Another busy week on the County Board of Commissioners.
County Services Committee went 2 hours. We considered a few resolutions from the Treasurer. One dealt with moving money from the Delinquent Tax Fund to the 211 call system. In case you don’t know, 211 is the phone number you call when you need human service assistance. It is run by the tri-county United Way. The Treasurer said that he works with them often because of foreclosures and other issues where people run into trouble and need their help. He moved $5,000 from this fund, which was added to the $35,000 that the county gives them for operation of this phone number and staffing. I raised several questions about if Eaton and Clinton counties put in money for this. Apparently they put in a little, but not much. I again commented that regionalism means everyone putting in their own fair share, yet Ingham County is once again putting in more for the greater good. It seems that it is always important for regionalism when we pay more, but it never works the other way (example – Ingham County alone pays for the airport, even though it is in Clinton County!!!). I will continue to argue that all parties need to kick in money for true regionalism to occur on this and all other issues!
We also allowed the County Fair to move $48,850 budgeted for electrical uses to instead be used for a new master plan. The old one is really old (1970’s or so) and they need a new business plan and a competitive analysis of the Fairgrounds and its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Although I think that is a lot of money, we were assured that it will result in funding from other sources. When we did the beer tent, I indicated that I would support efforts to fund the Fair (that will prevent general fund dollars) and I am holding to that. I supported the resolution but told the Fair Board members that I truly hope this results in money to keep the Fair going. We were also assured that moving this money will not affect operations that were expected to be done.
We provided funding through the Health Department for electronic health records (HER). The EHR moves us from paper/written medical records to electronic records. It is not only required by federal law for the many grants that we get, it also gives us other capabilities - reporting to the federal government, patient management and billing. Paper medical records will be a thing of the past in the next 5-10 years. This will also allow us to share information with other health care instructions in the area and around the world.
The Finance Committee took up a resolution to allow Judge Garcia to contract with a specific attorney to do public defender work on juvenile delinquency cases. This one attorney will take all of the cases in Judge Garcia’s court, and all the cases in the Truancy Court. It is a pilot project for a year. It will save the county money because the attorney is willing to work for less than the amount that we usually spend. Commissioner Bahar relayed to the Finance committee that the Judiciary Committee had concerns that there could be a relationship between the jkudge and the attorney thatr could affect the ability of the attorney to proprelt advocate for his clients. Concerns were also raised about the fact that there is one attorney working with one judge, and that the attorney will want to stay in the good graces of the jkudge in order to get the contract in the future. I shared these concerns and offered an amendment that took care of this. We did not question anyone’s integrity, but wanted to be sure that the process remain without any problems. I proposed an amendment that would specify that this program is a pilot program, and that if it continues after the pilot then there will be an independent selection process instead of one judge deciding who the best person is for the job. Commissioners Grebner and Tennis assisted in drafting this language, which made us all feel a lot better about the pilot program.
Budget discussions start next week, with the County Services committee starting hearings. We should have the budget proposal in the next day or two. Wish us luck!