by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

Colleen O’Toole took over as Durand City Manager on Feb. 13, and she has not wasted any time developing and implementing her plans to grow and improve the city. She has been collaborating with Clerk/Treasurer Lisa David to create a budget for the upcoming 2017-2018 fiscal year, but she has also been hard at work pinpointing potential areas of economic growth, while also focusing on ways to improve the city’s services.

During her first few weeks on the job, O’Toole, who most recently worked as the Chief Operating Officer for CartoFront of Chicago, focused on learning about Durand and getting to know everyone with whom she will be working.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know all the players,” O’Toole said following her first public meeting as city manager on March 6. “I believe in opening a dialogue both within the city and with the township. I know there is a history there between Vernon Township and the city, and I look forward to rebuilding that relationship. Everyone has been very nice and willing to give input. Hopefully this period of transition can be a catharsis.”

After meeting with department heads, O’Toole has determined that, since Durand residents approved a comprehensive streets millage in November, the city now needs to focus on improving its water infrastructure. The plan of infusing the city’s street improvement projects with water infrastructure improvements was first implemented by former city manager Amy Roddy and the previous council, but O’Toole plans to expand that effort to include the Water/Wastewater facility and its equipment.

“We will probably see a lot of line items for water infrastructure in the next budget,” O’Toole reports. “That is the highest priority as far as infrastructure spending. There are a lot of great opportunities right now at the state and federal levels for these types of improvements, and I want to make sure we’re not missing out.

“Along with that, we are working on a comprehensive plan for the upcoming road projects, where we will be addressing water infrastructure improvements simultaneously. We are very mindful of that as we plan the street improvements, and we will continue replacing any lead service leads as we find them along the way.”

During the interview process, O’Toole said she would use her expertise in social engagement and data analysis to guide her areas of focus. She has said that “long term sustained growth” is a big goal of hers, and she has stressed the need to involve the community in that process. As such, O’Toole has been seeking input from the Greater Durand Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Authority, local business owners, and other stakeholders as she crafts a community needs survey that will ask residents how they feel the city could be improved. With that data, the city will then be able to target businesses that fill a need in the community.

“I’ll be working with the local business services organizations to create a comprehensive needs survey,” O’Toole said. “A lot of it will be focused around business growth and what types of businesses consumers want to see. Having a strong downtown is a big draw for a city. I know there are a few business services that residents would like to see in Durand; services that people have to go outside our community to get. Hopefully we can attract those businesses here.”

O’Toole is planning to help local businesses obtain façade improvement grants, and she initiated the city’s proposed “Blighted Areas Ordinance” that was unveiled during the March 6 meeting. Identifying and designating blighted areas will allow the city to request blight elimination funding.

Several city council members praised O’Toole during the March 6 meeting by calling her “A breath of fresh air,” and commending her proactive approach, wealth of knowledge, and ability to “hit the ground running.” O’Toole and the council may still be in the honeymoon period, but it is evident that the council is delighted with its city manager selection and sees brighter days ahead for Durand.

City Manager Has Big Plans for Durand was last modified: March 21st, 2017 by Karen Elford