Burned By Movie Studio, Allen Park Gets Emergency Manager

DETROIT (AP) – Brought down by a bum deal on a movie studio, the Detroit suburb of Allen Park has become the latest Michigan city with an emergency financial manager.

Treasury officials appointed Joyce Parker on Thursday. She starts Monday.

“Joyce Parker has an outstanding track record of making the tough, but necessary financial decisions to address financial emergencies in both the city of Ecorse and with Highland Park Schools,” Treasurer Andy Dillon said in a release.

Parker is president of The Municipal Group. The Ann Arbor-based company provides organizational assessments, recruitment and training, community and economic development services to municipalities.

She was appointed emergency manager for Ecorse in 2009 and Highland Park Public Schools in May.

Parker will continue in that role for Ecorse. Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday appointed Muskegon Heights Schools emergency financial manager Donald Weatherspoon to replace Parker in the Highland Park district. Weatherspoon will direct fiscal recovery in both school districts.

Managers also are in place in the Detroit Public Schools and the cities of Benton Harbor, Flint and Pontiac.

Allen Park’s financial troubles are partly a product of a failed movie studio development project. The city issued bonds in 2009 to finance land acquisition for the studio. After a review of city finances, the state said officials paid about $11 million more than the property was worth.

The studio bombed, leaving Allen Park with annual $2 million debt service payments.

Allen Park’s city council voted in March to request the state review its finances. Voters defeated a proposal in May to help cover $2.6 million a year in bond payments for the development project.

Following a recommendation by an independent review team, Gov. Rick Snyder last month said the city was in a financial emergency. That paved the way for Parker’s appointment.

“Throughout her time as an emergency manager, Joyce has worked collaboratively with local officials, citizens, and others to address financial crises and ensure delivery of services,” Dillon said. “I am certain that will continue in Allen Park.”

In Ecorse, Parker reduced annual spending by more than $3 million. The city has a positive general fund balance for the first time since June of 2005 and the current year budget is balanced.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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