This week was very busy for the County Commission. As I have said before, we do much of our work in committees, and we spent considerable time on several items this week.
In County Services, we started out with about an hour discussing the Land Bank. Treasurer Schertzing presented us with about 130 tax foreclosed properties for the county to acquire. When a property goes into tax foreclosure, the county acquires it and, in our case, decides how that property is disposed of. Some are auctioned off, some are demolished, and some are purchased by the Land Bank to be redeveloped and resold. Some commissioners are concerned that our Land Bank has too many properties as it is and do not want us to take on any further burden. Schertzing explained that many of the properties are bundled and sold at auction, and only some are retained by the Land Bank. And those that are retained are redeveloped and sold to go back on the tax rolls. The Land Bank has been doing an excellent job getting properties back in shape, especially with the current state of the economy leading to so many tax foreclosed properties. This includes both residential and commercial properties. In County Services, the resolution passed 4-2, and in Finance it passed 6-0.
A resolution was put before us that would have the County maintain several City of Lansing parks. The Mayor has apparently requested that the County maintain 25 city parks of 5 acres or less, and 15 parks on the river trail. The language provided by the Mayor’s office, though, was greatly concerning to many of us. We discussed this with our Parks Director. The resolution itself listed several think that the County would do. The primary function would be mowing, with specific conditions listed. These include mowing to a certain height, pick up grass clippings, trimming all vegetation around obstacles (fences, signs, posts, curbs, sidewalks, etc), removal of branches and leaves on trails, snow removal, removal of all litter and trash debris on the lawn, and emptying trash barrels daily. Also listed was signs to be installed by County staff and graffiti removal, but we rejected those two conditions because they would take significantly more manpower and time. It requires that the county do a thorough clean up before the first mowing in the spring, compliance of the Snow Removal Ordinance regarding sidewalks, and other things. In exchange for all this and more, the City will pay the County $236,000. While many Commissioners had some initial doubts, our Parks Director assured us that we could accomplish the needs for this amount. Questions were raised, though, if our actions here would result in layoffs at the city or have other labor implications. We are looking into those questions. We also heard that the Mayor sent this to us without discussing it with Council. Many of us Commissioners are hesitant to get in the middle of another fight between the Mayor and Council (as we did with the zoo), so we wanted to be sure that all parties at the City are aware of this request from the Mayor. We have sent this to our City Attorney for review, and will start negotiations with the appropriate City entities.
In Finance, we had a very active discussion about the Juvenile Justice millage. This is the millage that was approved twice by Ingham County residents. Every year we approve a certain amount of money from the millage to go towards community agencies that assist youths that are at-risk and have not yet gone through the courts (pre-adjudicated). This amount now is $100,000, and Commissioner Nolan expressed that she would like to see more money going towards these prevention efforts when possible. Commissioner Bahar-Cook also discussed the makeup of those that have applied in the past and how they can use the money. The committee had a good discussion of the dollars available, the amount matched by the state through the Child Care fund, and the importance of prevention. We will move forward with the $100,000 amount, but several of us (including me) expressed that we would like to see more for prevention if there are enough agencies applying.
Finally, if you haven’t seen the Lansing State Journal or national news, Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel, Jr filed a personal lawsuit against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for not paying taxes owed. The County Services and Finance committees passed a resolution to have the County enter into an agreement with the Home Defense League to represent the County and file suit to recapture these fees. In essence, we would replace Hertel as the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Hertel is the statewide leader in this effort (once again) and filed the suit himself because time was of the essence. With passage of this resolution, the County will officially take on the lawsuit, as is appropriate. We expect to receive tens of millions of dollars that are owed to the County by Freddie Mac and Fannie May, who chose not to pay the county and state taxes that are owed. Read here for more information!
And for those following my political State House campaign, I sent out an email this week to supporters indicating that we have raised more than $35,000 in 4 months and have received tremendous support from elected and neighborhood leaders. The momentum has been tremendous, and continues to grow. Stay tuned!
That’s it for this week. That is just a snapshot of everything that we have done, but I think it is long enough!