O’Reilly, Paletko talk at DCAC’s Tale of Our Cities
By ZEINAB NAJM
For Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, 2018 brings a new opportunity to improve both cities following the 2017 each had.
Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. and Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko shared the accomplishments of their respective cities while teasing what is ahead for each this year.
The annual Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce Tale of Our Cities luncheon Jan. 16 at the Dearborn Hills Golf Course gave the mayors the platform to speak on their plans.
O’Reilly summarized 2017 for Dearborn by highlighting the $60 million Wagner Place project, investment in the community, new dog park and pools, Beaumont’s Healthy Dearborn initiative, Gateway Trail expansions, high speed rail system and increase in the real estate market.
“The Wagner Place project is unique because its the first time Ford purchased property in Dearborn since the company was under Henry Ford,” O’Reilly said. “The development is a commitment by Ford to get the best talent from everywhere and bring them to Dearborn. We are a beneficiary of the project.”
As for the housing developments, O’Reilly praised the projects in downtown east Dearborn and said City Hall Artspace Lofts has been full since they opened.
“I’m excited about the new and existing projects that will add housing in east downtown because we can provide efficient and affordable housing,” he said. “We also broke ground on a senior housing project which includes 75 units and amenities.”
He also touched on the high speed rail system being installed on the Amtrak line from Kalamazoo to Dearborn that also will offer transportation to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
A new 2.3-acre dog park opened behind Henry Ford Centennial Library allowing for dogs of any size to have a place to play. The city also broke ground on a new animal shelter and added a splash pad at Whitmore-Bolles Elementary School.
In his speech, O’Reilly said the Beaumont Healthy Dearborn initiative and city’s bike sharing program will help create a community more engaged in health.
The initiative aims to improve health and well-being of families, neighbors and community to become recognized as a city in which every resident has the opportunity to live a long, healthy and active life.
“We’ve expanded our trail ways by adding more than 40 miles for walking, jogging and running,” he said. “Ford is also helping crossover challenges in order to connect the city on trails.”
For 2018, Dearborn will add two water slides to Dunworth Pool at Levagood Park, construct a Ford Woods aquatics complex, open the Artspace commercial space and make improvements to the Rouge River in order to make the river enjoyable for residents.
In Dearborn Heights, Paletko cited the purchase of the Warren Valley Golf Course as the biggest thing the city did in 2017.
“I couldn’t have asked for better support than County Commissioner Gary Woronchak and County Commissioner Diane Webb gave during the process,” Paletko said. “We will improve the golf course to make it even better and keep it a great place for wildlife.”
Paletko mentioned the city’s partnership with Aquasight LLC to stay ahead on water testing and early dedication on issues that could arise in the drinking water.
The biggest project Dearborn Heights had in 2017 was the start of the plans to develop the Van Born Corridor on the city’s border with Taylor, Paletko said.
“It was because of the Tale of Our Cities last year when I mentioned Masco would be leaving their building that Ford Motor Company asked if the space could be used for their employees,” Paletko said. “I connected Ford with Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars and we began planning from there.”
During a question-and-answer portion of the luncheon, Paletko said Ford has started to move into the vacant building and that plans for new businesses and streetscaping are being discussed with civil engineering firm Wade Trim.
O’Reilly, when asked about Michigan Avenue streetscaping, he said amenities will be put in, the parking deck is being built as part of the Wagner Place project, and a gathering place to create a welcoming environment for events and families within the business district is planned.
Both mayors were asked about medical marijuana facilities possibilities in the cities, and they said they are waiting for the state to get more information. Plateko said Attorney General Jeff Sessions said medical marijuana is illegal on the federal level and that he will have local U.S. attorneys decide how to enforce the marijuana laws.
The issue of Michigan Avenue traffic was brought up, and O’Reilly said a change in access to certain streets could be made and a plan for alternatives for people trying to get to work through the downtown area is being discussed.
“We are looking at creating new access points for hospital and other traffic that goes through Michigan Avenue,” he said. “There are also discussions on how Ford can get employees in and out of their business with less traffic.”
Plateko was asked about the city going back to a five-day work week, which he said is possible under the new Technical, Professional and Officeworkers Association of Michigan union contract, but would be a high cost for the city.
Also, he responded to a question about developing any land into a residential area by saying there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about it, but that the city is always looking for properties.
When asked about the new consolidated dispatch center with Melvindale, O’Reilly said the new system has many advantages and originated in the northern part of the state.
“We’re going to see more consolidated centers because the state is encouraging the system,” he said. “Under our system we can still add communities interested. So much can done by working collectively because if one community is doing well it doesn’t benefit anyone if the surrounding communities aren’t.”
Plateko echoed the same message saying, “Working together and knowing where we need to get in the future is essential. We have great leadership in surrounding communities which makes collaborating and networking with other mayors on ideas exciting.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])