Flushing 2020: A Year in Review and a look ahead

FLUSHING — The year 2020 proved to be eventful for the City of Flushing as it experienced a major realignment in governmental leadership and addressed challenges posed by COVID-19.

In mid-March, Flushing City Council was left with four vacancies when former council members Dick Bade, Patrick Scanlon, Lynne Black and Karianne Martus each resigned. To ensure that the city council would be able to conduct business, the county appointed Flushing City Planning Commission Chairman John Olson as an interim council member later that month until a new council could be elected in August.

Following the August primary election, new council members Dan Fralick, Danielle Smith, Dane Miller and Eric Johnson were sworn into office—giving Flushing City Council a full quorum of seven members for the first time since January.

City administration also underwent an overhaul with the firing of former City Manager Brad Barrett in April. The city council then replaced Barrett with Clarence Goodlein, the former city manager of the City of Wixom.

Goodlein will remain as an interim city manager in Flushing until a permanent replacement can be made.

Like many surrounding communities, Flushing was strongly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Flushing Mayor Joseph Karlichek, along with Interim City Manager Clarence Goodlein, said that the virus and accompanying restrictions caused great hardships for local businesses, while forcing a temporary closure of Flushing City Hall.

“While the City’s workforce and its delivery of services have been complicated by COVID-19 and regulations and restrictions by state agencies, the City has adapted to these circumstances through flexible scheduling of employees and employees’ use of personal-protective-equipment,” the mayor and city manager said in a statement. “The City is grateful for the assistance that it has received from local businesses, such as Beacon and Bridge Markets, who have provided masks and antibacterial wipes that help our first responders, other employees and visitors to City Hall remain safe.”

Amid the crisis, city leaders were able to accomplish several goals. In September, the city settled a new contract with the Flushing Police Department and finished a negotiation process that had lasted for two years. The city council also approved a $5 million investment into Flushing’s Wastewater Treatment Plant for renovation and repairs, while city administration completed an analysis of each department to address critical infrastructure and personnel needs.

“The City recognizes that its workforce and human capital need stronger recruitment, retention and succession plans that will provide a resilient and reliable workforce,” Karlichek and Goodlein said in a joint statement. “In this regard, the City has and will continue to fine-tune the methods, policies, and procedures by which it hires and retains employees and provides for continuing and effective leadership as its workforce ages and retires.”

In December, the city began installing livestreaming equipment to broadcast council and committee meetings online and selected a vendor to begin creating a new, improved website for the city.

“Providing our citizens the access to their elected leaders is critical and will only increase,” said Karlichek. “With upgrades to our website (early 2021) and livestreaming all open meetings of the city, we will provide the community opportunities, like never before, to be engaged and helping us move our city forward.”

Heading into 2021, Karlichek said that he and the city council will continue to encourage residents to shop local and support small businesses in Flushing. He also said the city will be rolling out a capital asset plan to address important departmental needs, such as: structural repairs for the Flushing Fire Department building; evaluation of the Department of Public Works (DPW) facility; and replacement of some equipment that is used to maintain streets and sewers.

During the next year, Karlichek said that city leaders will also finalize a plan to manage obligations to retirees and pensions “with less impact on annual expenses and (the city’s) operational budget.”