Born in Marquette. Moved to Wells when I was 4. Attended school in Escanaba school district. Left in 1990 after graduation and moved back in 1999 to work in the family business.
Escanaba High School - 1990
University of Michigan - BS Mech Eng 1995
While the city has a balanced budget again this year, we need look at the need of the citizens and the future of the city infrastructure. The long term financial burden of the retiree pension plan is a concern, the city has a plan in place to address this. Moving forward for the next generation, we need to set in place a structured plan that addresses the services the citizens expect, with a goal of streamlining them for the future. This includes looking at the ability of each department to efficiently perform the service needed, evaluate all options for providing that service, and make a decision that best utilizes the citizens tax dollars. We must look outside the normal, historical way of doing things, and evaluate the best way to do them, no matter the method of delivering that service.
The city has a five year plan in place to address the ballooning cost of the MERS pension plan. I voted in favor of this plan. This does not mean that we are only funding the plan for five years, just that after that time, the required payments begin to decrease. This plan addresses the increasing payments, while maintaining a balanced budget. Each department is tasked with funding its portion of the pension liability. With this plan in place, we will continue to meet the required payments, and not incur any future under funding.
Roads. Electric. Water. Roads across the state are underfunded. The city has seen its share of state revenue sharing decrease dramatically over the last several years, which makes road maintenance and upgrades difficult. The city is currently looking at working with the DDA to bond for major road reconstruction that would update the entire water, electric, and street infrastructure of 9th Street and several adjoining alley ways. Electric, we need to maintain the system and remain ready for future economic growth. Water, same issue. How can we do this? We must be willing to look at new ways of doing this. If this means partnering with other providers of these services at any level, we must be open to these ideas.
DDA plans and projects are given final approval by the city commission. Because of this it is a necessity that the commission work closely with the DDA and have an understanding of its goals, functions, and outcomes. The DDA is an integral part of the city, and allows for access to funds that would not be available to the city if it did not exist. A current example is the 9th Street boning project. Without the funds available to the DDA through its tax capture, the city would not be able to entertain this project. We are fortunate to have an active and successful DDA.
The North Shore Plan is a great opportunity for the city. Gladstone is the only Upper Peninsula city to work with the Michigan State University’s Sustainable Built Environment Initiative (SBEI). Through this valuable grant, the city along with MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with extensive citizen input, have begun to build a beautiful vision for this area. There are several private property owners along with the city, in this plan area. The city can implement zoning and infrastructure plans to make this area attractive to private investment. With a solid vision in place, a clear zoning plan, and a commitment to make any infrastructure upgrades in this area, it will be a fantastic attraction for future private investment. The city doesn't build the businesses, but it is responsible for creating the environment to attract, and allow private business to grow. This area is unique and has enormous potential.
The city has significant financial issues needing the best experts which the state will provide under the local financial stability and choice act. MERS alone requires $1.1 Million per year [for 12 years] and OPEB is unfunded at $2.4 Million. In addition, the city has been using the electric fund as a piggy bank, which is illegal. For over 10 years, the city went to the electric fund for whatever the shortfall. The city electric rates reflect this disregard for the citizens as the costs have skyrocketed. The city has not taken steps to contain costs for employees, as the ability to steal from utility funds have been able to full healthcare costs and huge benefit packages. The time for reality has come.
There are actually two issues MERS, the retirements program, and OPEB [Other Post employment benefits] primarily health insurance.
The underfunded amounts are $7.2 Million and $2.4 Million respectively. The city commission based on the interim city manager and staff recommendation created an illegal stabilization fund for MERS based on 100% funding from enterprise funds, a violation of the state constitution. The city has also been providing illegal support each year from the enterprise funds in the amount of $ 1/3 Million+. Retirees MERS cost per year is about $1 Million. If fully funded at $12.6 Million the interest generated would create the $1 Million Needed each year. With only $5.4 Million in the fund, the city must provide an additional $560,000/year + $600,000/year to pay off MERS by 2029. $1.1 Million is needed each year. The solution is to ask the experts from the Michigan State Dept. of the Treasury.
Streets, Streets, Streets.
The DDA should be dissolved. The cost to the city at this point cannot be justified, the $200,000 city portion will be needed to avoid total financial collapse. In addition, the DDA illegally captured $1.5 Million and how the courts will rule on paying this back is still pending.
private developers no city funds or time expenditure