STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS 2017
Good Evening. I am very pleased to report to the residents of Menominee that the City has made progress in many areas during the past year. We have also undergone many changes and it is my belief that we can be both proud of the accomplishments of the last year and can also look forward with great positivity.
In 2016 we endured yet another change in the position of City Manager. City Attorney Rob Jamo again stepped up to become the Interim City Manager. He essentially did two jobs and it was during this time that we had not only legal issues which required attention and the many daily demands of the city manager but also the challenge of our tax rolls and assessing department. Additionally, he dealt with the annual and cyclical tasks to be facilitated such as the union contracts that required negotiation. He handled these responsibilities for much of the year until Mr. Tony Graff came on board as our new City Manager in November. Thank you, Rob, for your hard work in keeping us on course.
Our new City Manager has been with us now for just over two months and in many ways it seems that he has been here longer as he has quickly gotten up to speed at City Hall. He also has gotten out into the community to familiarize himself with the businesses and our citizenry. He has shown himself to be professional, approachable, and fair-minded and it is my sincere hope and belief that he will proudly serve the City well for many years to come. He is assisted by the hard-working City staff, employees and department heads that go above and beyond what is required in order to ensure a smooth transition, provide for our safety, maintenance of assets and flow of information.
Kathy Brofka is one of aforementioned department heads, who has been instrumental in assistance to the City Manager. She is the Clerk/Treasurer for the City of Menominee. She has many responsibilities and works long hours to keep the City in compliance with our obligations and ensure that our finances are in order. She never hesitates to gather information and has almost immediate recall when asked to provide clarification. Kathy has annually helped me compile a complete list of our achievements and I want to acknowledge my appreciation for all that she does on behalf of this City.
Menominee again received a clean audit report for fiscal year end 2016 from the firm of Unger and Walters. Brad Walters presented the audit at a finance committee meeting on December 6. At the close of fiscal year 2016 our unassigned fund balance was $2,231,000. This represents approximately 30% of our annual budget and a good position to be in given the uncertainty of state shared revenue funding. We were able to make capital improvements last year as follows: The police department purchased two new police vehicles, in-car cameras and a radar message board. The Department of Public Works received a new pick-up truck as well as beach grooming equipment. At Spies Library, Cheryl Hoffman oversaw the completion of phase three of the carpet replacement and the emergency cornice repair on the west side of the building. The front of the library now has had a little facelift but more importantly is structurally sound. The expenses for these three departments totaled $128,260. We received several windfall payments from the Michigan Municipal League on whose board of directors for the liability and property pool I continue to serve. We received a dividend on our insurance premium in the amount of $14,548 and a legal fee reimbursement in the amount of $12,884.
Not every improvement in Menominee required a capital outlay. Chief Botbyl wrote grants and received over $1,500 that was used to purchase body armor and bullet proof vests to protect our officers. Riverside Cemetery with the guidance of the steadfast Cemetery Board, oversaw the replacement of the chapel roof. This was covered mainly by insurance. There is additional work that needs to be done in the coming year on the interior of the building but that too should have some insurance coverage. Also, the flagpoles have been erected in the new section of Soldier’s Field. This was covered in its entirety by donations from local veterans. There is still flatwork to be done and a memorial to be installed and that expense will not be borne solely by the City. Donations will cover half of that expense. On behalf of the City, thank you, to all those generous donors.
Continuing on with donors, for love of this City, we had an incredibly generous and anonymous donor step forward to use the historic structure report prepared for Menominee’s iconic North Pier Lightstation as the blueprint for a complete renovation of our beloved lighthouse. This project’s expense to date is just short of $200,000. With the coordination efforts of the City Engineer, Val Mellon, the majority of the exterior is now beautifully restored and further repairs will be completed on the interior when the weather breaks in the spring. It is my hope that we can then organize a commission to have the building open on a regular basis during the summer months. This would be a marvelous opportunity for residents and visitors alike.
This same donor also made a significant investment in Spies Field in the form of landscaping and revitalization. The historic wall and arch have been handsomely refurbished and the planters, berms and trees are a welcome addition. This donation approached the $60,000 mark and it is my understanding that there may be plans to yet put a face on the backside of the scoreboard that is visible from 10th Street. We are truly blessed to have such substantial generosity bestowed upon us.
In other notable improvements for the City, I would point to Lloyd House 2. The WODA group won the Governor’s award for historic preservation with Lloyd House 1 and it would appear that the former Oddfellows building, now known as Lloyd House 2, will be just as beautiful. The project suffered a setback when the southeast corner of the building toppled but will still be complete by the late spring or early summer of this year. In the coming months and years, I have every reason to believe that we will see more investment and improvement in our beautiful waterfront downtown. Those investments will, in turn, provide both a boost to the aesthetics of our downtown streetscape as well as a boost to our tax base.
Slowly, we are gaining ground on the tax issue that has plagued Menominee for the past several years. Our new assessor, Peg Bastien, agreed to take the position knowing full well that she faced a long and difficult task to get our house in order. Peg has worked tirelessly on the job and as a result, our 2017 rolls have been equalized and the 2015 and 2016 rolls will be returned to Menominee upon payment of the State of Michigan invoice for work done under the assumption and correction of the 2016 tax roll. That invoice has yet to be received. Under Peg’s leadership, we are moving forward.
We continue to make progress in our unrestricted fund balances for the water and wastewater funds. There is not enough of a balance to currently cover the remaining streets to be improved under the millage and that is a significant issue that we will be analyzing over the next several months. We must proceed logically and carefully as decisions in this area will affect the City for decades into the future. We do, however, have adequate balances to cover one very important project: 14th Avenue.
In the coming spring and summer months the City will finish the second half of the 14th Avenue road replacement; we will participate with the City of Marinette in the redecking of the Hattie Street Bridge and the replace the failing waterlines at Riverpark Campground. We are working on plans to repair the fountain in Triangle Park as well. On a lighter note, the summer will also bring, as always, many events to Menominee. We have the luxury of an incredible park system that is utilized fully during the year for these purposes.
As a community are fortunate to have so many leaders and volunteers who step forward each year to provide weekend entertainment for the City. We began with the solemn observance of Memorial Day and then moved on to a year of fun. Successful events included the Menominee Area Arts Council events, Art for All and Art in the Park, Brown Trout Derby and kid’s fishing day, Bayjammers, Concerts in the Park, Family Recreation Day, Pumpkin Festival, the 4th of July celebration, whose fireworks were again courtesy of the David and Heidi Doll family. The Recreation Department sponsored many activities under the direction of department head Joan Koseweski and lastly for the calendar year was our Downtown Holiday celebration. The biggest of all events was, of course, the Waterfront Festival. Last year Director Toni Ihler took on that role and succeeded magnificently. She expanded the Festival in several areas and had to overcome more than a few obstacles. In the end, however, no impediment, whether brought on by man or Mother Nature, could deter her success. After collecting the last of the pledges, Festival Director Ihler managed to come to a near breakeven position. She had many ideas on how to continue expansion of this wonderful event and I look forward to seeing more community commitment for 2017.
As I close, I would like to say that I cannot express how very proud I am to humbly serve as your Mayor. It is an honor to represent all of the people of the City of Menominee and to work with the dedicated members of the City council who strive to better our municipality. I appreciate all the members of this community who give their time and talent to serve on the numerous boards and commissions we require. Your commitment is a gift to this City. We have accomplished a great deal in the last year and we should be pleased. Finally, I would also like to say that when I ran for the office of Mayor it was for the singular purpose of community service; I aspired to provide a positive contribution to Menominee. In keeping with my desire to serve, I would like to announce that I have accepted the position of Resource Development Associate for the Tri City Area United Way. This is an opportunity that does not often present itself and there is no question about the needs in our area. The United Way board of directors has been very gracious and generous in allowing me to uphold my many obligations elsewhere and I will transition into the position of Executive Director in mid-August. I anticipate stepping down from my role as Mayor of the City of Menominee at some future date. I deeply appreciate all of the support, faith and trust that has been given to me during my six years as your Mayor.
Thank you very much.