DEARBORN – After two meetings lasting more than six hours combined on Monday and Tuesday nights filled with heated debates about proposed cuts, the city's budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year was unanimously passed on Tuesday, June 7.
A parking rate increase was also passed unanimously during the hearings, which were packed with audience members, most of them white t-shirt-clad members of the group "Save Our Pools," which sprung up last year to fight against pending closures.
The group, which has helped refurbish pools through volunteer work and raised money through the selling of pool tags and other fund raising events, managed to help essentially save one pool from the chopping block this year.
The original proposed budget from May included pool closures of Ten Eyck, Whitmore-Bolles and Hemlock Parks. The Ten Eyck location was switched to Lapeer Park, in the south end of the city, in a surprise announcement during Monday night's hearing.
But the pool, which was recently filled by the city and refurbished by more than 50 volunteers, most of them kids organized by SOP members Ryan Woods and William Ali, will remain open for this summer while Hemlock and Whitmore-Bolles will be "mothballed" as council members described it.
Ali was thrilled after hearing the news that Lapeer would remain open, especially considering the dearth of recreational options on the south side.
"It was very good news, and now I look forward to mobilizing with Save Our Pools and making a difference," he said.
The pools may be in danger of closing in future years if more funds are not raised but SOP organizer Mark Lane said the group has many ideas for corporate sponsorships and other ideas to hopefully help make up for costs.
Councilman Robert Abraham was among others who said the energy and attention brought to the meetings by the SOP group was refreshing and that he hoped the spirit of community activism could be carried on as the city continues to face tough times.
The proposed budget was also amended to include $60,000 worth of cuts from the district court this week.
But city council members and Mayor Jack O'Reilly continued to espouse the theme of shared sacrifice as the city continues to fight massive projected budget deficits due to a declined tax base among other factors.
In addition to the pool closures, Snow Branch Library will also be "mothballed" beginning on July 1 and the city's health department will close by the end of June.
Paid parking meter rates of all kinds will increase to $1.00 an hour for premium, 75 cents for standard and 50 cents for discount.
According to Councilman David W. Bazzy, 42 employees will be eliminated because of closures and layoffs and 23 others have agreed to sign up for early-outs.
The pending, expected $6 million sale of Dearborn Towers, a large, longtime city-owned complex in Florida for retirees, also was factored into this year's budget, which includes an expenditures total that is projected to be $6,276,535 greater than revenues.
To view budget statistics and information about other issues, visit www.cityofdearborn.org.
Health department shutdown could have dramatic effect
The Dearborn Health Department, located in the lower level of Henry Ford Centennial Library, will be shut down by the end of the month due to the new budget. Operating since 1960, it is one of the last remaining city-managed health authorities in the state.
Offering aid such as flu shots, travel shots, blood pressure checks and more, the department has been a resource for 12,000-15,000 residents on a yearly basis. The patients, many of who range from senior citizens, immigrants and non-insured, would likely need to relocate to the Wayne County Health Department on Van Born in Wayne.
The elimination will result in the layoffs of a part time director, a full time nurse, three part time nurses and a part time doctor, who all received their warnings just last week. The move is expected to save the city about $170,000 per year, according to Dearborn Finance Director Jim O'Connor.