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Mike Riehls

2013:Financial swing in Shores


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In October, a contracting crew was about 10,000 feet into replacing 50,000 feet of failed marina decking at Grosse Pointe Shores Osius Park. Next week's edition of the Grosse Pointe News will wrap up the 2013 Year in Reviews. photo by Brad Lindberg.

January 02, 2014
GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Municipal finances ruled the roost during 2013 in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Tight budgeting paid off with a fiscal year-end surplus. A 1 mill tax increase funded public safety enhancements. The rainy day fund increased. So did the bond rating, back to AA+.

In other news, marina decking was replaced, residents donated a splashpad to Osius Park, coyotes returned, a councilman was arrested twice and, as the year was about to end, three new public safety officers took the oath of office.

A monthly summary of 2013:

January

Begonias will replace impatiens this year in municipal flower gardens.

The switch stems from lingering soil contamination by downy mildew.

Police encourage snowbirds to protect their houses while on the wing.

Vacationers can add their hometown houses to the public safety department's watch list, prompting patrolmen to give the property special attention.

Leave it to skinflints on the city council to figure ways of saving money by spending it.

The council is considering city-wide upgrades to electrical, environmental control and public works infrastructure that more than pays for itself in energy and operations savings, according to representatives of Honeywell, the proposed project manager.

Realtors accept the council's invitation to pitch the idea of posting "open house" signs.

On a nearly 0-degree night, Raleigh the City of Grosse Pointe police dog, warms his nose to an alleged thief hiding in a side-yard storage bin in the 800 block of Lakeshore.

"He flipped the lid of with his nose and chomped down on the guy's pant leg," said City Sgt. Michael Almeranti, the dog's handler, responding to the Shores' request for mutual aid in finding the 21-year-old male suspected car thief from Sterling Heights.

February

The public safety department's most veteran officer, Lt. James Demeulenaere, retires from a 27 1/2-year career.

He'd been the department's senior shift commander for 13 years.

"I couldn't work in a better place for better residents," he said.

Front-runners in the race for a new city tag line tout the community's location next to Lake St. Clair.

Sloganeers from the municipal Ambassador Committee favor, "Lakeside living, small town charm."

Other popular ideas are, "Lakeside lifestyle, village charm," and "Got lake!"

Members of the volunteer committee, established last year by Mayor Ted Kedzierski to boost the Shores as a premier residential community in which to buy a house, will let City Manager Mark Wollenweber pick the winner.

March

A smidgen of tax relief is likely if bond refinancing goes through this summer as planned.

Projected savings totals $239,212 over 12 years, or just under $20,000 per year.

"This means we will be able to lower our millage," said Mark Wollenweber, city manager.

Another vacationing homeowner is the fifth burglary victim of 2013.

"All home invasions we've incurred in this spike were of vacation homes," said John Schulte, Shores public safety director. "Two were unlocked. It makes it very easy for our suspects."

Investigators are targeting two 15-year-old male suspects from Grosse Pointe Farms and City.

"We believe there is third one," Schulte said.

April

Municipal officials gain ground against providers of failed composite decking installed five years ago at the Osius Park marina.

Brian Renaud, city attorney, reports "significant progress" convincing the decking supplier, contractor and architect to replace the planks, many of which are cracking and splitting ahead of their advertised duration.

"The hope is for them to make us 100 percent whole without having spend a dime," Renaud said. "In reality, that may not be possible without further legal action."

The question of "open house" signs is closed.

Shores elected officials agree this month with members of the Ambassador Committee to allow limited placement of "open house" signs on private property.

Reports of fast-acting medics highlight the public safety department annual wrapup of 2012, released this month.

"Our medical response time averaged 2.8 minutes," said John Schulte, public safety director.

The department's 15 officers, including Schulte, responded to 2,800 calls for service during 2012.

Arrests totaled 247, one more than in 2012.

Shores officials look forward to completing the fiscal year with jingles in their pockets, figuratively speaking.

"We're going to end up this year with, maybe, a $100,000 surplus," said Councilman Bruce Bisballe, chairman of the finance committee.

May

A pair of contractors walk the plank over failed decking at the municipal marina.

The decking supplier agrees to compensate the Shores with more than enough new material to replace boards that are degenerating prematurely in the 5-year-old marina at Osius Park.

Replacement material is valued at $90,000 and has a 20-year limited warranty.

In addition, the marina contractor is kicking in about $15,000 cash.

Passage of next fiscal year's $7,974,290 municipal budget, effective July 1, includes a 1 mill tax increase to pay for public safety enhancements, such as restaffing headquarters 24 hours per day with clerks.

The budget also includes a 6.25 percent increase in water and sewer rates, largely to meet 4 and 6 percent rate increases from Detroit and Wayne County, respectively, but also to shore-up reserves in the city water fund.

June

In separate incidents, two alleged drunken motorists drive over the curb at the foot of Vernier at Lakeshore, smashing through the wrought iron fence into Osius Park.

Intense heat and flames confront public safety officers from four departments fighting a multiple-alarm house fire in the 900 block of Lakeshore.

The first coyote reported in the area for a long time is sighted on Fontana.

Coyote sightings and reports of attacks on small pets generated regular entries in Pointe police blotters until last year.

July

The sun shines brighter on Hawthorne when remaining ash trees on municipal property lining the roadway are cut down.

"It's going to change the character of the street," said Brett Smith, Shores public works director.

He remembers before emerald ash borer started killing 80 ash trees lining the block, there was a stately look of uniformity.

Public safety headquarters is scheduled to resume full-time staffing within a few weeks.

Shifts of clerks are hired to work around the clock, seven days per week, at the former police and fire dispatch desk, vacant since dispatch operations were contracted in June 2011 to Grosse Pointe Farms.

A splashpad is approved for construction at Osius Park.

The $162,000 pad is funded by the Grosse Pointe Shores Improvement Foundation, a private group that raises money for community enhancements beyond the normal scope of municipal operations.

Shores officials expect municipal costs associated with installation, such as adding water and drainage lines, will total about $25,000.

August

The hiring of two more public safety officers could bring the force to nearly full strength by year's end.

Both officers are firefighter paramedics. They must pass various background checks and a 17-week police academy curriculum before their hiring becomes official.

Members of the Ambassador Committee chose veteran author, Arthur Woodford, to write a book about the Shores to be published by Arcadia Press.

Woodford edited both volumes of "Tonnancour" and the recent, "The Michigan Companion."

Councilman Dan Schulte blames the police for arresting him this month for domestic violence against his wife and obstructing officers.

"I think a lot of this is political because, apparently, the police don't like me," said Schulte, 59, free on $1,000 personal bond following his second arrest since May for domestic violence.

Wayne County prosecutor's didn't file charges stemming from Schulte's arrest in a May incident, citing a lack of evidence.

Councilman Dan Schulte's colleagues on the city council unanimously agree to remove him as mayor pro tem.

September

Councilman Dan Schulte pleads "no contest" to misdemeanor domestic violence and "guilty" to attempted obstruction of police.

The pleas are a deal to avoid spending up to one year in jail should he fight prosecution for domestic violence and obstructing police.

Real estate signs won't be mandated to a uniform color scheme, city officials decide.

A recommendation by the Ambassador Committee to establish a volunteer Fun Committee wins council approval.

Members of the committee will solicit ideas from residents for ideas on community activities and recreational events.

October

Renovations to the 100-year-old Grosse Pointe Yacht Club's harbor will begin during the off-season.

Renovations include replacing boat slips with fewer, but wider slips to accommodate modern, wider boats.

Municipal officials capitalize on renovations to the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club harbor as an opportunity to join with the club in studying the cause, and possible remedies, of accretion above and below the Shores and club marinas, both of which project side-by-side into Lake St. Clair.

Another alleged drunken driver blasts through the intersection of Vernier and Lakeshore into the wrought iron fence of Osius Park.

Replacement begins of marina decking.

November

Police hope a ticket amnesty causes a run on the courts.

"Letters are going out to approximately 325 individuals with fugitive warrants in the Shores," said John Schulte, public safety director. "We are working with the court to establish a program to waive some fees and defaults to clear warrants from our books."

Outstanding warrants and costs total approximately $140,000, according to Madeline Eberhardt, court clerk.

Typical cases involve unpaid traffic tickets.

Coyotes get cocky near the north end of town.

A contractor, Critter Removal, places traps on the grounds of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, including the estate's meadow across Lakeshore, which abutts Colonial Court.

"They have one in custody, as we call it," said John Schulte, public safety chief.

The routine annual municipal audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shows a continued, gradual rise in unrestricted general fund balance to 15 percent of annual general fund operating costs.

"You've managed to increase your fund balance over the four-year period from 2010 to 2013," a CPA with Abraham & Gaffney auditors told members of the council. "That's fantastic."

December

Standard & Poor's upgrades the city's bond rating to AA+.

The Shores was downgraded a few years ago to AA when fund balance declined during the 2009 consolidation of the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, Grosse Pointe Township and Lake Township into a city form of government, namely the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, a Michigan City.

"The only reason they downgraded us was when we became a city, (city officials) stockpiled money in the fund balance and used that in the short fiscal year," said City Manager Mark Wollenweber, hired after the transition. "As a result of that, (Standard & Poor's) wanted to see a trend back to restoring it."

The municipal administration intends to save money by providing members of the city council documents for monthly meetings in electronic form rather than on paper.

Although the transition to paperless operations involves buying the mayor and six council members iPads costing a combined $4,000, savings are forecast.

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