As we enter October, this is another time of the year that I look to our priorities, which were established earlier this year at the State of the City, and do a quick check of how we are doing. There were several actions and projects that took place over the spring and summer months that impacted those priorities. So, let us take a look at those five key priorities and any progress around each:
Public Safety (Police & Fire)
We continue to make significant investments in additional staffing, new technology, and equipment. The continued dynamics of fewer people entering public safety careers coupled with people leaving public safety careers due to retirements and other factors continues to be a challenge for us. We have the right focus in looking at any options to make sure we maintain and grow those careers to best serve our community.
Industrial & Commercial Development
Our industrial corridor at the north end of the City remains one of the most desirable areas to build or move to in West Michigan. Our strategy of recruiting new jobs and retaining the ones we already have continues to pay off for us as a City. I have shared before that this is the fuel that drives Walker’s economy.
There are two categories here: Single-family homes and multi-family homes (apartments, etc.). The incredible amount of housing inventory coming online in Walker, paired with proposed and potential projects, resulted in the City commission using a tool from the toolbox called a moratorium. This happened in September. That tool is a temporary, six-month moratorium on any new housing project of 3.5 units per acre or more that has not started construction or pulled the needed permits. While the City has been extremely supportive of adding new housing to attract new residents who want to live in our desirable community, we believe it was an appropriate time to pause. That pause (moratorium) is meant to ensure these new projects align with our City’s master plan and reflect who we want to be as a City.
The City’s finances are in one of, if not the most favorable position we have ever been in. However, every one of our current construction or infrastructure projects is coming in way over what was budgeted. What we are hearing now is that the labor shortage, combined with the convergence of projects waiting to get done, has created somewhat of a perfect storm. We also have the new library we have committed to, which will impact our finances in the next year or two. While we are in a great spot, we have a lot coming at us.
Quality of Life
Simply put, I cannot think of a time when it was better to live or work in Walker. We are beyond blessed as a community, and that is because we make it that way.
As always, thank you for deciding to call Walker home.
Mayor Gary Carey, Jr.