Editor's note: Patch reached out to Canton City Councilman-elect Bill Grant as he prepares to be sworn into office this week.
Grant will replace outgoing City Councilman Bill Bryan, who decided not to seek re-election to a second term. He will be sworn in on Thursday before the Canton City Council meeting.
Grant discussed what challenges he believes Canton faces and his ideas to help solve some of the city's longstanding issues.
1. Now that the election is over, how have you been preparing for your new role?
All new council members participated in an orientation with city department heads. In addition, I have been reviewing a lot of background information and meeting with various citizens to confirm their priorities.
2. What are some goals you'd like to see the city and the city council achieve?
Most importantly, I hope we will strive to create a strategic, general plan for the city. This plan will guide us in making decisions in a proactive manner and prioritize necessary spending. In addition, if we create and adopt a plan that has been vetted by the citizens, it should help us move forward in an efficient and effective manner.
3. What are your thoughts on what could be done to bring in more businesses and activity into downtown Canton?
As I’ve stated before, we need to roll out the red carpet and reduce the red tape for new businesses. I think we can do two things very quickly. One, I am working with our Economic Development Coordinator (Matthew Thomas) to design and publish a simple ABC Guide to Opening a Business in Canton. The content has been created and approved by all appropriate departments, and Grant Design Collaborative is designing the guide pro bono. In addition to a printed brochure, the guide will also be included on the city’s website. Secondly, we need to review our business license fee structure. Compared to surrounding cities, we have some of the highest fees for small to mid-size businesses. Our business license fees need to be competitive.
4. What efforts do you think should be taken to enhance public safety — police as well as fire — in the city?
After meeting and speaking with Chief (Bob) Merchant, I am very confident in the progress our police department is making, and I think we need to stay on course. As for the fire services, we all know this is an issue. As I’ve said before, all options need to be evaluated to determine the best possible service for the least cost to taxpayers. At this time, I do not have the information I need to express an opinion, but we also need to keep in mind that we are dealing with dedicated public servants and their careers. Regardless of the outcome, we need to make a decision as soon as possible. We need a station at Laurel Canyon, and our fire department has been put in the middle for far too long. This impacts their morale and (our) safety.
5. What are your thoughts on how the city should tackle its debt? Would you be in favor of a millage rate and/or water/sewer rate increase to help mitigate the debt?
I think the current council has done a great job managing the huge debt they inherited, and I think we need to stay on course. As with the water treatment upgrades, we should look for very low cost interest rates for future loans to bring our infrastructure up to speed. I would not support a millage rate increase, and I would like to see us grow our top line tax base with high quality commercial and retail enterprise.
6. What do you think are some of the biggest obstacles the city and the city council face as a whole?
Of course the debt continues to impact where and how we spend taxpayer revenue. While it can be managed effectively, we need to seriously consider any future spending according to our strategic plan. Once again, I think the lack of a general plan for the future puts us at risk for getting and staying off course in a reactive manner.
7. What should Canton residents expect from your tenure on the council?
They should expect me to do exactly what I have been doing: working diligently to enhance the quality of life and business climate in Canton. In addition, they can expect me to listen closely to their issues and opinions. At the end of the day, I will now work for them, and I will work hard to exceed their expectations.