Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Land Bank, Beer Tent at Fair, and 0% Pay Increase for Commissioners (as promised!)

The County Services and Finance committees this week took up a resolution moving properties to the Ingham County Land Bank. Several of these were in my district so I took particular notice of them. This is a good time to talk about the Land Bank and how it works. When properties are foreclosed, the county and the city have a chance to use them for public use. If they don’t the properties go to sale at auction. If no one buys them, the county sells them to the Land Bank, which is a relatively new tool (created in the last 10 years or so). The Land Bank has money in a revolving loan fund that they spend to acquire the property then fix it up and sell it at fair market value. They also have received a significant amount of federal dollars (a few million) for properties in the City of Lansing. In essence, they rehab existing properties using economic development tools (Brownfield, etc) and cash on hand. This is exceptionally useful in urban areas as there are tons of foreclosed and vacant properties (but is also great in rural areas for fixing properties). The Land Bank puts those properties back on the tax rolls. Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing is a leader in the Land Bank community and is a pioneer in redevelopment. I served on the Land Bank and witnessed first-hand the exceptional things they do. The resolution we passed this week will allow the Land Bank to rehab several properties and get them back on the tax rolls. I am a proud supporter of that effort!

The Fair Board sent the Board of Commissioners a resolution asking us to create a beer tent at the annual Ingham County Fair. As I have mentioned before, the Fair is self-sustaining and takes no general fund dollars. They have had problems actually being self-sustaining in recent years and this is one revenue generating measure they recommended to us. They anticipated that two volunteer groups would work the tent and will be recruited and trained by the distributor. These volunteer groups would be required to carry liability insurance. The hours of operation would be limited to Monday – Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. with service stopped at 11:00 p.m.; and Saturday 3:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. with service stopped at 11:00 p.m. A conservative estimate is that the net revenue generated from the adult refreshment tent would be $12,000 - $15,000 and would be split 50/50 by the fair and the volunteer group(s). The Sheriff is supportive if there is an officer at the gate of the tent. The tent will be located in the Midway area, on the north side of the grandstand. This area will be fenced and admittance will be limited to adults 21 years and older. This will allow adults to sit and observe the Grand stand events from the refreshment area. No one will be permitted to leave the fenced area with a beverage. Beer, malt liquor, and wine will be the only alcohol served. Pricing will not be discounted below industry standards. Individuals will only be able to purchase two drinks at a time. Licensee for the tent will be 501C (3) non-profit group/s. Six other Michigan fairs have beer tents and have not had problems. A woman from Bunker Hill Township representing the 4-H (I can't remember her name) opposed this resolution with concern that children will get alcohol. I supported this resolution with the safeguards outlined (security, seperate area, age requirements, etc.). The resolution was defeated 3-3 in County Services. There are indications, though, that this will be brought up as a personal resolution on the Boad floor, so the full Board will vote on this on Tuesday.

The County Services and Finance Committees passed a resolution setting Commissioner pay for the 2011 and 2012 years. We always set them a term in advance. We passed compensation that is the same as the current year, with no payraise. I have been adamant that Commissioners should not receive pay raises when employees don't receive them. We work hard, but so do our employees and everyone needs to sacrifice. We should not take pay raises if county employees are not. In fact, last year I voted to eliminate the 2009 payraise and reduce the 2010 payraise. Because I don't think Commissioners should be receiving a payraise in 2010, I contributed mine back to the county to go towards necessary county services. Commissioner Grebner will argue that Commissioners should have payraises, and he will make that passionate argument on Tuesday at our full Board meeting. I will report on that next week!

We also started to deal with Rayner Park. The County closed the Park last year and now is in the process of trying to give it to the City of Mason. But, as always, issues have arisen. We are working through those and I expect this to be cleared up soon. This blog is long enough already, so stay tuned and I will give more on the background of this issue in a future blog.

On the political front, the campaign continues to go well. I have talked to many voters who think I am doing a good job and who are unhappy with the negative campaign of my opponent. In an email to county Democratic party members, he made many of the same negative allegations against all of the County Commissioners and again failed to list any issues he wants to advocate for. I also found out that he lied to the Military Order of the Purple Heart about my vote on funding for them. I supported funding for them two years in a row, and he is saying that I opposed it. He is also saying that I am moving out of the district in two years. Where am I going? This was news to me! Thanks to my supporters who told me about both of these falsifications that he is spreading. Should be an interesting 60 days until the election. If you want a lawn sign or want to assist in some other way, please email me at aschor@yahoo.com.



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