Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dental Director, Future Health Services Issues, Employee Negotiations, Alcohol Tent at Fair, Road Commission, Sun Country Landing Rights in DC

What started out as an easy week was not as easy as I thought! The Human Services Committee met on Monday. We revisited the re-creation of a Dental Director position. After reviewing the scoring of the position by our HR, and re-reviewing the benefit in terms of dollars and service, we all agreed that this was a wise move. Commissioner Vickers asked for language in the resolution specifying this is a 20% administrative position and 80% dental position. The amendment and resolution both passed unanimously. It also passed the County Services committee unanimously on Tuesday. The other major item on the agenda was a presentation on the Transformation of Health Care Delivery by the Health Department. It was interesting. Lots of new regulations and codes and things as a result of the national health care law. We also learned of the increased need, which has led to increased hours and weekend hours for health department staff. We also heard that we will need to look at capacity issue that are coming as soon as 2014, and we heard that federal funds for the Ingham Health Plan will be ending by 2016 with medicaid picking up the slack, and we will need to figure out how to pay for this program. The Ingham County Commission will have lots of outstanding health care issues to solve for our residents!

The County Services meeting was much more controversial. We lead off with a quick review of the language that we passed last week dealing with employee negotiations. The language said, "TO GIVE THE CONTROLLER THE AUTHORITY TO CONTINUE TO PROPOSE TO THE BARGAINING UNITS A HYBRID RETIREMENT PLAN FOR EMPLOYEES HIRED ON OR AFTER JANUARY 12, 2012 AND UNDERSTANDING THAT THE CONTRIBUTION RATES AND MULTIPLIER ARE SUBJECT TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING." Commissioner Holman (the Chair) clarified that this language is intended to allow for all options to be discussed [previous blog language deleted because of differing interpretations]. Several of the unions expressed appreciation of this clarification, including the UAW, the Michigan Association of Police, the Ingham County Employees Association, and the Michigan Nurses Association.

We then passed a resolution to make the beer/alcohol tent permanent at the County Fair (as long as the Fair Board wants it). The Adult Refreshment Tent was open from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays during Fair Week in 2010 and 2011. The 4-H council liaison raised opposition to this because the Fair is integral part of 4-H, and 4-H is a youth development program. He also questioned the income that they county has realized and said that it has only been a few thousand dollars when it was projected to be $50,000. He argued that it is not worth the risk for the low revenue, and that the Fair will lose money because people are not coming due to the alcohol. Commissioner Grebner pointed out that when we first passed this, we were told that there would be drunks and animals let out of cages and accidents and many other disasters. None of these happened. I pointed out that many people have told me that they attend the fair because they can see the show and have a beer or glass of wine. I also pointed out that there is alcohol in other fairs and art festivals and a variety of child-friendly settings. I said that this attracts people to our fair. The Fair Manager agreed that it is not making enough money, but that he will be changing that. He also said that he will put it in a more confined place away from the 4-H and children. Commissioner Vickers said that he does not think that a youth event should have alcohol. The resolution passed 4-2, with Commissioners Vickers and Celentino voting against it.

We had a scheduled presentation from the Road Commission Board. In an interesting coincidence, that afternoon the Michigan House passed the bill allowing County Commissions to eliminate Road Commission Boards and bring the operations in-house. The new Road Commission Chair - Jim Dravenstatt-Moceri - talked about the potential hiring of an HR person in coordination with the county HR staff, and how an HR person will help to prevent the internal problems that exist by meeting with staff confidentially and identifying the problems. He also said that the Road Commission is doing good job with roads. His foal is for the Road Commission to be a good place for employees. He also said that the HR director would meet with union leadership to build a relationship for creditability and trust, which is not existent now. And, he said that the HR director will result in savings by certain things in-house that they now pay lawyers to do. He finally said that they are looking to revamp employee policies and procedures, that they Board has unanimously approved the managing director (Bill Conklin) for another year, and are looking to fill the finance director position in conjunction with the county HR director. Road Commissioner Norm Gear sad that they don't want to undermine the system, want a safe environment, and want efficient work for the constituents of Ingham County. Commissioner Milton Scales said that he supports the Chair and what he wants to accomplish. Road Commissioner Marc Thomas was also in attendance.

Commissioner Mark Grebner forcefully stated that the plan presented by the road commission was unnecessary and irrelevant because the County Commission passed a resolution to disband the Road Commission Board on a 15-1 vote, and that the Road Commission Board should simply talk about how they will assist the transition. Committee Chair Holman said that the Road Commission could present ideas and options, but Grebner pushed back that the County Commission didn't want ideas because we are on record eliminating the Board. Road Commission Chair asked for a year until the County Commission implemented that takeover resolution, but Grebner said that dissolving the Road Commission was the way the County Commission is going until a resolution is passed otherwise. He also told the Road Commission members to stop the hiring process, and that any new staff would be decided by the County Commissioners and County Controller once the Board is dissolved. The County Controller indicated that she is pulling together recommendations to move the operations to the County, including recommendations on benefits and retirement plans and al other factors that need to be figured out. No timeline was given, but indicated that with the imminent signing of the bills, the recommendations will need to be considered soon. With that, the discussion was ended.

Finally, I would point out that we unanimously passed a resolution in support of sun country airlines having landing rights at Reagan National Airport. Sun Country has two inside perimeter slot exemptions at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Sun Country has used these slots for daily roundtrip service between Reagan and Lansing since April of 2011. This service has proven to be popular, with the Sun Country airlines experiencing a 156% increase in daily passengers in the third quarter of 2011 from the year earlier. If Lansing loses this service, it would be one of the few state capitals without non-stop service to Washington, DC. The resolution supports Sun Country Airlines' appeal to retain landing rights and slot exemptions at Reagan airport, and was forwarded to the US Department of Transportation, the Capital Region Airport Authority, Congressman Mike Rogers, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Senator Carl Levin.

Whew...lots done for the residents of Ingham County this week!

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