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Hamtramck out of debt; manager to resign

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Hamtramck out of debt; manager to resign

October 19, 2004

BY CECIL ANGEL

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Hamtramck's state-appointed emergency financial manager announced Monday that the city is out of debt and has a small cash surplus and that he plans to resign Nov. 1.

"The town is significantly different from when I came in," said Louis Schimmel, who was appointed in November 2000. "I don't think there's any doubt I went beyond what I was asked."

The state Department of Treasury's Emergency Loan Board will decide what happens after he steps down. The state could return local control to the mayor and City Council or continue to run the city's finances.

Schimmel is to meet with the loan board at 3 p.m. Oct. 27 to formally submit his resignation, he said. He will continue to handle the city's labor negotiations with its four unions until agreements are reached, he said.

On Nov. 1, Schimmel is to begin his new job as president of Municipal Financial Consultants Inc., a Michigan-based independent financial advisory firm serving local governments and schools in the state.

Hamtramck City Councilman Robert Cedar said Schimmel could have left a year ago when he outlined a series of objectives -- most of which officials said have been met in the last 12 months.

"To say it's past due sounds bitter," Cedar said. "I'd rather say we're glad to get control back."

He praised Schimmel for helping the city eliminate $2.5 million in debt and for other accomplishments.

"He did take care of it. He handled it tremendously,"Cedar said. "In some ways, he did what we couldn't do."

The City Council and Schimmel sparred over many issues, including the budget and Schimmel's call for a city manager form of government.

Schimmel said the city needs professional management or a full-time mayor. The city, which now has a part-time mayor, may drift back to its old problems unless there is a change in its form of government, he said.

However, "I can't stay because I think it's going to go bad," he said.

He's leaving the city with a $100,000 fund balance and a renovated three-story former hospital that now houses its municipal, court and police facilities.

Schimmel settled numerous lawsuits, made improvements to the library, got the city's insurance premiums reduced by $600,000 a year and sold the city's Department of Public Works building for $860,000 to a charter school, thereby placing it on the tax rolls. He also established new procedures for collecting business and delinquent property taxes.

The biggest challenge for the city is to control spending, particularly as it relates to its labor union contracts, Schimmel said. "Hold the line and not do what previous mayors and councils have done and give the store away," he said.

Schimmel said he will miss Hamtramck when he leaves next month.

Contact CECIL ANGEL at 313-223-4531 or [email protected]

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