From demolitions to new beginnings
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – From demolition of the McLouth and Riverside Hospital sites to the construction of new homes and businesses, Mayor Steven Rzeppa delivered a positive outlook during his Feb. 6 state of the city address.
The luncheon, sponsored by the Trenton Rotary Club at the Westfield Community Center, offered a glimpse into the city’s future and the programs it is building to help ensure a strong business climate, responsive public safety and to protect its environment.
Rzeppa said the former Riverside Hospital demolition permits were issued in early Janurary, and that while most of the indoor remediation is complete, the basement still needs to be pumped. Wayne County has contributed $1.5 million toward the project, which will qualify for Tax Incremental Financing Authority status. It is hoped that the building will be down by May.
He said remediation continues at the McLouth site, and the city is working with the Detroit Regional Partnership on its development and is engaging with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to market the site to meet its greatest possible potential.
Three condos are being completed at Fort and Van Horn, with four new homes under construction at Harrison and Grange roads. In addition, a new event space and banquet center is being developed at Trafford Square.
Rzeppa said DTE is continuing with its demolition, but has made no further development announcements.
In total, he said 13 new businesses opened in the city in 2022 and seven are planned to open in the coming year.
Rzeppa said the Police Department has openings for two officers, which it expects to fill in the near future. The department recently hired experienced officers from Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.
He said the Police Department has an officer assigned to Homeland Security Investigations, which focuses on financial crimes as well as narcotic smuggling operations, of which the currency seizures eventually benefit the department.
Rzeppa said school safety once again came to the forefront following the incident at Oxford High School, and the school resource officer provides a valuable resource and provides Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate training to students and staff.
The Police Department also has three officers affiliated with the Downriver Mutual Aid SWAT team through an on-call basis, and responded to 22 calls in the past year. A Trenton police officer is also assigned to the Downriver Mutual Aid dive team, which responded to three incidents last year.
The Police Department is also part of the Downriver crash team, which responded to 50 crashes with serious injuries last year.
An officer became trained and certified in Critical Incident Stress Management, which they will use to support fellow police officers when needed.
Rzeppa said the Police Department received a new drone in July, an upgrade over the existing unit, with a higher resolution camera and thermal imaging capability.
He said the Fire Department responded to more than 2,800 calls for service, a 5 percent increase during 2022, of which 85 percent were emergency medical service related.
Rzeppa said the Fire Department received an Assistance to Firefighters grant, which allowed it to acquire more than $100,000 worth of new turnout gear for the city’s firefighters.
He also noted that Trenton’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Paul Haley, was recognized by the Michigan State Police last May with its Emergency Manager of the Year Award at its annual conference. Haley also received the award in 2000 for his Y2K efforts.
Trenton saw a 6.5 percent increase in State Equalized Value last year, and a 4 percent increase in taxable value for city properties.
Rzeppa said the Fiat Chryser Automotive facility saw its valuation increase by 1 percent, which is the first time in a decade that it valuation did not remain flat or decrease. The mayor said that FCA had no plans to appeal the valuation.
He said Trenton launched curbside recycling in July 2022 and collected 445 tons of recyclable materials since its inception, which has reduced the volume of trash going to the landfill by 15 to 20 percent.
The city once again took on the responsibility for cutting grass on most city properties. The Department of Public Services hired five full-time employees in 2022, bringing its workforce to 30 employees.
Rzeppa said the city’s water department repaired 59 water main leaks last year, while the Department of Public Service staff cleaned and televise-inspected 43,375 lineal feet of sewer main pipes. In May, a $2.4 million sewer lining project was completed, with a contractor lining 37,000 feet of sewer pipes.
A PASER study was conducted in 2022 to rate the condition of local roads, which is needed for long-term infrastructure planning and the development of an Asset Management Plan, which is needed to be eligible for certain grants.
The mayor said the Parks and Recreation Department reimagined old programs and launched new ones in 2022, and has focused on expanding senior and youth programing.
Youth basketball returned for kindergarten through third-graders, and will expand to serve fourth- and fifth-graders this year. Other popular options include youth and adult tennis, adult pickleball, specialized workshops and activities, and parent-child date nights.
Trenton transportation also supplied more than 3,500 rides for seniors last year for doctor appointments, grocery shopping and more.
City festivals returned in force last year as the pandemic waned, providing recreation for residents and drawing visitors to the city.
Rzeppa said economic development remains the city’s primary focus, especially against the backdrop of the DTE plant closing, the McLouth site remediation and the Riverside Hospital demolition and the associated environmental cleanup.
“We are going to do everything we can to continue to support existing businesses between our downtown and other main business corridors through West Road, Fort Street, Van Horn and more, working to find ways to get to ‘yes’ and letting good ideas flourish and thrive,” he said. “We will continue our pursuit of certification as a Redevelopment Ready Community through the state of Michigan that will offer us additional resources to do exactly that.”
Rzeppa said the city will continue to upgrade its parks and green spaces as well.
“We will continue to offer the highest levels of customer service to our residents while doing new and creative things that can bring people together, support our local businesses and help to build new and grow the sense of community we have here that makes Trenton special,” he said.