Board of Commissioners Meeting 6.3.21

Awards

For this meeting, we will be handing out awards for our hard working board members. Throughout this recap, we will give the following awards:

  • THE CHEAPSKATE AWARD

The Cheapskate award is given to the board member that shows an extra-ordinary ability to clutch on to pennies. This award is for those who fret over minor expenses. Bonus points if the member’s cheapness actually costs the county more money in the end.

  • THE MICROMANAGER AWARD

The Micromanager Award will be given to a Commissioner that unnecessarily meddles in day to day business that is supposed to be handled by an employee.

  • THE “I AM AN EXPERT” AWARD

This award is given to the Commissioner that has no idea what they are talking about, but still confidently bumbles through questioning an actual professional.

Facilities

Facilities

In 2017, the Board hired a design firm to present plans for a facilities master plan. The firm did an assessment and issued an extensive, 500 page report. That was in 2019. Since then, the Board has done nothing.

Now, this all sounds very boring. But, it is important to a LOT of people. Instead of micromanaging employees and refusing to spend money, the Board is SUPPOSED to be doing this kind of stuff. Big picture stuff.

So, why does the county need to do this at all?

  • Part of the evaluation, the firm declared that the current jail is unsuitable to the needs of the corrections department. The firm stated that, in terms of square footage, the jail should be at least twice the size of the current jail, just to be adequate and meet standards.
  • The jail is a liability nightmare waiting to happen.
  • Also, the firm showed that if they continued to just maintain the current facilities, the county would be looking at up $6M in maintenance costs.
  • The County’s facilities are right smack in downtown Bellaire. The current complex features a beautiful, historic courthouse. Then, everything else is awful. The jail is an eyesore. The annex building looks like the headquarters for some third world terrorist cell. The county administration building looks like a Brutalist penitentiary.

The Village of Bellaire wants to kick the County right out of downtown (except for the courthouse). The idea that the Village favors is moving the County’s facilities to an area across from Meadowbrook. This would allow the county to construct new buildings that would better meet the needs of the county. It would also allow the Village to utilize the space around the courthouse in a way that benefits the village’s downtown businesses.

Commissioner Rubingh mentioned that a lot of companies are allowing employees to work from home. If employees work from home, then we don’t need as much room in county facilities.

Of course, the more conservative members of the Board are leaning toward just renovating current facilities. But, if you are just going to end up spending $6M in maintenance for aging facilities that do not provide adequate services, why not spend a bit more and construct bigger and better facilities?

$60,868

That’s the amount of money that the County spent fighting a lawsuit that was based on a conspiracy theory. And guess what? It is still going on. There are further hearings upcoming.

$60,868 and counting…

Trash Can Saga Continues

The damned bears up at Antrim Creek continue to hunger for trash. The Board stands opposed to ANY trash cans at Antrim Creek and especially oppose bear-proof trash cans. But, the trash keeps piling up. So, the parks director floated the idea of just throwing some 55 gallon drums out around the park. When he spoke with the Bear Hunter’s Association about this, they were so concerned that they offered to pay half of the bear-proof trash cans.

bears being bears

RIDICULOUS! The County has the money and there is a recognized need. Why do we have to ask for hand outs when tax payers have already filled up the county coffers and are expecting their government to provide needed services?

Write the damned check. Buy the damned trash cans.

So, the bears eat the trash, and there is no way to stop them without spending money. The question that we now face is “would it be easier to train a bear not to eat trash, or train a commissioner to actually spend money?”

I’d bet on the bear.

Conservation District

County Forester Mike Meriweather presented the Conservation District’s annual report and then subjected himself to micromanaging and hand wringing.

Commissioner Lavanway was frustrated that the Conservation District does not communicate enough with the Board. She was concerned about the $180,000 of county appropriations that go to the highly-secretive ACD. She declared that she has no idea what the District is doing. She cannot find meeting minutes for the District.

Meriweather reminded her that the Board of Commissioners has a liaison that serves on the ACD board and comes to every meeting. Lavanway asked what the Cedar River property was comprised of. Lavanway wanted to know if the ACD has maps of the property that they managed.

Commissioner Lavanway has apparently never heard of the Conservation District.

Commissioner Rubingh is concerned that so many of the District properties are “landlocked”. Meriweather pointed out that this was just not true. Only one parcel is landlocked, and The District is working on getting an easement on that piece of property. Rubingh continued to push the point. He stated that some of the easements that the District had negotiated were only for timber, and he could not just use that easement to go hunting. Right? The Forester agreed. The Commissioner had made his point! And we all clapped!

Mr. Meriweather made another really good point when responding to Lavanway. It is really difficult to work with the BoC right now. They eliminated the subcommittees that traditionally worked with stakeholders and departments. These subcommittees used to do a lot of the leg work before bringing items to the full Board. All those committees are gone and that creates a challenge in working with the Board.

Free Money

The Undersheriff applied for a grant for extra funding for marine patrol enforcement of slow / no wake zones. Another easy thing here. The department already applied for it. The department was awarded $27,000 to cover extra staffing costs.

The County requires Board approval for all grant applications (all of them). This one requires $0 county expenditures. So, this should be automatic, right? Who could have an issue with free money?

And here we go:

  • Which rivers are going to be patrolled?
  • What equipment will you use?
  • How will staff be moved around?
  • Why was this applied for without Board approval first?

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is a healthy process for a municipal board to set long term goals and create plans for the direction of the municipality. Big, complex, institutions are hard pressed to direct the massive and complicated web of institutions in a positive direction.

Strategic planning is a work session where a group sits down with a trained professional who facilitates a discussion where disparate groups can come together and make common goals.

This is a pretty basic and common sense thing to do. Therefore, Lavanway and Rubingh were adamantly opposed to it.

They were concerned with the cost, even though the first sesssion would cost a grand total of zero dollars.

The Board turns over its membership every election. Strategic planning would help set long term goals that would span the various changing boards. Instead of the starts and stops that occur, the strategic plan would inform the overall direction of projects, staffing, and appropriation management.

Rubingh insisted that having some consultant included in their conversation would not help a thing since the Board is more than capable of making a decision. Lavanway agreed. An trained expert in facilitation and strategic planning was not needed. She claimed to have been through the process “many” times and did not think it was needed.

Hopefully the Board gets out of their own way and starts thinking about the County’s big picture.

Congratulations

This meeting was the first where 😮 Election Fraud 😮 was not mentioned once. We are starting to make progress!

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