Monday, July 5, 2010

Last Updated: July 05. 2010 1:00AM

Leeb leaves Pontiac surplus


Outgoing emergency financial czar says city in black this year after making controversial cuts


Mike Martindale / The Detroit News


Pontiac -- Emergency financial manager Fred Leeb ended his last day on the job last week much like others during his 15-month tenure: approving budgets, finalizing contracts and trying to get the city's finances in order.

Leeb was appointed in March 2009 to straighten out Pontiac's finances.

He made enemies along the way, particularly with the controversial sale of the Pontiac Silverdome. But he recently told the City Council the city had a $1.4 million surplus last year and is on track for a $3 million one during the first nine months of the fiscal year.

"It became pretty contentious at times so I feel that it's best for the city and for me to move on -- I feel a weight has been lifted off me," said Leeb, who has likened working at City Hall to working in a MASH unit.

Leeb announced his resignation last month, citing differences with Mayor Leon Jukowski. Leeb will be succeeded by Michael Stampfler.

"I think we have left the new guy in a good position," Leeb said.

In the past couple weeks, Leeb said his office:

• Reached a Blue Cross Blue Shield contract for city employees for next year that will save the city $500,000.

• Signed new agreements with the Teamsters and AFSCME and a tentative agreement with the police officers' union where city workers have agreed to pick up 20 percent of the costs of their medical benefits.

• Approved a budget voted down by the council at its last meeting. The council had requested another month to study the budget but state law required it be turned in by June 30, Leeb explained.

• Signed a contract with the Ashely Group to take over management of the Phoenix Plaza to operate events at the city-owned plaza through 2015.

• Extended a contract through October with United Water, a national group hired as a plant management company for the city's water system several months ago.

• Signed an agreement for the movie "Machine Gun Preacher" to be partially shot in one of the city's community centers.

Despite such efforts the city still has a $4 million gap in revenues and expenses for 2011 and could expect more layoffs and cost cutting, he said.

Leeb credited shedding costly properties, like the Silverdome, which sold for $583,000, with helping to reduce the city's financial costs. It cost $1 million a year to maintain the facility.

Leeb will return to his Orchard Lake office as a consultant for businesses, nonprofits and cities with critical financial issues. (248) 338-0319

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