Chelsea Mayor Pacheco's State of the City Address


From Chelsea Mayor Jane Pacheco

Chelsea City Council will gather this coming Thursday, February 16, 2023 with city department heads, committee leadership, and community members for our annual Visioning Work Session. This meeting is designed to provide a bit of a status update on city business, but more importantly, it is a look ahead. Collectively, staff and council will be tasked with taking what we know about the state of our city, and the needs of our community, and trying to predictively determine what is most important to prioritize in the year(s) ahead.

It is always an exciting prospect to dream about all that we could be. Looking into the future and “visioning” ideal systems, collaborations, and projects is a pleasant exercise and allows us to provide another opportunity to hear what our community would like to see. Additionally, taking time to regularly build in planning for next generations is as vital as providing services in present day. Please join us in person or online for this session. There will be opportunity for community input and a recording will be available on the city website afterward.

All that said about the future, I’d like to reflect on a few accomplishments from the last year.

Calling 2022 a year of transitions is no understatement. Beginning with the adjustment to a post covid world, many changes were spurred by our pandemic time. Reacting to record engagement numbers, council and many committee meetings are now conducted in a hybrid manner, allowing folks to participate online and view recordings. Council approved temporary, then permanent audio-visual equipment, internet, tech resources, social media/website upgrades, and hardware (through ARPA funding) to bring systems up to date and provide staff and community members with better experiences.

Projects that had been delayed or stalled due to the covid challenges were jumpstarted and folks were hungry to make up time as quickly as possible. Conversations were restarted or introduced with regional partners and infrastructure improvement plans came to the top of the pile. Below are just a few summary details. Please feel free to reach out to myself, staff, or councilmembers for more information.

Main Street Park - Council approved bringing on experts, and directing staff, to help understand opportunities with the Main Street Park proposal (former Federal Screw Work site). Environmental and legal consultants have helped move this complicated project forward in the spirit of collaboration and possibility. We look forward to working with the development group as they continue their next steps.

Community Center - A long-time desire for a community center made great progress by reconvening a city task force and delivering a final report to council recommending further investigation of viable options. A potential partner group has been formed and is diving deeper into what a more comprehensive umbrella of parks, recreation, and community services could look like in our area.

Trail News – Late year grant awards and collaborative talks allowed us to further ideas of connecting the border-to-border trail to neighbors to the west/east and from the north, as well as make progress with park plans to not only help create a trailhead at Timbertown park, but hopefully become a Pure Michigan designated Trail Town.

Public Safety – Based on recommendations from an operational audit completed in 2021, council approved and appointed a short term 14-member Community Public Safety Task Force. Upon the recommendations of that task force, a smaller working group was appointed to hire, and work in conjunction with, a professional facilitator to help create a strategic plan for Chelsea Police Department. Additionally, our police chief of 15 years, Ed Toth, retired mid-year and Council engaged in a professional search for his replacement. We welcomed new Chief Kevin Kazyak in November.

City Administration – Roy Atkinson joined the City team in July as our new City Manager after a 5 month interim process and professional search. Excited to hit the ground running, he was able to immediately plug into the process already in place for additional staff hires, including the police chief and Community Development Director. Other transitions this year included the retirement of the City Attorney, Peter Flintoft. Council approved a search and appointment of a recommended replacement with Mariah Fink, in addition to agreements with a few other law firms to assist with specialized services like bonds, contract law, environmental, etc. With much enthusiasm the new team members are settling in and bringing fresh eyes and exciting ideas to the table. A first (maybe annual) employee and volunteer appreciation party was held at the Train Depot in November to introduce new staff and the community as well as thank volunteers for their invaluable service on the committees that make the City work.

Infrastructure - Through all the transition our Public Works, Utilities, Streets and Solid Waste departments were steady with their day-to-day operations. Continued encouragement to look ahead in capital improvement planning allowed for supervisors to better manage future budget year projects now, considering challenges with unpredictable supply chain, labor timing and equipment costs. Additionally, intentional regional conversations have been reopened/initiated, including staff, to investigate cost-sharing upcoming utility load studies, interconnections, and a regional traffic impact audit.

Housing – Council made steps last year to join the Washtenaw Urban County to have further access to federally funded programs. We officially become a member in June 2023 and are excited for another tie to a more regional conversation about this complicated community challenge. Several housing developments, that have been in the pipeline, are working through the planning system, including a diversity of housing types: single dwelling houses, apartments, and condominiums, as well as work with recent city ordinance updates to include accessory dwelling units. Continued talks with Chelsea School District, employers and community members all reveal the desire for more attainable housing options. Council also approved hiring legal help to advise regarding any potential 425 agreements with neighboring communities.

Economic Development – Connections with Ann Arbor SPARK, Southeast Council of Michigan Governments (SEMCOG), the Michigan Municipal League, local businesses, and neighboring municipalities all include discussions regarding the economic vitality of our region. We were able to add two Chelsea voices to the Destination Ann Arbor board this past year, as well as work with Washtenaw County and the Board of Commissioners to resolve to keep our Court House open, with improved security, as well as secure assurances that a Western Washtenaw Service Center would be considered in the county wide space plan process. Larger conversations started and will continue regarding connecting our Gateway district with the rest of our main street and downtown districts.

It was a busy, full year. Council and staff worked together in ways none of us had experienced before and it was not only well done, but we got a lot done. Thanks to everyone for all their hard work. It was a pleasure to be a part of so many solution-driven teams and I am looking forward to what will be accomplished in 2023.

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