By Erich T. Doerr | Review Correspondent
The Clare County Board of Commissioners met in Harrison on Wednesday to discuss a variety of topics including broadband, two deals with the Clare Conservation District and an amendment to the newly approved budget.
Following a heated public comment section the meeting began with a presentation by Clare County broadband chair Jerry Becker regarding towers and coverage in the county. Becker said the coverage is soon to expand to Winterfield Township with a site for a tower selected just north of the township hall.
“This will happen quickly,” Becker said.
Becker also said Franklin Township is also going to soon have access after repairs are made to a Consumers Energy tower from which the broadband signal is going to be broadcast. He said service should be up in the next 45 days.
” We’re rolling ahead,” Becker said.
Following Becker’s presentation the board entered into the consent agenda portion of the meeting. The board unanimously approved two motions, one to approve the Child Care Budget Summary and one to adopt Resolution 12-17 which covers State and County Court Oversight and Funding Realignment. Now approved copies of Resolution 12-17 are to be forwarded to the Michigan Association of Counties and all other counties in the state.
Later in the physical resources and economic development committee the board made several more approvals including one-year service agreement deals with the Clare Conservation District for the Gypsy Moth Suppression Program and the Soul Erosion and Sedimentation Control Service. The board also quickly approved the appointment of Robert Mulrenin to the Veteran’s Affairs Commission for a term ending in April 2016 but debate picked up when deciding on the MERS 457 deferred compensation plan.
“It gives our employees another option,” board member Lynn Grim said.
There was confusion as to what the plan would entail and although there was a motion on the MERS plan by board member Karen Lipovsky and a second by Grim the decision was made by the board to table the issue without a vote. The issue is going to be brought up again in the unfinished business section at the next board meeting on October 17.
When the meeting entered the unfinished business section the support was less universal on the discussion of the Michigan Drug Court Grant Program contract and the related Recovery Court Appropriation, the programs District Court Judge Joshua Farrell came in to last week’s budget meeting to lobby for only to find out the budget had already been approved. The program would cost $15,000 a year to run. Board member Leonard Strouse said those in his district didn’t like the plan and he voted against it on a roll call vote but the measure still passed easily. Strouse and Lipovsky both voted against the Recovery Court Appropriation but it also passed. The approved budget was amended to fund the program with $15,000 from the contingency fund.
“I think we need to put this $15,000 (toward the program),” Board chairperson Donald David said. “(The Judge) is expecting to run this program for years at $15,000 (a year)…I think it’s our best bet to approve this.”
The board’s last regular action of the day was new business including approval of a new one year Mental Health Service Agreement for the Sheriff’s Department to help mentally ill inmates receive treatment from the state. Grim stated she’s a member of the county’s mental health board but David noted there was not a need for her to excuse herself from the vote. The measure passed easily as did a new contract for senior services.
Recently Clare County Deputy Clerk Vicki Ferris passed away due to illness at the age of 61. While she is gone she is not forgotten and during Pam Mayfield’s clerk’s report Mayfield proposed a memorial to Ferris in the form of a tree planted in Harrison near the courthouse, it would replace two trees that had died and were cut down earlier this year. The board responded that it had no problems with the plan for Ferris’ memorial tree.
In county treasurer Jenny Beemer-Fritzinger’s report she stated that the airport fund only has $300 left in it adding that hanger fees and rent charged to a restaurant nearby are not enough to sustain it. County Administrator Tracy Byard noted raising fees is not an available option for now. The board decided to discuss the issue more in the Committee of the Whole meeting after the board meeting ended.
According to Byard once the airport discussion continued in the Committee of the Whole it was decided to investigate the airport’s insurance cost. She said they would do this by having her compare it against those of other airports in the area to see if a cheaper rate is possible.
“I’ll do some investigating and report back to the board,” Byard said.
The regular board meeting ended with a closed session so the board could discuss union negotiations. Following the negotiations the board commenced with the week’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
Byard added during the committee of the whole the board also decided to appoint Harrison retiree Jennie Pagel to a one-year term on the planning commission and grant approval to a proposed broadband contract with Freeman Township. Both the appointment and the contract are going to receive their final approvals at the next Board of Commissioners meeting on October 17.