January 03, 2013GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The year 2012 ended with an upbeat audit showing higher-than-expected municipal revenue related to increased activity in the housing market.
Expenses came in below projections.
"The administration is doing a wonderful job," said Mayor James Farquhar. "All departments are keeping costs down. We had the same budget as in 2002, which is amazing. Our crime rate's low. The Farms is doing great."
The year in review:
A nearly $5 million renovation of the Kerby Road Pump Station is being conceived to keep waste water at bay in the inland sewer district, mainly north of Kerby.
Safeguards will include installation of a permanent backup generator in case utility lines fail, as happened last May due to a falling tree; or in case power interruptions conspire with a blown fuse in the plant's main control panel, as happened in September.
Heavy rains and power problems double-whammied more than 300 households during the incidents.
The Farms is asked to join a City of Grosse Pointe-Grosse Pointe Park feasibility study of joint public safety operations.
"It will be a subject for discussion at our February council meeting," said Shane Reeside, Farms city manager.
The City and Park were awarded a state grant of up to $20,000 to partially fund analysis of combining the two jurisdictions' public safety operations.
The mayor and city council decline a written invitation from City of Grosse Pointe counterparts to combine public safety departments with Grosse Pointe Park.
A joint, three-city emergency services operation leapfrogs a measured approach to shared services being explored by an ad hoc public safety committee consisting of representatives from all five Pointes, according to Farms Councilman Joseph Leonard.
Nearly $4.4 million worth of improvements to the Kerby sewage pumping station are on a fast track.
Work begins without waiting for bond proceeds to pay for the bulk of it.
Money city officials are advancing to the project will be repaid upon issuing up to $4.5 million in tax-exempt bonds.
The city expects to receive rebates totaling $32,000 by converting nearly 250 conventional streetlights to lower-energy light-emitting diodes.
"Further, since LED lighting has substantially less power consumption than high-pressure sodium, the energy savings would result in a reduction in annual operating costs of $23,686," according to Terry Brennan, head of Farms public services.
When four chronic criminal offenders were collared last year, the incidence of incidents declined.
"They dropped to nothing," said Dan Jensen, Farms public safety director.
Statistics are included in the public safety department's 2011 annual report, released this month.
A survey of the city's main sewer line under Chalfonte reveals no obstructions.
Inspectors wearing environmental suits and respirators check the line to see if blockages may have contributed to two sewer backups during storms last year.
No increase to the 14 mill property tax rate is proposed in next fiscal year's budget.
The general fund budget being drafted for 2012-2013 sticks with the current tax rate despite reduced municipal revenue caused by another year of declining property values.
Likewise, overall spending remains virtually unchanged.
The sale of $4.5 million in bonds is approved to finance upgrades to the Kerby Road Pump Station.
Work is intended to prevent sewage backups into basements.
Bonds are capped at 5 percent interest and payable over 20 years.
Water conservation is the main cause of a 19 percent water rate increase.
Although consumption is 20 percent less than during the mid 1990s, fixed costs remain to operate and maintain the municipal water infrastructure.
"If you divide those costs by a lower number, because consumption is down, unit cost goes up as result," said Reside.
Construction of senior housing at Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage Hospital should start this fall.
According to an agreement between American House Senior Living Communities, REDICO and Henry Ford Health System, 78 housing units will be built on the hospital's second and third floors.
Completion is slated for late 2013.
Residents complain of persistent power outages.
"It seems that every time it gets 90 degrees or more, the power goes out," said Mike Thomas, a homeowner on McMillan for nearly 20 years.
Farms officials complained on citizens' behalf to DTE Energy.
"A line clearance crew has been in certain areas and pledged to look at the overall infrastructure and what can be done," Reeside said.
Low construction bids allow expansion of the summer road resurfacing program.
As a result, work on part of Hillcrest is added to work on five streets scheduled this year.
Public safety director Dan Jensen retires from a 34-year career with the department. He is quickly rehired on a contractual basis sans benefits.
Assistant City Manager and Clerk Matthew Tepper announces he'll leave public service this month for a job in the private sector.
Tepper has been with the Farms eight years.
"He's very bright and hard-working," Reeside said. "He'll do very well."
Mayor James Farquhar suggests the Pointes jointly hire a lobbyist to "go after DTE."
The utility is under fire for power interruptions in the Farms and other Pointes.
Despite bad weather, about 900 people attend the 64th annual Grosse Pointe Farms-City Family Fishing Rodeo at Pier Park.
"It was raining when people came in," said Dick Graves, organizer of the free, Saturday morning event founded by his late father. "Nothing stops them. It was an incredible rodeo."
Reis Dempsey catches the largest fish by a Farms resident.
Collin Kargula catches the largest fish by a City resident.
DTE Energy representatives pledge improvements to the Farms' power grid, including problem areas on Cloverly, Stephens and Tonnancour.
New equipment being installed will reduce electrical loads on circuits feeding the area bounded by Mack, Moross, Kerby and Charlevoix, and on Cook Road, a company representative told municipal officials.
Three-term Council-man Joseph Leonard dies. He was 76 and had been under treatment for cancer.
"I'm very saddened," said Mayor Farquhar. "It really hit me hard."
Leonard, an engineer, was first elected to the council in 2003. Before that, he headed the city's public services department for 13 years.
Mayor Farquhar solicits letters of interest from residents wanting to complete the term of the late Councilman Leonard.
Depending on the number of applicants and other considerations, the seat may be filled by appointment or special election.
New power lines installed at a cost of $60,000 seem to have done the trick on Tonnancour Place.
DTE Energy crews replaced about 1,000 feet of worn overhead wire in the area, which has been prone to power failures.
Nine residents apply to complete the term of the late Councilman Leonard.
City officials decide to fill the seat by special election in February.
Monica Irelan is hired as assistant city manager.
She replaces Matthew Tepper. He resigned in July to work in private enterprise.
A semi-truck sized permanent backup emergency generator is installed at the Kerby Road Pump Station.
A two-year effort to rid accretion above Pier Park of invasive phragmites begins with a herbicide application.
A controlled burn of the vegetation takes place next spring.
Additional herbicide treatments follow, as needed.
Two office buildings on the Hill are due for renovation next year.
The old Grosse Pointe News building at 99 Kercheval, constructed with a notch in front to accommodate a long-gone elm tree, will be enclosed for its new tenant, a bank branch.
Also anticipated is conversion of two neighboring storefronts at 117 and 121 Kercheval into a unified, three-story facade having residential features.
Developers hoping to transform the second and third floors of Cottage Hospital into a 78-unit senior housing and assisted living present the city council an idea of what the facility could look like upon opening in August, 2014, if the site plan meets approval next year.
The annual audit reveals municipal revenue totaled $95,000 beyond expectations.
"We collected a little more money than we anticipated," said Councilman Louis Theros, chairman of the budget committee.
"A lot of it had to do with the rebound in housing starts and improvements, which we saw for the first time in quite a long time."