Business News, Community Building, and Mental Health Part of Madison Heights Mayor’s Speech
(Roslyn Grafstein, Mayor of Madison Heights, May 27, 2022)
Madison Heights, MI – Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein share the state of the city address
Good morning, I am Roslyn Grafstein, the Mayor of Madison Heights and I want to welcome you to the Joint State of the Cities Addresses between Madison Heights and Hazel Park. I want to thank the Southeast Michigan Construction Academy for hosting this event and allowing Madison Heights to share the success we enjoyed in 2021 and so far into 2022 and what we are looking forward to in the future. I want to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the Madison Heights City Council for all their hard work and to express our appreciation for the city staff. Our success and the quality of life we provide to our residents would not be possible without their commitment to a job well done, day in, day out.
I would also like to thank and remember two long-term Councilmembers who passed during the year, Bob Gettings and Bob Corbett. Bob Gettings was known as Mr. Madison Heights and Bobby G. His love of sports and recreation was infectious and his devotion to the city, indisputable. In his retirement years Bob chose to serve on the Madison School Board before being successfully elected to City Council in 2009. In later years he was twice appointed to council to fill vacancies and last year he won second place in the city election, solidifying the trust and respect our voters had in him to continue as a valued member of our council.
Bob Corbett was an institution in Madison Heights. He always put the city first and while we didn’t always agree on what that meant, we had a mutual respect for our differing opinions and he never wavered in his professionalism. The city lost a wealth of knowledge from a man who dedicated decades of service to our community.Bob was a strong supporter of the library, hosting weekly office hours there for the public to come and talk with him one-on-one about any concerns they had. He was also a strong advocate of making our playgrounds accessible to children of all abilities. His passion for these issues came through with his activity on both the Library Advisory and Parks and Recreation Boards.
Bob Gettings and Bob Corbett will be remembered throughout the city for being dedicated to public service and always having the community’s best interest at heart.
I am honored to have the privilege to deliver this morning’s address, but our City’s success is a team effort, made only possible when we all work toward the same goals and so I would also like thank and to introduce members of the city council and department leaders who are present. Councilor Emily Rohrbach, Councilor Quinn Wright, and Councilman Sean Fleming. Also joining us are City Manager Melissa Marsh, Chief of Police and Deputy City Manager Corey Haines, Fire Chief Greg Lelito, DPS Director Corey Almas, City Clerk Cheryl Rottman, Finance Director Linda Kunath, Community Development Director Giles Tucker, and City Attorneys Larry and Jeff Sherman and I’d like to acknowledge those that could not attend today: Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss, Councilman David Soltis, and Councilwoman Toya Aaron. I also want to introduce our two newest members to our management team Library Director Vanessa Verdun-Morris, and Deputy Police Chief Brent Lemerise.
The role of public service is often a hectic rush from solving one problem or implementing one project to the next. Preparing this address each year gives us the chance to stop to reflect on all of our accomplishments, think about the bright future that lies ahead for Madison Heights, and share with all of you our positive Madison Heights story.
Over the past year, our story has been one of creating positive opportunities by changing negative narratives. A story of forward-thinking initiatives and bold actions that have led to historical projects including demolition, infrastructure improvements, zoning changes, and new growth and investment.
This State of the City falls on Mental Health Action Day so I want to take this opportunity to briefly talk about the health crisis that is facing America.
Mental Health issues are present throughout our communities and encompass emotional and psychological illnesses affecting how we think, how we feel and how we act as employers and employees. Just as you cannot look at someone and visibly see that they have a life threatening allergy, celiac disease or diabetes, you cannot see that someone has a mental illness.
Today I am talking to you as business owners and managers, asking for you to take a further step for your current and future employees. If you offer mental health care as part of your benefits, thank you. Please remind your employees that you understand their role as a patient parent or spouse of someone who suffer from a mental illness means that they may sporadically and suddenly miss work. If you do not offer these benefits, please look into what options are available so that you can help support your employees that either struggle from mental illness or have a loved one who does.
This is a Chamber of Commerce gathering, so I would typically start with business growth and investment. However, this year I want to begin with the celebration of the demolition of Electroplating Services located at 901 and 945/959 East Ten Mile.
Over the last two years I have been asked my thoughts on the EPS situation and it comes down to this, “After the first citation, most owners would have adopted best business practices and ensured proper safe disposal for chemicals going forward. This owner chose a different path that led to years of ongoing litigation, a prison sentence and the courts finally condemning and approving the demolition of the property. I look forward to the day residents and visitors can walk by this property without seeing the eye sore he allowed it to become.”
This was a long-term contaminated site that brought a negative plot twist to the stories of both Madison Heights and Hazel Park due to its highly visible and border location. With this building currently being demolished we look forward to this property’s remediation, and hope to work together with Hazel Park to create a 10 Mile corridor for business growth.
Successfully Completed Projects
In the past year, our businesses and development projects have turned the page and emerged from the direct challenges posed by COVID-19. While supply chain issues and built-up demand have increased pricing and lead times for construction materials, Madison Heights still saw considerable amounts of new commercial and residential development. As a result, despite significant economic uncertainty, we still saw over $8.3 million in total new construction value completed in 2021. We welcomed 62 new businesses and 669 new full-time and 50 new part-time jobs.
We owe our steady growth to the diversity of businesses and developers that invest in our community year after year. In 2021, this included manufacturers like Galco Industrial Electronics and Adam Electronics, contracting companies like Mettle Ops and Ferndale Electric, great new restaurants like Big Bo, Sushi Coup and Tiger Sugar, and businesses that provide unique offerings and experiences such the 4D Hockey training facility and the Selfie Shop.
We also continued to see investment and growth in our neighborhoods. Building department staff issued 600 residential building permits that accounted for over $2.6 million in residential development, including the completion of 9 new single-family homes. We are gearing up for a very busy construction season with over $14 Million in construction still underway. We see many developments that have paused over the past year coming back online. Some of the most significant projects for 2022 include the continued redevelopment of the Madison Center at 12 Mile & John R Rds and the completion of The Reserve at Red Run, an independent seniors living community located on Dequindre Rd, which features 133 units.
Not only are we continuing to see new development, but a repeated theme in our story is our local businesses that continue to thrive and expand. Natalie’s Bakery has begun work on their new production facility that will propel them beyond their storefront and into grocery stores throughout the metro area. Our staff successfully assisted in the relocation of Top Cat Sales from 11 Mile to a larger facility on Stephenson Hwy. As well, Galco moved to a larger warehouse a few doors down from their original location on Lincoln and after renting in the city for years, Recovery Cleaners is moving into a new Madison Heights building they recently purchased.
In our downtown district, Woodpile BBQ is moving forward on its outdoor seating and parking lot expansion, and Cadillac Straits is expanding their kitchen and brewery and moving their Supply House to a new storefront.
Our DDA continues to move forward in a positive direction. This year we focused on attracting new patrons to the DDA with the first St. Patrick’s Day Green crawl and we are in the discussion/review stages with two different property owners about building mixed use developments in this area. New and expanding downtown restaurants are helping to turn the Madison Heights downtown into a eatery destination.
Behind the scenes, our city staff is working diligently to consistently improve services for our business community and to expand resources to our neighborhoods. We are pleased to have welcomed our new in-house planner Matt Lonnerstater to the Community & Economic Development department. Matt has worked to identify and correct issues within our ordinances and create flexibility for businesses, particularly encouraging mixed-use development and outdoor seating. This year, the city has partnered with McKenna & Associates to completely overhaul our zoning ordinances to better accommodate modern uses, be more user-friendly for developers, and better reflect the City’s vision for the future as outlined in our Master Plan. This was made possible with the support of a $30,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Redevelopment Ready Program.
A most exciting chapter of 2022 and to be continued into the next fiscal year is the City’s largest capital investment in our history – the renovation and downsizing of City Hall, renovation of the library and Fire Station #2 and the construction of a larger new Active Adult Center at Civic Center Plaza. We began discussing this idea during our first strategic planning meeting when Melissa Marsh become our City Manager in the fall of 2018. After the setbacks of COVID and financial uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, we are excited to be breaking ground this July! This project is also creating new development opportunities at our current Active Adult Center on John R as it will soon see new owners who will be bringing in new developments of their own. We want to give a special thank you to Congressman Levin’s office (Stephanie Marroki) for supporting the City’s Community Project funding grant for $490,000 for this library renovation. Yesterday, we received notification that Madison Heights 2023 Community Project funding grant in partnership with Habitat for Humanity (Ann Duke) has been approved to move to appropriations as one of the top 15 project proposals.
As a result of this project, the City’s bond rating was also reviewed by S&P, who raised its rating for Madison Heights one notch to ‘AA’ with a stable outlook. The upgrade reflects marked improvement in the city’s underlying economic metrics – notably, the market value per capita that we expect will remain stable due to continued development. This rating action also highlights the City’s strong management with good financial policies and practices, such as the actions taken to significantly reduce the size of the city’s other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liabilities.
This feeling of excitement is a general theme in the positive Madison Heights story, as exciting things are happening all over our City. Each year City staff meets with Council to update our strategic plan. This sets clear priorities for all levels of our local government.
Public Safety continues to be a top priority of this plan. We are very supportive and proud of the men and women that make up our Police Department and Fire Departments. Our Police Department was recently awarded the certificate of accreditation by the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission. We have always known how awesome our Police Department is and to me, this award is a public acknowledgement of the great job our police do keeping us safe in our homes, in our businesses and on our streets every day. To assist our regular police personnel, we are adding two additional patrol officers to our staff to act as school liaisons in partnership with the Lamphere and Madison Schools Districts.
The Madison Heights Fire Department staff continues to be main characters in our story serving at the forefront of their profession. In recent months, the Fire Department received a $98,000 FEMA grant to implement wellness best practices throughout the department to ensure that our staff is physically ready for any type of emergency situation. Our department also services the community outside regular job duties with efforts such as selling t-shirts for autism awareness that raised money for a playground for Healing Haven. We are solidifying our commitment to provide excellent services to the entire City by investing over $2 million in the renovation of our Fire Station #2 located on John R.
Quality of Life also continues to be a focus, with over $800,000 in parks improvements in the past year. This was possible through not only the budget allocation of $600,000 but over $255,000 in grants that went towards funding playscapes, new baseball backstops, a new Fitness Court, a patio and an activity area outside the library as well as the planting of trees throughout the City. The upcoming year is going to see even more improvements as we have just put in a disk golf course at Rosie’s park and are installing new play structures throughout the parks. We are also encouraging all residents to utilize the parks more with special recreation programs such as the CAB sponsored free Sunday workout classes held at our new outdoor Fitness Court at Huffman
I want to take a moment to talk about the Fitness Court. Last summer at Huffman park we unveiled an open-air wellness center that allows users to leverage their bodyweight to complete a full workout regardless of their level of ability. For many years that spot was a former basketball court with crumbling concrete and no hoops, until a resident told me about a grant opportunity with Priority Health. City Manager Marsh and I looked into the grant and within just a few short months we were able to open and begin using the Fitness Court. As I said at that grand opening, “Our little city is fast becoming a magnet for health conscious and eco-community minded individuals and families”.
Existing health centric businesses that have been here for a few years like Planet Rock and New Heights Nutrition are now being joined by newer endeavors like 4D hockey and BL Fitness. We are also home to Ascension hospital and many smaller medical facilities.
I am proud that City Council has put fiscal accountability at the top of its list of priorities. Debt management and a strong bond rating highlight our commitment to fiscal stability. Madison Heights strives to be fiscally responsible, accessible, and responsive to our residents and business community. None of it would be possible if it wasn’t for our 166 full-time and 134 part-time employees who all strive to serve and protect our 30,000 residents. I am proud of our hardworking employees. They are the backbone of this city, and for that, we are grateful.
But, Madison Heights’ entire story comes back to the people of Madison Heights.
Along with city council and staff, part of what makes Madison Heights a great place to be are our volunteers. Whether we are looking at those who help out at the Food Pantry, the members of the Womens Club or the other countless volunteers, these residents join us as the heart and soul of our community. Among the volunteers we honor this year are all our dedicated residents that serve on our various City Boards and Commissions.
We are also honored to be home to a 2021 Michigan Governor’s Hero and 2022 Oakland County Outstanding Older Adult, Laurie Geralds. We are also home to the Madison Heights Women’s Club that was honored as “Club of the Year” by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in Michigan.
We are unlike any other city thanks to our unique history and the creativity and diversity of our businesses and residents. There’s no better place to raise a family or open a business than Madison Heights, Michigan.
To better write our business story I have dedicated countless hours to building our relationships with businesses throughout Madison Heights. Visiting businesses and speaking with their managers and owners to get an idea of how we can help them and how we can formally introduce these businesses to each other. To that end, we will be hosting our first Mayor’s Business Development session in Mid-June. These sessions will be held quarterly and they will serve to both educate our businesses on a pre-determined topic with a guest speaker and also provide them with the opportunity to build relationships with complimentary businesses in the city. If you are interested in joining us, please Scan the QR Code on the Screen or on your tables, or reach out to either Mrs Marsh or myself. Given the upcoming renovations at City Hall, we are also looking for someone who can host this first meeting.
The last two years have been interesting to say the least but we have come out of it stronger and we continue to move ahead. Together the State of the City will continue to be strong because of the story we are writing together. Thank you again to the Chamber and to SEMCA for hosting us this morning and thank you everyone for your time catching up with us.