The Hillsdale City Council members agreed to set goals in the areas of street repair, employment within the fire department, home­lessness, and leaf-col­lection. Julia Mullins | Col­legian

Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford announced his “2020 City Council Goals” for the new year, and the council members unan­i­mously agreed to the goals during the reg­u­larly-scheduled city council meeting on Monday, Feb. 3.  

“Every year we set goals,” Stockford said. “This council has done a really good job ensuring these goals are achieved.”

Council members focused their goals on street and infra­structure repair, hiring another full-time fire­fighter, alle­vi­ating home­lessness, and improving the leaf-col­lection system for the city. And with road repairs being a fre­quent con­ver­sation at meetings, Stockford said he wanted to take the issue head-on in the new year.

“We just asked res­i­dents to accept another full-time, high-paid salary position for the purpose of doing the streets,” Stockford said, referring to the new city engineer. “I think it’s clear that we’re going to stick on this path, at least for the next decade.”

The city road crews com­pleted 11 miles of road repairs in 2019.

Stockford acknowl­edged there have been hiccups in the repairs and the city has learned from these mis­takes and will only become more effi­cient.

The second goal is to hire a fourth full-time fire­fighter. The current department is relying on three.

“We’ve had to make a lot of sac­ri­fices and it seems like the very first place we go is the fire department,” Stockford said. “This department is down a couple officers from where it was a few years ago.”

He added that while the quality of life for Hillsdale’s cit­izens is his top pri­ority, the fire­fighters must be taken into con­sid­er­ation as well.

“Three full-time firemen just cannot do this,” City Manager David Mackie said. “The fourth fire­fighter is def­i­nitely a need, not a want.”

Stockford noted that the fire­fighters prac­ti­cally live in the fire­house and that it’s “a job like none of us have.”

In addressing the third goal about alle­vi­ating home­lessness, Stockford shared a story about his grand­father taking in a homeless man to show com­passion and being mur­dered by the visitor. “I’m not sure this is a problem that gov­ernment can solve,” Stockford said. “It’d be good to get a con­ver­sation going about solu­tions.”

Members dis­cussed cre­ating a task force to battle the problem. The council has received interest in helping the task force from housing spe­cialists, churches, the Michigan Department of Human Ser­vices, and even spe­cialists from Seattle. 

“Whoever comes together on this com­mittee, maybe a homeless person should be a part of this com­mittee,” res­ident Jack McClain said. 

Many cit­izens attended the meeting and spoke during public comment on the home­lessness issue. 

Penny Myers is the director of Share the Warmth Hillsdale, a charity working to feed the homeless in the area. She said that any­where from 95 to 99% of homeless res­i­dents were born and raised in the City of Hillsdale.

“These people have names, and they are reaching out because they want to be loved and cared for,” Myers said. 

Council members addressed a final goal: devel­oping a better method to collect leaves. Stockford acknowl­edged that past methods have not worked well, and he noted that res­i­dents are com­plaining about the pick-up process. 

“Might we put a time­frame on this one,” Coun­cilman Matthew Bell asked. “We need to start moving so we can have some­thing to try by the spring.”

Members agreed the Public Ser­vices Com­mittee should take the lead on leaf col­lection.