County Funds Nonprofits, Sets Deputy Price

Also, five new budget-related work sessions scheduled

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (June 1, 2011): Budget issues again occupied commissioners’ focus at this month’s county board meeting. The board took an initial vote to set the price for a contract sheriff’s deputy and to approve funding for local nonprofits.

Dick Fleece, Monique Reeves, Kelly Belknap, Wes Prater

From left: Washtenaw County public health officer Dick Fleece, newly appointed public health medical director Monique Reeves, interim deputy county administrator Kelly Belknap, and county commissioner Wes Prater. Commissioners approved the hiring of Reeves at their June 1 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

While the board’s previous meeting drew supporters from a range of human services groups, on Wednesday most public commenters spoke against funding of one specific nonprofit: Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan. Their arguments on financial and moral grounds were ultimately unpersuasive to commissioners, who voted unanimously to approve support for Planned Parenthood and several other agencies, totaling $1.015 million through fiscal year 2013, including $53,040 from the county for Planned Parenthood.

Two commissioners raised concerns that county funding for human services in general is inadequate, especially in light of proposed changes that could bump thousands of beneficiaries statewide off the welfare rolls later this year.

In a vote that also holds budget implications, the board’s move to set the price for a contract sheriff’s deputy was remarkable mainly for its lack of debate – historically it’s been a contentious issue. Commissioners gave initial approval without comment. The price set in 2012 for a police services unit (PSU) is $150,594 – unchanged from this year. That’s followed by 1% annual increases through 2015. The difference between the actual cost of a PSU and the amount charged – roughly $25,500, based on current figures – would be covered by the county. The item will return to the board’s July 6 meeting for a final vote.

Meanwhile, a 2006 lawsuit filed against the county over the amount it charged at that time for contract deputies remains unresolved. Judge Joseph Costello of the 38th Circuit Court Chief has ordered the county and Augusta and Ypsilanti townships into non-binding facilitation, in a meeting set for June 22.

During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners also approved a raft of other items, including: (1) the hiring of Monique Reeves as new medical director; and (2) five drain projects in Ann Arbor that require bonds backed by the county’s full faith and credit. The board also voted to add five new working sessions to its calendar: on June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, Sept. 15 and Oct. 13. All are focused on the 2012-2013 budget.

Finally, at the end of its meeting the board went into executive session for about an hour to address three issues: (1) a collective bargaining strategy; (2) possible settlement of pending litigation; and (3) review of a legal opinion.

Funding for Human Services Nonprofits

On the agenda was a resolution for final approval to allocate $507,500 in children’s well-being and human services funding for 2011, as well as additional funds in 2012 and 2013, contingent on the board’s approval of those budgets later this year. In total, the board was asked to allocate $1.015 million through 2013.

The allocations for these awards were recommended by a coordinated funding review committee. The committee focused on six priorities for the entire county: housing/homelessness, aging, school-aged youth, children from birth to six, health and food. The process is being managed by the joint county/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, which is coordinating the funding efforts of the county, the city of Ann Arbor, the United Way of Washtenaw County, and the Washtenaw Urban County. The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation is participating in other parts of the effort. [.pdf of funding recommendations]

The board had given initial approval for funding at its May 18 meeting, when they also heard from about 20 people during public commentary, mostly urging commissioners to continue support for various nonprofits. Three people at that meeting spoke against funding Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan.

At the June 1 meeting, most of the public commentary came from 10 residents who opposed funding for Planned Parenthood. Two people spoke in support of funding Planned Parenthood. Commissioners did not change the recommended allocation – a total of $67,440 was earmarked for the nonprofit, including $53,040 from the county.

Ccommissioners had approved the coordinated funding process at their Nov. 3, 2010 meeting. They had been briefed on the effort at an Oct. 7 working session, and most recently discussed the process at their May 4 meeting. The governing bodies of all other coordinated funding groups have now approved the allocations, including the Ann Arbor city council, which took a final vote at its meeting on Tuesday, May 31.

Related to this funding, the office of community development released a 16-page report last week that attempts to quantify the economic impact of the local nonprofits that are funded by the county and city. In 2011, the combined investments from the city and county in those nonprofits totaled $2.7 million. According to the report, those funds leveraged more than $34 million in non-local revenue.[.pdf of nonprofit investment report]

Funding for Human Services Nonprofits: Public Commentary

At Wednesday’s meeting, a dozen people spoke on the issue of funding for human services, 10 of them objecting to funds allocated to Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan (PPMSM). Here’s a summary:

Brigid Kowalczyk of Ann Arbor said she applauded the board’s support of nonprofits, but urged them to defund Planned Parenthood. She noted that several people were at the meeting to outline reasons for defunding, and that they had provided a handout to commissioners as well. [.pdf of document given to the board – the 2008 IRS Form 990 for PPMSM, and portions of the nonprofit's 2009 annual report.] Kowalczyk highlighted some of the funding data from the nonprofit’s tax return, concluding that Planned Parenthood didn’t have a problem raising money, and didn’t need money from the county. There are other organizations more deserving and that help people who are truly in need, she said.

Karen Walacavage of Superior Township told the board that she had looked at the tax returns for some of the other nonprofits that the county planned to fund, and that none of them get as much revenue and grant funding as Planned Parenthood. It’s fiscally irresponsible for the county to fund Planned Parenthood, she said.

Joshua Wade and Jeffrey Brown – both Ann Arbor residents – and Joe Lipa of Lodi Township also argued against funding PPMSM. Wade noted that the large amount of contraceptives provided, as well as the number of abortions, resulted in fewer births of Washtenaw County taxpayers. The nonprofit doesn’t care about children’s well-being, he said. Lipa pointed out that there are other options for low-income women, including clinics at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the Corner Health Center, as well as federal health care centers in surrounding counties.

Paul Malocha of Ann Arbor urged commissioners to fund nonprofits that don’t provide contraceptives and abortions. Planned Parenthood asks people to view pregnancy as a sort of sickness, he said, when it’s clearly normal and healthy. The Planned Parenthood view results in more out-of-wedlock pregnancies, he said, and promotes a disordered and amoral society.

Paul Dobrowolski of Pittsfield Township said he’d learned that a commissioner had talked with the head of the county’s human services department about funding of Planned Parenthood, and was told it would be almost impossible to remove the funding. If Planned Parenthood funding was pulled, then others on the board would ask that county funding be pulled from faith-based organizations, using a separation of church and state argument. But laws exist for freedom of religion, he said, not freedom from religion. It’s disturbing that some people would apply blackmail and pressure tactics. He noted that the county was hiring a firm to do an internal audit – maybe looking at this issue is a good place to start, he said. Dobrowolski reminded the board that president Barack Obama and former president George Bush both supported faith-based initiatives, especially for social services.

John Donnelly of Ypsilanti said there is videotaped evidence of Planned Parenthood workers offering no objection when a man posing as a pimp tried to get deals on abortions and contraceptives for his prostitutes. Donnelly said it proved Planned Parenthood was willing to do anything to make the prostitution ring possible. [Donnelly was referring to a videotape released by the anti-abortion group Live Action and filmed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Bronx. The incident and video were reported in a Feb. 11, 2011 New York Times article.] Donnelly described other instances in which he said that Planned Parenthood staffers urged underage clients to lie about their age when they became pregnant by older men. “I don’t know how we can tolerate this,” he said.

Steve Gendregske of Superior Township and Sandra Weathers of Pittsfield Township each read from medical texts with graphic descriptions of late-stage abortion procedures. Gendregske said he got hung up over the words “decapitate” and “dismember,” and he hoped that commissioners did, too. He didn’t want his tax money supporting Planned Parenthood. Weathers said she wanted her tax dollars to fund St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti, both of which offer prenatal programs.

Two people spoke in support of Planned Parenthood. Bernie Klein of Pittsfield Township said he was a volunteer for the nonprofit. He said that contraception causes abortions like umbrellas cause rain. One of the anti-Planned Parenthood speakers regularly comes to the PPMSM clinic and yells at women, he said, telling them they should go to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital or Corner Health Center. The answers that women give, he said, are that St. Joe’s doesn’t take their insurance, and Corner Health Center is full. Planned Parenthood provides the services that women want, Klein said. ”I stand with Planned Parenthood.”

Later in the meeting, Thomas Partridge also voiced his support for funding Planned Parenthood.

Joshua Wade again spoke during an additional opportunity for public commentary, asking commissioners to address the concerns directly that they’d heard expressed about Planned Parenthood. He said the speakers during public commentary were deeply interested in the board’s opinions, and he asked that those opinions be openly shared and discussed.

Funding for Human Services Nonprofits: Commissioner Discussion

Commissioners gave no follow-up to public commentary, nor did they discuss Planned Parenthood funding specifically.

Ronnie Peterson, who has previously raised concerns about how the process for allocating this funding has been handled, again asked for clarification about the process, and how much each funder would be paying.

Mary Jo Callan, Brett Lenart

Mary Jo Callan, director of the county's office of community development, and Brett Lenart of the economic development & energy department work on their laptops during a break in the June 1 county board of commissioners meeting.

In total – including funds from the county, city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw Urban County and Washtenaw United Way – 63 programs will receive $4,027,933. Mary Jo Callan, director of the joint county/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, reviewed the coordinated funding process and emphasized that nonprofits realized the second year of a two-year funding cycle was contingent on budgets that haven’t yet been approved.

Peterson commended the Ann Arbor city council for its generosity in funding these nonprofits. [At its May 31 session, the council allocated $1,159,029 – amending the amount to include 9% more than the review committee had recommended.] He said the issue is how to attack problems that face the county in the future, especially in light of proposed legislation that would tighten the amount of time that residents are eligible for welfare. If signed into law, an estimated 12,600 welfare beneficiaries who’ve been receiving aid for more than 48 months would no longer get benefits.

Some of those people live in Washtenaw County and will turn to local governments and nonprofits for assistance, Peterson said, calling it an unfunded mandate. The county needs to prepare for this storm, he said.

Barbara Bergman agreed, saying the money they’ve allocated to nonprofits won’t begin to address the need. She called the proposed reform criminal, adding that the county doesn’t have the resources to adequately respond. Bergman noted that the current director of the state Department of Human Services, Cynthia Maritato, is from this area – she was former director of the Washtenaw County department of human services. They should organize a meeting with Maritato and other community leaders, Bergman said, to strategize about how to deal with this problem.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved allocating the recommended amounts to human services nonprofits. Yousef Rahbi was not in the room at the time of the vote, and Rob Turner was absent. Although Dan Smith had voted against the allocations when they were given initial approval at the May 18 meeting – citing an objection to funding Planned Parenthood – he voted in favor of all the allocations for this final approval.

Sheriff’s Contract Deputy Pricing

With no discussion, commissioners gave initial approval to the price that municipalities will pay for a contract sheriff’s deputy through 2015. The police services steering committee recommended setting the price in 2012 for a police services unit (PSU) at $150,594. The board had been briefed on the recommendation by sheriff Jerry Clayton at a May 19 working session.

The price in 2012 will remain unchanged from the 2011 rate of $150,594, which was a 4% increase over 2010 rates. In each of the following three years, the price per PSU increases about 1%: to $152,100 in 2013; $153,621 in 2014; and $155,157 in 2015.

In late 2010, the committee brought forward a recommendation to the board that set the cost of providing a PSU at $176,108. At its Dec. 1 meeting, the county board voted to accept that amount, with the understanding that commissioners would need to make a much harder decision at a later date – about the price that the county would charge for a PSU. The difference between the cost of a PSU and the amount charged – roughly $25,500, based on current figures – would be covered by the county.

Clayton attended the June 1 meeting, but was not asked to address the board. The only comment made by commissioners came from board chair Conan Smith, who commended the sheriff, the county’s finance staff and members of the police services steering committee for their work in putting together the proposal.

For additional background on this issue, see Chronicle coverage:

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to give initial approval to set the price of a police services unit (PSU) at $150,594 in 2012, with 1% annual increases through 2015. A final vote is expected at the board’s July 6, 2011 meeting.

On a related note, a lawsuit filed against the county in 2006 over the price of contract deputies remains unresolved. Three townships – Augusta, Salem and Ypsilanti – originally sued the county, disputing the amount that was charged for police services. The court has held that the townships are liable to the county for additional amounts to cover police services that the county provided to them between Jan. 1 and Dec. 5, 2006 – at $24 an hour more than the townships had paid under a previous contract.

In mid 2010, the county settled with Salem Township, which agreed to pay the county $48,000. The county has been seeking more than $2 million from the other two townships – the bulk of that from Ypsilanti Township, which has the largest number of contract deputies.

The case is being handled by 38th Circuit Court Chief Judge Joseph Costello, who has ordered the townships and county into non-binding facilitation before James Rashid, a retired Wayne County Circuit Court judge. Rashid’s business, Judicial Resource Services, provides mediation and facilitation for these kinds of cases. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 22.

Medical Director, Other Appointments

Diana Torres-Burgos, the county’s public health medical director, recently announced her resignation – she’ll be leaving her job later this month. At their June 1 meeting, commissioners were asked to approve the hire of her replacement – Monique Reeves – at an annual salary of $125,000. She’ll start the job on June 20.

Reeves was introduced by Dick Fleece, the county’s public health officer. He told commissioners that she has more than 10 years of experience in emergency medicine, with a medical degree and a masters degree in public health, both from the University of Michigan. She’s been working as a resident with the county in preventive medicine – she’s intelligent, funny, and will do a wonderful job, Fleece said.

Under the Michigan Public Health Code (Public Act 368 of 1978), Medicare services provided by the county – including immunizations and the maternal infant health program – require that a licensed medical doctor on staff bill Medicare, via the state, for reimbursement.

Commissioner Wes Prater described Reeves’ resume as impressive. Rolland Sizemore Jr. thanked her for attending the meeting, saying it was always good to see how they’re spending the county’s money. Conan Smith also complimented Reeves, but joked that he didn’t see anything on her resumé indicating that she was qualified to handle Fleece.

Reeves spoke briefly, telling commissioners that after nearly 11 years in emergency medicine, she decided she wanted to do more than just put a Band-Aid on the problems she’d been treating. She felt public health was the best way to do that, even though it meant she’d be taking a significant pay cut.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously approved the hiring of Monique Reeves as the county’s public health medical director.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners approved appointments to two of the county’s volunteer boards and committees. There was no discussion on these items.

Bob Grese was named to a two-year term on the Natural Areas Technical Advisory Committee, which oversees the county’s natural area preservation program. The term expires Dec. 31, 2012. Grese is director Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum and a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.

The board also appointed Mark Creekmore to a three-year term expiring March 31, 2014 for the Washtenaw Community Health Organization (WCHO) board, a partnership between the county and UM. Creekmore is founder and executive director of the nonprofit Community Service Systems Inc.

Outcome: Commissioners approved the appointments of Bob Grese and Mark Creekmore.

Drain Projects in Ann Arbor

Commissioners were asked to give initial approval to five projects planned by the county’s water resources commissioner.

Dan Smith, Janis Bobrin

Commissioner Dan Smith talks with Janis Bobrin, the county's water resources commissioner.

The projects, which require the county to back bond payments totaling up to $6.54 million, are all located in Ann Arbor: (1) Allen Creek drain cistern installation, downspout disconnection and tree planting – up to $330,000; (2) County Farm drain stream bank stabilization – up to $1.2 million; (3) Malletts Creek drain/Burns Park porous alley; Malletts Creek cistern installation, downspout disconnection, and tree planting; and Malletts Creek stream bank stabilization – up to $3.48 million; (4) Swift Run cistern installation, downspout disconnection, and tree planting – up to $75,000; and (5) Traver Creek cistern installation, downspout disconnection, and tree planting; and Traver Creek stream bank stabilization – up to $780,000.

Leah Gunn asked Janis Bobrin, the county’s water resources commissioner, to describe the projects and the grants she’s received to help pay for them.

Bobrin told commissioners that 50% of the project costs would be funded with a low-interest loan – now at 2.5% – from a state revolving loan fund. More importantly, she said, the remaining 50% would be funded through federal stimulus dollars. The projects met certain “green” requirements that many other applicants didn’t meet – that news resulted in a round of applause from commissioners.

Dan Smith pointed to an item of communication in the board’s meeting packet – a resolution passed by the Gratiot County board of commissioners, urging support of state legislation that includes creation of a delinquent special assessment revolving loan fund. He noted that the Gratiot resolution mentioned revenue from special assessment districts – used to make bond payments – is declining, because of decreasing property values. The proposed Ann Arbor drain projects would be in special assessment districts, and he asked Bobrin to talk about that.

Bobrin said that Ann Arbor is the chief partner in virtually all these bonds, and it collects stormwater utility fees from all residents to pay for these types of projects. All of these projects are in the city’s capital improvements plan, she said, and funding has been secured. There are no rate increases associated with the projects.

Conan Smith observed that although the projects being approved that night were all in Ann Arbor, other drain projects are often done throughout the county.

Outcome: The board gave initial approval to the five drain projects in Ann Arbor. Commissioners are expected to take final action on these items at their July 6 meeting.

Brownfields: LaFontaine, Packard Square

The brownfield plan for the LaFontaine Chevrolet redevelopment project in Dexter was up for final approval from commissioners at their June 1 meeting. Though heightened attention had been given to another brownfield project – the Packard Square development at the former Georgetown Mall site – there was no discussion of the LaFontaine project at Wednesday’s meeting. The plan had received initial approval at the board’s May 18 meeting.

The LaFontaine brownfield plan would enable the use of up to $330,330 of tax increment financing (TIF) for four years to pay for cleanup work, including asbestos and lead abatement. Of that amount, $25,410 would support the county’s brownfield program management, and $50,820 would be deposited into the county’s Local Site Remediation Revolving Fund. The project is expected to retain 76 jobs and create 50 new ones, and to increase the annual tax revenues to the county from $4,516 to $11,119 after the TIF ends.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously approved the LaFontaine Chevrolet brownfield plan.

Brownfields: Packard Square

There was no agenda item on June 1 related to the Packard Square development. At their May 18 meeting, commissioners had approved the project’s brownfield plan, as well as a $1 million grant application to the state Dept. of Environmental Quality for brownfield cleanup at the proposed $48 million development.. Wes Prater had voted against both those items.

Also at the May 18 meeting, the board had postponed action on a $1 million loan application to the MDEQ for Packard Square, as well as a request to authorize designation of the county’s full faith and credit as a guarantee for any loan that might be awarded, up to $1 million. They also discussed but ultimately postponed action on a broader public-private investment policy they’re developing, a policy spurred in large part by the request to back the MDEQ loan.

They’d initially planned to take up both those topics again on June 1. But at a May 24 agenda briefing, the board learned that Packard Square developers had decided not to pursue a state loan. That prompted commissioners to defer action on the broader policy issue, with the intent of taking more time to develop it before bringing it back to the board for consideration.

At the June 1 meeting, Prater asked staff to give an update on the status of Packard Square. Brett Lenart of the county’s economic development & energy department told commissioners that the loan request had been pulled, and that the brownfield grant application would likely be submitted to the state next week. He said no other board action would be required.

Prater told Lenart he still had questions about the project, including who would ultimately be responsible for the brownfield remediation. There was no other discussion about the project.

Budget & Finance: Millage, New Work Sessions, Internal Audit

Commissioners acted on several other items related to budget and finance at Wednesday’s meeting.

Budget & Finance: General Operating Millage

At their May 18 meeting, commissioners had given initial approval to establish the 2011 county millage rate at 5.6768 mills. That includes the general operating millage rate at 4.5493 mills, unchanged from the current rate. Several other county millages – including those for parks and recreation, emergency communications and the Huron Clinton Metroparks Authority – are levied separately, bringing the total county millage rate to 5.6768 mills. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s state equalized value, or SEV.

On Wednesday, a public hearing was held on the action. One person – Thomas Partridge – spoke. He said the county doesn’t have sufficient revenues to meet its current obligations, especially not in this economy. As he outlined some of the county’s needs, Partridge was advised by board chair Conan Smith to stick to the topic of the public hearing – the millage rate. Partridge replied by challenging Smith’s leadership, saying the commissioner was not pushing to set property taxes at a level that would support county services adequately. “Do you not understand that?” Partridge asked.

[With a few minor exceptions, the county board does not have authority to levy taxes independently. Millage increases, new millages or an action to reset a millage at its original rate (known as a Headlee override) would require voter approval.]

Outcome: Without discussion, commissioners voted to give final approve to set the total tax for Washtenaw County at 5.6768 mills.

Budget & Finance: Working Sessions

A resolution was added to the agenda at the meeting, adding five new working sessions to the board’s calendar focused on the 2012-2013 budget. The dates are June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, Sept. 15 and Oct. 13 – all Thursdays.

Currently, the meetings are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. at the county administration building boardroom, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. However, it’s possible that some or all of the added working sessions will be held elsewhere, at locations throughout the county. Those decisions will be made at a later date.

Outcome: Commissioners voted to add five new budget-related working sessions to its calendar.

Budget & Finance: Internal Audit

The board was asked to give final approval to hire the professional services firm Experis (formerly known as Jefferson Wells) to perform internal auditing services for the county for one year, with the possibility of extending the contract over additional years. The board had authorized the county administration to issue requests for proposals for these services at its Dec. 1, 2010 meeting. The county received 10 responses, and a review team narrowed the selection and held interviews with three firms. The team’s recommendation for Experis was unanimous, according to a staff report.

The total cost for internal audit work in 2011 is $87,500. It would include: (1) overall internal control review and risk assessment; (2) more detailed internal control review for two county departments; (3) establishing a fraud hotline; and (4) eight hours of internal control training for county staff.

The contract was originally proposed for a five-year period. At their May 18 meeting, several commissioners raised concerns about the expenditure to an outside firm, and the resolution was amended to shorten the contract to one year.

Representatives from Experis attended the June 1 meeting, but commissioners did not ask them to address the board.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to hire Experis for internal auditing services.

Grants: Community Corrections, Weatherization, Summer Food

On the agenda for final consideration were several grants that had received initial approval at the May 18 meeting.

Final approval was sought for a grant application for the county’s community corrections program, operated by the sheriff’s office. The grant of $421,801 – for the period from Oct. 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012 – is only a portion of the program’s $1.01 million budget.

Other revenues include $215,983 from the county’s general fund, $76,386 from the program’s fund balance, and an estimated $295,890 in program-generated revenues, including fees from tethering and drug testing.

Programs run by community corrections are designed in part to provide sentencing alternatives to the Washtenaw County Trial Court. Programs include pre-trial screening, drug testing, electronic tethering, supervised release, and educational efforts, such as the “Thinking Matters” program offered in partnership with the nonprofit Dawn Farm.

Outcome: Commissioners voted to give final approval to the community corrections grant application.

Two items on the June 1 agenda related to the county’s employment training and community services (ETCS) department.

Commissioners were asked to approve the acceptance of $455,000 in federal stimulus funds – from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – to pay for weatherization assistance. The funds were originally granted to other municipalities but weren’t used, and are being redistributed. Washtenaw County has already been granted $4.3 million in weatherization funds from 2009-2011, and has finished work on 611 residences. The new funding will pay for about 70 additional residences. The services – including home inspections, refrigerator efficiency testing and consumer education – are available to residents with an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. That’s $23,448 for a single person, or $45,088 for a family of four.

A grant application to fund a summer food program for children was also on the agenda. Nearly $116,000 in federal funds, distributed through the state Dept. of Education, are available to pay for breakfasts, lunches and snacks to low-income children at 30 sites throughout the county.

Outcome: Final approval was given to the weatherization and summer food program grants.

Urban County Annual Plan

On the agenda was a resolution for final approval of the Washtenaw Urban County annual plan from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.

The plan must be submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), outlining specific projects and programs that the Washtenaw Urban County will undertake with HUD funding from several sources: the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program; HOME grants; and Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG). The county is expected to receive $3,602,480 from these programs during the coming fiscal year. A $448,920 in-kind county match is required. [.pdf of fiscal year 2011 Washtenaw Urban County plan]

The Urban County is a consortium of 11 local governments that receive federal funding for programs that serve low-income residents and neighborhoods.

Outcome: Commissioners gave final approval to the Washtenaw Urban County annual plan.

Misc. Communications

During her report to the board, county administrator Verna McDaniel noted that this was the last week on the job for Joanna Bidlack.

Joanna Bidlack, Bob Tetens

Joanna Bidlack talks with Bob Tetens, director of the county's parks & recreation department. Bidlack has served as a management analyst with the county, a role that in part included working as support staff for the county board. June 3 was her last day on the job.

Bidlack has been a management analyst in the county administrator’s office, a role that in part included serving as support staff for the county board. For example, she was the point person for compiling agendas, and previously led the board’s agenda briefings.

Bidlack has taken a job with General Electric’s operation in Van Buren Township. McDaniel told the board it would be a huge loss for the county – Bidlack is intelligent, loyal and a great communicator, she said. They’ll all miss her, McDaniel said, but they wished her well.

Commissioners and others attending the meeting gave Bidlack a round of applause.

Misc. Communications: Public Commentary

Thomas Partridge spoke five times during the evening – at a public hearing, and the four opportunities for general public commentary. In addition to the commentary reported earlier in this article, Partridge also:  (1) urged commissioners to support the recall of Gov. Rick Snyder; (2) questioned funding of the county’s public outreach team (PORT) because it supports a homeless soccer team with money that could be used for shelter or other services; (3) chastised the board for not seeking the maximum available revenue from grants and other sources to pay for needed county services; and (4) advocated for an agenda item that would address protection of residents from exposure to medical marijuana and other harmful substances.

Executive Session: Labor, Legal

At the end of the meeting, the board went into executive session for about an hour to address three issues: (1) a collective bargaining strategy; (2) possible settlement of pending litigation; and (3) review of a legal opinion. Under the Michigan Open Meetings Act, public bodies must state the reason for entering into a closed session. They can – but are not required to – provide details about the topics they’ll be discussing. In this case, no additional information was provided.

Present: Barbara Levin Bergman, Leah Gunn, Kristin Judge, Ronnie Peterson, Alicia Ping, Wes Prater, Yousef Rabhi, Rolland Sizemore Jr., Conan Smith, and Dan Smith. Rob Turner was absent for most of the meeting, arriving after the start of the board’s executive session.

Next regular board meeting: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. The Ways & Means Committee meets first, followed immediately by the regular board meeting. [confirm date] (Though the agenda states that the regular board meeting begins at 6:45 p.m., it usually starts much later – times vary depending on what’s on the agenda.) Public comment sessions are held at the beginning and end of each meeting.

The board will also hold a Thursday, June 16 working session focused on the budget and starting at 6:30 p.m. in the county administration building, 220 N. Main.

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  1. By LaidOffTeacherPatti
    June 7, 2011 at 11:10 am | permalink

    Kudos for the commissioners for being unswayed by the arguments against Planned Parenthood. I was not at the meeting, but normally those folks argue against PP because it terminates pregnancy. Of course, terminations account for a *very* small (I think it’s like 3%) of the total operating budget of PP; the other services range from women’s health care to birth control. (Now I’m pretty smart but I could be wrong about this…doesn’t birth control PREVENT the need for a pregnancy termination? Hmmm….)

  2. By Paul Dobrowolski
    June 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm | permalink

    Sorry, Patti. Your facts are off since you didn’t attend the meeting. We presented many about Planned Parenthood, some of which follow. Abortion accounts for about 20% of its clinic income. PP of Mid and South Michigan commmitted 2300 abortions in 2009, most of them at the AA abortion clinic on Professional Dr (and the most by far over any other entity in the county). Their clinic income is $5.8 million so 2300 x $450 (average cost of abortion) = $1 million. The bulk of the rest of their clinic income comes from contraception. And since contraception leads to more abortions, PP will push contraception and sex at our schools and organizations that deal with kids. From PP’s research group, the Guttmacher Institute, 40% of abortions occur after failed pregnancies. This is PP’s model, offer sex ed at our schools and explain everything there is to know about sex on their website, play down the increasing problem of STD’s and STI’s and be there to offer contraception and abortion to reap in the money. Why else would PPMSM have sex ed program that brings in only $3000-4000 per year? To increase their clients.

    Some other interesting facts: PPMSM has loads of money in the bank and coming in from grants. Has received $7 million in Title X money in 2011; has over $1 million in savings and cash; has $3.3 million in stocks and bonds; their $11 million revenues for 2009 is unreal for a nonprofit. We showed that PPMSM has, by far, more money that any other non-profit the county is funding. Why not defund PP so that other well deserving non-profits can get money to fund their programs. Many non-profits were turned away from the county and city’s grant money. In fact, the prenatal care grant received in 2009 amounted to only 0.5% of PPMSM’s budget ($60K/$11 million). Clearly, our County commissioners has PPMSM as a pet project to fund. Some board members have even threatened to cut funding to Faith-based organizations if PPMSM defunding is pursued. Not good government to blackmail.

    Sorry to ramble, but finally, yes, contraception does increase abortions. Look at the history in every country, including ours, which has introduced contraception. As contraception is introduced and increased, so follows abortion.

  3. By Paul Dobrowolski
    June 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm | permalink

    Forgot to add – Excellent summary of the meeting and very clear and concise. Thanks Mary!

  4. By Rod Johnson
    June 8, 2011 at 12:17 am | permalink

    Classic correlation-causation conflation there, Paul. There’s no reason to suppose that there’s not a third thing (e.g., increases in income or education levels, secularization, more women in the work force, or simply women asserting more control over their reproductive choices, among many possibilities) that is a causal factor for both contraception and abortion.

  5. By Mark Koroi
    June 8, 2011 at 12:49 am | permalink

    What is very sad is that Tom Wieder or no one else is getting at Chairman Conan Smith or the other three currrent or former county commissioners to disgorge per diem and mileage overpayments confirmed by a published CPA audit.

    Does anyone know what if anything at all is being done to recoup this $8,000.00 in unreimbursed overpayments?

  6. By Brian
    June 8, 2011 at 8:24 am | permalink

    Has the county reported more on exactly why the deputy county administrator is absent and on leave? Rumors are flying.