State of the Community- Local GovernmentsThis year’s “State of the Community” address was hosted by the County and the City of Battle Creek, and included local government highlights from Albion, Marshall and Springfield as well. This coordinated event was made possible partially by the pandemic, which required the virtual format and allowed for unlimited participation. We will work with the Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce next year to evaluate the best way to deliver their traditional event and make sure we’re covering both local government happenings and economic development initiatives in the clearest way for our communities.
From improvements in customer service capabilities to enhanced employee policies in response to the pandemic, to support of economic development and our voter supported special millage programs, we accomplished a lot in 2020. As for what’s to come in 2021, residents should look for major parks and road projects, relaunching plans for a county wide public transit system, and the monumental task of vaccinating 70%-80% of adults in Calhoun County. Watch the program on the City of Battle Creek’s Youtube page.
February is Black History Month! This month, we take time to recognize the contributions African American men and women have made throughout history. I found a couple local resources particularly helpful and wanted to share.
- The United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo gathered resources on its website to learn about Black history, including readings, links to museums, and events.
- The Battle Creek Enquirer’s Nick Buckley also wrote an article in 2019 that shares the histories of some Black Americans in Battle Creek, who made the city what it is today. You can learn about John W. ‘Pat’ Patterson, who was the City of Battle Creek’s first African American police officer in 1909, after being head coach of the Battle Creek High School baseball team, and Ben Grayson, who was the first Black restaurant owner in Battle Creek, operating Chicken Car Grayson, a sandwich shop in an old electric street car on SW Capital Ave. Check out the article for more.
This February, we’re appreciating the impact Black Americans have had on our country and more importantly our communities within Calhoun County. I hope you’ll join me in learning about our historyHighlights from a few boards and committees:On Jan. 25, the Board of Health met virtually. Health Officer Eric Pessell provided an update on COVID-19 in the community, including very positive feedback on our mass vaccination clinics.
The Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance (MAEDA) Board met on Jan. 26. At this meeting, I reported on our last Finance and Audit Committee meeting, noting an upcoming revised budget that will include investing revenues in increased marketing and downtown development efforts.
On Jan. 26, there was a meeting facilitated by a group of local stakeholders and leadership from the Battle Creek Community Foundation about extending broadband access to the entire county, which is a new albeit critical effort in Calhoun to increase digital equity. This meeting was regarding next steps for data collection, which is crucial for understanding the situation and next steps. I attended this meeting, in addition to Assistant Administrator Brad Wilcox, IT Director David Hackett, and Community Development Director Jen Bomba, on behalf of the county.
Beyond the Cereal Bowl, a monthly community partnership breakfast held by Harper Creek Schools Superintendent Rob Ridgeway, took place on Jan. 28, virtually. Speaking at this event were Dr. Adrien Bennings, President of Kellogg Community College, and from the County, Sheriff Steve Hinkley and Commissioner Derek King.
On Jan. 29, the Battle Creek Rotary Board of Directors met. I provided the Treasurer’s Report, which was discussed. Additionally, the Board discussed membership and community service initiatives, both currently challenged by COVID-19.
At the end of January, I attended New Legislation Boot Camp put on by Title Check, who provided information to county treasurers and others about the latest legislation related to Michigan’s general property tax laws, and specifically surplus funds acquired through forfeiture and foreclosure. I attended this with Treasurer Brian Wensauer and Deputy Treasurer Melinda Weaver, as well as Krista Trout-Edwards from the Land Bank Authority and Legal Counsel Jim Dyer. We’re actively learning more about how the latest legislation will affect these processes in county government.
Also during this time, I attended multiple sessions of the MME Winter Institute, a virtual winter conference of the Michigan Municipal Executives, our statewide association of county, city, village and township managers. Informational sessions included best practices in branding and economic development for local communities, and just some great leadership reflections. I also want to take this moment to congratulate City Manager Rebecca Fleury, who was recently voted president of MME.
The County’s recently established internal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee met on Feb. 1 to discuss the results from a DEI survey that was sent to employees near the end of 2020. Next steps for this committee are to share survey results with employees, garner broader participation within the committee, review certain policies for needed updates and provide training countywide at various levels, likely starting with county leadership. More information will be provided as soon as dates and details for this training are finalized.
Also on Feb. 1, I attended a live recording of Podcast 83, which is produced by the Michigan Association of Counties. These podcasts include updates from MAC staff, who keep us up to speed with legislative efforts affecting counties.
On Feb. 2, the Summit Pointe Board met virtually. We heard an educational report regarding youth services, approved amendments to employment agreements for administrative staff, and reaffirmed policies, as we do throughout the year. County Commissioner Kathy-Sue Vette chaired the meeting, and I provided as Treasurer highlights from the last monthly finance and audit committee meeting.
Also on Feb. 2, I attended an all-employee training on resiliency in a time of crisis, which provided practical solutions for not just surviving but thriving when times are hard and while working remotely. One of my favorite aspects of these trainings is meeting employees across the county who I wouldn’t have a chance to meet otherwise. Thanks to our County HR/Labor Relations Director Kim Archambault and her staff for offering these valuable training sessions for our employees.
Calhoun County Board of Commissioners
At the Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 Board of Commissioners meeting, the Board approved 31 appointments to various boards and committees countywide. For a full list of who was appointed to which boards, please visit the meeting agenda. In new business, the Board,
- Approved a notice of intent to issue 2021 Pension Obligation Bonds and approved the Comprehensive Financial Plan, which is posted to our website
- Approved an award for chip seal slag, for the Calhoun County Road Department
Around the CountyUpdate from the Road DepartmentOperations
- Road Department employees are performing winter maintenance as needed
- Tree work is ongoing in Marshall and Albion Townships
- Boom Mowing is ongoing in Clarendon Township
- Pothole patching has been completed countywide