Good Evening. Once again, it is my honor as Mayor of the City of Menominee, to deliver to you this evening, the State of the City Address.
As expected, every year brings developments of significance to the City. During the past year we had quite a few impactful changes in personnel. The former Chief of Police is now our City Manager and is skillfully navigating the profusion of issues with which we are confronted. Our police department is now under the leadership of Chief Justin Hofer. Mr. Todd Rye has taken on the duties of the Building Inspector, replacing Derek Schultz. After careful consideration, the Engineer/DPW position was split and Mr. Mike Krah is now the Director of the Department of Public Works. DPW employee Dave Haglund has retired after a long career in Menominee. Worthy of note, although not during the last calendar year, are the retirements of our valuable Assessor, Peg Bastien, after a 30 year career with the City of Menominee. Tonight, I anticipate the Council voting in favor of Mr. Botbyl’s choice for her replacement, Ms. Nicole Linder. This council meeting marks the last for Susan Johnson, who will be retiring at the end of this month, also after 30 years of employment with the City. Ms. Sandy Bayerl, coming to us after a long period of service at Spies Public Library, will assume that position. Our cashier, Laura Copeland, who has served the City for 26 years with excellent customer service skills, will retire in April. Lastly, Nancy Douglas has decided to retire from her position on the Menominee Business Development Corporation; although I believe it could be more accurately described as a scaling back as she will continue to assist the City on various projects. On behalf of the City, I would like to thank our retirees for their hard work and dedication and wish them many years of good health and leisure in retirement. Also, I wish that everyone who has assumed a new position is successful and that they feel supported by this Council.
The City received a clean audit from the firm of Gabridge and Associates and during the presentation, CPA Joe Verlin again had high praise for Kathy Brofka and her team. We do not take for granted the professionalism, accuracy, and resourcefulness of our Clerk-Treasurer and her department.
The unassigned fund balance decreased by $180,560 this past year to a total of $2,246,046. The fund would have remained more stable had there not been an unbudgeted purchase of land on 56th Avenue in the amount of $241,611. I might remind you, for the record, the decision to make this purchase was contentious and was not unanimous. We received the other half of the ARPA funds from the COVID event, in the amount of $421,000 and these funds can be used to cover revenue losses. This greatly reduced the impact on our unassigned fund balance. Our assigned fund balance stands at $550, 664.
Over the last fiscal year, our capital expenditures, excluding roads, totaled $314,000. These purchases included three Tahoes for the PD, one of which was purchased with donated funds. We installed doors at City Hall that were ADA compliant. A new pickup truck was purchased for the Rec Department as well as improvements made at River Park Campground. The initial engineering costs were completed for the future improvement of the Riverside Cemetery access road and a new trailer was purchased for the cemetery. Approximately $37,000 was spent on alley improvements as well. In an attempt to generate interest in the remaining Circle Lane lots, we spent nearly $8,000 to make development of the lots more obvious to a prospective builder.
The City was fortunate in receiving generous donations in addition to the aforementioned Chevy Tahoe for the Police Department. This was a dedicated K-9 donation; we also received K-9 donations in excess of $24,000 which more than offset the program expenditures of $3,600. Other donations to the City include the Henes Foundation award in the amount of $46,000 for picnic tables, grills, a wishing well pump, trash can holder, and a lawnmower. We received pass through donations for a number of repairs to the North Pier Light Station and to the Marina Bandshell. We also received donations toward our annual 4th of July celebration in the amount of $19,000. Menominee is fortunate to have citizens who have both the means and the desire to better our community.
As planned, the road construction project to use our remaining millage funds, which was awarded to Barley Construction, took place over the better part of the summer and fall. This was a six million dollar undertaking, financed by our remaining millage funds and a loan from the State Revolving Loan Fund. To date, $4,252,000 has been spent. The remainder of the work to be finished, primarily trees in the tree lawns, has a completion goal of July, 2023. As part of this process, we will place trees in those areas that least interfere with the service connections and choose species with root systems that will not result in the cutting of mature trees when future work needs to be done. We continue to meet the (unfunded) State of Michigan mandate for replacement of lead service lines, which is a direct result of the Flint water crisis, both in the area of this project and throughout the City. There was additional road construction on 13th St from 10th Ave to 26th Avenue at a cost to the City of $122,176.
Upkeep of our roads is an ongoing concern but not our only area of concern. Menominee continues to experience flat revenues and increased expenses, such as the fuel surcharge for the removal of solid waste. Proposition A keeps us from being taxed out of our homes, especially for those on a fixed income, but if enough property does not become uncapped via a sale, we find ourselves with a stagnant revenue stream. Obviously we cannot continually operate at a deficit. The enormous investment in the development of the former K-mart property, the development of the marijuana establishments, and new construction will all help but none of these are an immediate solution.
There are some in the community, a vocal few, who think that marijuana establishments would be an instant cure for all of our problems and that the City is just dragging its feet. I addressed this last year and I will address it again: The City of Menominee is not to blame for the lack of progress in this area and it will not be a revenue windfall regardless. Our process was sound and rulings have supported us. We await one final ruling and, based on other cases similar to ours, that, too, will fall in our favor. The lawsuits that slowed progress were brought by those who did not score high enough to obtain a license, period. They were, in my opinion, a nuisance aimed at getting what they wanted and were legally denied by our ordinance. We await Judge Barglind’s ruling, which should come shortly.
I also noted this last year and it bears repeating: In an ideal world, our revenues would always exceed expenses and the City could take on capital expenditures that keep services intact, make improvements, hire and retain employees, and maintain an appropriate level of savings. We need to develop a schedule for crack-sealing our roads, we need to replace aging equipment, and we need a tree replacement program. We have a manpower shortfall, especially in the PD and DPW. We cannot ignore necessary repair and replacement of depreciating assets, reduce services or employees, nor can we drag down our savings to a dangerous level. The bottom line is that our revenues are flat, our expenses are increasing, now by an inflation rate that we have not seen in decades. This problem is not unique to Menominee; many smaller communities in Michigan struggle with the same issues. That being said, I feel that the day-to-day running of the City is in the best hands that we have had in more than a decade. I would also like to remind our residents that here at City Hall and across Menominee, we have dedicated staff and employees who strive for continuous improvement with little recognition for the jobs that they do. Infrastructure Alternatives, operators of our water and wastewater services, continues to ensure that we have the best, safest drinking water available. We have many citizens, including our young people, who unselfishly give of their time to serve on boards, on commissions, in service groups, in nonprofit organizations, and on fundraising teams.
Although there is not a clever segue to this topic, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the significant event occurring last fall. In October, a fire at the KK Integrated Logistics warehouses burned for 16 days. Fire departments from two states and from as far away as the lower peninsula were deployed to battle the blaze. Departments from Appleton and Green Bay gave their support. The leadership and coordination during this event was exemplary. The fire was confined to the warehouses and our river was protected from runoff but the possibility for greater disaster was averted by a shift in the wind and skill of the firefighters. Thankfully, no one was injured but the property losses were enormous. The Kubers have vowed to rebuild and those efforts are underway. This fire attracted national attention and will be equally significant to Menominee’s history as the great Wells Lumber Company fire of 1931.
In closing, I would like to stress, as I have for the last twelve consecutive years, that I believe in this community. Our goal is the greater good of Menominee and we can move ourselves forward using our collective leadership abilities; we can become more innovative in our approach. We can adjust to conditions, seek out and take advantage of new opportunities, make decisions in a cost-effective manner, and work as a team. We can utilize all available tools to improve our City and in doing so achieve greater progress and prosperity for Menominee, where the Best of Michigan Begins.