Thursday, November 4, 2010

Election Over!, Pollution Prevention Regulation, Community Agency Funding, Police Funding

Sorry for the late posting of the blog this week. As you know, though, there was an election on Tuesday and life has been very busy. I am happy to announce that I won another term! Thanks to my wife and family, my honorable opponent Chris Christensen, and all of my supporters for all the help and support! All commissioners were re-elected, and the Democrats were able to hold a 12-4 majority. The one empty seat went from a Democrat to a Republican. While I was happy to win, several of my friends will be out of a job due to the Republican victories and they will be in my thoughts. If you know of any jobs, please let me know and I will pass them on to those who are looking!

Now on to the County News for the week…

The Finance Committee this week passed a new Pollution Prevention Regulation. The Ingham County Health Department currently does a variety of inspection and reporting on businesses that store, process, use, and manufacture polluting materials. We do this both as a requirement of federal law, and also as an issue of public safety.

Up until now, this has been done administratively and using general fund dollars (taxpayer dollars). The Health Department and the Human Services Committee have spend the last few months crafting an ordinance to officially address this, and to have the businesses who handle these materials pay the fees for pollution prevention instead of the taxpayers. They crafted language on what will be required by the businesses, and they settled on a fee of 75% to start (so that businesses are not hit with 100% of the fee in the first year). The Health Department is working through what businesses will need to pay the fee, and will be notifying businesses after the ordinance passes. Those who believe they should not be responsible for the fee can work with the Health Department. Commissioner Don Vickers has already worked with the Health Department to eliminate some who should not be on the list.

In addition to committee meetings on the ordinance, the Human Services committee conducted a public hearing and heard no opposition to the proposed ordinance. I am not on the committee so I learned much of this at the Finance Committee. When this was considered in Finance, I raised questions about having appeals go to the Board of Health instead of the elected Board of Commissioners. I was told that all health ordinance appeals go to the Board of Health, and I was satisfied with this answer after the Health Department accepted that they need to report the number and status of appeals to the Board of Commissioners. The resolution passed Finance 4-1 and will be considered by the full Board on Tuesday.

The Finance committee this week also took up the resolution to fund community agencies, as passed by the Human Services committee. For 2011, 35 agencies submitted applications totaling $248,084.50. The 2011 budget contains $187,261 available for community agencies. The Human Services committee funded the requests of the 19 agencies that “meet basic needs.” The remaining agencies were funded at 50% of their 2010 allocation or 50% of their 2011 request, whichever was lower. This resulted in 33 total agencies receiving funding. The Finance Committee did not change this allocation.

After a lengthy discussion last meeting, the Finance Committee passed a resolution amending the County Local Preference policy regarding contracts. We increased the preference threshold from the current 5% to a 10% local purchasing preference. As such, local registered vendors will have a greater opportunity to be awarded County contracts by being able to match other non-local bidders if within 10% of the lowest bid. Hopefully, this will help to keep county tax dollars in the county and help our local unemployment rates.

Finally, the committee began discussions of providing transition dollars for the one township that passed the police assessment. As you recall, the County Board of Commissioners eliminated funding for Road Patrol in the townships. I won’t go into the reasoning…you can look up previous versions of this blog for that! But we committed that any township that passed the special millage would receive dollars from us as they transition into their own funded police. Williamstown Township was the only township of the 13 to pass this millage (although several townships that defeated the millage actually voted for the zoo, which was a surprise to me). Commissioner Grebner introduced a resolution to give them $100,000 for any purpose (create their own police department, contract with another municipality, contract with the county) as long as any laid off sheriff deputies are hired first. The resolution was then referred to the Law Enforcement Committee to discuss. We also encouraged the Law Enforcement Committee to hold a committee meeting earlier than it is currently scheduled, but that will be up to the Chair of that committee. Time is definitely of the essence, and there are many things to do (contracts, details, etc) before January 1.

So, that’s it for this week. I hope everyone is over the election and glad that all the commercials are done!

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