Our Snow Angels

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

Dateline:  Wednesday, February 27th …

So, here we are, when Mother Nature decided to dump 3-4 inches of heavy, wet snow on Southeastern Michigan.  I’m out and about, doing my Code Enforcement rounds and this is what I see:

  • A bunch of kids using a stepladder to make a monster snowman on Coughlin.
  • A man shoveling his driveway on Grey.
  • A mom and her kids having a fierce snowball fight on Genes.
  • A few neighbors taking a break from shoveling to have a street side chat on Walnut.

All over town folks were shoveling, plowing, blowing, or just enjoying the snow.  Keep in mind this is mid-day.  Between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and all these various driveways and sidewalks were clear.  Are the citizens taking their cue from the City?

After all, this is one of the few municipalities of this size that I have heard of that plows every inch of its streets in an expedited fashion.  Today was no exception.  Around 10:00 a.m., Dan Brisson, Manager of Facilities and Roads, sent out an e-mail to City employees stating that most main roads were clear and work was starting on the residential streets.  By around 2:00pm, Dan was notifying us that all streets under the jurisdiction of the City of Auburn Hills were wet, but clear.

All of this is the result of 32 members of the Department of Public Services (DPS) using 9 dump trucks, 12 pickups and small dumps, a broom tractor, and a front end loader.  A small crew started plowing and salting when the storm began the night before.  By 2:00 a.m., a full crew was mobilized to prepare roads and City parking lots for the morning rush hour.  They are also prepared for the next day for either more snow or touching up the job already done.

The Auburn Hills DPS - Our Snow Angels
The Auburn Hills DPS – Our Snow Angels

So, were all the citizens I saw clearing their driveways and sidewalks during the day emulating the City’s quiet heroes; the ones that do their jobs when no one sees them?  I’d like to think so.

After all, the best way to lead is by example.  Thank you, DPS.

Our Snow Angels

The Three Wise Men

Posted by – Benita LaLone, Clerk III

As Spring approaches, construction really starts to roll.  From new commercial buildings to honey-do lists, permit applications fly through our door.  Boeing would be jealous!

Building permits are usually accompanied by one or more “trade” permits, which are Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing.  Inspections of these permits are conducted by three wise experts: Sid Browne (Electrical), Brian Claycomb (Mechanical) and Tom Katich (Plumbing).  They all have been an integral part of the Community Development Department team for many years.

From left to right:  Sid Browne (Electrical), Brian Claycomb (Mechanical) and Tom Katich (Plumbing)
From left to right: Sid Browne (Electrical), Brian Claycomb (Mechanical) and Tom Katich (Plumbing)

Understanding the importance of deadlines, each inspector does their best to accommodate special schedule requests.   Inspections are conducted five days a week.  Same-day inspections are always scheduled, if called in to our inspection phone line before the start of the work day.  They serve as technical consultants to the City, thus are not full-time employees.

Through the enforcement of various codes and standards, these dedicated gentlemen help ensure the safety, health, and welfare of everyone who lives in or visits buildings in the City of Auburn Hills.

As you could imagine, we feel very fortunate to have them on our team.

The Three Wise Men

The Snow Will Not Hinder Them

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

An inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City reads: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  Well, you can expect the same from your Planning Commission.

Despite reports of perhaps the 3rd storm of the century anticipated for this winter, the group still plans to meet tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Robert W. Grusnick Public Safety Building.

It will be an interesting session as the Planning Commission will tackle a wide variety of topics.  Such as,

  • Talk to representatives from Oakland County about their One Stop Ready Program, as Auburn Hills is anticipated to become a leader in the initiative.  The program encourages Oakland County municipalities to be ready for development in terms of ease of project review and transparency, so that our region can out perform places like Silicon Valley in Northern California or the Research Triangle in North Carolina.  The key is to serve the customer.  Hey, that’s what we’re all about!
  • Hold a public hearing and provide a recommendation to the City Council on allowing taller building heights in our industrial districts.  As one of Michigan’s premier industrial employment centers, Auburn Hills is working proactively to address the growing demand in the marketplace for manufacturing and warehouse facilities with higher ceilings.
  • Roll-up their sleeves and work through the framework of developing a Complete Streets Policy.  The policy will help guide future decisions on how to plan for all modes of transportation (e.g., cars, pedestrians, bicycles, and transit) within our roadways.
  • Continue their work with Planning for the Aging Population in our town.

As you can see, the Auburn Hills Planning Commission is little too busy to let a few inches of snow slow them down.  Luckily, we can trust that our Department of Public Services will always have the roads clear and safe.


So, we hope you can brave the elements and attend.  The meeting will be an interactive one, so that you will have the opportunity to participate with one of the most innovative planning groups you’ll ever see in government.

The Snow Will Not Hinder Them

In Pursuit of Practical Wisdom

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

What do wise people do?

Financial guru Dave Ramsey often advises his radio listeners about the importance of reading and how the practice can transform lives.  Simply put – the more you read, the more you learn.  Ramsey found in his travels that the average millionaire reads one book a month.  He concluded that maybe folks should do what millionaires do, if they wanted to be successful themselves.  That sounded like good advice, so I decided to take on the challenge for Y2013.

I intend to tackle these books this year
I intend to tackle these books this year

The first book I read this year was Practical Wisdom:  The Right Way To Do The Right Thing by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe.  It was recommended by a close friend’s father.  This wise mentor felt the book should be required reading for all people in leadership positions.  After studying it, I totally agree.

Schwartz and Sharpe focus their thesis on the observation that mastering human interactions involving care, kindness, and empathy is an important virtue.  That people who are successful in the workplace and with their relationships often have what ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle called “practical wisdom,” which is a combination of moral will and moral skill.

In short, moral will is the desire to do right by others and moral skill is the ability to figure out what doing right means.  Schwartz and Sharpe explain that a wise person knows when and how to “make the exception to every rule” and when and how to improvise.

The late Maynard Ferguson was truly great at feeling the music ... a master of improvisation
The late Maynard Ferguson was truly great at feeling the music … a master of improvisation

They point out that …

  • A wise person is made through experience, not born.  It takes a lot of time, mistakes, and energy to learn how to care for people.
  • That practical wisdom is kind of like “moral jazz.”  Our interactions with people often depend on rules and incentives – like the notes on a page and basic melodies in jazz.  But, rules and incentives by themselves can’t fully guide someone to do the right thing.
  • Thus, moral improvisation in how we interpret and play around the notes and melodies on the song sheet of our everyday lives is a critical skill.

This excellent book concludes with the thought that people want to be allowed to be virtuous in the workplace and society.  Schwartz and Sharpe called them “system changers.”  People are happiest when they have permission to transform the places they serve for the better, while helping others as they do it.  That’s what we were made to do!  Rules and incentives are no substitute for wisdom.  In fact, there’s no substitute for wisdom.

So, maybe reading one book a month would be a good endeavor for all of us.  This one could be an excellent start for you.  You can never gain too much wisdom.

In Pursuit of Practical Wisdom

It’s the Law!

Posted by – Laurie Renaud, Economic Development Coordinator

We’re pleased to report that Engle & Associates, P.C. located at 691 N. Squirrel LL125, celebrated their new home with a ribbon cutting ceremony yesterday.  The firm offers a variety of legal services such as family law, estate planning, bankruptcy, and criminal defense.

Mayor James McDonald (left) welcomes Engle & Associates, P.C.
Mayor James McDonald (left) welcomes Engle & Associates, P.C.

Owner Ralph Engle attended Michigan State University and University of Detroit Mercy College.  He’s also very involved in coaching and community service.

Ralph has a passion for helping young lawyers get started in their careers. So much so, his firm offers internships and at this time has three interns – one from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Oakland University, and Central Michigan University each – not bad using three out of the five colleges and universities represented in the City of Auburn Hills.

At this time Engle & Associates, P.C. has four full-time employees and three interns. Ralph told of the experience he likes to give to his interns by getting them very involved in all aspects of the legal process.  He said his interns don’t just make copies and file … he really shows them the ropes.  They’re part of client meetings, accompany him to court, and assist with the follow-up; so they get the whole picture and when they finish their apprenticeship they’re well versed.  This would be any intern’s dream!

Ralph Engle (right) and his firm are excited to open their new office in the City of Auburn Hills
Ralph Engle (right) and his firm are excited to open their new office in the City of Auburn Hills

So, welcome Engle & Associates, P.C.!  Our town is a better place with you in the neighborhood.

It’s the Law!

We Can All Drink To This …

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

Over the past few months, a number of City staff have been inspecting over 50 establishments that sell alcohol in our town.  Among these are party stores, drug stores, restaurants, bars, national department/grocery stores, fraternal organizations, big box discount stores, and at least one gas station.  To say the least, it’s a pretty involved process.

Why do this?  Good question.

The ability to obtain and maintain a liquor license in the State of Michigan is a privilege granted by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC).  This agency has controlled all alcoholic beverage traffic within the State since the end of Prohibition.

In assistance to the MLCC, City staff work cooperatively with Auburn Hills’ businesses with liquor licenses to ensure that they are caught up with their inspections, taxes, and other legal obligations annually.  If issues or violations are found at a business – and not resolved in a timely manner – then the City Council would report the problem to the MLCC.  Such action could lead to the business potentially losing its liquor license with the State.

Who conducts these inspections?  Well, it all comes down to the concerns and expertise of the individual City entities:

For example,

  • Officers from the Police Department review each license and check all the locales for any violations of the State Liquor Control Commission’s laws.  Throughout the year they perform bi-annual stings involving underage decoys and conduct random LCC checks, particularly when a special event or other activity would draw a larger than normal crowd.
  • Inspectors from the Fire Department look for violations of the Fire Code dealing with such items as sprinklers, emergency exits, kitchen equipment, and extinguishers.  Since they deal with fire safety, their inspections are quite rigorous and any violations must be repaired immediately or City approval of the license will be withheld.
  • Various inspectors from the Community Development Department check each location for violations of the Code of Ordinances and the Building Code.  Common violations include disrepair relating to the parking lots, outside dumpsters, stairs and rails, interior and exterior paint, landscaping, and interior and exterior lighting at the business.

With this oversight and City Council review, citizens can be assured that liquor establishments in the City of Auburn Hills are legal, safe, and in good condition.

I think we can all drink to that.


We Can All Drink To This …

Do You Know The Drain Detectives?

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Water Resources Coordinator

If we were to take a quick survey and asked folks to name a famous detective, I’d bet everyone would have an answer such as Sherlock Homes or Axel Foley.


I’m also certain most are aware that our Police Department has highly trained detectives on hand to investigate crimes.  However, what are the odds that people would know that the City of Auburn Hills has Drain Detectives?  Yes, Drain Detectives!

The Drain Detectives consist of employees from the Department of Public Services (DPS) and Community Development Department and these “detectives” investigate reports of potential discharges of pollution into the City’s storm drain system and local waterways.

How do they do it?  Well, DPS staff look for signs of pollution and illegal dumping during their daily activities of managing the City’s storm drain system.  If they identify a problem, they use their investigative skills to trace the pollutant upstream to the source.  Once the source is identified, the City is able to take appropriate measures to assure the problem is addressed.

Staff watch for signs of illicit discharges, which range from discoloration around outfall pipes, odor, or the presence of a sheen on the water.
Staff watch for signs of illicit discharges, which range from discoloration around outfall pipes, odor, or the presence of a sheen on the water.

The City also watches the waters of the Clinton River very closely.  Staff from the Community Development Department monitor water samples from various locations along the river to determine if there are unusually high levels of e-coli.  If such a problem is detected, staff work together to help identify the source.

So, the next time you’re out fishing or kayaking on the Clinton River (or just enjoying the view) have some comfort in knowing that the City’s Drain Detectives are around to help assure our  waters remain pollution free.

Do You Know The Drain Detectives?