As Mayor, I am proud to WELCOME you to the BEAUTIFUL City of Menominee!
Note from the Mayor
Please take the time to investigate all of the possibilities within Menominee, “Where the Best of Michigan Begins!”
STATE OF THE CITY (2019)
Good evening, Council, staff, citizens, and guests. It is again my honor, as Mayor of the City of Menominee, to deliver the State of the City Address:
In my last seven addresses, I have consistently attempted to be an ambassador of positivity but 2018, by historic comparison, was a somewhat uninspiring year. It is not my intent in this address to be unduly negative but to be accurate and, above all, to be transparent. Primarily, we have a pool of unfinished business, incomplete plans to move forward, and many serious issues on the short-term horizon.
We were not without some accomplishments, however. Our unassigned fund balance is $2,697,385. According to Gabridge and Co, our auditor of record, this is a healthy balance and not excessive. Gabridge issued the City a clean, unqualified audit. In the last year, the City has made over $550,000 in capital improvements. Among these improvements were budgeted items including a Street Department tractor to be used with the Barber Surf Rake, a Chevy Tahoe for the Police Department, which was partially funded by a $14M USDA grant, and improvements to the HVAC system at Spies Public Library. We also purchased a front end loader that was not part of the 2018-19 budget, money that had to be taken from the unassigned fund balance to meet that need. Other improvements were made to park bathrooms, the tennis courts, sidewalks, and the Riverside Cemetery Chapel. The Chapel work was done with insurance proceeds and did
not come out of the fund balance. River Park received a passport grant of $46,500 for the upgrade of the electrical system and installation of security cameras. This work will be done in the spring. We also added 11 new slips to the Menominee Marina. There were repairs to the Band Shell and railing installed at the North Pier Lighthouse made with funds donated by an anonymous philanthropist. The total of that donation was over $47M, and we are most grateful.
In another small bit of good news, we did receive over $13M from the MML for insurance rebates. I continue to serve as a director on the Liability and Property Pool Board and was last year appointed to the MML Board of Trustees as well; these are positions that I am honored to hold and hope to reflect well on the City of Menominee.
The City continues to make progress on the sewer evaluation made possible by the SAW grant, which is the Stormwater Asset Management and Wastewater Grant. This $996,000 grant requires a 10% match by the City, which would be under $100M and labor can be considered toward matching funds. Year to date, the City has spent $505,638 or 56% of the award.
The City received a one-time appropriation from the State of Michigan through Public Act 207 of 2018 for street improvements. We received the first half in October 2018 and the second half was disbursed in January of this year. The total received was $124,133 and will be spent on major streets. That is the good news.
Now, looking forward, we have, what I consider to be, a lengthy list of issues to tackle. In addition to the annual budget process, we must evaluate the current capital improvements outlined in the 2018-19 three year forecast. The CIP for the upcoming fiscal year listed $700M in capital improvements. Restated, that means there has been a recommendation that we spend almost one-third of our savings in one year. However, across the board, the City has rising costs and a flat revenue stream so money spent is not easily replaced. We must proceed carefully and not try to “borrow our way out” of any problems.
We have union contracts for police, fire, and DPW that expire on June 30 so negations should be well underway. This is vital as those negotiations drive the insurance plan for all City employees, which also expires on June 30th.
It is imperative that we have a firm understanding of what former Governor Snyder’s “lead and copper pipe rules” issued in June 2018 mean for the City of Menominee. The Council needs to be presented with an analysis of the potential financial impact as that will have a bearing on many of the other decisions that must be made. This ruling mandates that beginning in 2021, affected service lines will be replaced at a rate of 5% per year. This ruling has the potential to be financially crippling and we have less than 24 months to prepare.
We have over $3 million dollars in millage funds whose use is past-due for street improvements but we lack the funds necessary to replace underground infrastructure. This situation cannot be remedied by increasing water and sewer rates to an extreme level as was outlined in the WWUB January meeting; our citizens can’t bear that burden. We must implement an incremental plan that is both sound and affordable for the utility customers and is not a 45% jump on the water bills. This problem has been evident for several years and the Council needs to have a comprehensive presentation on this issue very soon as well.
We will not receive any windfall from the State of Michigan this year. The payments authorized by the Snyder administration, designed to stabilize the impact of revenue lost with the elimination of personal property taxes, are dwindling. We must follow our Charter, our ordinances, and, above all, our financial policies with extreme care in order to have the greatest effect with the tax dollars we receive.
The Council needs to be presented facts and citizen input on the issue of legalized recreational marijuana use. As a council, we were not given a recommendation on the medical marijuana law. While that would have been advisable, it was not mandatory. To have medical marijuana operations within the City of Menominee, we, as a council, would have had to “opt-in” for this type of business. Recreational marijuana, on the other hand, requires an “opt-out”. This means that this council must take informed action. Toward that end, City Attorney Rob Jamo took the initiative to arrange a workshop at the UW Green Bay, Marinette campus for the elected officials and the planning commission. The presentation was made by Mr. Clyde Robinson, City Attorney for the City of Kalamazoo, via a live stream. This was a welcome and informative presentation. The City of Houghton has already put in place an ordinance to opt-out; Marquette has adopted a “wait and see” ordinance. While it may be an entire year until the State of Michigan has outlined the laws with respect to recreational marijuana, we were given the opinion that it could be a much shorter timeline. The Council needs to have a plan of action presented to be in a position to take action.
We have a number of other matters that require attention as well: we need to determine, based on a presentation of thoughtful cost-benefit analysis, what plan is best with respect to the vacancies in the engineer and mechanic positions. We must receive options to consider regarding solid waste including curbside, yard waste, and recycling. We have made little progress on this issue and the final contract extension with Waste Management expires in 12 months. As a City, we have code enforcement issues that remain unresolved. Nor have we fully resolved the past assessment issues or found an alternative to the action recommended by the hired consultant, Ed Vandervries. The council has not gotten a renewal proposal of the TIF plan for Downtown nor do we have a firm plan for reorganizing the Menominee Economic Development Corp. We have not implemented a comprehensive plan to seal cracks in our city streets. This maintenance is vital as it extends the life of the surface and ultimately saves money. In the meantime, the freeze-thaw cycle continues to wreak havoc. We need to continue to explore our greater synergism with the City of Marinette which was initiated with our joint council meeting. While our community did not make the cut for the next level in the Small Business Revolution, let us remember that we have a long history of cooperation with our sister city across the bridge. We have mutual aid agreements for the Police Departments and the Fire Departments and Menominee has leased space in our park to Marinette for their water intake for decades. I attended the February Marinette Common Council meeting this month as a show of ongoing togetherness.
As you can see, we have plenty of work to do. We are not going to be able to meet the challenges we face if we are distracted, disinterested, or divided. The input of the council is critical to our success and the entire council must be included in that process. We cannot make good decisions if we do not have a variety of well-thought-out, creative options presented to us. We have to work together as a team and unite ourselves to do what is best for Menominee. It is time to roll up the sleeves, prioritize, and together tackle the issues that we face.
I have over a decade of public service to our City and have been fortunate to acquire broad institutional knowledge that may be helpful toward that end. Therefore, it is my intention, at this time, to seek a third term as Mayor of the City of Menominee.
I want to thank the dedicated staff and employees of the City who come to work each day ready to serve the public. I would like to thank the many citizens who give freely of their time to serve on boards and commissions for the benefit of the City. I would like to thank this Council for their rededication to unity in solving the many issues before us. Our problems are not insurmountable if we work together and follow our policies. Finally, I would like to thank the good people of the City of Menominee who have put their faith in us. I hope we will each endeavor to uphold our duty and not disappoint.
STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS (2018)
Good Evening. It is an honor to continue serving you as Mayor and deliver the 2018 State of the City address.
I am pleased to report to you that the City of Menominee is in excellent financial condition. We have increased our unassigned fund balance by $294,000 to a healthy sum of just over $2.4 million dollars. The assigned fund balance increased by just under $12,000 for an overall assigned balance of $398,000. Our audit report was recently delivered to us by the firm of Kerber and Rose; it was a clean, unqualified audit with minor recommendations. We have accomplished a great deal in the last year. I will not detail an exhaustive list of specifics in this address but, instead, cover the highlights.
We continue to make progress on infrastructure repair and replacement and had a very productive year in 2017. Some of these improvements are quite obvious, especially if you are trying to cross the River. Working with MDOT, WIS DOT and the City of Marinette, the Hattie Street Bridge project is nearing successful completion. The maintenance on the Ogden Street Bridge, again a joint project, should be complete in six weeks.
The 14th Avenue reconstruction from 21st Street to West Drive was completed at a total cost of $891,000 and grant monies of $375,000. This project was also a shining example of our ability to modify our course of action when we could not afford to complete this work in one phase but follow through on a promise that it would remain a priority until it was finished.
The City received a SAW grant, which is Stormwater Asset Management and Wastewater grant of $996,600 to be matched by the Sewer Fund in the amount of $99,660. Our labor spent on the project will qualify toward the matching funds required. The purpose of this effort and expense is to determine the condition of our system and allow for a prioritization for repair and reconstruction efforts. For 2017, the eligible cost was $246,000 with a match of $24,696.
We were able to complete the water line replacement project at River Park Campground. Under Rec Department Director Joan Kosewski’s management, River Park is extremely popular; it stays booked to capacity, brings revenue into the City and leaves visitors with a real sense of fondness for our community and a desire to return. For the coming year, River Park has been awarded a passport grant of $46,500 for upgrading the electrical service and the installation of a security camera.
The City purchased over $190,000 of equipment last year in the form of lawn mowers for the River Park, the DPW, and the Cemetery. The largest part of that outlay for equipment was the purchase of a new plow truck. The police department updated their patrol fleet with the purchase of a pursuit-rated Tahoe; this was financed in part with sales of obsolete vehicles. We continue to work on a plan that will methodically replace outdated equipment without dangerously drawing down the general fund balance.
A new mower was not the only activity for Riverside Cemetery. The work continued on repairing damage to the Chapel and on a very snowy Veteran’s Day, the new Veteran’s Field was dedicated. This beautiful memorial was a collaborative effort between the City and private donors. We are richly blessed in the City of Menominee to have so many generous, community-minded residents.
Another example of extreme generosity, of course, is the refurbishment of our beloved North Pier Lighthouse, the iconic trademark for our community. In addition to the repair, inside and out, including glass in the portholes, the same anonymous donor gifted a pedestrian trail for residents and visitors who enjoy walking out to the Lighthouse. The value of this substantial project was $207,000. The Lighthouse was open for tours occasionally last year and I am certain that this project will continue to evolve, resulting in greater traffic to our area and success for our Historic Downtown.
Other improvements for the Downtown area included the repair of the north and south sides of Spies Library upper façade. We are expanding the Menominee Marina dock by adding an additional 11 slips along the south pier. We will be planting trees in the Downtown in the spring and work will begin to ensure proper drainage around the Bandshell. The most dramatic structure improvement in Downtown, however, was the completion of Lloyd House 2. This project, like Lloyd 1, was a partnership between government and private enterprise and it is another undeniable success. The conclusion of the Lloyd 2 rehabilitation finishes off the restoration of an entire City block in our Historic Downtown. Who would have thought that this dramatic change was possible a decade ago?
The improvement on which we receive the most compliments is the replacement of the Triangle Park Fountain. After much discussion, we did not repair the existing fountain but replaced it with a tiered design including a spray ring. I believe the end result is a beautiful point of interest.
The City received additional monies from the State of Michigan in excess of $639,000, although we have not yet received an allocation breakdown. This was under the Local Community Stabilization Authority; funds designed to partially offset local government losses of personal property tax revenues due to tax reform. We also received a dividend refund from the Michigan Municipal League in the amount of $13,288. I continue to serve on the Board of Directors for the MML Liability and Property Pool. I am in my second term on that Board and the only Director from the U.P. The City of Menominee is well-represented on a State level. In addition to my service, City Attorney Rob Jamo serves on the Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys and was recently named Vice President of this organization.
Another positive development for our citizens is that the Menominee Fire Department began additional duties in June of 2017. They are now also first responders on EMS calls that are critical in nature. In medical situations where seconds matter, our fire department is ready to serve.
We have many achievements of which we can be proud. I can assure the citizens of Menominee that we do not view their tax dollars as a never-ending stream of money to be thoughtlessly spent. The budget process has begun and there will be a series of meetings between the members of the finance committee (Councilman Plemel, Pohlmann, Fifarek and myself) and the City Manager to ensure we are carefully prioritizing and allocating funds.
In contrast to all of the commendable developments, we also have had some problems in 2017, some of which we continue to wrestle. It would be disingenuous to ignore these facts. One such issue is that we are still untangling concerns about the problems in the Assessor’s office. City Assessor Peg Bastien is working diligently toward that end. We recently received correspondence from the County Equalization Director that of 197 properties that were physically inspected, 119 of them had errors. There is much work yet to do.
2017 could have earned the title “Year of the Sinkhole” and there were substantial time and effort put into these repairs that could not have accurately been anticipated in advance. Nonetheless, the cost thus far has been about $200,000 and this number is expected to rise as more repairs are likely and all invoices are not yet in.
We have gone a year without a Building Inspector on-site at City Hall which created a hardship. However, I would like to welcome our new building inspector, Mr. Derrick Schultz and wish him the best as he begins his role here in Menominee.
Lastly, with respect to difficult issues, we have the proposed Back 40 Mine. We must do something sooner than later toward a meaningful resolution that this council can support. I am frequently asked to explain our official position and I am a loss for words although my position remains clear. If there is anything positive I can say with respect to this subject it would be that there is consistent attendance at Council meetings the likes of which we have not seen before and there is talk in the coffee shops and on the street about a greater interest and involvement in city government. In any level of government it constructive to get involved if you don’t like what you see.
While we certainly can admit that we had missteps along the way last year, I would like to conclude my remarks tonight by pointing out that we did make progress in many significant ways over the past twelve months and I expect to see that continue in 2018. I would like to thank City Manager Graff, the Department Heads, staff and employees for the hard work that they do every day. I would also like to thank all of the citizens who have agreed to serve on the many boards and commissions required to keep our City government running smoothly. These people give their time and effort without any compensation except the knowledge that we need them and, frankly, could not operate without them. I would like to thank the many civic organizations that contribute so much of their time and effort on projects that make Menominee a great place to live. Finally, I would like to thank the good people of this City for their support of our community. It takes all of us to make this the place where the Best of Michigan Begins and it is a privilege to serve you.
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 that 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 the aforementioned department heads, who has been instrumental in assisting 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 the 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 bulletproof 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 10thStreet. 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 replacing 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, we 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 the 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.