By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – Two challengers are running against three city council incumbents, as Chuck Norton and Suzanne O’Neil vie for seats held by city council incumbents Lynn Blanchette, Thomas Coffey and Elmer Trombley.
Blanchette, Norton and Trombley’s comments reflect an awareness of the impact that the city land preserve’s eventual closing will have on Riverview’s city budget.
Coffey and O’Neil did not respond to questions sent to them.
Blanchette, a Riverview resident since 1968, has served on the city council for 28 years.
“During this time, I have represented the city on committees and commissions that are important for the city to prosper,” she said.
Blanchette said she brings a wealth of experience to the job, including involvement with with projects focused the landfill, golf course and public safety.
“With this experience comes established relationships with the county and state,” she said. “As the city continues to grow, and its needs changes, my experience and relationships will play a valuable role.”
Blanchette said with the possible need for an 8 to 11 mill increase in taxes in eight to 10 years due to the eventual landfill closure, the city council needs to come up with a solution soon.
“An alternative plan also needs to be in place,” she said.
Blanchette said Riverview Highland needs to be treated as a business, not a recreational facility.
“A well-kept golf course will attract golfers from surrounding areas, generating revenue, and making it profitable,” she said.
Blanchette said city services are another key issue, which include the Department of Public Works, City Hall and its staff, and fire and police personnel.
“We need to be competitive with surrounding communities in attracting and retaining qualified personal,” she said. “This is imperative to maintain Riverview’s high standards of service.”
Norton said Riverview need a change of leadership.
“I am running against three incumbents that hold a total combination of 88 years on the city council between them,”he said. “Our world and city are ever changing. The city council does not utilize social media or the internet for the benefit of our residents.”
Norton called for city council study sessions to be recorded in the same way city council meetings are recorded and posted on the city website.
“There is so much more discussion at the study sessions than at the actual council meetings,” he said. “I have had push back on this issue. I was told that the city council would not participate if it were recorded. Then I was told at times can become heated.”
Norton said residents are free to attendance study sessions, in accordance with the Open Meetings Act.
“The residents have a right to watch it, at their own convenience, within the comfort of their home,” he said. “It would give the residents an opportunity to make educated decisions with the changes that need to take place in our future.”
Norton said the most important issues facing the city are the landfill, city employee attraction and retention, and the city’s business district.
“Riverview is a unique city: Since the late 1960s, we have had the landfill, and we have not properly prepared for the day when our landfill will be at capacity,” he said. “Why has our leadership not put money aside, so that when our landfill gets to full capacity, we would not be as concerned as we are now on the loss of $3 million of (annual) revenue?”
Norton said the city council needs to start working on a plan for when the city no longer has landfill revenue.
He said another important issue is city employee compensation compared to neighboring communities.
“Our police department does not offer the opportunities that once were available, such as working with the Downriver Narcotics group, working with the DEA, and we no longer have a K9 officer,” Norton said. “These programs are what keep good employees within our city, instead of leaving to join other Downriver police departments.”
He said the city’s fire fighters need to be paid a fair wage.
“We have never had a full-time department, and I honestly do not think we could afford a full-time department,” he said. “I do feel we could have semi full-time staff with a part time staff making up the difference. There is so much more this department needs.”
Norton said the DPW has been working for too long without a contract.
“We must invest in our employees,” he said. “They need the tools to be able to effectively do their jobs. For way too long, I have heard what we cannot afford. We need to provide the tools and training to be the best of all Downriver.”
Norton said for the business district needs to attract new business.
“There are so many vacant businesses on Fort Street and King Road, he said. “I have talked to many business owners who feel that our city could not care less if they were here or not. That must change. We need a strong local business atmosphere to stay competitive with surrounding cities.”
Elmer Trombley said he has spent most of his life in the City of Riverview.
“I know the people, their issues and their concerns, and I am committed to do the best for our residents,” he said. “I am compassionate for the least fortunate, the elderly and our struggling young families, so, I want to build the best community possible without burdensome taxation.”
Trombley said he wants to continue to deliver quality services, police, fire, public works, recreation programs and the other services which make Riverview the community it is while avoiding any tax increase.
“This means ever vigilant watchfulness on how we spend our hard-earned tax dollars,” Trombley said.
He said if the majority of the community supports the landfill expansion, he would support it, but noted any expansion would have to be done following all regulations and permits.
Trombley said he wants to update and adjust business building codes and ordinances to be more business friendly.
“We have recently addressed issues, but we still have a lot to do,” he said. “Many of our outdated codes and ordinances have made it difficult for businesses.”