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MAYOR’S CORNER

     JANUARY 19TH, 2021

 

Dear Eaton Rapids,

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to a new year. Hopefully, it will bring about changes on many fronts.  No matter your perspective on the current state of affairs in Washington D.C., in far off lands or in our own back yard it is time to put our differences aside and work together.

Annually, I like to take the first column of each year and recognize our city employees for their years of service and dedication to their community. They keep the lights on, the water running, the streets paved and cleared and protect us. They work indoors and outdoors. On the weekends, at night and holidays.

0-5 years:

Aaron Desentz-city administration, Lindsey Zeller-city administration, Paul Creger-Lieutenant ERPD, Laura Boomer-city administration, Corey Cagle-city administration, Corey Crusen-patrol officer ERPD, Lee Haynor-patrol officer ERPD, Tyler Willison-patrol officer ERPD, Sean Bailey-patrol officer ERPD, Jeremy Kuykendoll-DPW/WWTP, James Morrison-DPW, Kenneth Bigelow-firefighter-ERFD, Greg Duff-firefighter ERFD, Matt Holben-firefighter ERFD, Jacob Holzhei-firefighter ERFD, Mat Holzhei-firefighter ERFD, Jennifer Lenneman-firefighter ERFD, Daniel Reams-firefighter ERFD, Mark Shumaker-firefighter ERFD, Rob Pierce-DPW/Electric Dept., Ben Heinritz-DPW/Electric Dept., Jared Warsop-DPW/Electric Dept., Coty Olmstead-DPW/WWTP., Anthony Twichell-DPW/WWTP., Dennis Antone-city administration, Randy Jewell-city administration.

6-10 years:

Marrie Jo Carr-city administration, Leroy Hummel-city administration, Larry Weeks-Chief ERPD, Sheila Camp-city administration, Craig Briscoe-patrol officer ERPD, Richard Dover-patrol officer ERPD, Jon Nobach-DPW, Doug Kunkel DPW, Jeremy Milam-Lieutenant ERFD, Mike Tanner-firefighter ERFD

11-15 years:

Dan Paling-patrol officer ERPD, Lee Sifton-DPW/Electric Dept., Dale Hills-firefighter ERFD.

16-20 years:

Julie Kunkel-city administration, Mark Lease-DPW/Water Plant, Chris Scott-DPW/Water Plant, Jason Freer-Captain ERFD, Robin Freer-firefighter ERFD, David Hendon-Lieutenant ERFD, Kevin McNutt-Captain ERFD, James Ray-firefighter ERFD, Kevin Towsley-firefighter ERFD.

21-30 years:

Kim Eddy-Administrative assistant to the Chief ERPD, Scott Perry-Assistant Chief ERFD, Troy Craven-DPW/Electric Dept., Jon Flower- DPW/Electric Dept., Todd Verhelle-DPW.

31-40 years:

Steve Fuller-DPW

40 (plus) years:

Roger McNutt-Chief ERFD

The City Council and myself appreciate your dedication and your hard work and we wish you many more years of service to our community.

I wish to present to you the State of the City.  I asked each of the department administrators to provide me with a “snap shot” of this past year.  While the “mess” somewhat impaired our ability to provide services all was not lost.  I will share with you what they shared with me.

CITY HALL;

Through diligence and hard work the City has been able to cut expenses while increasing our fund balances. These fund balances will help us to fund infrastructure improvements and pay down our unfunded liabilities associated with retiree obligations.

A $2.9 million dollar Community Development Block Grant was received that will create a lighted Riverwalk from GAR Park to Mill Pointe Park. The antiquated east bridge will be replaced, new playground equipment will be installed and the retaining walls will be replaced/refurbished.  We were able to secure funding and  repave/replace State St. and much of the infrastructure. Working together with the Eaton Rapids Public Schools we were also able to redo Greyhound Drive and Inverness. This will make a much safer corridor for our school children and for the community as a whole. As I’m sure many of you have experienced in your homes the need to upgrade and enhance our technology was brought to the forefront. To that end, the City has engaged a new IT company to upgrade our services both internally and externally.

Moving forward, both our water treatment facilities (fresh water and waste water) will require upgrades. This will be a major project and will be city wide. As the analysis and planning progress we will keep you updated.

We saw 61% of our registered voters participate in our general election this year. City hall underwent a design change to offer better accessibility to our patrons. A storage area was also completed at the Public Safety Building.  In the past, the voting equipment was stored at City Hall even though the polling location was at the PSB. This change is more efficient and requires fewer man hours in the set up and take down.

Our finance department was hard at work. New software was obtained to allow for purchase order tracking and timesheet updating. Both are critical to ensure we are compliant with accepted accounting practices and internal controls. We were also able to set up health savings accounts for our retirees.  We were able to provide better access to services at a reduced rate.

FIRE DEPARTMENT;

The Fire Department ordered a new pumper truck to replace one that was 28 years old. A grant was obtained to purchase all new radios and pagers to accommodate a statewide 800 mhz system. This covered both the ERFD and the ERPD. Communication is a key element in providing quality service to our community not only today but in the future.  We will be moving forward in the upcoming year to purchase another truck to replace an aging one in the fleet and also the rescue boat that is in dire need of replacement.

We also entered into an efficiency study with Eaton Rapids Township to study how our two fire departments can work together in areas of training, service, cost sharing and manpower.  This is a win for both of us.  More to come.

DPW:

Upgrades to several facilities took place. The City isn’t immune from the Property Maintenance ordinance. Several of our facilities were repaired and painted and reroofed. Security fencing was installed around our water wells and access was limited to employees only. Our SCADA (automated meter reading and billing system) was upgraded and lift stations were replaced, along with control modules.  Our electric department is in the process of replacing poles and upgrading transformers and street lights (LED to save energy and be more efficient).

Quality of Life (Parks and Recreation):

Our QOL department worked very diligently this year. Upgrades to facilities was made easier by the various shut downs that were experienced. This didn’t stop them from doing over $30,000 in grant awards to help our resident’s re-hab homes. We completed the census education program, obtained grants to install recycle bins, bicycle repair stations, break away base systems for the Howe Memorial Field, purchase batting helmets, catchers gear and even give away books through the “Give a kid a Book program.”

We offered several “virtual” art classes and even held a couple of basketball competitions. We had summer ball clinics and the Outdoor Recreation Center continued with its free paddle events.  We held movie nights and a myriad of activities for the community.

Building Department:

My Building Inspector(s) faced a lot of challenges. We implemented the Rental Inspection ordinance and this was extremely challenging. They are being diligent in their efforts and are working with landlords and homeowners to ensure compliance with both the Rental Inspections and the property maintenance requirements. They are also working with our Planning Commission to update the city’s Master Plan and Zoning Ordinances. A truly daunting task.

POLICE DEPARTMENT:

We were finally able to fill a number of vacancies. This was a challenge as the Law Enforcement field is coming under increased scrutiny and condemnation from the public. That, coupled with the lack of advancement opportunities, makes recruiting for a small agency difficult.  I’m happy to see that we were able to fulfill this goal.  Our officers remained healthy and were able to deliver a good quality of service.

Of particular note, Officer Richard Dover was able to assist in the apprehension of a dangerous escapee from the Ingham County Jail. Diligence and persistence, aided by an observant member of our community, led to a successful conclusion to this “news grabber.”

Downtown Development Authority:

Our Main Street transformation strategy of “America’s Small Town is in full swing. The DDA partnered with the City of Eaton Rapids and the Eaton Rapids Medical Center on several projects including the CDBG Riverwalk project, the Farmer’s Markets and the Façade grants program to aid local businesses.

In closing, we are working hard every day to bring new and innovative things to our community. We were finally able to get the cameras installed so that we can broadcast our council meetings live-just in time for the shut down. We will be replacing a bridge and adding a spectacular Riverwalk. A major construction project in the W. Knight St/Brook St. area will be underway shortly.

I encourage all of you to continue to invest in our community. Whether it be your hard earned dollars, your time or just your positive attitude.  It takes all of us to make that vital difference.

Thank you. As always I bid you peace and good fortune.

Paul