Another busy week this week. The road commission debate kicked up a notch. In County Services, we considered a resolution to remove Shirley Rodgers from the road Commission Board. There was a ton of discussion by committee members, after hearing lots of testimony from the public. Commissioner Grebner proposed an alternate resolution which stated that the Road Commission Board is dysfunctional. It said that the Road Commissioners do not trust the manager, the manager doesn't respect or take direction from the Road Commission, and the employees don't seem to trust either. The resolution attempted to wipe the slate clean by calling on all five Road Commissioners to resign so we can start over. If they did not resign, the resolution said that we would not re-appoint any of them.
I have not decided yet which way I want to go. I don't know if there is enough evidence to reach malfeasance or misfeasance to remove any of the Road Commissioners. I was asked after the meeting what I thought malfeasance was and I said I wasn't sure how to explain it. I then realized that I am not allowed to explain it because it is contained in an opinion from our attorney. This Tuesday, I am planning to make a motion to release that legal opinion so I can tell people what we believe malfeasance and misfeasance is. We are releasing two other legal opinions so I will attempt to add this one to the list.
I also firmly believe that it is time to abolish the Road Commission Board and bring the road commission in-house and make it a county department. Two other counties have done this, and Ingham needs to do it as well. The Legislature is working on bills that will allow for this, and I am hopeful that they will pass soon. I plan to introduce a resolution that will accomplish this once it the legislation passed and signed into law.
The road commission resolution was tabled until the next county services meeting. While it is my preference to have a special committee set up to explore the allegations, my understanding is that County Services will continue to work on this and has scheduled a special meeting on November 29th at 6 pm for this purpose.
In other news, we passed a resolution allowing for scope changes to the Hawk Island Snow Boarding Hill project to allow for the addition of obstacles, rails and snow sculpted features and potentially a separate warming facility. These items would put the Hawk Island Boarding Hill on Michigan’s map as a destination. The Friends of Ingham County Parks, a non-profit 501c3 organization, will enter into an agreement with Urban Snowparks LLC to act as the fiduciary in regard to fundraising for any and all additions to the current project scope. Any of these additions will not cost the county a dime. They will be paid for by Urban Snowparks, who will do the fundraising and will keep a small percentage (somewhere around 17%) of the dollars as a fee. It is understood by all parties involved that no changes of a permanent nature will be undertaken until all funding is secured and notification has been provided to the Ingham County Parks and Recreation Commission. Additionally, it is understood that the Ingham County Board of Commissioners will not approve further funding for the construction of the Snow Board Hill. We also have no liability in this process. The resolution passed 5-1. Commissioner Vickers voted no because he said he doesn’t know how this fundraising group are presenting themselves to the public.
We also appointed Sherrie Graham as interim zoo director. We needed to do this to ensure we have a zoo director for re-accreditation. Potter Park Zoo society revenue stream increased 20% with Sherrie as leader, and she can do the business stuff for the zoo until a final decision has been made for a permanent zoo director. The Zoo Society is covering Sherrie’s expense until the current Zoo Director retires on Jan 18th. We talked about adding a salary figure into the resolution in both County Services and Finance committees, but are still negotiating that number.
Finally, we passed resolutions opposing two bills in the Legislature. We opposed HB 5039, which says that local units of government can't protect any citizens that aren't protected by the state Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act. One example of local protections is to prevent those discriminated against for sexual orientation. There are other examples of local protections, though...including East Lansing protecting students. I pointed out that this bill is anti-local control. The resolution passed 4-2, with Commissioners Vickers and Dragonetti voting against it.
We also voted to oppose HB 4770 and 4771. These bills prevent local units of government from providing domestic partner benefits for people that live with county employees. This passed on a 5-1 vote, with Commissioner Vickers opposing it.
This week, we will have the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday. It is also Veterans Day on Friday, and I wish to thank all those that have served in the military and defended our country. You have kept us safe and free, and I thank you!
Until next week...