By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. reflected on the city’s public safety, economic development, neighborhoods and the vision for the future in his 2017 State of the City Address last week.
Differing from previous years, O’Reilly released the address in segments from Feb. 12 to 16 on the city’s social media platforms. Videos on each topic also were upload on the city’s YouTube page for viewing.
For the Fire and Police departments, crime decreases, program success and partnerships were highlighted.
Dearborn police reported that crime went down 3 percent city wide in 2016 along with a 10 percent reduction of larceny from vehicles due to the Lock It or Lose It campaign.
During the year there were, 70,000 calls for service, 40,000 violations issued, 6,000 arrests, 1,100 drug related arrests, 300 weapons taken off the streets, 3,300 vehicle crashes and 2,500 school visits. Also, Dearborn officers only deployed force 30 times.
The department implemented a special needs registry and appointed a team of inter-faith clergy as department chaplains.
The department partnered with the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority in the fall to train and equip officers with overdose kits. Police responded to 123 overdose incidents and the fire department responded to 432.
The Fire Department was awarded the American Heart Association’s Mission Lifeline Silver Award for its care related to the identification of potentially lethal heart conditions.
A federal grant allowed the department to install more than 1,900 free smoke alarms in more than 490 residents.
The department began working on a new fire training academy and a new dispatch center along with an emergency operations center.
“Public safety is one of the biggest responsibilities we have, and our success in this area is the foundation for all other successes,” O’Reilly said. “Our vision is to keep our city as a destination for home buyers and for significant business investment. We can’t be attractive without even with the best of our amenities unless we first cover the basics like public safety.”
In the economic and community development department, Ford Motor Co’s. $1.2 billion campus transformation and $60 million Wagner Place projects began hoping to draw talented employees to Dearborn when completed.
“The more interest and investment we generate in Dearborn, the more we add value to everyone’s property and preserve our community long-term viability,” O’Reilly said. “Our focus must be on those economic enterprises that will enhance our existing amenities and convey our community’s unique character.”
As for neighborhood services, inspectors addressed 23,309 property maintenance cases with 2,125 resident complaints, 13 percent decrease from 2015.
“From 2015 to 2016, the average sale price of houses rose more than 11 percent,” O’Reilly said. “Strong demand has reduced the inventory of homes on the market, meaning they are selling much more quickly.”
Last year, Warren Avenue and Dix Corridor authorities began developing plans for the future and created boards to focus on the development of the corridors.
During 2016, more than $2 million in block grant funds helped improve roads, water mains and fund public service activities including park management, community and school policing activities.
The Parks and Recreation Department opened the Rouge River Gateway Trail for walkers and bicyclists, cameras were installed at six parks, a splash pad added at Whitmore-Bolles Park and the Hubbard Ballard at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center underwent a $500,000 remodel.
Dearborn was able to sell 29 side lots to create larger residential lot sizes or allow for construction of garages and driveways generating $93,177 in revenue.
The Department of Public Works was able to have 17 lawsuits against the city dismissed to go with 18 commercial proper tax appeals dismissals.
Also DPW constructed 21,845 linear feet of storm sewer; 9,687 linear feet of sanitary sewer and 33,238 linear feet of water mains in 2016.
The city’s green initiatives continued last year by adding a recycling program to 12 schools, lighting downtown west Dearborn parking decks with LED lights and launching Healthy Dearborn to encourage non-motorized transportation.
Looking into the future, O’Reilly said that the city must continue to take steps now that will position Dearborn well for the coming years.
“We need to purse amenities and services that will keep us a destination for business and homeowners for years to come,” he said.
O’Reilly said he initiated a community task force to help determine a course for Dearborn over the next 10 years.
“The task force agreed that we should look at offering some premiere services in new ways for two reasons: to keep the costs in line with our revenues and to make sure our services are relevant with this generation and the next,” he said.
Looking at 2017 and beyond, the city will focus on retaining and attracting young families and millennials, and employees that Ford Motor Co. is actively recruiting.
The recruitment of the millennials is being done by supporting the new University of Michigan-Dearborn student housing and improvements in private investment of higher-end housing.
Another tactic is proving mass transportation to encourage residents to explore Dearborn and supplying access to Ann Arbor, Detroit and other cities through the train station.
Lastly, the future investments in more non-motorized transportation and the environment will add more green spaces for current and new residents.
“All of these actives will help to position Dearborn to survive during economic downturns and to thrive when prosperous times return,” O’Reailly said. “So we must plan and we must act using a balanced, thoughtful and deliberate approach. At the heart of everything we do, is making sure we continue to be a great city in which to live.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])