(Crystal A. Proxmire)
Ferndale Mayor Craig Covey continued his annual tradition of joining The Ferndale Seniors for a Town Hall Meeting and luncheon on Oct. 27, 2010. Around 30 of the areas most active elders listened to Covey talk about a variety of issues that affect residents, including water bills, the future of the Mayor’s seat if he gets elected County Commissioner, the state of parking in the city, and the importance of tattoos, massage and dancing.
Covey, who ran unopposed for Mayor last year, said “this speech is a little sad for me actually, I’ve enjoyed so much being on council for 11 years and being able to come and do these talks as Mayor. But I need a change, and that’s why I’ve decided to run for County Commissioner.” If elected to represent Ferndale, Hazel Park, and the south end of Royal Oak, Covey will have to resign as Mayor of Ferndale by Jan. 1, 2011. If he looses to Republican Richard Parisi, he will remain Mayor for another year. Covey assured the Seniors that even as a County Commissioner he’d be happy to come back and give the group updates about what is going on in Oakland County.
“People see me out there around town and tell me they’ll miss me, and I tell them it’s not like I’m going to die. I’ll still be living here in my home on Breckenridge. I’ll still be at Council meetings, just sitting in the audience. I’m sure the Council’s not going to want my advice, but I’m going to keep giving it to them anyway….I’m not going anywhere.”
CHANGING OF THE MAYORS
One of the questions Seniors had was what would happen on Ferndale’s City Council if he should resign. Covey explained that the current Mayor Pro Tem Kate Baker would step up to fill the Mayor’s seat, and that Council would have to appoint someone to fill in the vacant Council seat. “I’m encouraging them to have a very open process and get lots of people to apply. I hope Council will pick someone who is a little older, a little more experienced. We have a very young Council. Mike Lennon is the oldest and he’s only 53. I’d like to see someone with experience. I don’t know if [former] Mayor [Bob] Porter would want to be on, but I would like to see him. He knows how the City runs.”
Covey also talked about how he has seen Ferndale change over the years. “Just a trip down memory lane,” he said. “When I first got on Council there was an ordinance that banned dancing in the Downtown area. The ordinance went back to the 1940s, and we’re not really sure why [it was in place]. Mayor Goedert and those of us on Council drafted a new ordinance allowing it, and we were able to get new establishments opening Downtown… We also changed the laws about therapeutic massage and tattoos. …Those kinds of businesses are helping to make our Downtown vibrant. It’s the type of thing that we do in Ferndale to make quality of life better for everyone.”
He also lauded the passing of the Complete Streets Ordinance at the Oct. 25, 2010 council meeting. “Monday we did something I’m really proud of. It’s called Complete Streets. It means that streets are not just for cars. There are bikes, pedestrians, and public transportation that need to share those streets. There is nothing new under the sun. We re-discover things that work and we’re going back to the times when you don’t have to get in your car every time you go somewhere.” The ordinance requires the City to compile a report about how they might improve access for alternative means of transportation, and to consider those suggestions in future planning.
The concept of Complete Streets also accounts for the transportation needs of seniors, with suggestions likely for wheelchair and walker accessibility. Some steps Ferndale has already taken include ADA compliant sidewalk corners, and installing an elevator in the front of City Hall.
Seniors also had questions about water bills, parking, the City Hall renovations, and some of the vacant properties in the city.
One resident asked why her water bill has gone up, which Covey explained is the result of the new water meter system which is currently being put into place in every home throughout the City. The digital meters give a more accurate reading of water usage and allow the City to track and bill for water consumption without having to send a meter reader to each individual property. They system will reduce costs over time for the City, but residents have been complaining of increasing bills because of both the rising cost of water and the fact that many of the old meters were under-reporting consumption. “We’ve heard from a lot of residents about this, at Council and getting phone calls,” Covey said. “The only thing I can say is that it may make people more aware of how much water they are using.”
Is Ferndale getting a new parking deck? That’s one question Seniors wanted to know. Covey pointed out that parking has been a problem in the City for a long time, and that Council, the DDA [Downtown Development Authority] have been doing studies, holding public meetings and trying to gather ideas for how to solve the problem. A proposal was brought before council two weeks ago to build a lot in the Withington Parking lot. He said that the proposal calls for 3 stories of parking and two stories of apartments. “This only has about a 50/50 chance of going through at this point,” he said. “Most of the store owners want this to happen, but Council has the final say. We really need more information and time.”
CITY HALL RENNOVATIONS
Someone asked Mayor Covey how the renovations at City Hall are going, and he reported that things should be finished by the end of November. “I just got the grand tour the other day, and it is looking great. I’m glad that Council didn’t move forward with the giant three building project, and instead chose to spend $400,000 on renovations to make the building more accessible and to make it easier for the reduced staff to do the work they need to. I’m colorblind, so I can’t say exactly how it looks, but I can tell that it’s going to look sharp.”
The final question was posed by a Senior citizen who wanted to know if there were any new plans for the old Federal’s building, which is the large retail anchor building on the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward, most recently home to Old Navy. “Not a thing,” Covey said. He explained that the building is too big for an individual small business to occupy, but that the owner has no motivation to remodel and divide it up. He also said that lack of parking prevents a larger retailer to move in.
The Seniors were welcoming to the Mayor, and shared a lunch of pork chops, green beans, and mashed potatoes with him. Nancy and Greg Richardson were among those in the audience who had questions for Covey. The couple recently moved back to Ferndale into a home that Nancy grew up in. “The thing that surprised us was the parking garage. We didn’t know anything about it, and I’m still confused,” Greg said. “I hope they don’t put it up without making sure some of the apartments are pre-sold. We don’t want to see another building go up and just have more vacant spaces.” The Richardsons say they are very happy with their move back to Ferndale. “We were in a condo before, but that wasn’t really for us. We like having a back yard, and we were able to get a dog.”
For more stories about the Ferndale Seniors, check out our special Senior News section at: https://oaklandcounty115.com/category/seniors/.
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