Saturday, January 22, 2011

Drain Assessment Position, Housing Dollars, Road Commission Changes

First, I need to apologize for this blog being so late. We had a long meeting Thursday night (keep reading!) and I had a birthday party last night. This was the best time to get the blog done!

This week, County Services and Finance met and had lots of items on their agendas. In both committees, we considered a new position in the Drain Commissioner's office. Apparently, drain assessments have been done in the past by four different part time people. Drain Commissioner Lindemann wants to make this more efficient by making this one position specifically. His proposal is to remove a 1/2 time position from the general fund and have a full time position be funded from the drainage districts. He told us that there would not be an increase to the drainage districts because the assessments would cover it. And it will save money from the general fund. It passed both committees, but the Republicans voted against it. I supported it because it is a savings to the county and creates an efficiency. The Republicans said that they are concerned with the timing. There were also lots of discussions with the drain commissioner regarding other major drain projects and assessments, which really were not relevant to the resolution.

We also passed resolutions for Mason and Williamston for housing. We passed a resolution accepting $283,300 in Community Development Block Grant Funding from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority for rehabbing rental properties in Mason and Williamston. This funding was requested by the Ingham County Housing Commission. We also accepted $319,999 in Home Grant Funding from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to provide homeowner rehabilitation assistance in targeted downtown area neighborhoods in Williamston and Mason.

In addition to committee work, we also spent several hours Thursday dealing with Road Commissioners. We interviewed five candidates for two positions on the road commission. For those not familiar with the Road Commission, they are the board that oversee the roads for all the municipalities that are not cities in the county. The five candidates included two incumbents on the road commission. There were lots of issues that we had to review as we interviewed.

On the positive side, it seems that the communication between the road commission and the township boards has much improved. Communication has been a major problem in the past. We heard from just about all the township supervisors in the county in support of reappointment of the incumbent road commissioners because of their work and communication. Also, communication with the Board of Commissioners has greatly improved from years ago.

On the negative side, though, we heard several instances of discrimination of the staff at the road commission. We heard several stories of minority employees having racist comments being used towards them and several stories of supervisors discriminating against people because of skin color or ethnicity. Both minority and caucasian employees came to the meeting to complain. The allegations were very serious. In addition, there have been several civil rights complaints.

We posed many questions about management, roads and other issues to the candidates. Some answers were satisfactory and others were not. At the end, though, most of the Commissioners were convinced that there is a morale problem at the road commission that must be addressed. The County Services committee of the Board will be taking this up soon. These problems also resulted in the two incumbent commissioners being not reappointed. While they seem to do a good job in terms of roads and communication, they could not overcome the internal problems that have arisen at the road commission and with the staff.

I congratulate Marc Thomas and Milton Scales for receiving the 6 year appointment, and hope they can join the incumbent road commissioners (Shirley Rogers, Norman Gear, and Jim Dravenstatt-Moceri) in continuing the good service to the residents while also fixing the many issues that have arisen at the road commission. I also thank Joe Guenther for the 6 years he put in to help the residents of Ingham County, as well as Tom Mitchell for the 2 years he served on the road commission on behalf of Ingham County residents. Finally, thanks to Luke Canfora who applied and has a sincere interest in serving the residents of Ingham County. I am hopeful that the road commission management will get the message that discrimination is simply not accepted, and policies can be put in place to ensure training and repercussions for these issues.

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