2021 State of the Cities
The City of Berkley has been hard at work this past year.
In conjunction with the Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce State of the Cities event (held virtually on October 28, 2021), we’ve dedicated this web page to provide the Berkley community with updates on the accomplishments and challenges we have overcome this past year. We are also happy to share news about up and coming projects and programs.
Below this webpage covers specific updates from each City department. BUT before you dive into reading, check out the City of Berkley’s 2021 State of the Cities video below:
As with much of the world, the pandemic brought many changes and challenges to the City Clerk’s Office, especially with the 2020 presidential election. They are happy to report that they did not miss a step in maintaining all of their services AND they wrapped up the 2020 election season ahead of the competition!
As the official record keeper for all things City of Berkley, the Clerk’s Office responded to nearly double the number of FOIA requests received in prior years while implementing a new request fulfillment procedure to meet the demand.
Along with the lifting of some COVID-19 restrictions, the Clerk’s Office was able to rededicate its commitment to professional education and training. Our City Clerk and Deputy Clerk also demonstrated a commitment to growth by both attending multiple in-person and virtual training opportunities. Congratulations to our clerk, Victoria Mitchell, on completing her training and certification for the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.
On top of all that, City Hall added a full-time administrative generalist position, welcoming Ashley Merz. Ashley received training and obtained the qualifications to serve as an election specialist in the Clerk’s Office during voting seasons! The addition allowed the Clerk’s Office to transition its part-time Deputy Clerk to a full-time Deputy Clerk role. The transition and training also allow the Clerk’s Office to serve Berkley residents with higher quality.
The City of Berkley’s Finance and Treasury Department lead our City through another uncertain fiscal year with some BIG wins, including:
- Successfully completed the annual audit and budget process in a completely virtual environment.
- Worked with Federal, State, and County partners to receive and utilize $1.6 million dollars in American Rescue Plan funding. That money will be coming to us in two installments, one being in this year and the other in 2022.
- Optimized the City’s budget transparency by creating a Digital Budget Book making it easier to access and clearer to understand for our residents. To view the Digital Budget Book, click here.
- Hammered contract agreements with all three labor unions.
- Nearing completion of the non-union MERIT System changes and updates to serve the City of Berkley employees better.
This department, despite challenges brought on by the pandemic, did not miss a beat. Curbside leaf collection, water main repairs, and sewer maintenance all continued uninterrupted even with staggered crews and social distancing.
The City-Wide Road Improvement Program continued with numerous road enhancements to local and residential streets. To date, over 300 sections of road have been removed and replaced across the community with more work to follow in the fall.
The multi-year City-wide Sidewalk Replacement Program to improve our community’s walkability was able to continue throughout 2020 and continues into 2021 as well. DPW and HRC partners have been able to replace over 800 sidewalk slabs within three City sections this year. The remaining sections will be covered in the next two years.
The annual Fall Tree Planting Program was modified for the fiscal year 2020-2021. The City is now covering the full cost of a new right-of-way tree purchase and planting. More details on that program can be found here.
Lastly, the Public Works fleet improved with the additions of a new John Deere Backhoe, Ford Transit Cargo Van, and Freightliner Tandem Hook Dump Truck. Small landscape equipment was also recently purchased with green-friendly, battery-operated units. These landscape tools are not only better for the environment, but they are quieter and require less maintenance.
Downtown Development Authority
Despite the ongoing pandemic and impending recovery period for small businesses, it brings us great joy to see that the Berkley business district continues to thrive and remain agile.
Over the last year, this department has seen some major developments that are finally taking shape:
Additionally, this department met the challenging performance standards required to receive national accreditation from Main Street America. This annual accreditation process recognizes a community’s exceptional commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach.
Parks & Recreation
Despite the absence that 2020 brought with some of Parks and Recreation events and programming, 2021 saw a comeback for many of them.
Similar to all the other City Departments, Public Safety continues to stress professional development in all three public safety disciplines (police/fire/EMS). Congratulations to Det./Sgt. Dave Arney on completing the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety 10-week School of Police Staff and Command and to Det./Lt. Andrew Hadfield for completing the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police 40-hour New Chief and Police Executive School.
Another congratulations goes to officer Brian Gothard who was recognized by the Berkley American Legion Post as the 2021 Public Safety Officer of the Year.
This department also held and supported several community events including the Super Hero Big Truck Parade, the 3rd Annual Kroger’s First Responders Food Drive, Berkley Street Art Fest, Berkley CruiseFest, Woodward Dream Cruise, Berkley Art Bash, the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony, the Shrine Church Annual Blue Mass, and the highly successful and well-attended Lids for Kids/Fire Safety Open House.
One of the biggest projects this department has been working on is the Master Plan, and it’s almost complete. After 18 months of community engagement and drafting text, the Master Plan Steering Committee and Planning Commission recommended to City Council to distribute the draft Master Plan for the 63-day public review period as required by the Michigan Planning Enabling Act.
In fact, the Planning Commission has reviewed all the comments that were received, and in October, the Commission directed City staff and consultants to set the final Public Hearing before adoption. After the conclusion of the Public Hearing, it is expected that the Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the City Council to adopt the Master Plan.
This department was also instrumental in the relaxation of ordinances related to Outdoor Dining, Sales, and Service areas and the temporary closure of Griffith Ave at Twelve Mile to support businesses impacted by closures or capacity restrictions from the pandemic. It has helped several businesses survive during a very tumultuous time and has garnered some interesting conversations about outdoor plaza spaces in the community. The relaxation of ordinances and the temporary closure of Griffith have been approved by City Council to continue until December 2022. City staff has begun conversations with RCOC in regards to the feasibility of making Griffith a permanent closure and/or easing ordinance requirements for outdoor dining.
In order to better assist new business owners in our community, there is an updated business license application, the creation of both a How to Open a Business brochure and a Land Use Matrix. The seven-step process provides a general overview of the required approvals and inspections for opening a business.
Similar to the Community Center, the Berkley Public Library officially reopened to the public in June, after serving exclusively through curbside service since early 2020. They returned to full library hours on September 7 of this year.
The library also received a CARES Act grant check for $13,817.06 to help fund some of the expanded digital resources.
Library staff, Parks & Recreation staff, and City Council members made hundreds of wellness calls to Berkley seniors early in COVID when everything was closed.
Friends of the Berkley Public Library conducted a couple of outdoor book sales, which were quite successful and provided a safe way to connect with residents.
2020 was definitely a year for the history books, and for Berkley’s Historical Museum.
While initially, they were closed, they are now open again on Wednesdays from 10 am to 1 pm and Sundays from 2 pm to 4 pm.
Just in time for the holiday season is a NEW Christmas tree ornament complete with a picture of the Berkley Theatre during Christmas time.
This team also planned and published their first issue of the NEW quarterly newsletter: The Museum Corner.
Future plans include getting a historic marker in front of the museum relating to the building's historic past and changes.