This past year was one of celebration – we launched projects funded by the voter-approved parks improvement millage, made significant progress on our sustainability goals, welcomed numerous businesses to Gaslight Village, enjoyed the return of beloved community traditions such as the Taste of East and saw a record number of voters in the midterm election. On behalf of City staff and leadership, I am honored to provide the annual State of the City update.
Public Works continued to provide us with critical infrastructure enhancements in 2022, which resulted in a higher-than-expected PASER rating of 87% of City streets deemed fair to excellent. This is well above the projected 56% rating and demonstrates just how critical tax dollars are to our commitment to safe streets and sidewalks.
As you move around our beautiful community, you’ll see we’ve used voter-approved street and sidewalk millage dollars to improve, rehabilitate or replace targeted areas. Through this funding, we built approximately 545 feet of new sidewalk in 2022 and replaced sidewalks throughout the city based on reported concerns that meet rehabilitation or replacement criteria.
We also made a significant investment in our water and sewer infrastructure, totaling more than $870,000. This included rehabilitating more than 3,000 feet of water main and more than 3,000 feet of sanitary sewer as well as more than 1,000 feet of storm sewer.
Our Public Works team made impressive progress in implementing the Mobility-Bike Action Plan. During the 2022 construction season, all short-term projects and select mid- and long-term projects were completed to provide a safe and connected network of cycling facilities within our city and adjacent communities. I look forward to the warmer months so I can enjoy these improvements – and see many of you doing the same thing.
I encourage you to visit eastgr.org/construction to keep up to date throughout the year on construction project details, timelines and more.
We also made important strides in sustainability, including City Commission approval for food scrap composting services at a drop-off facility at Public Works as part of a three-year pilot program. Because of overwhelming interest in this service, we increased participation from 100 households to 120 and had to start a waitlist. From August-December 2022, a total of 4,835 gallons of food scraps were collected. Due to an overwhelmingly positive response, the City is delighted to increase capacity to 160 households in the near future.
EGR also continued its tradition of being recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, earning the designation for an eighth year. The Tree City USA recognition demonstrates our commitment to promoting and caring for trees within the community. I also had the pleasure of collaborating with the E-GReen Sustainability Initiative to promote their community recycling and Earth Day events.
Parks and Recreation returned to its pre-pandemic pace last year, with more than 1,000 community room rentals and 102 Manhattan Park pavilion rentals for special events. The department also helped 734 adults participate in enrichment programming, 774 middle schoolers in sports and more than 6,000 youth in a variety of recreational programming. We also welcomed the annual Reeds Lake Run in June and the Rhoades McKee Reeds Lake Triathlon in September, both of which saw near pre-pandemic participation.
Parks and Recreation staff also assisted in decorating the downtown with more than 23,000 holiday lights and putting up the 30-foot tree in Regatta Plaza. It was breathtaking to see our downtown glisten with festive décor during the holiday season. The department also coordinated the annual Fourth of July celebration, Concerts and Movies in the Park, the Sweetheart Dance, Sports Night Out and other fun events to help community members explore, create and participate in EGR. I encourage you to get involved and stay active throughout the year by visiting eastgr.org/parks-recreation.
Your tax dollars were also hard at work as the 2021 voter-approved parks improvement millage was implemented. In the spring, City staff hosted several public input sessions and open houses for the dog park, Manhattan Park trails, athletic fields and more. We collaborated with East Grand Rapids Public Schools to collect resident feedback for the new playground designs at the elementary schools, which were finalized and put out for construction bids. The dog park is also in the bid process, with construction tentatively scheduled for this spring.
Other key assessments and construction bids were made as part of the parks millage, and we look forward to sharing more developments in 2023. To stay updated with the latest news on parks millage projects, please visit eastgr.org/parksmillage. I, along with many of you, can’t picture EGR without its unique commitment to outdoor recreation, and this parks improvement millage provides community members with modernized, accessible recreational opportunities.
Public Safety continued to be a go-to resource for our community and beyond, providing safety tips for winter weather, trick-or-treating, the holidays and fraud prevention as well as hosting its annual open house and semiannual Drug Take Back Days in addition to offering a drop-off site year-round. The department also offered another successful summer bike patrol program in which cadets focused on informing youth of bicycle and pedestrian safety. Chief Herald provides quarterly reports on public safety, the department’s activities, training programs and community engagement efforts during City Commission meetings. I encourage you to attend these meetings in person or online – details are here: https://bit.ly/3DaN3Nk.
The department also wished Sgt. Brian Davis all the best in retirement after serving our community for 28 years. A third-generation EGR resident and proud Pioneer, Sgt. Davis began his career as an EGR public safety officer in 1994 and served as the department’s first school liaison officer from 1996-2003.
I encourage you to get to know our public safety officers and familiarize yourself with their work. Chief Herald welcomes conversations at 616.949.7010 or email@example.com.
In the Clerk’s Office, we wished longtime City Clerk Karen Brower a happy retirement after serving our community for 27 years. We also welcomed Lori Parmenter as the new clerk, and she jumped in quickly and effectively administered a midterm election that saw record turnout. A big thank you to Lori, the Clerk’s team and all of our election inspectors for all they did to ensure EGR voters had a safe, secure and accessible experience.
In our business district, the Gaslight Village Business Association saw a revitalization with the return of many beloved EGR traditions, including Taste of East, a Halloween trick-or-treating event, the holiday tree lighting and Sip & Shop. I had the honor of ringing in the holiday season during the tree lighting and enjoyed celebrating with many of you. I also attended multiple ribbon-cutting ceremonies in Gaslight Village to welcome new businesses. It is exciting to see Wealthy Street bustling with new retail shops and eateries, and we look forward to welcoming more businesses in 2023.
Looking ahead in 2023, I am anticipating more improvements to our parks made possible through the parks millage – especially to the playgrounds, dog park and Manhattan Park trails, progress toward our sustainability initiatives, including our forestry efforts and composting program, continued infrastructure enhancements, all-ages parks and recreation events and celebrating new businesses. With all these exciting developments planned for 2023, make sure you stay connected with the City by following us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Also, don’t forget to sign up for our biweekly East Express e-newsletter. The City website, eastgr.org, is also full of resources, tools and engagement opportunities. Your engagement in your local government is incredibly important to us.
As always, City staff are here to help you and answer your questions. These dedicated professionals, along with all of us on the City Commission, are committed to serving you.
Wishing you a healthy and happy 2023.
All the best,
Mayor Katie Favale