Q & A with Chelsea City Manager Marty Colburn
It’s been a little more than two months since the City of Chelsea hired Marty Colburn as its permanent city manager. The Sun Times News first spoke with Mr. Colburn just weeks after beginning his role, when he was still in his information-collecting phase. Now further into the role and newly designated as Chelsea’s Commissioner for the Michigan Public Power Agency, Mr. Colburn has more to say.
STN: What keeps you busy these days?
Colburn: “A lot of it is getting caught up. You do the initial reviews of the budgets, but then you see how it's being implemented through the projects.” He continued, “There's actual construction in regard to Timbertown. So we're trying to not only do components this fall, but get ahead of the curve in terms of the planning processes that are required for the spring when we start up again. So for instance, in Timbertown, we’re working with Play Design, a company that is doing some planning, looking at different options, which will come back to the city and will be reviewed by staff and by the Parks and Rec committee. And we're dealing with a company to make sure that we get survey work done…so that they can do the planning, and hopefully have a lot of that done by December.”
“Then we have time to weigh in on what needs to be done so that the fundraisers can raise the funds. As you know, we're working with nonprofits that are helping us raise funds. So there's there's a lot of different steps in between and different people involved. So yesterday, they started construction on the site for pickleball courts.”
STN: Any progress on the park that will be located on the old Federal Screw Works property?
Colburn: “I have a meeting on that today. We're talking about a lot of the environmental issues and also responsibilities for reporting and things of that nature. So there's a lot of detail. We're dealing with EGLE (Michigan Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) for environmental issues and safety.”
“The MSPA (Main Street Park Alliance) has their folks on the job who are doing their environmental work, and we have an additional consultant to represent the city to make sure that oversight is being done correctly. So we've got environmental specialists on both sides working to make sure it's done properly.”
STN: What other projects are in the works?
Colburn: “Housing. There are different types of housing being discussed, condominiums, apartments, single-family dwellings, and condos. You name it– just about everything–the broad breadth of housing, including those that would meet the needs of service workers. And that's a really critical area.”
STN: What feels or works differently now than when you started? Anything you didn’t see coming or is bigger or smaller than you thought it might be?
Colburn: “Well, there's there's a lot of different interests. One thing that we've taken a look at is the desires of the community, and that was placed in those goals in the Master Plan. I'll be working with the new city council, once they're elected, to refocus. When you take a look at the long list of goals and objectives…if those are the expectations, that's fine, but over what period of time? So that needs to be worked through. Typically there isn’t 100% changeover so we’ll start with what’s there. I'll work that through with them–talk it through, evaluate. You know, it's a continuous evaluation process. It doesn't just end with one meeting.”
STN: Will you get citizen input on that?
Colburn: “No. What you’re talking about [getting citizen input] is a new Master Plan update and actually, that’s scheduled for next year. So that is a separate activity that we do with the planning commission and it will ultimately go to the city council.”
STN: Last we spoke, we talked about the recurring leadership changes that have plagued Chelsea in recent years. How is that going?
Colburn: “The council, right before I got here, had hired Carlisle Wortman (municipal planning consultant). [They are] providing the services that otherwise a staff member would be doing. So I've been evaluating the work that they've been doing and I think they’ve been doing a very fine job. It was a three-year contract. I'm going to go ahead and maintain that for a while.”
STN: How many positions would you estimate that covers–as in full-time employees, and what kinds of work?
Colburn: “They're doing basically what, minimally, two people would be doing. Variances, site plan reviews, planning. They’re providing service hours for the public as well as internally, for the staff. There’s been a bit of turnover there in the past several years so I’m looking at doing this for a while to maintain stability.”
STN: What’s new on the horizon that we haven’t talked about before?
Colburn: “Getting back into the parks and rec side of it. There's a discussion that they want to finish up a couple of routes on the trails. But what people don't understand is building a trail is not unlike building a street. You still have to have cross-sections. You still have to have easements or right-of-ways. You still have the barriers such as creeks and or street crossings. There are a lot of underground utilities. There could be wetlands or trees and forests that you have to take into consideration and how you're going to maintain that because within three, or four years, you're going to have the roots buckling the path. So there's a lot to take into consideration.
STN: Is there anything else you would like to say to readers?
Colburn: “Chelsea is a gem. It has such a high quality of life. I’m not just talking about the stores. We have a phenomenal medical community, a great school system, and an active Chamber of Commerce that promotes the business community. We have most of what people need every day. That’s a healthy community.”