Saturday, November 19, 2011

State Rep Announcement, Road Commission, Parks Hardship Passes, Parks Free Days, Contracts

First, my exciting news. After looking at the possibility for a few months, I have formally announced that I will be running for the State House of Representatives next year. With Rep. Joan Bauer unable to run again due to term limits, I will be seeking to represent most of Lansing and all of Lansing Township. You can see the announcement and other information at The campaign has already knocked hundreds of doors and raised over $45,000, and will continue pushing forward until the August Democratic primary! This also means it is now official that this will be my last term on the County Board of Commissioners. More on that in the future.

On to county business...County Services this week continued talking about the Road Commission. I was unable to be at the committee meeting due to a death in the family and funeral being held that day. My understanding is that they discussed the various options, including my proposal to disband the Road Commission when state law allows us to do so. The committee directed our Administrator/Controller to provide a document with the pros and cons of such a move. The County Services will again take up the road commission issue on November 29th in a special meeting. My hope is for some movement to me made at that point.

They also discussed a resolution that was brought to committee from the Parks Board which would restructure the County policy on hardship admissions to the parks. Currently, if someone cannot afford to pay the car entrance fee they simply state that they need a hardship waiver and are allowed admittance for free. They fill out a form and can be mailed a free parking pass. While this is done for those that cannot afford to pay, the Parks Department is seeing a lot of abuse of this system. They presented a new system where people would fill out a form and provide proof of hardship in order to receive the yearly pass. They would also have to pay a $1 fee for the processing of the free pass to offset money spent on staff time and postage to mail the free passes. Oh, and folks not from Ingham County would no longer be eligible for the waiver. The County Services committee had lots of discussion about this proposal, and tabled it because several were uncomfortable with it.

They did pass one piece of the proposal, though, which would change the weekly free park day from Monday to Wednesday. This would save about $10,000, mostly because Mondays have a lot of holidays and people take Mondays off as part of an extended weekend. The Finance committee also debated this resolution (both the table part and the passed part), and I was there for that meeting. Commissioner Nolan commented that she does not want to see fee increases outside of the normal county budget and fee process. I agreed with that and said that we should deal with all fees at the same time. She also commented that she doesn't like the vehicle adn entrance fees for the zoo because people already pay the millage. She also said that the parks will make a lot of money off of the new tubing and snowboarding hills and shouldn't need the revenue. Commissioner Bahar-Cook agreed that non-county people should not be given a waiver, but expressed problems with the $1 fee and said that seniors should receive parks discounts. Commissoner McGrain suggested that we look at driver's licenses in order to decide who gets the waiver. This is not currently done becuase some people have addresses in Lansing and East Lansing but are not in Ingham County, and it is hard for the young people at the ticket booths to differentiate.
charging for weekdays. He also pointed out that we just started charging for weekdays, so changing from Mondays to Wednesdays should not be a big problem. The resolution passed with Commissioner Nolan voting no (because she likes having the free day on Mondays, and wants to send a message to the Parks Board to do the fees on an annual basis).

We also approved contracts for the 2012 budget. Mostly they were noncontroversial, but a few questions were raised about the appraisals for equalization, tree trimming at zoo and whether or not Lansing City Forestry can do it (which is unlikely becayuse they are overworked now), why Animal Control spay/neutering is going down $8,000 (answer - because we hired a veterinarian), and questions about the Sheriff's secondary road patrol being down 40,000 (answer - the general fund picking this up to ensure the deputy will not be laid off).

That's it for this week!

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