Farmington Hills mayor Ken Massey’s road to re-election seems fairly smooth; he has no opponent on the Tuesday, Nov. 7 local ballot.
But Massey knows officials will face a rough ride during his next two-year term. Farmington Hills recently lost a bid to get a city-wide roads millage on the ballot, even as residents are up in arms over the switch to a directed special assessment for repairs to the city’s worst streets.
The original process for road repairs required subdivisions to gather petition signatures from more than 50 percent of property owners to move forward, with the city footing 20 percent of the bill. Petition drives often divided neighborhoods, and in some cases, roads suffered for lack of repairs. Officials switched about two years ago to a system that allows the city to direct repairs based on a pavement evaluation.
The city-wide millage question was tied to a charter amendment that would allow the city to pick up more than 20 percent of the cost of neighborhood road repairs – and it will likely reappear next year.
“The biggest issue facing us is the charter change and special assessments for roads,” Massey said. “The city has matured over 44 years to the point where we need to take that to the voters.”
Massey has seen the progress first-hand, as a lifelong resident. First elected to council in 2003, he served as Mayor Pro Tem in 2005, 2010 and 2015, when he was elected mayor. Among his first-term accomplishments, he points to a complete review of boards and commissions, with some eliminated and a Community Health Commission added, as a significant accomplishment.
“We found there were boards and commissions established 35 years ago, but the resolution (enabling them) was never signed and never voted on,” he said. “We corrected all that.”
While those discussions and others have included vigorous debate, Massey said that officials have coalesced into a respectful team.
“We’ve gotten to a point where the feel of the council is much more camaraderie,” he said, adding that having strong personalities in the group is an “ongoing challenge, but we also have respect. We’ll debate and disagree. That allows us to evaluate all aspects of a question before we take action.”
In addition to the neighborhood roads question, Massey expects officials to take up issues related to zoning for future development and walkability, particularly in the Grand River corridor, over the next two years. He said Beaumont Health’s $160 million expansion of its Farmington Hills site (formerly Botsford Hospital) will make that an area of focus.
During his term, Massey established “quadrant meetings,” a space for conversations with constituents close to their neighborhoods.
“It gives people an opportunity to talk without going in front of the cameras (at a council meeting),” he said. “It’s real informal.”
Looking ahead, Massey sees Farmington Hills transitioning a bit, but mostly as a “very stable community.”
“I see Farmington Hills playing a really powerful role as being a solid, residential community people want to settle in,” he said. “We really are a good community. We’re not perfect, but the beauty is, we’re not giving up.”