New city manager focused on Hart’s future.

July 23, 2021

New city manager focused on Hart’s future.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — Rob Splane began duties as the Hart city manager June 28 and said he is focused on putting in “110 percent” for the city. 

Splane, who was a tech support analyst for JSJ Corp. in Grand Haven and owns West Coast Integration, LLC in Hart, served as a Hart city councilman and interim city manager prior to accepting the job.

A Detroit native, Splane, his wife Lyn and their children moved to Hart nine years ago. They have three children ages 22, 19, and 16.

Both he and Lyn have family in the area and regularly visited Hart. “I wish we would have done it 20 years ago. Hart has something special about it — people are welcoming.”

He began his career fresh out of high school serving as the public access coordinator for the school district he graduated from — Roseville Community Schools. He worked closely with the City of Roseville for that job and got his first taste of city government. 

He was offered a position on Roseville’s planning commission after serving on the citizens advisory council. He immediately discovered a passion for city planning. “I fell in love with planning.” That inspired him to study planning and urban development in college.

He has served on the planning commission in each community where he has lived, including Hart.

Splane, 42, worked as retail manager for Abel Electronics for seven years in Saint Clair Shores, designing audio systems for schools and government entities.

He saw a niche for a tech firm in Oceana County and launched his own business, West Coast Integration, LLC.

Now that he has the full-time city manager position, he is gradually phasing out that business.

Splane is focused on leading the city with improvements on the horizon.

“The city’s infrastructure is not in a bad spot, but it is going to need serious attention in the next 10 years,” he said. A state sewer and water grant allows the city to run cameras into the pipes to view them underground. 

“As a result of that study, they produced a capital improvement plan for 10 years, which includes tens of millions of dollars in necessary upgrades. The toughest heavy lifting for city council, city staff and myself in the next upcoming years is how to address serious repairs that are going to cost significant amounts of money without raising taxes and without raising fees for services — more than would be comfortable for most knowing we live in a community that struggles economically. We’re currently strategizing with our community stakeholders — our local industry — that uses a lot of those city services to work together and partner with our local community businesses and residents to say how do we want to pay for this as a group? That infrastructure piece is going to be one of the biggest problems to solve, but not a bad one because we know about it.”

In addition to infrastructure, Splane is focused on economic development in the city.

The Hart Economic and Redevelopment Team (HEART) is working with the Tax Increment Financing Authority (TIFA) Board. “They’re looking at doing a lot of really fun economic development things for Hart, both on the Polk Road corridor and downtown.”

Last May, former Hart City Manager Lynne Ladner left her employment with the city. She was hired in 2018 when long-time Hart City Manager Stan Rickard retired from the position. 

Splane was appointed by the council as interim city manager when Ladner left, and he resigned from his council seat due to a conflict of interest. He had been on the council for the last several years.

“Following Stan and Lynne, I feel like I have such big shoes to fill. Stan, in my opinion, was a financial master. He got the city out of some serious debt and straightened a lot of things out in the process. Lynne has an amazing amount of knowledge, education and training and she blows me away with what she was capable of.” That has inspired him to put in “110 percent” effort to try to fill those shoes.

“Hart is at a unique time where perhaps some of the long-time community members don’t want to see Hart change, and I can identify with that. But for the community as a whole — both the old guard and new younger people — some things have to evolve, some things have to change. If we can steer toward effecting positive change, I think Hart is going to grow but not necessarily into something we don’t want. It’s going to thrive as the community we know today but maybe a little stronger with additional amenities for our residents. 

“I think we have a great staff, council and community right now to do some really cool things. I’m excited to see us grow in a good way.”

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