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E-M:/ RTRR -- deal is faultering. Trenton Council lacks support

RTRR: Riverview Trenton Railroad:   Crisis:


There is a lack of support on the part of the Trenton City Council members to pursue the purchase of the 58 acres from the Wilkerson’s.


The County – both Executive and County Commissioners – continues to support the deal.


But the Trenton Commissioners have been beat up by Municipal Employees – especially Fire Fighters, some of whom are not being scheduled as much because of cuts in State Revenue Sharing  – “If you do not have funds to keep all of us working, how can you spend money on this kind of development?” See Mayor Brown’s letter in Sunday’s News Herald, below, which explains that the purchase dollars do not come out of Annual Operating Funds.


There is a small window of opportunity to get the deal back on track by raising the sights of members of the Trenton City Council to support Purchasing the 58 acres.


The redevelopment of  the one mile of Detroit River at the former McLouth Steel Plant is the top  regional opportunity for Down River.


Please reach out to the City Council members of Trenton. Time is of the essence!

Blair J. McGowan  313-720-9115




COMMENTARY: Mayor: Don't confuse city's complex financial issues
By Gerald Brown PUBLISHED: February 29, 2004

After listening to comments from a wide range of public employee unions and residents, I wanted to make some observations concerning the 58-acre Detroit Steel Co. property acquisition and to dispel any misunderstandings that may exist.

At the present time, the acquisition is in jeopardy due to unknown cleanup costs at the site. Originally, we entered into the purchase agreement with DSC believing that the purchase would be shared equally between the city of Trenton and Wayne County and that the remediation costs to clean the property would also be shared.

We have since learned that it is not possible for the county to be an equal partner in the risks associated with the property.

Although this is disheartening, I still remain forever grateful to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and his administrative staff to get us to where we are today in this venture.

The following observations will, hopefully, enlighten those who have an interest in this acquisition and negate any misinformation that they may have heard.

First, there is no relationship between the city's efforts to hold down operating costs during this recession and the acquisition of the DSC site.

The city is committed to providing the best services to its residents that it can afford. But for the spiraling costs of health care coverage for the city's employees, pension funding, overtime and other benefits, as well as reductions in state revenue sharing and personal property tax revenues, the city would be able to continue funding for services in the manner and fashion to which it was once accustomed.

The proposed DSC purchase does not use current revenues or take revenues from operating funds of the city. The money to be used to purchase the property and clean it up will be borrowed money in the form of bonds, not general revenues of the city.

It is our hope that redevelopment of the property would take place as soon as possible and the bondholders could be repaid through the resale of the vast majority of it to commercial developers.

Without a public investment in securing the property, it will continue to either lie dormant or succumb to railroad status, which will provide no local property tax revenues.

As most people know, there is little remaining undeveloped property in the city with which to produce new tax revenues supporting public services.

The few remaining parcels need to be developed to maximize the return in tax revenue dollars. If the property goes to someone else as storage or otherwise nonproductive development, the city will be tied to the limited tax yield generated by those for years to come.

This is called an investment in the future, putting in place today building blocks that will assure revenue generation to support public services. It does not take from public services today, but rather it assures the availability of first-class public services in the future.

Failure to understand and appreciate these basic concepts may lead us in a dangerous direction: to sit on our hands and do nothing about the future of the city. And that could have disastrous consequences.

Inaction, or to have the property be sold to a non-tax revenue-producing entity, would lead to future problems. Residents and public employees will end up at odds with some future city council over the few morsels of tax revenues that are left on the table, all because in 2004 we were too shortsighted to move aggressively to protect and provide a future tax-revenue stream.

That type of inactivity will eventually pit taxpayers against public employees, city departments against one another and unions against one another, all resulting from the limited and declining resources available to support public services.

That is a destructive path to follow and one that the city of Trenton need not take.

If we fail to act on opportunities that present themselves, we will regret it.

Acquiring this parcel of land is consistent with the Heritage River initiatives to reclaim riverfront property for public access and re-development purposes.

Gerald Brown is the mayor of Trenton.