Thursday, April 19, 2012

Road Commission, Mowing Lansing Parks, Health Care Millage Proposal

Another busy week for the Ingham County Commission!

After many months of discussion and consideration, the County Services committee considered the resolution to dissolve the Road Commission Board and have the Ingham County Commission take over the powers of the Road Commission. Commissioner Celentino lead off the discussion and talked about the December Dec 15-1 vote of intention to take over the road commission. He said that the 15-1 vote was a vote of no confidence in the road commission and leadership at that time. Since that time, though, a new chair was installed and there is a new direction and restored relationships. Also, the road commission board is dealing with the problems and bad decisions that have occurred in the past. He said that the first phase to solving the problems at the Road Commission was for the county to absorb the Information Technology (IT), Finance, and Human Resources (HR) operations. This has been done with passage of resolutions by the Road Commission Board. Celentino argued that we need to give Chairman Dravenstatt-Moceri a chance to reach his goal s. His proposal was to pass amendments saying that the County Commission would take over these operations and give the Road Commission Board 6 months to show that they have fixed things. At that time, the County Commission would re-assess the situation and decide what needs to be done.

Commissioner Grebner argued against any such amendments or plan. He said that the Road Commission Board is guilty of meddling with employees and that they should not make decisions for anyone other than managing director. He said that the managing director currently doesn’t have the authority to hire his own employees. He can’t hire an operating director, and can’t get rid of an assistant that disagrees with his decisions. Grenber said that as long as the managing director doesn’t have control over subordinate positions, there is a problem with the Board.

I asked Chair Dravenstatt-Moceri if this is still the case and he said that the Road Commission Board gave the power of hiring and firing to the managing director though a resolution passed on March 19th. And he mentioned that the meeting before that, the Road Commission Board passed a resolution to contract with the county for IT, Finance, and HR. There is now a contract in place between the County and the Road Commission for the County to provide HR services. The county HR division does the scoring and recommendations for positions, class and pay analysis, recruiting , complaint resolution, etc. and the managing director does the actual hiring and firing. The Road Commission Board has been removed from the process and simply deals with roads.

After hearing all of this, I offered to draft language for a substitute that could be offered to do what Commissioner Celentino recommended. I did not have the time to draft it that night and doing amendments one-by-one wouldn’t make sense because of the many changes that needed to be made. A motion to table the resolution until the next meeting was offered so a substitute could be drafted. That motion was defeated 3-3. The resolution then was voted on, and it passed 4-2. Commissioner Todd Tennis offered the substitute that I worked on when the Finance committee met the next night. My understanding is that the substitute failed 5-1, and the resolution passed Finance 5-1 as well. The substitute will be offered on the Board floor when the resolution comes up on Tuesday.

The County Services Committee also again discussed the contract for mowing of small parks in the City of Lansing and the Lansing River Trail. The City of Lansing Parks Director attended the meeting and gave some good answers to our questions. He said that City seasonal employees are not being called back because of budget difficulties and not because of the contract with the County. While I appreciate his attendance and his answers, several questions were not really answered. I asked how many seasonals were called back in previous years and how many are being called back this year. He didn’t have the numbers, but said it was at least 17 or so. Knowing that the City has had budget difficulties the last few years, it is hard for me to believe that the County contract is not contributing to the lack of call-backs. I also could not get past the commitments made to us when we passed the contract that seasonal employees would be moved to other departments . That did not happen either. When asked what would happen if the County cancels the contract, the Lansing Parks Director said that either another public entity would contract with them to do the services, or they would call back more employees. It would depend on which is more cost efficient. As I said to Mlive, this was never a question about service. The County Parks Department does a terrific job. But I do not want to County to be the reason that Lansing seasonal employees are not called back and not making a living. As such, I voted to end the contract. First, Commissioner Grebner offered a motion for the resolution to be delayed until the end of the summer so that the contract could just end and not be renewed. That died without support. The resolution was then considered and passed 4-2.

In the Human Services committee, the Ingham Health Plan (note: this originally said Ingham Health Department, which was an error) made the case for a Health Care Millage to be put on the November ballot. The gave us a powerpoint talking about the Ingham Health Plan and how they are providing local solutions to local problems – specifically access to health care for low income folks. There are over 11,500 plan B members (which is the primary program). There are over 32,000 uninsured Ingham County adults. They said that the limitations on the program without more funding are lack of providers, access to timely care (people are seen in 6 weeks for new patients, or in 2-3 weeks for existing patients). Our Federally Qualified Health Centers are at capacity which cause these delays. Additionally, the IHP Board is looking at freezing or limiting enrollment. Hospital Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) ceilings are dropping so there is less hospital funding. DSH funding is based on uncompensated care, so when ceilings drop the federal DSH funding goes down. What we need are more providers, and the only way to get those is with higher reimbursement rates. There are questions that will only be answered when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act in June. IHP costs will continue to rise, though, and with more members comes more assistance needed. Even if the ACA is not struck down by the courts, there are still 18,000 residents that remain uninsured . 40% of these people will receive Medicaid, but 60% will not realize that they are Medicaid eligible and will need the IHP to help them find that out. They said that with a millage, they can expand infrastructure and access, increase reimbursement rates for providers, help people navigate the system for services, etc. They are asking for .61 mills, which would be $4 million. The average household of $75,000 taxable value would pay $45.75 per year. We had a lot of questions for them. I reminded them that about five years ago, we had a glidepath towards 100% coverage, but hit a point where we just couldn’t find more people to be enrolled. Some people just don’t trust government and we hit a plateau. There were also other questions about the campaign and process, and about how this will relate with the other ballot initiatives on the November ballot. Personally, I am still not convinced that we should go to the ballot with this but I am open to the discussions which will continue throughout the summer.

We also considered lots of other issues, but this blog is long enough as it is. See you next week!

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