Archived Story

Creative cutting

Published 8:12pm Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It’s not surprising Dowagiac City Council is looking at spending $28,404 Monday night on a KM International hot box asphalt patching machine that should pay for itself in less than three years following months of study.
Hot patch costs less than cold mix, resulting in an annual materials cost savings of about $3,000. Over the past two years the city spent a little over $13,000 for private contractors to patch potholes from utility repairs. If the city can do at least 50 percent of those repairs, it can save more than $6,500.
Pothole patches made with a hot asphalt mix should last longer than the cold mix solution, so there shouldn’t be as many recurring potholes to patch.
A longer-lasting patch should help reduce tire and alignment problems caused when motorists crater.
This is one example among many — sharing City Hall with Dowagiac Union Schools administration, bulk fuel purchases, working more closely with the Cass County Road Commission, a one-man leaf truck, turning an old highway garage into the fire station and tighter scheduling  — of creative ways the city administration coped with shrinking revenues.
In his almost 15 years as mayor, Donald Lyons changed the City Hall culture.
In 1997 there were 88 employees, compared to 50 today.
He instilled a do-more-with-less philosophy from the private sector, investing in technology, which is now integral to municipal operations; devising new ways to do things; combining jobs; and downsizing when possible through attrition.
The city is investing $150,000 a year in local streets based on 25 miles with 25-year lifespans while a $4 million general fund four years ago dwindled to $2.9 million.
Two distinct types of business run out of City Hall, the general fund, such as police, fire, building inspections, streets and bridges and parks and recreation.
Enterprise funds constitute the other sector, with electrical, sewer and water funds run like businesses that account for $9 million revenue annually — $6 million in the electrical fund and $3 million in sewer and water.
The revenue picture should stabilize with signs Michigan is rebounding.
The administration continues to look at economic development projects, like Premier Die-Cast, and supporting and enhancing health and medical facilities, from the new Council on Aging senior center to Lyons Health Center across from the hospital and doctor recruitment.
Funding cuts forced city officials to focus on how to do more with less for taxpayers.
It is to their credit that they tackle each problem as it comes rather than relying on a cookie-cutter approach.

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