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.