By Charles Sercombe
For 18 months Hamtramck was governed by Emergency Manager Cathy Square.
Her contract ended on Dec. 18, and she has left the city with a balanced budget and $2 million in a rainy day fund.
So, what else did Square accomplish? We asked Square to give us a list of what she achieved, and it’s a lengthy one.
A number of new contracts were agreed on, including those for the city attorney, liability insurance agent, health care insurance, eliminated non-contractual reimbursements for retirees, police chief, fire chief, police patrol, ranking police officers, firefighters, city hall employees (AFSCME) and the city auditor.
Some service contracts were also rebid out: Water and sewer maintenance, garbage collection, street sweeping, cross connection for water and IT.
Square outsourced some services: Ambulance (EMT), building department, income tax and janitorial.
Not everything was outsourced, Square also in-sourced the controller position.
A number of changes in the staff organization were made, including bonding the treasurer, requiring an upgrade in licensing for the public works director, brought in a new treasurer, city clerk, assessor and financial controller and combined the police and fire dispatchers as well as combined the DDA and Community Development Department.
Hamtramck city buildings are pretty old, and Square made improvements to city hall and the fire station.
Not many ordinances were updated but Square did bring on new ones for the water department and its billing system.
Although Square’s relationship with the city council was not always good, she said she provided them with training on parliamentary procedures, ethics and municipal financial training.
For years Hamtramck was forced through court order to sit on hundreds of vacant lots. Square took credit for selling many of them off as well as tax foreclosed properties and city-owned vacant houses.
Square also branched out and received a new contract with the Detroit Water Department and got DTE to install new street lighting.
The city has long been behind in its payment to its pension fund, which is managed by the quasi-public agency MERS. Thanks to a $2 million emergency loan through the state, Square shored up that deficit.
And now, it’s up to the new city manager and city council to take over management of the city.