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Posted on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 8:50 a.m.

Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell: City well positioned for the future

By Lisa Allmendinger

Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell didn’t sidestep the challenges that Saline faces this year, citing the potential loss of state revenue-sharing, in her January State of the City address, while highlighting the city’s successes to date.

“City Council has worked diligently to identify the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” she said. “We will be formalizing the update to our strategic plan in the next few months.”


Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell

Lisa Allmendinger |

Among those strategic plans are the attraction and retention of businesses in the city, and she noted the opening of Mangiamo restaurant, Reincarnations and the new Tuxedo Shop as successful examples of such efforts. “Our goal to sustain a vibrant downtown has had multiple successes in the past year,” she said.

Council member David Rhoads said the city is on the right track. “In my capacity as a resident, business owner and council member, I have detected a groundswell of new energy and activity within our community.”

Driskell said the city’s new “form-based” zoning designations are expected to provide partnership opportunities for businesses and property owners to develop underutilized space “by quadrant.” Such zoning is designed to complement the downtown’s existing places while allowing a wider mix of land uses

Meanwhile, the city hopes to be chosen for “select level” status as part of the Michigan Main Street Program and expects to hear the state’s decision in March.

Driskell said the city has reduced or cut more than 15 percent of its workforce and is “continually looking for other opportunities to decrease our costs,” as the city faces a decline in property values and revenue sharing from the state.

Personal property taxes amount to 22 percent of the city’s total revenue and “eliminating this local revenue source would severely hamper our ability to provide quality service to you,” she told residents Monday night.

“We have always been considered pro business,” Driskell said of the city and there are plans to “intensify economic development opportunities,” with a formal economic development plan to “work with our business partners in the community to identify barriers to entrepreneurial success.”

The city has also taken steps toward greater sustainability, through its Environmental Commission, to offer education and develop strategies “that promote alternative energy savings throughout our community,” she said.

Driskell said the city benefits from many community events and activities, such as its seasonal festivals. She noted a winter music series is set to begin at the Stone Arch events center Jan. 19.

“The Michigan Municipal League recently published a collection of articles titled ‘The Economics of Place’ and Saline is certainly one of the better ‘places,’” Rhoads said.

This year, there are are two new council members, Jim Roth and Jim Peters, as well as newly appointed Mayor Pro Tem Dean Girbach. Monday night, Roth, Peters and Linda TerHarr were sworn in for their two-year terms by Judge Timothy Connors.

“Despite the challenges we face,” Driskell said. “Saline is well positioned to move successfully into the future.” She cited a dedicated group of employees, “thoughtful leadership,” as well as support from volunteers and the community. “Thank you for helping us make Saline a great place to live, work and play,” she said.

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Saline stories, visit our Saline page.