County Commissioner Keeps 2011 Focus on Budget, Roads and Business
Macomb Township resident and County Commissioner Joe Sabatini shares his 2011 goals for the county and township with Macomb Patch.
Elected to his first two-year term on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners in November 2010, Commissioner Joe Sabatini represents District 13, which includes portions of Macomb, Shelby and Clinton townships.
A resident of Macomb Township, Sabatini’s children attend Chippewa Valley Schools and Sabatini himself is a member of the Macomb Township Board of Review.
Macomb Patch caught up with Sabatini this week to discuss the future of Macomb Township and Macomb County as he sees it.
Patch: What do you believe the cuts in Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent budget proposal will mean for communities like Macomb?
Sabatini: Right now, my concern is how it’s going to affect the schools. I know Chippewa Valley, since they’re not a higher-funded school, it’s going to affect them much more greatly than a higher-funded district. The biggest problem with that, is Chippewa Valley has a decent fund, but with the plan, that fund is going to be eaten away pretty quickly. That is going to be a big factor. My kids go to Chippewa Valley Schools. That’s a pretty big sacrifice.
Obviously, I think (the governor’s) plan was to put everything on the table and run the board. There’s going to be a lot of discussion. The state has a lot of issues. Six or seven municipalities are going to be in bankruptcy or need it, and another handful going to be in the same situation, on top of what state has on their end they are also dealing with municipalities with the same types of issues. I think what he is trying to say is everyone is going to have to pitch in.
Patch: What direction do you see the community taking in 2011?
Sabatini: For the county, in the immediate future, obviously we’ve started with a new form of government, so what we set is going to be prevalent for the next 100 years, so we want to make sure everything that we decide to move forward with is (in line) with our goals now and in next 50 years.
We definitely have a budget issue. We have to cut costs, consolidate services … we’re reviewing anything we spend money on and what is the return investment. I’m taking the business approach, that has to be the key thing right now, what’s the return on any dollar we spend.
In Macomb Township, they are trying to cut costs as well. There are a lot of plusses. They are strong financially. They have a good fund. They are in this situation, too, where they need to consolidate services. The Parks and Recreation Department's return on investment is higher than its costs and the (township's) legacy costs are fully funded. There are water rate increases and people are not happy about that, everyone is struggling to pay their bills and the general public doesn't understand the increases. On the county level, we're forming a new Detroit Water Board to have a voice where we haven't had one before.
Patch: What business should Macomb pursue?
Sabatini: The emphasis needs to be on small business. The county executive is trying to promote Macomb County as the defense capitol with Selfridge and other resources we have. ... There is new technology out there, and the county is trying to promote as much new business as possible.
Patch: What factors do you think contribute to Macomb’s continued population growth?
Sabatini: I think Macomb Township has a good financial budget, it’s schools are strong, it offers a lot of resources and services. I think Macomb Township, as far as the proximity to where people work, whether it’s downtown or local, the drive time is reasonable, they can pretty much go anywhere they want.
The other thing, it’s a newer community. It has a lot more families, has a lot of new construction, was one of the top 10 fastest growing townships in the 2000s, and lots of developed property. The value of property, too, it’s a good deal in Macomb compared to other neighboring communities in relation to what they can offer and the resources they have to offer compared to other cities in the area.
Patch: What are your goals while in office?
Sabatini: I was appointed to the vice chair of Public Safety, and public safety is a big place I’d like to go. My background is budgeting, so I want to bring new ideas and business perspective and expand new businesses and show people with ideas or who want to start a business how easy it is.
I want to save county services, rather than just eliminating, and get more return investment. ...
We are trying to think outside the box to keep the constituents happy with what their tax dollars are going toward. The numbers here are very tight. We’ll be going through the budget line by line and determining if something is necessary or not. We don't have the money coming in that’s going out, and need to cut costs and consolidate and look at the overall picture across the board.
Patch: What are you currently working on for the township and county?
Sabatini: I’m trying to get more involved in other committees. Traffic signals are an issue I'm looking at, too. They are different across the county and I'm working with the Department of Roads to see if there is a unifed system we can have, so one traffice light is the same in Warren or Macomb. Right now that doesn’t seem to be the case. Also better road maintenance. The temperatures have been very cold, and road maintenance seems like its getting worse almost.
Patch: When not working as a commissioner, how do you spend your time?
Sabatini: I love to play golf and spend time with my family. I’m a full-time dad, with three kids that keeps us pretty busy. I love all Detroit sports.
Patch: Do you have a favorite restaurant in Macomb?
Sabatini: I try to support them all as best as I can. I do like Aspen on Hall Road, El Charro and Veranda on 21 Mile and Garfield. We go to a lot of places, at least we try to. We’re always focusing on keeping money within township as much as possible.