By Paul Malewski, Eaton Rapids Mayor
As mayor of Eaton Rapids, I would like to take this opportunity to report on the “state of the city.” First, I would like to thank all of you for working so diligently to assure that the city of Eaton Rapids continues moving forward. By your involvement in programs, frequenting our parks, serving on boards and committees and touting our accomplishments, each one of you is an ambassador. That is what community is all about.
Do we, as city council, always get it right? Nope, we don’t. But we try and make the best decisions based on the information that we have available and continually look out for the interests of not only our residents but for the residents in our surrounding townships. The number 48827 is more than a zip code. It’s a “family.” A symbiotic relationship exists. We allow each other to grow and facilitate that growth through mutual respect, perseverance and hard work. Each entity relies on the other to build a better tomorrow.
I have asked each of my department heads to supply me with what they consider to be highlights and accomplishments for the prior year. They take tremendous pride in not only what they do but in the efforts made by their co-workers.
Chief Roger McNutt, ERFD:
The Eaton Rapids Fired Department was able to procure a grant in the amount of $93,000 to upgrade and replace their SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus). This will allow them to provide an enhanced ability to stay engaged longer and to better provide for not only their welfare but for the safety of the residents.
A new truck was purchased to combat grass and field fires and provide support for larger units. This is extremely valuable when having to get into those tight spaces. It came equipped with a state-of-the art skid unit.
As a department, the ERFD answered the most calls for service in their history.
Chief Larry Weeks, ERPD:
The Eaton Rapids Police Department transitioned back to 9mm handguns from .40 caliber handguns. The officers received updated training in the use of their new weapons, including the use of deadly force. This is seen as a cost savings in not only ammunition costs but in maintenance.
The ERPD completed a two-year project to dispose of old records that are no longer required to be retained under state law. This will save storage space and be more efficient in the long run. The department added additional staff (two officers) to better provide for the residents.
I would like to add that, thanks to a close working relationship with Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich and the members of the sheriff’s office, the department is able to provide better coverage to not only our immediate service area but to the adjacent townships when needed. These mutual aid agreements go far in ensuring the safety of our citizens.
Aaron Desentz, city manager:
We worked diligently with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the MEDC to bring the Michigan Main Street program to Eaton Rapids. This was no easy task, and I applaud both the city staff and the DDA for making this happen.
Significant work has been undertaken to improve city infrastructure and align future planning efforts by in-depth analysis of our financial capabilities while being budget conscious. All of the department heads were tasked with living within their means. We replaced the Hall Street bridge at an approximate cost of $450,000. Ninety-five percent of this was done through programs offered by the state.
We are moving forward on two grants through the Community Development Block Grant program. If awarded, we will see a riverwalk from GAR Park to Mill Pointe park, a new bridge on the east side of GAR Park, re-building of the GAR barrier walls and a myriad of other enhancements to our downtown.
Dennis Antone, director of public works:
We once again have a Department of Public Works (DPW) director. For several years the DPW was in disarray. They had no clear direction after the departure of Scott Poyer. It was imperative to get that operation back on track. You have to keep the lights on and the water flowing.
The DPW has purchased a new plow/ salter truck that operates more efficiently and will make for safer streets. Through a $1,000,000 SAW grant, the city’s sewer system has been GIS-mapped, and the sewer collection system has been cleaned. A replacement lift station has been authorized for the south end of the city and is currently being planned by our engineers.
Marrie Jo Carr, treasurer:
We have implemented new software that will provide for cash receipting, utility billing and enhanced credit card access for our online payers. We have streamlined ACT 51 reporting and brought it in house to avoid paying outside contractors. We have provided new health care options to our retirees at a substantial savings to both the city and the retirees. This helps to offset our unfunded liability that is constantly in the news.
Laura Boomer, clerk:
We implemented a new utility billing system that makes it much easier for the consumer to keep track of usage. We instituted an office-equipment inventory to gauge efficiency and cost savings and implemented a new retention review so that old records can be discarded. There has been improvement of the website and online availability of forms. We have done voter education and enhancements to allow for better turnout.
Lindsey Zeller, quality of life director:
We have provided grant opportunities to 30 homeowners through the Curb Side appeals program and a program through the Capital Area United Way, MSHDA and the city. This led to over $80,000 in homeowner improvements funded not by the homeowner but by the previously mentioned entities. We had several new youth and adult sports programs that included adult kick ball and youth floor hockey. Kudos are offered to our arts council, supervised by our QOL board. We have a new mural, enhanced bridge lighting on the E. Knight Street bridge, a fantastic effort by a local girl scout in rebuilding Oak Ridge Park and a chalk board mural behind city hall.
Leroy Hummel, building inspector:
We instituted a proactive property maintenance program. This has been long in coming. You can’t expect somebody to make a large capital investment in our community when the “corridors” into town are in poor condition. It has to be a neighborhood thing. We updated the citywide master plan. The last time this project was done was 20 years ago. We are working with TA Forsberg in the re-development of the Hickory Haven trailer park property.
I would like to thank my fellow council members for their foresight in making sometimes difficult decisions. A friend of mine recently told me, “Paul, do the right thing. It may not be the popular thing but the right thing is what matters.”
Thank you Eaton Rapids. We are working hard for you every day.