Commissioners’ New Term OrientationOn Feb.19 the County Commissioners met with the County’s administrative leadership for our traditional beginning of term working session. With all seven commissioners returning for this next two-year term, we focused our efforts on recapping key successes from last year and highlighting strategic priorities and projects planned for 2021 and 2022. The orientation session also included updated information about Michigan’s Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act, and their implications on areas of conduct such as use of social media. This was a valuable opportunity for commissioners to share with us their priorities and challenges from their individual perspectives and those of their constituents in each of our seven districts across the county.
The main goal of County administration is to ensure we work jointly with our governing board to support the judiciary, countywide elected officials and department heads, and most importantly our residents, as we all look forward to recharging our efforts that have been largely pandemic-focused over the past year. Click here to see the slides from our BOC orientation presentation.Highlights from a few boards and committees:The Calhoun County Board of Public Health met on Feb. 22 virtually. At this meeting, the Health Officer provided a COVID-19 response update, including good news about increasing mass vaccination efforts and the recent slower spread of the virus. Deputy Controller Megan Banning reviewed with the group the Public Health Department’s finances, which led to a discussion about the potential of waiving some or all of the Health Department’s 2021 fees for restaurant inspections and licenses. This item resulted in a recommendation to waive all of these fees for 2021, providing $288,000 in financial relief to Calhoun County’s food service establishments as they continue to operate with restrictions due to COVID-19.
The Calhoun County Economic Development Corporation met on Feb. 23. We elected officers for the new year as follows: President, Greg Moore, Consumers Energy; Vice-President, County Commissioner Gary Tompkins; Treasurer, Mark Montross, Bronson Battle Creek; and Secretary, Vic Potter. Community Development Director Jen Bomba updated the Board on various economic development projects the County is helping to support and suggested a follow up meeting soon to discuss more formal ways for our economic development efforts across the county to be aligned.
An ongoing conversation in Calhoun is about improving access to broadband, and I attended an event by Southwest Michigan First on Feb. 24 that is an extension of that effort. A listening tour by the Connecting Michigan Taskforce was meant to hear from local and regional stakeholders about what they’re seeing in their communities, and learn about federal and state broadband efforts. County Commissioners Jake Smith and Gary Tompkins, along with county staff and I have been meeting with a group within Battle Creek called the Digital Equity Coalition to launch a countywide internet access effort, and we will seek formal support from the Board of Commissioners within the next month to take next steps under the County’s leadership.
On Friday, Feb. 26, the annual organizational meeting of the Michigan Native American Heritage Fund Board was held. At this meeting, the board reelected the same officers for 2021, as follows: Chair, Jamie Stuck, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi; Vice-Chair, Dorie Rios, also from the NHBP Tribal government; Treasurer, Melissa Kiesewetter, Michigan Department of Civil Rights; and Liz Kinnart, appointed by the Governor. The NAHF Board also adopted its 2021 budget, approved the annual Administrative Services Agreement with the County, engaged an audit firm for 2020, and set this year’s meeting schedule and grant application timeline. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Mar.12, to review and finalize the 2021 grant application.
On March 1, Calhoun County’s Road Department hosted a Township Supervisors’ Meeting, held virtually. At this meeting, Road Department management shared updates on 2021 federal aid projects and reminded township officials to submit local road projects for consideration under the County’s Policy 509, which outlines cost sharing for road improvement funding.
There was a virtual Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance (MAEDA) Board meeting on March 2, at which we accepted the 2020 audit and approved a 2021 budget amendment. Under the leadership of CEO James Durian , MAEDA continues to increase investments in supporting businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, bringing tourists to Marshall’s downtown, marketing available development sites and providing learning and networking opportunities for Chamber members.
The Summit Pointe Board of Directors met on March 2 virtually, and we heard a presentation about statewide changes to tracking costs and other measurement data related to developing a consistent cost allocation and funding model for all community mental health agencies. In addition to approving various policy changes as recommended by subcommittees, CEO Jeannie Goodrich provided an update, which included the latest information about a new 24-hour psychiatric care facility which will open on March 22. County Commissioner Kathy-Sue Vette chairs ths Summit Pointe Board.
I also attended this week the latest in a series of Michigan Association of Counties Podcast 83, with MAC staff providing valuable legislative updates from Lansing and the latest proposed federal stimulus package.
Calhoun County Board of Commissioners
At the Thursday, March 4 Board of Commissioners meeting, the consent agenda included a support resolution for a culvert replacement on E Drive North in Emmett Township, an amendment to the SWMBH Intergovernmental Contract, an employee pension plan service credit purchase, and local road improvement agreements with Albion and Eckford Townships. In addition, two reappointments were made to the Calhoun County Economic Development Corporation Board. The Board also made a proclamation to declare March 2021 as the 19th Annual March for Meals Month. Read the proclamation. This proclamation acknowledges the hard work, especially in the last year, by staff and volunteers who make the Meals on Wheels Program a success in Calhoun County. Visit this landing page for information about a live event later this month. In new business, the Board,
- Approved the 2021 Native American Heritage Fund Board Administrative Services Agreement for an annual revenue amount of $15,000
- Approved an amendment to the inmate medical contract to increase the level of mental health services provided within the County jail
- Approved a Public Health Department Waiver of 2021 Food Licenses and Other Inspection Fees, totaling $288,000 in savings to local businesses, mainly restaurants.
Around the CountyUpdate from the Road DepartmentOn March 1, seasonal weight restrictions were implemented on local county roads. These weight restrictions are help preserve and protect our local roads when they are most vulnerable from freeze and thaw cycles that cause road damage. Read the press release.
- Tree work continues in Marshall and Albion Townships
- Pothole patching is taking place countywide
- Boom mowing is ongoing in Albion, Clarendon, and Sheridan Township
- Road Department employees are performing winter maintenance as needed