2016-09-07 / Front Page

Governor hears local concerns

Snyder sits down with Sandusky leaders
BY ERIC LEVINE
810-452-2689 • elevine@mihomepaper.com


Sandusky Mayor Tom Lukshaitis, right, makes a point as he talks with Governor Rick Snyder at the conclusion of a meeting between the governor, local officials and representatives of the business and school community. 
Photo by Eric Levine Sandusky Mayor Tom Lukshaitis, right, makes a point as he talks with Governor Rick Snyder at the conclusion of a meeting between the governor, local officials and representatives of the business and school community. Photo by Eric Levine Governor Rick Snyder got what he came for: give and take with leaders of business and industry, schools and local government.

Snyder’s visit to Sandusky on Aug. 30 was the fourth stop of his tour of the 10 communities designated as Rising Tide communities by the governor’s office.

The designation has enabled the communities, which share common problems of high unemployment and poverty, to receive free planning assistance from the state’s economic development agencies.

“I’m not here to hear the good things,” Snyder told the two-dozen or so participants of the round-table discussion, adding with a chuckle, “You’re good at sharing (complaints).”


Governor Rick Snyder listens to Sandusky City Manager Dave Faber during last week’s meeting at City Hall. More than two dozen people attended the session, geared around the Rising Tide program. Among the participants were, left to right, state Senator Phil Pavlov; state Representative Paul Muxlow; Jeremy Hendges, deputy director Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development; Governor Snyder; Mayor Tom Lukshaitis; Dave Faber; Sandusky Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Kenny; city Councilman Roger Williamson. 
Photo by Eric Levine Governor Rick Snyder listens to Sandusky City Manager Dave Faber during last week’s meeting at City Hall. More than two dozen people attended the session, geared around the Rising Tide program. Among the participants were, left to right, state Senator Phil Pavlov; state Representative Paul Muxlow; Jeremy Hendges, deputy director Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development; Governor Snyder; Mayor Tom Lukshaitis; Dave Faber; Sandusky Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Kenny; city Councilman Roger Williamson. Photo by Eric Levine Mayor Tom Lukshaitis laid two complaints on the governor: the state’s lack of assistance when the city wanted an existing manufacturer to build a new factory in the industrial park; and losing approximately $200,000 in federal aviation funding to the state that was earmarked to lengthen a runway at the city airport to accommodate small corporate jets.

Lukshaitis recalled an almost comical conversation with a state official, when he told the person the federal money would make it possible for jets to land at the airport, and the response was the city didn’t need the money because no jets flew into the airport.

“Yes, we know that,” Lukshaitis recalled telling the person.

Several other participants, including Michael Bach, director of operations at Neumatics, Inc., Sandusky Superintendent Michael Carmean, and McKenzie Health System representative Gloria Jerome, spoke about the problem of hiring and retaining good employees because wages and benefits are not competitive in the area.

Bach also pointed to the need for people in skilled trades, such as machining, to fill jobs held by older, retiring workers.

City Manager Dave Faber cited the need for additional, higher-end housing as part of the effort to attract new business and a younger labor force.

Faber related his own difficulty finding housing when he became city manager five years ago because apartment complexes were geared to lower income renters.

On a positive note, Faber reported the city, as a result of the Rising Tide program, is working with the state on funding for proposed sidewalks to business districts on the west side of town.

Faber also commended the expertise the city has received from the state for a new marketing strategy, master plan and zoning laws, and a program to promote home ownership versus rental.

Chief of Police Brett Lester echoed what others said about employment, noting difficulty in recruiting and retaining police officers. But Lester also complained about state cuts Medicaid funding for community mental health services that led to closings of sheltered workshops that employed dozens of intellectually challenged individuals and scaled back professional counseling services.

Lester said police officers are forced into situations where they are expected to be “case workers” and “social workers” to individuals with mental issues, and to transport individuals to hospitals outside the area because local hospitals don’t provide services because of their own funding issues.

“It’s very taxing to the community if you don’t have the services to help the mentally ill,” said Lester.

In response, Snyder said there are actually more dollars available today for mental health services but the funding has been divided up in different programs.

The issue is not a lack of dollars, said Snyder, but “how to access them.”

Lisa Kenny, the new president of the Sandusky Chamber of Commerce, asked the governor about assistance from the state in organizing regional meetings that would address common problems facing chambers of commerce in the Thumb area.

Snyder told the audience there are state resources to assist the city with housing and employment, and he made note of the mayor’s comment about funding for the runway.

“We want to be good partners,” Snyder said.

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