BOC approves raises for prosecutors

Wednesday’s Clare County Board of Commissioners meeting contained the usual amount of normal business, plus acknowledgement for an act of heroism, and requests for increases in salaried positions.

Brett Hansen, MMR’s Operations Manager in Clare County, and the two EMTs who responded to the incident, presented Raymond McLeod with a plaque honoring his bravery and heroism for saving the life of an accident victim.

Hansen said, “On December 29th, Mr. McLeod and his wife were driving through Clare County when the driver in front of him lost control of their vehicle, left the roadway, rolled over and landed submerged in a frozen pond, trapped in the vehicle.  Mr. McLeod pulled his vehicle over, exited his vehicle and ran and jumped in the frozen pond, with the driver still trapped in the vehicle, seat belted in, unable to get out.  Using a pocketknife, after he forced the door open, he cut her out and pulled her to safety.  And, if it were not for his actions that day, the outcome would have certainly been very different.  We felt it was very important to recognize him publicly, not only for his act and to thank him for what he did, but to hold him up as an example for the rest of us.”

Mr. McLeod’s parents, Alice and George McLeod from Sterling, MI, were present to watch their son be honored by MMR.  McLeod received a standing ovation from the Board and the employees and citizens attending the meeting.

County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis came before the Board to ask approval to hire a new Chief Assistant Prosecutor.  Brendan Curran, who currently holds the post, will be accepting the job of Otsego County interim Prosecuting Attorney on April 2nd.  Ambrozaitis requested that the Board allow her to raise the salary of both the Chief Assistant and the Assistant Prosecutor.

Ambrozaitis posted the opening online, but commented, “In 13 days, we’ve had no applications.”  “With the duties that we have and with the salary that’s being paid, we are not competitive with other counties,” Ambrozaitis told the Board, adding, “We need to draw people who are experienced and who want to stay here.  Otherwise, we’re going to continue to have people come to Clare County as a stopgap measure, until they can move on to a position that pays them better and offers them opportunities for raises.”

Further, she requested that the Chief Assistant’s salary be split between herself and the Assistant Prosecutor until a replacement for the Chief Assistant can be hired.  Ambrozaitis said she would pay for the increases by an agreement between her office and Community Development that would pay an hourly wage for enforcement of building code violations.  Lori Ware, Community Development Director, and Ambrozaitis said they had checked with the County’s auditors to make sure the arrangement would not present problems.

During discussion, Chairperson Don David commented, “There seems to be an attitude around here – Michelle kind of touched on it: ‘You can find money for every other project, but you can’t find money for my project.’  I take real exception with that.”  David continued, “There seems to be an attitude in the whole building that if we don’t put the money into wages, we shouldn’t put it into anything.”

Commissioner Jim Gelios added, “I think it’s important to make clear this is not General Fund money, that this is a contract of enforcement with Community Development.”  Gelios continued, “Some of the negotiations we had with some of the departments, we told them if they found money, we would give that back to them on the wages.  Some of them did.  They gave up things. We never gave any of the departments extra.”  “It may not look good; it’s not going to be pretty when we meet other departments, but I think we need to make tough decisions and I think we need to do it,” Gelios concluded.

For the most part, the Board agreed.  They approved all four of Ambrozaitis’s requests, which would allow for the interdepartmental agreement, a $6,555 raise in the Chief Assistant Prosecutor’s salary, a $3,445 raise in the Assistant Prosecutor’s salary, and the splitting of the Chief’s salary until a replacement for Curran could be hired.  The vote was 5-1, with Commissioner Karen Lipovsky casting the dissenting vote and Commissioner Lynn Grim absent.

During the Committee of the Whole meeting, District Court Judge Joshua Farrell came before the Board with a similar request.  Farrell said Magistrate Rick LaBoda would be leaving on March 23rd, and that he had appointed Attorney Karen Willing to replace him.  Since Willing is an attorney, Farrell said, her duties could be more extensive than LaBoda’s were, and he asked the Board to allow him to increase the Magistrate’s wage between $4,000 and $4,500, which would come out of the court’s existing budget.  The Board voted unanimously to send the measure before the full Board at the next regular meeting.

Also during the Committee of the Whole meeting, the Board voted to send several other items before the full Board for approval at their next meeting.  911/Central Dispatch Director Keith Yats asked for approval to purchase centerline and flyover topographical imagery data “to bring or County on track for the preparation for the NexGen 911 standards.”  Yats said the company agreed that the $16,100 purchase could be paid in two payments – half from the 2012 budget and half from the 2013 budget – and that the 911/Central Dispatch budget had the funds available for the purchase.

The Board also agreed to send before the full Board a motion to allow Emergency Management Director Jerry Becker to apply for a Homeland Security Grant and a motion to allow Treasurer Beemer-Fritzinger to refund (refinance) the Building Authority and Clare City Water and Sewer bonds.  Beemer-Fritzinger said the move would save the County approximately $50,000 over seven years.

In her report to the Board, County Clerk Pamela Mayfield stated that the February 28th presidential primary went smoothly, with all precincts reporting by 8:40 p.m.  Mayfield said the largest turnout was in Redding Township, where both the township supervisor and clerk were recalled.  The township will need to have a Special Election on May 8th to replace those officials, according to Mayfield.

County Treasurer Jenny Beemer-Fritzinger reported that her office had just sent 1,190 forfeiture notices to the Clerk’s office for delinquent 2010 taxes.  Beemer-Fritzinger also reported that she sold 122 dog licenses at the February 25th Rabies Clinic she attended.  In order to receive revenue sharing from the State, Beemer-Fritzinger said that counties must now meet three “best practices” criteria for 2013.

The County currently meets two of the three criteria, and is in line to receive approximately $400,000 in revenue sharing money in 2013 as a result.  Commissioners will discuss how the County might meet the third criterion – and thus be eligible for an additional $161,000 — at their upcoming Ad Hoc committee meeting.

Also at the Clare County BOC meeting on Wednesday, the Board:

*appointed Denise Neff Goschka to the Clare County Department of Human Services Board.

*agreed to send a letter of opposition to the Living Legacy program, where the State intends to purchase land to return it to its natural state – developing what the Board felt were fire dangers and creating property that the counties could not collect taxes on.

*introduced Master Sergeant John Jansen, who has been in the Army for 28 years, was injured in Afghanistan and is undergoing rehabilitation at home.  Jansen is working out of the Veterans Affairs office and will help as needed in the County Building until his rehab is complete, which he estimated to be in eight months.

*voted to proceed with the 2012 UHF/VHF Radio Communications Project, with the project cost not to exceed $5,500, and with funds coming from the Contingency fund.

*approved the Sheriff’s Department to purchase a computer, paid for out of the General Fund, to be reimbursed by the Jail’s Commissary Fund.

*adopted the “2012 Intergovernmental Contract Allowing Access to the Clare County Broadband Network Infrastructure”, with Board Chair to sign.

*approved four budget adjustments in the Community Development and Senior Services Budgets, and one General Fund budget adjustment.

*appointed Commissioners Kleinhardt, Lipovsky and Burger as regular members of the Statutory Finance Committee, with Commissioners Strouse and David as alternates.

*concurred with the City of Clare’s request for tax abatements for Robotic Welded Parts and Integrity Prints.

*reminded the public that the County’s next Ad Hoc committee meeting was on March 14th at 1:00 p.m., and that the Central Dispatch committee’s first meeting was the same day at 10:00 a.m.  Both meetings are open to the public.