the other vehicle was having some type of medical emergency and appeared to be going into unconsciousness.  LaMare applied his brakes, attempting to keep the striking vehicle behind his.  The vehicle again struck Mr. Hopkin’s vehicle then veered away, driving past LaMare’s vehicle and eventually smashing into Officer Snook’s vehicle which was parked to protect the first accident.  Ofc. Snook’s patrol vehicle was a total loss, fortunately no one was hurt and the unconscious driver was treated for a medical issue and released the next day from the hospital.  Though unsuccessful in his attempt to prevent the vehicle from going around his vehicle, LaMare Hopkins disregard for his own personal safety goes above and beyond what a citizen is expected to do.  For this Lamare Hopkins is receiving the Saline Police Department Citizen Citation.  Congratulations!

Certificate of Merit:
On May 25, 2012, Saline Police responded to a report of a bank robbery at the TCF Bank on Michigan Avenue.  Detective Don Lupi responded to the scene and assumed command of the investigation.  Countless hours of follow-up and investigation led to the arrest of several people involved in this robbery.  Because of the information received it was discovered the suspects were wanted in several area bank robberies and multiple robberies throughout the United States.  Det. Lupi developed a confidential informant and worked at building a good relationship, taking his time and not rushing.  This tactic proved to be very successful with a large amount of valuable information being received.  Det. Lupi knew when to move forward and when to not push for information.  The information received was then validated by other sources and surveillance ensued.  Don made the right choices at the right time which kept information flowing in for this massive investigation.  If not for Detective Lupi’s diligence in this matter this robbery very well could still be unsolved.  For his work and dedication to duty Detective Lupi is receiving the Certificate of Merit.  Congratulations.

Certificate of Merit:
For the last 16 years, Officer David Ringe has been assigned to the DARE officer position.  During this time he has taught well over 6,000 students. In addition to teaching DARE, Dave has also accepted the responsibility of instructing Teaching, Educating and Mentoring (TEAM) and Safety town.   He has taught Safety town for 16 years and TEAM for 4 years.  Several of Dave’s DARE students have become teachers and are employed here in our own Saline School system.  One of his former students is now an officer with the Saline PD.  What a great legacy for Dave and the Saline Police Department. Officer Dave is the driving force behind an annual fundraiser to support the DARE program.  Over the years the fundraisers have raised in excess of $100,000.  Not only has he taught these programs for many years but he does it with such excellence.  I could go on and on, but time will not allow, about Officer Ringe’s efforts to educate and protect our children.  I know Officer Dave is very deserving of and is therefore awarded the Certificate of Merit.  Congratulations!

Letter of Commendation             Evidence room
I have had the opportunity over the last 39 years to observe several evidence rooms.  When I started at my previous agency the evidence room was a disaster.  The job of auditing and cleaning the evidence room was bigger than the department could handle.  I had to bring in an outside person to start the process of cleaning up and perform an inventory of the evidence room.  This took hours upon hours of time to complete, needless to say this cost a great deal of money to correct.  I have the privilege of teaching in the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police New Chiefs School about department audits which includes auditing the evidence room.  I have heard horror stories about the conditions and processes of other police department’s evidence rooms.  The Saline Police Department evidence room on the other hand is so professionally and properly managed that all I could say is “Wow”.  Every piece of evidence is in its right place and even more importantly accounted for.  Each and every year the officers in charge of the evidence room conduct a complete audit.  Again “wow” I could not ask for more.  Our evidence officers, Ofc. Chris Boulter and Ofc. Dennis Gruschow have been in charge of the evidence room for many years and more than deserve this letter of commendation job well done.  Congratulations.

Letter of Commendation             Firearms range
The very first day on the range with the Saline Police Department firearms instructors was a very impressive day for me.  Having fired thousands of rounds over the course of my career I found myself in awe on just how professionally the range was handled.  This was the first time for me to have instructors who ensured everyone was not only wearing ear and eye protection but also went one step further to ensure the safety of our police officers by requiring everyone to wear a protective vest.  In addition to the safety aspect, which all by itself deserves mentioning, the type and style of firearms training our officers receive is second to none.  Officers are required to shoot in a mixture of courses in a wide variety of weather and lighting conditions.  Real life-type conditions are recreated to put our officers under stress which can affect your ability to shoot.  A recent range example:  our officers were required to simulate being in a fight, punching a punching bag for several minutes then firing their handguns at targets no bigger than a small balloon, talk about difficult.  It is with great pleasure I present a letter of commendation to Sgt. James Basso and Ofc. Andy Hartwig.

Chief Larry Hrinik
Saline Police Department
100 North Harris
Saline, Michigan  48176
734.429.7911
lhrinik@cityofsaline.org

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The Mayor’s State of the City Address

STATE OF THE CITY

JANUARY 7, 2013 – MAYOR BRIAN MARL

Good evening City Council, City Manager Campbell, Clerk Hill, distinguished guests and my fellow citizens.

It is an honor to be here this evening. I’m humbled by this opportunity to lead the city that I’ve called home my entire life, and a community that I love.

Let me begin tonight by acknowledging and thanking my immediate predecessor. I stand today in the shadow of Saline’s longest-serving mayor, and the city’s first female mayor. She is truly

a trail-blazer who has dedicated much of her life to serving the citizens of Saline, and our community has benefited in tangible ways from her service. I’d like to take a moment to thank her, and acknowledge outgoing Mayor, and now State Representative, Gretchen Driskell, for her years of service and dedication. We wish her well in her new role representing the 52nd House District in Lansing.

I would also like to acknowledge and thank former City Attorney Allan Grossman for his more than 50 years of exemplary service to our city. Speaking for the entire City Council, we are truly indebted to him for all he has done for our community. We wish Allan and his family the very best of luck in all their future endeavors.

We live in an exceptional community, and the City of Saline is strong. The hard work done by community leaders up to this point has positioned our city well. However, we are also at a fork in the road: across our state, and nationally, the role of municipal government is evolving, and in some cases fundamentally changing.

Our cause is too important, and time is too precious, to waste any moment. I plan to partner with my Council colleagues, city staff and community stakeholders to develop forward-thinking, proactive solutions for our city’s future. Together we must act boldly to face the challenges Saline faces. We cannot pass our problems off onto our successors, or to the next generation – we must lead. These decisions will certainly not be easy, and they may not always be popular, but they are absolutely necessary. Short-term or one-time fixes and gimmicks are not leadership, and the path of least resistance is always downhill. Together we must act decisively to do what is best for our community.

Primary to our effort is reaffirming our support and commitment to public safety. Residents and business owners cite our quality public safety programs as one of our city’s biggest strengths, and with good reason. Without safety and security, other important aspects of a community suffer – things like economic growth, and sense of community.

As a city, we must work hard to empower public safety staff, to ensure that policies and procedures are appropriate and up to date. Poor policies or inadequate resources will not be tolerated – they can hamstring front-line employees in their ability to do their job effectively, and city leaders must work to ensure proper safeguards are in place to support their important work.

 

Economic development is another component integral to Saline’s short-term and long-term success. While we remain supportive of our larger businesses currently occupying our industrial park, I believe as a community we must focus on nurturing new and growing small businesses and entrepreneurial projects. Saline is already a center for creativity and innovation, and I know my Council colleagues share my enthusiasm for working hard to help cultivate residents’ good ideas.

For businesses of all sizes, city government will take an active role in fostering more and better communication between private and public sectors. To this end, the city will moderate forums and host events for businesses to share ideas and solutions, encouraging discussions among businesses and with city leadership and staff. In the coming months, a priority of Council will be a systematic and thorough review of all regulations, so that policies are not unnecessary or overly burdensome to businesses seeking growth and expansion.

The city recently received a strategic business plan for attracting and retaining businesses, prepared by Ann Arbor SPARK. We must work to realize the goals and objectives outlined in that plan, and that is only possible through collaboration: City leaders and staff must work with our economic development boards, and must build on existing partnerships with SPARK, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Small Business and Technical Development Center, the Saline Main Street Program, and our local Chamber of Commerce.

Not as captivating, but extremely important, is ensuring that Saline’s infrastructure is well supported and maintained. We must work together, and quickly, to develop a plan for a reliable funding stream to maintain our infrastructure, including not only our streets and sewer systems, but also our city’s sidewalks. Focusing on walkability, and developing more non-motorized pathways to connect key areas within our city, will make Saline an even more family-friendly community.

In developing the city budget for this year and in planning for the future, we must achieve a balance between adequately funding our most-needed and vital programs and services, while ensuring that we spend responsibly and wisely. City government should never ask for more of people’s hard-earned dollars than absolutely necessary. The economic downturn has hit families and businesses hard, and it has also taken a toll on our fund balance. Council and stakeholders must work collaboratively and actively in the coming years to grow our fund balance to protect our residents and secure our city’s future.

In the upcoming budget cycle, rest assured that every option is on the table. Every line item will be scrutinized and reviewed for potential cost-savings, reforms and restructuring. I will do everything in my power to ensure that the process is open, and I look forward to honest discussions with my Council colleagues, city staff, residents and other stakeholders about ideas to move our city forward.

In order to function effectively, government must be open and accessible to the people it serves. In the coming months and years, I would like our city to use technology and social media even more effectively to communicate interactively on residents’ concerns, questions and suggestions. Our website already has a wealth of information available, and I want to make sure it is as user-friendly and informative as our citizens demand and deserve. In recent years, Council has talked about convening town hall and public meetings to discuss issues and better inform citizens, and I am committed to helping to make that happen. We have also discussed convening issue-specific task forces, utilizing Council members, city staff and also private citizens, whose perspectives will lend a fresh, different voice that will enrich and improve our city’s work.

I’m sure everyone here will agree that one of Saline’s greatest assets is our people. As mayor, a central goal of mine is empowering our citizens to participate in their community. Any time an individual is willing to give his or her time to make our city better, I am committed to helping them become involved in some tangible way. That involvement could take countless forms, from volunteering on a city board or commission, serving on a homeowner’s association, participating in a service club or working on a governing board of a church community.

In recent years, our community received the high honor of being acknowledged by CNN Money Magazine and Bloomberg News as an ideal place to live and to raise children. We earned this recognition in part because of good governance, but also because of our strong school system, and because of our people. I’m proud to be part of a community of good people, who when they see a need are willing to step in and fill that void, and improve the world around them. One of my heroes, President John F. Kennedy famously paraphrased biblical text when he said “To whom much is given, much is expected.” For my whole life, the people of Saline have shown me how to live up to that sentiment.

I am humbled, and grateful for the opportunity to be here with you tonight, and I look forward to working together to do what is best for our community. I’m proud to stand with my dedicated and talented colleagues on City Council, David Rhoads, Linda TerHaar, Dean Girbach, Jim Peters, Jim Roth, and Lee Bourgoin, and I want to thank them for their service.

This is a difficult time to serve in government, particularly municipal government, because people’s ideas and expectations are fluid and changing. The paradigm shift may be a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to think creatively to find new solutions to old problems. I believe that through bold, decisive leadership, we can confront our challenges head-on, and emerge stronger.

Yes, I still believe that Saline’s best days are still ahead of us.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless Saline.

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First Time Voters & College Students

Registration & Voting Absentee Information

HOW TO REGISTER TO VOTE:

You MUST register to vote 30 days before the day of Election which you wish to vote.

YOU MAY REGISTER:

  • In person at the Saline City Clerk’s office, Monday – Friday, excluding holidays 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • In person at any Secretary of State Branch office, (where you also apply for a drivers’ license).
  • In person at the County Clerk’s office, 200 N. Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI www.ewashtenaw.org
  • In person at designated Voter Registration offices, such as:  Michigan Department of Human

Services & Michigan Department of Community Health.

  • In person at a local Armed Forces Recruitment Office.
  • By Mail – 100 N. Harris Street, Saline, MI  48176.  Application is available on the city’s

Website under the Clerk’s Department   www.cityofsaline.org

If mailing your application for Voter Registration, the postmark date MUST be 30 days before the election date.

YOUR ADDRESS

Michigan Election law states that the same address must be used for your voter registration and Michigan drivers’ license.

Many college students inquire whether they may vote in the state or campus community where they attend college.

If you change your address to another address (e.g. campus) on your voter registration application, the Secretary of State WILL change your Michigan drivers’ license or personal ID card (PID) to match this address.  Note:  if you register to vote using your campus address, you will not be voting for your hometown candidates or proposals (if you campus is in another state/city).

On your voter registration application, you may designate a preferred mailing address, such as your campus address (to receive mail related to your voter registration)

ABSENTEE VOTING

Absentee Ballots are available 45 days before each election.  If you wish to vote absentee, you must submit an application for absentee ballot for each election.

The Clerk’s office maintains a permanent list of absentee voters.  You may ask to place your name on this list to automatically receive the Absent Voter Application prior to each election.

To be placed on the permanent absentee voter list, you must provide to the Clerk’s office your name, address, signature, date of birth, and a reason for the absentee ballot.  You will also need to include the mailing address to sent your absentee voter application if different than your registered address.

ABSENTEE  BALLOTS

If you expect to be absent on Election Day from the area where you are registered to vote, you may request an absentee ballot, by written request, to the clerk of the city or township where you are registered.

Your written request must include your signature, the address to mail the ballot to, and the reason you are requesting to vote absentee.  You may phone or e-mail the Clerk’s office to request an Absent Voter Application form.  The application is also available on-line at www.cityofsaline.org

VOTING THE FIRST TIME

If you will be away at college, you will need to plan in advance if you wish to vote by absentee ballot.

If you register by mail, are a first time voter, and plan to vote absentee, you will need to stop by the Clerk’s office BEFORE you will be issued an absentee ballot to have an official witness your signature.

If you register in person, you have the option of requesting an absentee ballot or voting in person on Election Day.

The key rule to remember is that the FIRST time you vote, an official must have witnessed your signature to validate your registration to vote.

 

VOTER REGISTRATION I.D.

After your voter registration has been processed, you should receive a Voter Identification card.  Your I.D. card will be mailed to your registration address and provides information about your precinct and voting location.

You do not need to bring your Voter Identification card with you to vote.  You WILL need a photo ID, such as a drivers’ license, passport, student ID, or state-issued photo ID.  If you forget your ID when you go to vote in person, you will need to sign an affidavit before voting.

You can check your voter registration status, as well as your precinct location at:  www.michigan.gov/vote

The Saline City Clerk’s office is open on the Saturday prior to each election from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to issue absentee ballots to voters that are unable to vote on Election Day.  These ballots may be completed on the spot at the Clerk’s office.

All absentee ballots must be returned by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

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State of the City – July 2012

Good evening.

During my tenure as mayor, it has been my privilege to report to you semiannually on the State of affairs of our fair city. In reviewing my first state of the city from January 1999, I find we have made great progress. Then, as now, we recognized the importance of maintaining and building a vibrant, healthy city and the value of community participation.

I am honored to share with you the strengths our city relies upon and the challenges we have before us today.  Our community is positioned to weather the projected decrease in our revenues due to the foundation we have built together, our partnerships with businesses and surrounding townships, our decade of investment in our infrastructure, and the continued commitment of our citizens, city employees and council to work toward an ever improving community.

A strategic priority of the city has been to have a proactive economic development stance. This policy has resulted in development ready parcels which assist in recruitment of new businesses.  Saline now has over 300 acres of business parks with businesses from diverse industry sectors, most of whom are growing and creating new jobs.

Specifically, Liebherr celebrated their fourth expansion of 33,000sf in June, resulting in a 133,000sf building that houses their aerospace and gear making business.  They have 54 acres behind the building and are well positioned for future growth . Additionally, the sale of the ACH business has been completed and Faurecia is in the process of investing in new equipment and reorganizing the plant floor. We had been hoping for a successful sale as ACH notified us in 2008 that they would be selling or closing the plant this year.

The city still has over 20 acres (valued at over $2M) available for development as the economy improves. Our goal historically has been to have at least 45% of our revenue come from nonresidential revenue but in the last decade the ratio has declined to 39% projected for next year. In order to have a healthy economy here and keep residential taxes lower we need to continue to look for opportunities to grow, recruit and retain businesses in our community. To that end we recently contracted with Ann Arbor SPARK, our countywide economic development agency (and a nationally recognized econ dev organization) to assist us in developing a formal implementable economic development plan.  Programs from this plan could range from development of a local entrepreneur support group to business attraction to home based business workshops. The information gathered will help us focus our ever shrinking personnel resources on priority opportunities for economic growth.

Additionally, this year our city was fortunate to be accepted into the Michigan Main Street Select Level program. The national Main Street program is a proven commercial revitalization approach that leverages our local resources to create a non-profit organization that partners with the city to improve our downtown, by working on design, promotion, economic restructuring and volunteer recruitment. We are the 17th city in the state to achieve this status and I commend the volunteers who worked tirelessly to put together the winning proposal. Our new main street manager, Kelly Idzikowski, is at work developing the systems and framework for a successful program. Watch for the many positive outcomes from this program in the years to come.

We have our challenges right now in the commercial real estate arena with Country Market closing and other commercial strips that are underutilized. However, there are retail business openings on a regular basis once again, and we expect to see a few more storefronts active by the end of the year. The empty spaces will fill as the economy continues to improve.

Over the past decade the city implemented  infrastructure projects that had been in the planning process in the last century. Our significant investment in major capital projects has substantially improved the vast majority of our assets, providing for long term stability and lengthy life spans in our various asset categories. This, in turn, enables us to provide better services to our citizens and businesses. (Water/sewer system upgrades, road system, city hall, DPW building and upgrades to the Recreation Center)

While our foundation is solid, the budget deliberations for this fiscal year were probably the most difficult I’ve experienced in my 20 years of elected office. Our current revenue projection for FY13 reflect budgeted property tax revenues comparable to FY05 and the state revenue sharing below what we received in 1996. The contributing factors of a 20% decline in our property tax revenue in the past four years, a lump sum paydown of the city’s MERS liability in 2011 and the underfunding of state revenue sharing since 2000 (cumulative total of $4M on a $8.5M annual budget) has contributed to an erosion of our fund balance. This will be our most challenging year as commercial values have stabilized and residential values are projected to increase at least 2%. We are currently projecting a fund balance of slightly less than $1M, however we are maintaining an AA- bond rating which is excellent for a city our size.

We have worked diligently in partnership with our employees and other governmental entities to look for cost saving opportunities.  We have eliminated through layoffs or attrition 20% of our workforce, implemented wage freezes, and addressed health care and pension benefits by implementing changes on par with the private sector. Additional opportunities for regional service, such as our fire district, or coordinated grants, such as the new connection to our linear trail at the library, are pursued whenever possible.

The looming concern for our city and many other taxing entities in our community (schools, library, community college) and around the state is the current proposal in Lansing to eliminate personal property tax revenue and replace it without any guarantee. Our experience with state revenue sharing has been that the revenues do not get replaced reliably.  The city ultimately was required to implement a millage increase to offset some of the statutory revenue shortfall.  Currently our personal property taxable value is 22% of our total value and this elimination by the state could significantly impact our stagnant revenues. The city will struggle to make further cuts in staffing without a negative impact on our level of service.

Our city is a healthy vibrant community because of the participation of its citizenry, not only in good governance but as volunteers and supporters.  This past weekend, two citizen-led initiatives were celebrated. The Red Barrel project, started by PACT volunteers, culminated in a location at city hall to collect unused prescription drugs, keeping them from misuse and out of our waterways. The new flag pole at the cemetery, a project that took little more than 2 months to complete, is another excellent example of our community coming together to solve a problem.

Last weekend thousands of visitors came to experience our 17th annual Celtic Festival, an event initiated to celebrate our sister city relationship of 47 years with Brecon, Wales.  This award winning event had over 400 volunteers come together to execute a plan that other volunteers had spent all year working on. In addition,on Aug 10th and 11th we can look forward to our annual Summerfest, another weekend filled with fun activities and opportunities to play together,  which over a hundred volunteers plan and execute in recognition of the importance of community building. The culmination of a years’ worth of planning by our Arts & Culture Committee will result in the dedication of the Sculpture Walk in our downtown area at the kickoff of Summerfest.

We have had a continuous goal of improving community involvement for as long as I can remember. Some of the changes in the last decade include televising council meetings, an interactive city website, quarterly newsletters, and biannual citizen satisfaction surveys.  An informed and active citizenry makes for a stronger community. An informed community makes the best decisions and is vested in our future.

It has been a distinct honor and privilege to represent this community. We, as a city, are extremely fortunate to have had elected officials and city employees that are dedicated to improving our community. And I have been privileged to work alongside them.

I believe the reason we have been recognized as a Top 100 small city several times last decade can be directly attributed to the sense of pride that our community holds. The initiatives and contributions our citizens, businesses and city employees make ensures that the City of Saline continues to be one of the best places to live, work and play.

-Mayor Gretchen Driskell

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147 W. Michigan Avenue (formerly the Village Market Place + Lofts site) Update

Anyone that has seen the property located at 147 W. Michigan Avenue in the last few months knows that huge improvements have take place beginning this past spring.  The property is under new ownership, since December 2010, as a result of a Sheriff’s sale of the property caused by foreclosure.  The new owners are a group of contractors that have liens on the property as a result of doing work for the former owner and not being paid as part of the failed Village Market Place + Lofts development.147 W. Michigan Avenue

The new owners have earth balanced the property, installed a new storm water drain, removed the unsightly security fencing and generally cleaned up the site.  The owners will be spreading top soil on the site and putting grass seed down in the near future.  The new owners have placed the property on the market with the intention of selling the property to make up for not being paid for all of their work on the site.

The property was on its way to being foreclosed upon by the Washtenaw County Treasurer’s Office because of past due property taxes winter/spring 2011.  However, the new owners of 147 W. Michigan Avenue have made the necessary payments to keep the property out of tax foreclosure.

We are hopeful and optimistic that the community will see a positive outcome at 147 W. Michigan Avenue in the not too distant future.  But at least in the interim, the property looks 100% better and is no longer the eyesore negatively impacting downtown Saline.

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16th Annual Saline Celtic Festival

July 7–9 • Celebrating Welsh, Irish and Scottish traditions, honoring the Celtic nations and their cultures

The 16th Annual Saline Celtic Festival kicks off on Thursday, July 7th with a Celtic Dinner and Whisky Tasting at Mac’s Acadian Grille, located at 102 E. Michigan Avenue, Saline. Friday night, July 8th, is Pub in the Park starting at 5:30 p.m. and promises food, drinks and music for a $5.00 gate fee into the Red Dragon tent. Beth Patterson and Celtic rock band, Road Kilt, will provide the entertainment. There will also be dance and music workshops for participants to enjoy for only $8.00. Additionally, families can come and enjoy a free evening of jousters, merchants, and enjoy a great night! Come hang out and relax with neighbors and friends while strolling through the park. Friday will also host the popular Mr. Pretty Legs Kilt competition. Saturday, July 9, is Festival Day! The festivities begin with a 5K run followed by Opening Ceremonies to celebrate Welsh, Irish and Scottish traditions, honoring the Celtic nations and their cultures.

Drummers at the Festival

The performances begin at 9:00 am with the Scottish Highland Dance Competition followed throughout the day with Irish Dance Competitions, new to the festival this year! Back by popular demand are the Highland Athletes! The caber and sheaf toss will highlight a 7-event competition. This year will also include an all-amateur open event for men and women of all ages. Saturday’s stage entertainment will begin at noon with three stages of live entertainment throughout the day and will feature traditional Irish and original music by Blue Fiddle for the evening Pub Stage. Great activities for families to enjoy on Saturday include Rugby Tournaments, Millie the Mill Pond Monster, the Wee Folk Area, Sheep Dog Demonstrations, Jousting Knights on Horseback, Dark Ages Living History Viking Encampment and much more. And what would the festival be without the Highland Pipe Bands? The bands, individual pipers, and drummers will compete for medals and bragging rights. The color and sounds will lift your heart.
There will be food and merchant vendors available at a variety of locations within the park selling authentic Celtic food and great merchandise. There’s something for everyone to enjoy during the Saline Celtic Festival! The Festival runs through 11:00 pm. Tickets will be available at the Celtic Festival Office, Saline City Hall and other local businesses beginning June 1st. Please visit the festival’s website for ticket locations at www.salineceltic.org. Would you like to attend the Festival for free? Just become a volunteer. For a few hours of work (really more like play) you are given free admission as part of the great party.

For more information on the Celtic Festival or to volunteer, contact the Saline Celtic Festival office at 734-944-2810, by e-mail at celticfest@cityofsaline.org. Come and enjoy the party!

SATURDAY TICKET PRICES: Children 12 and under are FREE
• Advance tickets are $10.00.
• Tickets purchased at the gate for adults 18 +: $15.00
• Tickets purchased at the gate for children ages 13-17: $5.00
• Tickets purchases at the gate for senior citizens: $10.00
• Tickets purchased at the gate after 8:00 p.m.: $5.00

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State of the City Address

State of the City
January 2011

It is a privilege to report to you on the state of affairs of this great city.  We have a community that is thriving, thanks to the continued commitment of our citizens, city employees, and elected officials. Even in these difficult economic times, we are seeing new investment by local businesses and housing value stabilization.  In this Address, I will review our current activities and outline our future priorities.

Saline is in a good financial position. Our long range financial plan shows a stable fund balance of approximately $2M or 20% over the next 5 years. While some funding remains at risk, such as state revenue sharing, we believe that property values in our community have stabilized. We have adjusted employee benefits to be comparable with the private sector and will be negotiating to have benefit parity for all labor groups. We have a viable plan to pay down our unfunded retirement liability over several years. The city has been able to maintain our millage rate through the diligent work of city employees, identifying opportunities for cost savings and revenue enhancement.

This year we completed our biannual citizen survey.  The results can be found on our website (cityofsaline.org) under the city council section. I am delighted to report that the city received very positive ratings compared to the benchmarks. We are always looking for opportunities for improvement, and take your feedback very seriously.  We utilize the survey results for our annual goal setting process, which we have just completed.

The city council has had several work sessions to update our goals for next year in preparation for developing the budget. They will be formally adopted next council meeting and put on the city website. We have continued with the same overarching goals which focus on enhancing our ability to continue as a successful 21st century city. The goals are; a vibrant downtown, maintain financial stability, upgrade infrastructure, proactive economic development, enhance communication, build community spirit, promote and develop sustainable green initiatives, and enhance our quality of life.

Our downtown is the heart of our city, a place for residents and visitors to shop, eat and play. The city has been participating in the Michigan Main Street Program, learning about best practices and tools communities use to further enhance this crucial area of our community. We had a successful summer concert series, which will be continued  next year. A new initiative is being developed by community members for a winter concert series at The Stone Arch on South Ann Arbor Street. I know everyone is looking forward to the opening of Mangiamo’s by the Toaramina family this next month.  It will be a family Italian restaurant with a pizza oven, and of course their delicious ice cream will also be served. The unfinished development, Village Marketplace, continues to be a challenge to cleanup. We have a default judgement against the developer and are looking at options to improve the aesthetics of the parcel. Goals for this next year include expanding our beautification efforts, continue retail business attraction and identifying funding for a community pavilion.  Additionally, we will be working with the downtown stakeholders to develop an overlay district in the downtown. This will enable us to further improve the structural elements of the downtown through our zoning and site plan review process.

Maintaining financial stability is of vital importance to our city council and staff. We recognize the importance of thoughtful investment in the city and have great respect for the fact that we are using your tax dollars. Over the last decade we have made significant investments in capital projects and we are in positioned well for the future. We know that your decision to live and work in Saline is based on the value you get for your tax dollars. We do a broad brush five year financial document, so we can be responsive to trends that affect us in a timely manner, adjusting our projected expenditures accordingly.

Upgrading infrastructure is a continuous challenge for the city and is of vital importance to our quality of life and attractiveness as a community. Evaluating, programming, and implementing projects can be complex and costly. We are developing a Capital Improvements Program Report that will be available on our website when our budget process is complete in the spring. Last year we reconstructed Willis Road implementing the complete streets policy that we have developed. Our non-motorized plan is being implemented in segments, this year we are working with the library on a link between Maple Road and Harris Street. We installed the illuminated cross walk on Woodland Drive with assistance from grant money. We plan to identify a reliable funding stream for our transportation system as the current bond proceeds are rapidly disappearing.

Proactive economic development will include all commercial businesses in infrastructure planning and events. We currently work with the SACC as partners in the development of promotional events. We also work with AnnArbor SPARK, and the MEDC coordinating regular retention visits to our larger businesses. Additionally, we plan to develop a program that supports entrepreneurship by promoting business mentoring, acting as virtual incubator space. The relationships we develop with our local businesses are of utmost importance to our future, and we hope they consider the city a partner in our mutual success.

City council and staff are always looking for opportunities to improve communication.. We have invested in two websites, an operational government type, and an events & promotional type. We learned from the survey results that most of you get city information from our quarterly FYI, which goes out in the water bills.  However, the most timely information regarding city operations and activities will be found on our websites 24/7.

Civic engagement is crucial to the success of our community. Our multiple boards, commissions, and events, such as Summerfest & Celtic Festival, are run by volunteers. In this time of shrinking budgets we need you more than ever to get involved. Volunteering is a great way to give back and you can do it for a onetime event or multiple activities.  It is also a great way to make new friends and be part of something bigger than you. The city website has a volunteer page that allows you to contact the organizer for each event. Also we will be hosting a volunteer table at future public events, so come on out, meet some new folks, and contribute!

As a city, we have been identifying opportunities to promote and support sustainable practices addressing the wise use of our resources. We have had an energy audit completed and are implementing the suggestions for improvement. This next year our goals are to expand the recycling program to commercial areas and public events. Through the environmental commission we plan to expand educational offerings, such as rain barrel making, assisting citizens in their commitment to conservation. Additionally, we plan to identify opportunities for use of alternative energy programs that could be applicable to homes and businesses.

Our final strategic goal, one that is impacted by all of the above goals, is enhancing the quality of life. City council, employees and commissions are continually working on ideas that would provide a positive impact. Specifically, this year we plan to address blighted areas, access grant funding for cultural and recreational development, continue to develop tools to promote healthy living, and develop a cultural diversity initiative with community organizations. We opened the ice rink at Henne field in December and it is being well used. This fall we look forward to visitors from both our sister city programs, Lindenberg, Germany and Brecon, Wales. Host families are being recruited now if you would be interested in expanding your world to include other cultures.

Our council is looking forward to an exciting year ahead. We have two new council members, Dean Girbach and Linda TerHaar. They have been participating in our goal setting and bring a fresh perspective to this council. Additionally we have seasoned councilmembers, Pat Ivey, Glenn Law, Brian Marl, and David Rhoads. I look forward to working with this council because of our strong commitment to serving you.

In summary, your city government is working hard for you. We have an excellent quality of life, great schools, and a stable local economy due to community pride and participation. We hope to see you downtown this weekend at our 1st annual Winterfest. Thank you for your continued support, because of you, Saline is a great place to live, work, and play.

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Former Village Market Place + Lofts Project Status

As you all are aware, there is a large hole near the west end of downtown Saline.  The hole is the result of a mixed use (retail and residential) development that would have been a very nice addition to downtown Saline, but fell victim to the economy being turned upside down in 2008; similar to thousands of projects around the nation.  First, some brief history of the Village Market Place + Lofts project.  The project received required City approvals in 2007 and began environmental clean-up efforts in early 2008 with installation of underground utilities beginning as well.  Unfortunately, the summer of 2008 saw the project developer lose bank financing for the project, which resulted in the construction activity coming to an abrupt halt.

The project’s original site plan approval expired in February 2009.  The developer, Mike Concannon, requested and received multiple extensions of the site plan approval, with the final extension expiring in February 2010.  The Saline Planning Commission voted unanimously in February 2010 to not extend the Village Market Place + Lofts site plan approval.  Additionally, the Saline City Council voted unanimously to revoke the project’s special land use permit in February 2010 after receiving a recommendation from the Saline Planning Commission to do the same.

During the multiple site plan extensions, Mr. Concannon claimed to be pursuing and actually to have secured new financing to complete the project.  Unfortunately, according to Mr. Concannon, the project was not able to actually take possession of the necessary financing.  Mr. Concannon also submitted a letter to the Saline Planning Commission with the last request for site plan extension that was not granted.  The letter blamed the banking institutions for not granting financing for the project’s business tenants.  Mr. Concannon wrote in his last letter that, “This action by the banks effectively kills the Project.”

City staff sent a letter dated April 8, 2010 to Mr. Concannen regarding the status of the Village Market Place + Lofts; specifically two items – general maintenance per the Saline Zoning Code and protection of the public health and welfare.  The general maintenance per the Saline Zoning Code included two items:  1) Mowing of grass/weeds to a height of seven inches or less and 2) Removing junk/debris from the property.  The protection of the public health and welfare included four items:  1) That the land be graded, filled and drained so that water problems do not negatively impact the public health, safety and welfare; 2) That the land be graded, filled and drained so that it can be maintained in an urban lawn-like manner and not attract or contribute to anything deleterious to the urban environment or its activities; 3) That the perimeter fencing be maintained in a safe and serviceable manner; and 4) That the cross-lot sanitary lead for 101 South Lewis Street be reconnected to the service line the developer installed under US-12, near the Lewis Street/US-12 intersection.  City staff included two deadlines in the April 8, 2010 letter.  The first deadline required Mr. Concannon to submit a remediation plan to address the above items by May 1, 2010 to be reviewed by City staff.  The second deadline required Mr. Concannon to complete the necessary site remediation improvements by July 1, 2010.  May 1, 2010 and July 1, 2010 both came and went without any reply from Mr. Concannon.

The Saline City Council voted unanimously at their July 12, 2010 regular City Council meeting to file a lawsuit against Mr. Concannon and partnerships.  City Attorney Allan Grossman filed a lawsuit as of July 29, 2010, against The Concannon Company, The Village Market Place + Lofts and SRV Ventures regarding the four parcels that make up the new defunct project.  The complaint filed by the City of Saline as of July includes two counts.  The first count claims the property is a nuisance per se – zoning use violations.  The second count includes failure to reimburse the City of Saline for installing a temporary sidewalk (along US-12).  There was not any response to the Court or the City by the defendants.  On November 5, 2010, City Attorney Grossman went before the Honorable Judge Timothy P. Connors requesting a default judgment against the defendants.  Judge Connors granted the default judgment in the City of Saline’s favor.

The next step is to determine how, if the City is able, to enforce the default judgment and make the defendants comply with the decision of the Court.  Additionally, the four property parcels in question are currently in the middle of being foreclosed upon by Washtenaw County due to unpaid property taxes.  The redemption period for the owners to pay off the back taxes will expire March 31, 2011.  The Washtenaw County Treasurer’s Office posted the properties in question with a “Notice of Show Cause Hearing and Judicial Foreclosure Hearing.”  The show cause hearing is scheduled for February 9, 2011 and the judicial foreclosure hearing is scheduled for February 23, 2011.  The properties in question will be auctioned off once the redemption period has expired.

As you all can see, the City of Saline has been and will continue to actively pursue a resolution to the issue of the “big hole” in downtown Saline.  Right, wrong or indifferent, the process is what the process is and it takes a significant amount of time to go through.  There are still some significant questions that will only be answered in time, such as will the current property owners redeem the property by paying the back taxes?  If not, who will end up owning the property and for how much?  And, how/when will the property be cleaned up and restored to a more acceptable level?  Please contact Todd Campbell, City Manager at 429-3148 or by e-mail at tcampbell@cityofsaline.org with any questions/comments.

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