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 JANET DeMARTELAERE ROCCO TENAGLIA
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GARY VETTRAINOGIOVANNINA WESOLOWSKI
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SHERRI LEWINSKITHOMAS AVEREYN
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Posted: 12/12/12


A LEANER COUNTY. Above, County Executive Mark Hackel speaks during his 2012 "State of the County" address on Dec. 5. In his speech, Hackel touched on Macomb County's progress since he took office, noting an improved county image, a leaner government and covering a $50 million budget gap. Below, Hackel speaks with Bruce Township Trustee Paul Okoniewski after the speech.

(Observer photos by Chris Gray)

Hackel: Macomb County
is lean, green and clean

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      With the county charter in place for two years, County Executive Mark Hackel said Macomb County has become efficient, economical and ethical.
       "Ladies and gentlemen, the new Macomb County is lean, green and clean," he said.
       He spoke to more than 1,000 attendees at his second State of the County speech, held at the Macomb Center for Performing Arts on Dec. 5.
       Hackel noted efficiencies in re-structuring the Department of Roads, consolidating county buildings and the construction of the Integral Communications Center, set to open next year.
       The facility would centralize emergency management, 911 dispatch, roads and IT departments. Funding for the $11 million project includes a $1.5 million grant from the state.
       He predicts that 90 percent of municipalities will join the new communications center within a four-year period of its opening.
       "We have been talking about consolidating dispatch for over 20 years," he said. "Here in Macomb County, consolidation isn't just a buzzword, it's action."
       Hackel also spoke on the county closing more than $50 million in budget gaps in three years and balancing the 2013 budget with no rainy day funds.
       Ethics played into the budget as well, with Hackel noting the importance of transparency by making the county's financial information available to the public. He also pointed to the ethics board not finding a single violation since its creation.
       "This ethics board and their policies are helping us establish a level of trust that you expect from public service," he said.
       He said his passion for marketing the county has been one of his top priorities.
       "Macomb County has really had to get out from underneath that blue collar, we-really-don't-know what-you're-about kind of image to get people to really understand about defense, about automotive, advanced manufacturing," he said.
       As part of that marketing, Hackel highlighted his Make Macomb Your Home campaign, saying approximately 20 people a day have moved into the county between 2008 and 2012.
       Along with promoting the area, he touted his Blue Economy initiative to market the county's freshwater assets and re-opening Freedom Hill.
       When asked about the fiscal cliff and how it would affect the defense industry, Hackel said the issue must be monitored, but he doesn't panic about it.
       "We're starting to see it's not just about defense in Macomb County," he said. "It's becoming more technology and more innovation being created within that industry in that core cluster we have."
       He also touched upon regional transit, saying a transit authority should be created to give each region a voice, determine what the plan is, then place it before the voters.
      
       Northern Macomb
       Given that communities in the northern county voted down police millages this year, Hackel said keeping the entire county safe is a challenge. However, he said those communities must "seriously consider" what to do about public safety.
       "The sheriff's department will always be there to some extent to help out and support those municipalities, it's just unfortunate that the day-to-day issues that they want covered or responded to, many people don't understand that's not the responsibility of the sheriff's department," he said.
       When looking at northern Macomb County regarding his economic plans, Hackel said it provides diversity for people looking to work and live in the county.
       "There's still that rural area that people kind of like it where it is, and they're not looking to really have a lot of expansion and development," he said.
       Conversely, he said the county will work with local officials on how to develop and improve the community to draw in more people. For instance, he said the county recently rolled out a video promoting the importance of local agriculture.
       "(Northern Macomb County) still has the agricultural facet to it, which in Macomb County, in my understanding, is about 70 percent of our economy," he said.
       Hackel also pointed to a number of investments in the automotive industry, including Ford's $270 million for the Sterling Heights plant and to re-tool the Romeo Engine Plant.
       Among the attendees to the event was Village of Romeo President Mike Lee. He said he found Hackel's speech to be uplifting and positive for county residents.
       "It brings that pride that we have living here, growing up here, spending our money here, raising our families," he said.
      


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