By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — For much of the past year the city’s economic questions mostly wrestled with municipal stability. The state of Taylor in 2012 was a struggle against potential state financial takeover.
Barring any unexpected issues, officials expect to end the fiscal year in June having erased 20 percent of its approximately $5 million deficit in accordance with a five-year debt elimination plan. Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said that an audit presentation last week by Plante Moran indicated that the city is on track to regain its threatened stability.
“There were no surprises,” Lamarand said. “We have some shortfalls that will make things tight as we move forward, but by June 30 we’ll have paid a portion of the deficit. (But there’s) still a along way to go.”
Although not in the fiscal panic that dominated city affairs last year, Lamarand said that city officials need to continue with the plan and aggressively pursue local business development.
“The five-year plan still has to be monitored closely,” Lamarand said. “There are no more areas to cut, and we have to evaluate our options and what types of revenue we have to look at.”
Signs of progress have been seen in scattered locations, Lamarand said, evidence of a turn in economic activity. The city’s planning department has received a slight but noticeable increase in submitted plans, Lamarand said, and the results are eagerly awaited.
“They still need to come to fruition,” Lamarand said. “Hopefully they will be backed up with development.”
Municipal efforts to increase the city’s attractiveness are following suit.
“We’re reached out to (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) for a corridor evaluation,” Lamarand said.
While the city has been stable with population in recent years, there were various housing developments launched a decade ago that are limited in sidewalk connections to nearby businesses, the Eureka shopping district, Southland Mall or Heritage Park.
“We did the sidewalk on Northline with Community Development Block Grant funds last fall,” Lamarand said. “We’ll continue to seek out grants and move in that direction. We need to provide more opportunities for transport on foot or bicycle between residential areas and businesses.”
In lieu of large-scale development projects, Lamarand said the city needs to continue what seems to becoming a trend, a decrease in the number of empty retail buildings and a slight rise in interest for remaining spaces.
“Everything is doing a bit of a shift,” Lamarand said. “We’re not seeing major growth per se, but a lot of storefronts that have been vacant in recent years are being transformed.”
Lamarand listed by example the former Circuit City on Eureka now hosting a Big Lots, and nearby Mountain Jack’s undergoing demolition and returning as a four-unit strip complex. Also on Eureka the old Rio Bravo restaurant has been purchased and is expected to soon see development. Telegraph Road projects include a new owner for the former Ponderosa steak house.
“Those are the little things you try to do,” Lamarand said. “Little ones here and there turn into big ones. That’s the challenge.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)