(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 12, 2013)
What’s in store for Ferndale for 2013? This is the question tackled by elected officials and city administrators in their annual Goal Setting Session which took place Feb. 4. In the weeks leading up to the session, City Manager April Lynch gathered ideas from residents, staff from all departments, the Mayor and City Council members and compiled them into a 45 page document for Council’s review.
They then sat for several hours going through ideas category by category, discussing them and putting them in order of priority. Afterwards they put stickers up on posters that had goals listed. Here are some of the items discussed:
Quality of Life
The top focus in the quality of life category was making changes to the parks system. DPW Director Lloyd Cureton reported that many of the park structures are outdated, and some are even unsafe. “All of the wooden structures have outlived their useful life,” he said. Cureton also noted that he’s not asking for all-new equipment. Instead he wants to work with the parks plan established by the city several years ago and determine what equipment is important to residents and what is less used. Some equipment can simply be repaired. And there may be grant opportunities for other improvements.
Another concern was how to make the playgrounds enjoyable for people of all ages and accessible for those with disabilities. Residents will likely see new walkable, bikeable, and wheelchair accessible paths in some parks this year.
The City is always looking for ways to reduce vacancies and attract new businesses to improve the tax base, draw in new jobs, and diversify retail shopping experiences. Officials spotted several opportunities for growth that they hope to look at in the coming year.
Livernois is one street that is too wide for the limited amount of traffic on it. But there is also the opportunity for more businesses to open there. At 8 Mile officials say it can be a more welcoming entrance way into the city, and at 9 Mile some city-owned properties could be a place for new development.
Development Director Derek Delacout talked about the possible relocation of the Ferndale Historical Museum if the property were to be purchased. The museum sits between Fire Station #1 and the now-vacant American Legion building, which is also owned by the city. Delacourt said that the ideal offer would be for both properties together with provisions that would allow the Museum to relocate. “From a planning standpoint we talk about both as one,” he said.
Mayor Dave Coulter said that the Historical Museum “is an important asset,” and that a new home would be important if the property were sold.
Coulter was also interested in what could be done to spur growth along Vester Street, just off Woodward. That area falls within the DDA’s oversight so he hopes to work with them on some improvements. Others were concerned with maximizing the growth along 8 Mile across from the future Meijer site, and with Hilton.
Another economic development issue that was discussed was the need for code enforcement and landlords in particular being more aware of keeping their properties looking nice. Delacourt explained that often properties that look unkempt actually meet the minimum property maintenance standards that are required of them by the state. The City currently has a code enforcement officer who works 36 hours a week, but they are considering bringing in an employee just to handle rental licensing to help with the landlord-related issues. According to Delacourt, the inspection process for landlords was on a four-month delay. They are now scheduling two weeks out, which makes it more difficult for landlords to let issues go for long.
Animal control was mentioned as a subject area, but primarily animal control is handled by Oakland County. Police Chief Timothy Collins made note that rats are not an animal control issue, but a pest control one. And the consensus seemed to be more education and more discussions on what, if anything, can be done to minimize the presence of rats in the city.
Chief Collins and Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan each talked about ways their departments interact with neighboring departments. Collins mentioned that one collaboration that does not get enough recognition is between the Auxiliary Police in Ferndale and Detroit, stating that Ferndale volunteers help with Turkey Trot and the Fireworks, while Detroit volunteers come up to help with Dream Cruise.
Chief Sullivan was concerned about the SAFER Grants which expire in June, and how the loss of those positions will put them below the level of staffing to qualify them for OAKWAY, an organization through which local departments respond to calls in their neighboring cities as support.
Councilperson Dan Martin raised the issue of Domestic Partner benefits for employees, which city administration is currently pricing out for consideration. There was discussion about possibly merging the Police and Fire Board with the Civil Service Commission. And they talked about doing a round of employee surveys and interviews to determine satisfaction.
The Goal Setting Session packet of information contained much more than the points that were discussed, including reports from all departments. Once the discussion was over, employees and officials put dots on the posters to vote for priority items. The posters will be reviewed by the City Manager and a final report prepared for Council’s approval at a future meeting.
To find out more about the City of Ferndale, visit http://www.ferndale-mi.com/.