Conservation District tells BOC they’re in ‘financial dire straits’

By Cathy Taylor

Correspondent

The Clare County Board of Commissioners gathered for their second scheduled meeting of the 2013 new year. All were in attendance with the exception of Commissioner Lynn Grim.

County Clerk Pam Mayfield passed information to the committee concerning a phone call received from Jim Spangler at radio station WCFX. The station will be conducting their annual food drive for the Isabella County area and wanted suggestions as to how they could include Clare County as recipients. Mayfield gave him information about the Clare Soup Kitchen. She said there will possibly be donation containers placed at the Members First Credit Union locations.

County Treasurer Jenny Beemer-Fritzinger announced that the annual show cause hearings for delinquent taxes will be held Thursday in the treasurer’s office. People can ask for an extension to pay delinquent taxes if they meet the criteria. On Feb 21 there will be a judicial courtroom hearing for people to seek extensions before a judge if they missed Thursday’s hearing. She announced her office is preparing to send out over 3,000 certified delinquent tax notices. These are the ones that have been delinquent for one year and are ready to go into forfeiture. She said there will be about $300.00 in statutory forfeiture fees attached to each tax bill unless paid by Feb 28.

Fritzinger also announced a Rabies Clinic will be held at the Clare County Animal Shelter Feb 9, from 10 am until 1 pm. A veterinarian from the Old 27 Vet Clinic will offer discounted rabies vaccinations and a representative from the Treasurer’s office will be on hand to issue licenses. Also on Jan 26, there will be a rabies clinic held at Family Farm & Home in Clare from 12:30 pm to 4 pm with area vet Dr. Pol. Fritzinger commented that people have the option of purchasing either one year or three year licenses and they do offer a senior discount.

The Clare County Sheriff’s Department made a special presentation before the Board announcing the appointment of Duane Miedzianowski as the new county Undersheriff. “Midge,” previously the Clare Chief of Police, stated he was happy to be back working for the county and was looking forward to the new challenges.

As his first order of business, Miedzianowski approached the Board asking that the Central Dispatch office remain under the direction of the Sheriff’s Department. He said he met with many individuals to discuss this matter and all agree with him. The Board passed a motion to leave Central Dispatch under the supervision of the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff John Wilson asked the Commission to amend the County’s purchase policy to allow his office to make emergency purchases as needed to avoid the lengthy process of bureaucratic red tape. He stated that if he happens to come across “good deals” on equipment, he should be able to purchase them on the spot in order to save the county money. In return for consideration of this financial cap, the Sheriff’s Department promised the Board to submit their budget amendments on a monthly basis. It was suggested by Board Chairman Jim Gelios that they meet with County Administrator Tracy Byard and put something in writing to submit at the next meeting.

Larry Gross, chairman of the Clare County Conservation District, along with several of their board members, gave a lengthy presentation informing the Commission as to their importance to the Clare County area.

Gross commented, “This Board has always recognized the value and the necessity of our services to this county as well as the importance of maintaining local control over our county’s conservation and environmental matters.”

Gross then announced to the Board that the Conservation District is currently in “financial dire straits” and is in danger of dissolving as the result of their failure to file federal and state taxes for the last two years.

Grosss began, “In October, one of our board members became concerned about issues related to our financial reports prepared for the Board of Commissioners for review and approval. This concern triggered a closer review of the accounting records. During our November 5th meeting, a motion was passed to appoint an internal audit committee to look into our account system. The audit revealed that the Conservation District had not filed federal and state taxes during 2011 and 2012. The tax due notices we had been receiving from both agencies had not been acted upon.”

Gross reported that since the issue was discovered, they have been working with the IRS and several state taxing authorities to rectify the situation. But it will take approximately three months before they have final figures in place as to how much they will actually owe.

Gross continued, “We have always taken care of ourselves. We have always cleaned our own house. But as a result of our oversight, we are in a critical financial situation. Our current cash assets will only allow us to continue operations for a short period of time. We accept our responsibility for not being as vigilant as our position requires and have learned a valuable lesson. “

Reminding the board that they no longer receive any monetary support from them, Gross asked for financial aid to keep the District afloat. It was suggested they meet with the Financial Board once all of the tax liability figures are in order.

In other Board business, a motion was passed to reimburse the Double T towing company for storage of a vehicle impounded as evidence in an accident involving a fatality. The Clare County Prosecutor directed the Sheriff’s department to have the vehicle impounded. A year later, the vehicle still remained in impound. Back in October, Double T submitted a bill to the county for $10,000.000 for the storage of the vehicle per Michelle Ambrozaitis. Double T later agreed to accept 25% of the original amount as payment in full.

It was also passed by the Board to approve a livestock damage claim for reimbursement to replace ten head of sheep in the amount of $770.00. A stray dog running loose in Sheridan Township killed the sheep and feels it is the responsibility of the county to pay for the loss. The Board agreed to reimburse the sheep owner out of the Animal Control Budget.