By Charles Sercombe
Now that 2019 is behind us, it’s time once again to dust off our crystal ball and gaze into the future – the year 2020, to be exact.
Just what news and issues can we expect in the coming 12 months?
As usual, plenty of the issues that will remain ongoing are leftovers from 2019.
One issue that received a lot of attention last year was the future of the GM Poletown plant, and its financial impact to the city.
It’s still on the top of the list of things to watch.
Last year, there was a scare that GM would actually follow through on its announcement of closing the plant, along with four other North American plants.
That was truly a bombshell, considering GM just recently built the plant in the 1980s — to much controversy and fanfare. For Hamtramck, it would have been a financially devastating blow because, under the terms of a special deal, GM paid the city about $700,000 a year in lieu of property taxes.
A small portion of the plant straddles the Hamtramck side of the Detroit border.
Losing that amount of money might seem like a drop in the bucket for the City of Detroit, but in Hamtramck, it would have crippled us.
GM eventually did a turnabout on the plant and saved it.
But … and in this case, but is not a good thing … the plant will be closed for up to two years while it retools in order to eventually produce electric-fueled vehicles.
According to the payment plan with the city, that means the city will stop receiving $700,000 a year for that time period, because the plant will be idle.
So, it’s back to the financial drawing board for city officials while they brace for the financial blowback.
Could part of this financial puzzle be solved by a new contract with the firefighters’ union?
Contract negotiations are underway, and it’s a good bet that something is going to change. Whatever it is, it will take place months from now.
Also, at the end of June the employment contract with police officers expires.
There could be an attempt at cutting corners there as well.
As if all that isn’t bad enough, the city’s pension obligation for this year shot up by about 47 percent, from a yearly payment of $1.3 million to around $2 million.
Needless to say, the city manager is going to have her work cut out for her this year.
Our suggestion to the manager: You’re going to need a big bottle of Tums – and aspirin.
Recreation-wise, the city is seeking a grant to further develop Veterans Park, which has already undergone a substantial transformation. There are now various types of children’s play equipment, an outdoor soccer arena, and a volleyball beach area.
If we are lucky, we may even hear back about a possible multi-million-dollar grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to fix up the historic baseball stadium.
Over at the public school district, the school board is taking steps to seek a $35 million bond issue to continue building improvements and construct a new school next to Kosciuszko Middle School, as well as add another floor to the administration building.
This ambitious plan would require voter approval. It’s likely going to take a herculean effort by school officials and community members to get it passed.
Culturally-speaking, Paczki Day is right around the corner this year, on Feb. 25. That’s when the streets of Hamtramck turn into a Mardi Gras of the north, as thousands of paczki-loving fans flock into town to party and dance to live music in our bars.
And then two days later, the annual Hamtramck Music Fest kicks off on Feb. 27 and runs through Feb. 29. A huge number of bands, performers and DJs will be playing in dozens of venues, including bars, veterans halls and even the public library.
Now that’s a lot of partying for one week!
It’s seems like we barely scratched the surface, but perhaps this is a good place to end – just thinking about all of it is making our heads spin.
Jan. 17, 2020