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Frankenmuth Farmer's Market
Graham oversaw many changes to the community as the City Manager
Editor's note: Frankenmuth City Manager Charlie Graham will officially retire from his position on Friday, September 30, after 37 years of service to the city. A Community Celebration will be held in his honor on thursday, September 29, from 4-8pm in the Harvey Kern Community Pavilion. Frankenmuth's Bridget Smith was hired to become the city's fourth city manager and she will assume her duties on Monday, October 5. Below, Graham wrote a list of 27 items he has been a part of over the years.
How do I come up with things I have done, when basically everything that has been done over the last 37 years is the result of collaborative efforts by everyone here on the City Council, the Township Board, the City Staff, our Boards and Commissions, the Chamber of Commerce, the Citizens and Businesses of Frankenmuth?
I should not be given individual credit for things that have been done through the joint efforts of people working together to move the Community forward in a positive manner. I apologize in advance if my list includes anything that others should get credit for. But, John Deterding told me if I don’t do it the City staff will, and it might not be pretty.
1. Improved relationship between the City government and the Township government.
a. It started with a Community Opinion Survey in 1982 (City & Township) with outstanding assistance from Michigan State University.
b. That was followed with the development of a Joint City & Township Master Plan that was adopted in 1985. The two units of government hired a planner to work for the City and for the Township to develop one unified plan for the City and the Township.
c. Subsequently, the two units of government established an Urban Limit Line that clearly distinguishes between the areas that could be annexed to the City and the areas that are not annexable. Then the two units of government adopted identically worded ordinances that apply to the Planned Unit Development areas designated in the Master Plan. Those ordinances specify how development can take place inside the Urban Limit Line.
d. Greatly improved contract with the Township for provision of police service by the City Police Department which includes fair and equitable sharing of the cost for that service.
e. Joint Office Use Agreement which enabled the Township Office to be relocated on the second floor of City Hall which is now known as the City & Township Government Center. The agreement made it possible for the Police Department to be housed in a much larger office space in the Public Safety Building.
f. Continuation of excellent service provided by the Frankenmuth Fire Department with fair and equitable sharing of the cost for that service.
g. Establishment of the Construction Code Authority (with a great deal of assistance from Phil Kerns) which provides building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical inspection services for the City and Township and Blumfield Township.
h. On-going efforts to develop fair and equitable water rates for City and Township customers.
2. We kept Wal-Mart out of Frankenmuth. It was ugly and some people didn’t agree with it. But, I’m very proud of the fact that Wal-Mart isn’t here. That should not be interpreted to mean that Frankenmuth is anti-development or anti-growth. In fact the City is very favorable toward high quality growth and development as exemplified by the efforts of the City’s Economic Development Corporation.
3. Activated the City Planning Commission. Prior to that action the City Council rarely called on the Planning Commission for recommendations.
4. Established the Downtown Development Authority in 1983 and the Tax Increment Financing Plan in 1992. The original purpose of establishing the D.D.A. was to enable commercial property tax abatements for properties in the D.D.A. that had not been previously zoned commercial.
5. Combined the Heritage Park Commission, Memorial Park Association and the Recreation Committee into the City Parks & Recreation Commission. Difficult to do because some people had to discontinue their participation in their role as a board member.
6. Gradually reduced the City millage rate from 10.0 mills in 1980 to 7.6 mills in 1985. It remained at that level until 1993.
7. We got out of the ambulance business and now ambulance service is provided MMR, a privately owned company that provides excellent service to our Community.
8. We were able to close a couple of driveways on Main Street in the downtown area by developing common parking lot agreements between some of the property owners. The closure of those driveways helped in a small way to reduce some of the traffic congestion on Main Street.
9. Codification of City Ordinances and establishment of our system of tracking approval of City Council policy through the use of resolutions that are adopted each month. Prior to that time former Treasurer Ruth Deibel spent a tremendous amount of time researching past meeting minutes to determine what action the Council had taken on various issues.
10. The City and Township adopted identically worded Planned Unit Development Ordinances in 1986. One of the provisions in the ordinance was a requirement that in residential developments a minimum of 10% of the land in the development has to be set aside for public parks. This did not decrease the number of dwelling units allowed in the development which was originally 3 units per acre (later changed to 3.5 units per acre). This requirement assures open green space for potential use as light recreation areas. The land set aside for this purpose is also able to be utilized for storm water detention basins. Before this arrangement was established the only solution for developers was to construct very expensive storm sewers.
11. After Fred Geuder resigned in 1988 I told the Council I would be willing to serve as City Clerk in order to save the City some money. I served in that capacity for about nine years with a lot of assistance from Sharon Zoellner. Phil Kerns was appointed City Clerk in January 1997.
12. A written agreement with Heileman Brewing Company before anyone knew they would go out of business. The agreement required Heileman to continue to pay for half of the debt service cost for the expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant that was constructed in the late 1980’s. After the brewery closed its beer making business the corporation was required to continue to pay their share of the debt retirement. After they filed for bankruptcy, the amount they paid to the City was greatly reduced by Court order, but the City did receive some compensation based on that agreement. Without it the City would have received nothing.
13. Significant upgrades in the use of technology in all of our operations throughout the City. The work and the know how involved came from our outstanding City staff members.
14. Maintained excellent relationships with the Chamber of Commerce and the School District and surrounding units of government.
15. Maintained an excellent City staff in all of our departments. My approach has been to delegate many responsibilities to the City staff which gives them a great deal of pride in the accomplishments that are achieved in their departments.
16. Maintained balanced budgets each year while accomplishing many improvements and maintaining acceptable fund balances.
17. Establishment of the District Library through a collaborative process involving a lot of people. Our Library has to be one of the finest libraries in the State. Getting voter approval of the library millage that is paid by City and Township property owners was a major accomplishment. My role in all of this was to be supportive of the efforts, and to encourage everyone in the community to support it. The actual accomplishment was due to a multitude of supportive people who worked very hard to make it happen.
18. A tremendous amount of time and effort was spent to help heal the rift that developed in the Community after the Council tentatively approved a 2.0 mill increase in the City property tax rate on July 17, 1996, to help fund the streetscaping on Main Street. Subsequently, the millage increase was reduced to 1.0 mills. We also developed a financing plan that was accepted by most of the people involved. Jerry Blohm referred to it as the “Graham Plan”.
19. Survived the 1986 flood, the 1996 tornado and the 2000 three-lane/four-lane experiment.
20. When there was a big push by the DEQ and DNR to stop allowing yard waste to go into landfills the Mid-Michigan Waste Authority offered separate pickup of yard waste to all member communities, but that meant all of our citizens would have to pay an extra fee whether they used the service or not. I recommended that we should set it up on a pay-as-you-use-it system through an independent contractor, and it worked.
21. Initiated the annual preparation of a six year Capital Improvements Plan with input from City staff members and subsequent review by the City Planning Commission. This plan gives us guidance for capital construction projects that will be considered in subsequent years.
22. Provided City assistance to Michigan’s Own Military and Space Heroes Museum in the development of a permanent facility on Weiss Street.
23. Dedicated a lot of time to help maintain and improve our Sister City relationship with the City of Gunzenhausen, Germany. The Gunzenhausen people are some of the friendliest people I have ever met.
24. Initiated the process to get the City involved in the Tree City USA Program. The City of Frankenmuth has been designated as a Tree City USA for 31 years in a row.
25. Provided City assistance with the streetscaping projects, the fish passage project and the planning for construction of the levee improvements project.
26. Took voluntary pay reductions in my last four years which saved the City about $5,600.
27. During the process of updating the City & Township Joint Growth Management Plan in 2015, I strongly recommended that we hire Larry Nix, a professional planner from Williams & Works, to develop a sub-area plan for the northeast quadrant of the Urban Growth Area. Larry was hired, and we met with the surrounding property owners to get their input. The resulting sub-area plan enabled the City and Township Planning Commissions to approve the changes in that area that will allow expansion of the City Business Park, and the plan also provided some changes in the adjacent properties near the Business Park that were satisfactory to everyone.
It’s been an incredible ride, and I loved it. I will miss it very much, and I will miss the City staff and the City Council and all the people I have worked with for the last 37 years. May God continue to bless the people and the community of Frankenmuth forever.