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With Pontiac financial emergency "resolved," a very different city emerges

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

For the first time in nearly five years, the city of Pontiac is not under emergency management.

Emergency manager Lou Schimmel resigned Monday, saying the city’s financial emergency is “resolved.”

Schimmel was Pontiac's third emergency manager, serving since September 2011.

Pontiac is a radically different city than it was five years ago. The city’s general fund budget is about half what it used to be.

The Oakland County sheriff provides police protection, the fire department merged with nearby Waterford, and most other city services that remain are done by private contractors. The city’s workforce has dropped from about 500 employees to just 20.

But former emergency manager Lou Schimmel says it’s a better-run city with a significantly reduced debt load.

“I would say, and I think the mayor would say, that the services being delivered here in Pontiac with $30 million are superior to what was being delivered with $57 million,” Schimmel said.

But the state will stay heavily involved in the transition back to local control. Governor Snyder has appointed Schimmel and several others to sit on a “transition advisory board” that will keep close tabs on Pontiac’s finances, essentially approving all major financial decisions.

Pontiac Mayor Leon Jukowski said this is about what he expected.

“It’s a transition period to show that the mayor and council can function, and make decisions,” said Jukowski. “And until they’re confident that that’s what’s happening, we will have state oversight.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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