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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2005

Monroe mayor readies action on master vision plan for city

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - In his second year as mayor, John Iacoangeli has big plans for his native city.

The master vision plan he has championed will be completed and ready to act upon.

The re-organization of City Hall also will be finished, resulting in a leaner, but more dynamic, organization.

The city's first economic development director will be hired, and the local port board will play a larger role in the city's development activities.

"City Hall is energized," he said.

At the top of his list is getting the master plan approved by City Council, giving the city a 15-year blueprint - something it has never done before. The plan, developed after an 11-month study that involved city officials and employees, civic leaders, and citizens, will go to the council late next month, Mr. Iacoangeli said.

The plan includes more emphasis on economic development, downtown revitalization, waterfront development, preservation of historic buildings, and expansion of the city's cultural and recreation programs.

The economic development component already is under way, the mayor said, with members of Monroe's port board joining key groups, such as the brownfields, airport and downtown development boards.

"We're cross-pollinating all the committees," Mr. Iacoangeli said. "It's a way of refocusing our economic development attention."

Mr. Iacoangeli said that within a few months, the port board will hold a Saturday meeting during which its members and city officials will develop a can-do list of re-development projects in the city.

"The people in this group all have different areas of expertise, and the idea will be for us to decide how we can make [some of these projects [happen]," he said.

Several successes already are in the works, Mr. Iacoangeli noted. A new housing project is under construction on the site of an old steel casting plant, while Monroe Bank & Trust is in the planning stage for constructing a new building in downtown Monroe.

Mr. Iacoangeli is proud of the city's role in the project. The bank had wanted to build at Front and McComb streets, but city officials persuaded the bank to construct the building on its parking lot at Front and Washington.

"We want to fill in downtown to have it look the way it was [years ago]," said Mr. Iacoangeli, a professional planner.

The mayor said organizational changes will have a positive impact this year. The city will hire its first economic development director sometime in the next few months. The city's long-time director of personnel, Joseph Lybik, retired in the fall, but, in a budget-cutting move, will not be replaced. And the hiring of City Manager Debbie Manns in June is paying large dividends, according to the mayor.

"She's organized; she has a good vision for the city, and she gets along well with department heads and the unions," he said.

Ms. Manns is overseeing the 2005-06 budget preparations, always a challenge, the mayor said. The city has been operating with a slight budget surplus and has about $3.5 million in a pair of rainy-day funds, he said

However, several challenges await.

The central fire station needs replacing; the main library requires renovation; the city wants to demolish the paper plant on the site of the River Raisin battlefield and develop the site into a significant tourist attraction; and the mayor wants to see the city's bike trail extended to Sterling State Park.

"[Hopefully], we can pull it all together," he said.

Contact George J. Tanber

at gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610



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