County Board Seeks Details on Consolidation

Also: Two major steps taken over the cost of police services

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (July 6, 2011): Much of the discussion at this month’s county board meeting focused on the proposed merger of three departments, creating a new office of community & economic development.

Mary Jo Callan, Tony Van Derworp

Mary Jo Callan talks with Tony Van Derworp before the start of the July 6, 2011 Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting. Callan is overseeing the consolidation of three county departments, including the economic development and energy department, which Van Derworp leads.

In the works for over a year, the consolidation would combine the office of community development, the economic development & energy department, and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department. The goal, according to county managers, is to cut costs by eliminating duplicated services in the face of declining revenues, while finding ways to deliver those services more efficiently to residents in need. The number of full-time employees in the merged departments would drop from 40 to 32, though most of those displaced workers will likely be moved to other county jobs. In total, about $500,000 in annual savings is expected from the merger.

While generally supportive of the change, several commissioners asked for additional details, and expressed frustration that they were provided new information – including a business plan – just hours before the meeting began. The proposal was originally on the agendas for initial approval at the Ways & Means committee meeting and final approval at the regular board meeting that same night, but commissioners decided to remove it from the board meeting agenda. They’ll likely consider it for a final vote at their Aug. 3 meeting. The consolidation will also be one of the topics at the July 11 Ann Arbor city council working session – the office of community development is a joint city/county unit.

Two other items that have received considerable – often contentious – discussion at previous meetings were passed with virtually no comment. Both relate to police services that are provided under contract to local municipalities by the sheriff’s office. On the first item, the county board approved the recommendation of a court-ordered facilitator in a lawsuit filed against the county in 2006 over the cost of police services. The recommendation states that Ypsilanti Township and Augusta Township should pay the county $749,427 for police services provided in 2006. The boards of those townships are expected to vote on the recommendation this week. If approved, it could lead to the closure of that legal battle.

On the second related item, the county board gave final approval to the price that municipalities will pay for a contract sheriff’s deputy through 2015. The price in 2012 – $150,594 – is unchanged from this year, but will rise in subsequent years by about 1% annually. The complex, politically-charged process of arriving at those figures involved more than a year of discussion between the sheriff’s office, other county officials and leaders of local municipalities that contract for these services.

Several other budget-related issues were addressed during the July 6 meeting, including initial approval to an agreement with the Michigan Nurses Association – Unit I, the union that represents 13 public health nurses and nurse coordinators in the county’s health services department. It’s the first of 15 union agreements being negotiated as part of the 2012 and 2013 budget cycle, and is expected to achieve an annual savings of $132,000. In total, the county hopes to see about $8 million in labor concessions for the two-year budget cycle, to help address a projected $17.5 million deficit.

Commissioners also voted to raise the fee for waiving the statutory three-day marriage license waiting period, increasing it from $5 to $50. County clerk Larry Kestenbaum, whose office processes marriage licenses, assured the board that the vast majority of applications are willing to wait the three days, and won’t incur this additional cost for expediting the process. Conan Smith joked that he had hoped Kestenbaum would come forward with a package discount deal – for marriage licenses and concealed weapons permits.

Police Services Lawsuit

In a step that could lead to ending a lawsuit filed against the county in 2006, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted to approve the recommendation of a court-ordered facilitator. The recommendation sets $749,427 as the amount owed by Ypsilanti Township and August Township to the county for police services provided in 2006. That was the year those townships, along with Salem Township, filed a lawsuit against the county over the price of contract deputies. Salem Township reached a settlement with the county in 2010.

The bulk of the recommended payment – $732,927 – will come from Ypsilanti Township, which had contracted for 44 sheriff deputies in 2006. In addition to approval from the county board, the recommendation would also need to be voted on by the boards of both townships. Those meetings are expected to occur next week. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Vote Coming on Police Services Lawsuit"]

County representatives previously indicated they were seeking around $2 million. The county is not seeking payment for its legal expenses related to the lawsuit, which are estimated to be just over $1 million.

Police Services Lawsuit: Commissioner Comments

Conan Smith, the board’s chair, was the only commissioner to comment on this agenda item. He said he was grateful the county is settling this issue, which he noted had caused a lot of consternation and contention between the county and these contracting units. He expressed gratitude to everyone who came to the table and helped make this closure possible. It sets them on the right path for negotiations over police services contracts and future partnerships, he concluded.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously approved the recommendation of a court-ordered facilitator at both their Ways & Means committee meeting and their regular board meeting.

Police Services Pricing

On the agenda was a resolution giving final 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. Initial approval by the county board had been given at its June 1 meeting.

Alicia Ping, Jerry Clayton

Commissioner Alicia Ping talks with sheriff Jerry Clayton in the lobby of the county administration building prior to the start of the July 6 county board meeting.

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 – about the price that the county would charge for a PSU – at a later date. 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.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton attended Wednesday’s meeting, but there was no discussion on this item and commissioners did not ask him to answer any questions about this recommendation. The board had been briefed by Clayton at a May 19 working session.

Outcome: Commissioners voted unanimously to give final approval to the price that municipalities will pay for a contract sheriff’s deputy through 2015.

Departmental Merger: Community & Economic Development

A major consolidation of three county departments – the office of community development, the economic development & energy department, and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department – was given initial approval by the board of commissioners at their July 6 meeting. A final vote is expected at the board’s Aug. 3 meeting. The changes would take effect on Jan. 1, 2012. [.pdf draft budget summary] [.pdf draft business plan]

If the reorganization gets final approval, Mary Jo Callan, director of the office of community development, will lead the new office of community & economic development. The goal is to cut costs by eliminating duplicated services in the face of declining revenues, while finding ways to deliver those services more efficiently to residents. The new department is expected to have a non-general fund budget of about $14.7 million – when federal stimulus funds were available, the three departments had been bringing in about $29 million in non-general fund revenue. In addition, about $1.66 million would be allocated to the merged department from the county’s general fund.

Several personnel changes are part of the restructuring, which would eliminate 11 positions and create 3 jobs – for a net loss of 8 jobs. In addition, there would be 20 job reclassifications, 5 title changes and 1 position held vacant.

Commissioners were briefed on the restructuring at a May 5, 2011 working session, and also discussed it at a June 28 agenda briefing. At that briefing, county administrator Verna McDaniel told commissioners that all but one person had been given a “soft landing” within the county’s organization.

Departmental Merger: Public Commentary

Andy LaBarre, vice president of government relations for the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, spoke in support of the proposed reorganization.

Greg Dill, Andy LaBarre

Greg Dill, left, talks with Andy LaBarre, vice president of government relations for the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce. Dill is director of administrative services for the sheriff's office.

Consolidating these departments makes great sense, he said, and will help the county better serve its citizens. It holds promise as a model for other communities, schools and local governments to set aside traditional structures in the interest of the community as a whole.

The chamber did something similar in 2010, when the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti chambers merged into one regional entity, LaBarre said. Members and leaders of the chambers understood that it was time to reduce costs and maximize benefits by embracing regionalism and consolidation. “That time is still before us,” he said.

In particular, the merger of these three county departments will create a stronger, more efficient approach to regional economic development, LaBarre said. The chamber applauds the move and looks forward to partnering with the new office, he concluded.

Departmental Merger: Commissioner Discussion

Commissioners had several questions about this proposal. It was originally on the agendas for initial approval at the Ways & Means committee meeting and final approval at the regular board meeting that same night, but commissioners decided to remove it from the board meeting. They’ll likely consider it for a final time at their Aug. 3 meeting.

Wes Prater began the discussion by noting that commissioners had received new material just that afternoon. There was a lot of information, he said, and he had a lot of questions about it. He clarified that there would be a net loss of eight jobs after the consolidation.

Mary Jo Callan acknowledged that the information has been a moving target. The employee count will drop from 40.35 full-time equivalents (FTEs) to 32.1 FTEs.

Prater also asked for details on the span of control – the number of supervisors and the positions they oversee – that would result after the consolidation is completed.

Kristin Judge asked about the line item for in-kind contributions. It went from about $1 million last year to only about $63,000 this year – why did it drop? Kelly Belknap, the county’s finance director and interim deputy administrator, said that in-kind contributions refer to county money or staff time that’s required as matching funds for federal grants. For 2010, all of the information is finalized. This year, information is still incomplete because the year hasn’t ended – they’ll have the final numbers after the 2011 audit, she said. And for 2012, the county still doesn’t know what grants they’ll be awarded.

Judge then asked for clarification about the total savings that were expected to result from the consolidation – it wasn’t clear from the materials they’d been provided, she said. Belknap reported that staff estimated about $500,000 in savings, from reducing general fund allocations to the new department, and requesting higher cost allocation plan (CAP) dollars from grant funds. [CAP refers to the amount charged to each department for things like the county attorney, information technology and administration.]

Judge said that for her to support this proposal on the final vote in August, she needed a much greater level of detail. She also asked about the proposed job reclassifications, wondering why it seemed that they were all going up a pay grade or more. Diane Heidt, the county’s human resources and labor relations director, explained that several jobs were being reclassified from non-union to union positions, and the pay grades weren’t equivalent. For example, a pay grade of 15 for a union job might equate to a pay grade of 8 for a non-union position.

After confirming that the board wouldn’t be taking a final vote that night, Ronnie Peterson then spoke at length about his concerns related to the consolidation, but said he’d save most of his questions for the August meeting. He said his statements weren’t directed at the current managers, but rather at the way the departments have evolved over many years.

Caryette Fenner, Nancy Heine, Ronnie Peterson

From left: Caryette Fenner, president of the AFSCME local 2733, the largest union representing county employees; Nancy Heine, president of AFSCME Local 3052; and county commissioner Ronnie Peterson.

He said he believes they lost the war on poverty long ago, and that’s especially true on the east side of the county. [Peterson represents District 6, covering Ypsilanti and part of Ypsilanti Township.] Given the decline of the auto industry, the east side is struggling, Peterson said. That’s why he’s committed to the Eastern Leaders Group, which advocates for economic development, and why he supported the Act 88 millage that funds ELG and Ann Arbor SPARK, the area’s economic development agency. The eastern part of the county needs jobs and neighborhood stabilization, Peterson said. “We don’t need more cheese and butter lines.”

It’s time to devote energy and resources to fighting poverty, Peterson said. No one has spoken about how funding will be allocated to do that, as a result of this consolidation, he added. He requested more details about how program activities would be funded, and said he appreciated that the final vote would be delayed until August.

Alicia Ping asked why the line item for supplies went from $542,040 in 2010 to $43,390 in the 2012 budget. Callan explained that the 2010 amount had been misclassified – about $500,000 of that amount should have been listed in the line item for the senior nutrition program, not supplies.

Ping also said she had a difficult time seeing where the savings would come from in this reorganization. Belknap told commissioners that the finance staff would provide a detailed supplemental budget that reflects those savings. Callan added that they have the information – commissioners had received detailed budget documents earlier this year. It just wasn’t in the summary that commissioners received for Wednesday’s meeting.

Callan also noted, in response to a question from Judge, that about 90% of the positions in the merged departments would not be funded out of the county’s general fund. Rather, those jobs would be supported through grant funding. Judge asked for a breakdown of how many positions would be supported through the general fund compared to non-general fund positions.

Dan Smith requested a better explanation about how the organizational savings would be achieved, and suggested also providing an organization chart for commissioners.

Rolland Sizemore Jr. said he strongly suggested that Callan meet with individual commissioners between now and Aug. 3 to address their questions. Commissioners agreed to email all their questions to the county administrative staff, and answers would be sent out to the entire board.

Outcome: Commissioners gave initial approval to the reorganization, with a final vote expected at their Aug. 3 meeting.

Nurses Union Agreement

Commissioners held an executive session early in their meeting to discuss a collective bargaining agreement. When they emerged, they added a supplemental agenda item to give initial approval to an agreement with the Michigan Nurses Association – Unit I. The agreement covers the period from July 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2013.

The agreement affects 13 public health nurses and nurse coordinators in the county’s health services department. It’s the first of 15 union agreements being negotiated as part of the 2012 and 2013 budget cycle, and is expected to achieve an annual savings of $132,000. In total, the county hopes to see about $8 million in labor concessions for the two-year budget cycle, to help address a projected $17.5 million deficit. [There are 17 unions representing the county workforce. In January 2011, the county reached agreements with two other unions – the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) and the Command Officers Association of Michigan (COAM) – for a four-year period through 2014.]

According to terms of the agreement with the nurses union, union members will not receive across-the-board pay raises in 2012 or 2013. However, if eligible, they will continue to receive automatic “step” increases that are part of all union contracts. [On an employee’s anniversary date – typically the date of their hire – they get an automatic increase to the next step in the salary grade.]

The nurses will bear a greater share of health care expenses, pension contributions and retiree health care contributions. Details include:

  • Co-pays will increase. For example, co-pays for emergency room visits will increase from $50 to $250. An office visit co-pay will be $40.
  • Union members will now pay deductibles, and a percentage of the cost of their medical expenses, up to an annual maximum. Prescription drug co-pays will also be increased under the new agreement.
  • As of Jan. 1, 2012, all employees under this contract will contribute 8.5% to the Washtenaw County Employees’ Retirement System (WCERS), a defined benefit plan. [In defined benefit plans, retirees receive a set amount per month during their retirement.] They previously contributed 7.5%.
  • Union members will begin contributing 0.5% toward their retiree healthcare. They previously did not make contributions.
  • The number of annual “banked leave” days – similar to unpaid furlough days – will increase from 6 to 12.
  • Longevity pay will be eliminated for new hires after Jan. 1, 2012. Longevity pay is a benefit provided to union employees based on years of service with the organization (generally after 5 years of service). Employees would receive between 3%-9% of their prior year’s wages, paid out either in a lump sum payment or bi-weekly throughout the year.

In addition, tuition reimbursement and the “excessive vacation payout” program will be eliminated as of Jan. 1, 2012.

The contract includes a “me too” clause that would provide parity if another union contract is negotiated for higher wages or benefits. There’s also a “reopener” contingency – if the county sees at least a 2% revenue gain by the end of 2012, the contract could be reopened to consider wage increases.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously voted to give initial approval to the collective bargaining agreement with the Michigan Nurses Association – Unit I. The board is expected to take a final vote on the agreement at its Aug. 3 meeting.

Trial Court Renovations

The board was asked to approve a resolution authorizing up to $1 million for the next phase of the Washtenaw County trial court consolidation of services at the downtown courthouse facility, where the juvenile court recently relocated.

Phase two entails renovation of the first floor of the courthouse. Commissioners had previously received a detailed briefing on this project from Donald Shelton, chief judge of the Washtenew County trial court, at their Jan. 19, 2011 board meeting. The downtown courthouse is located at the corner of Huron and Main.

Trail Court Renovations: Commissioner Discussion

Dan Smith asked for more details about a line item of $100,000 for furniture and equipment.

Dave Shirley, the county’s facilities manager, said existing furniture from the Platt Road location is being used as much as possible. But some items are needed – such as filing cabinets – due to the different configuration of the downtown courthouse. They’ll also need additional chairs, since the Platt Road facility didn’t get the ergonomic furniture upgrade that the rest of the county facilities received a few years ago.

D. Smith asked whether they could buy gently-used furniture, and Shirley said the county did that as much as possible.

Outcome: Commissioners voted to approve up to $1 million for the next phase of the Washtenaw County trial court consolidation.

Marriage License Waiting Period Waiver Fee

The board was asked to approve a $50 fee for waiving the statutory three-day marriage license waiting period. According to a staff memo, the current waiver fee of $5 does not cover the costs of the Washtenaw County Clerk and Register of Deeds in “interrupting other services to immediately fulfill a marriage license waiver request.”

County clerk Larry Kestenbaum attended Wednesday’s meeting and told commissioners that the $5 fee is too nominal – some counties charge as much as $100, he said. It would also apply to only a few applications. “This fee would only affect people who are in a hurry.”

Marriage License Waiting Period Waiver Fee: Commissioner Discussion

Barbara Bergman wondered why they weren’t raising the fee to $100 as well. Kestenbaum told her that his staff originally recommended an increase to $25, but he was proposing $50. The amount is in the purview of the county board to set, he noted, adding that he wouldn’t object to a $100 fee.

Bergman moved to amend the resolution to increase the amount to $100, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Brian Mackie, Larry Kestenbaum

County prosecuting attorney Brian Mackie, left, talks with county clerk Larry Kestenbaum during a break at the July 6 board of commissioners meeting.

Rolland Sizemore Jr. said he wouldn’t support raising the fee to $100 because getting married “is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life.” It already cost a lot of money to get married, and the county shouldn’t add to that.

Ronnie Peterson noted that it cost a lot of money to be born, get married and “certainly to die.” He recommended approving Kestenbaum’s original suggestion of $50, which Peterson said was respectful of the current economic conditions. It makes a statement about providing the expedited service at a cost that was somewhat uncomfortable, he said, but not too much.

Conan Smith began his comments by joking that he had hoped Kestenbaum would come forward with a package discount deal – for marriage licenses and concealed weapons permits. He then noted that this was actually an important increase, and not arbitrary. As the county reduces its staff and asks employees to adhere to their work plan, that approach gets compromised by last-minute requests, he said. It complicates the staff’s work. The increase is a disincentive for citizens to make such requests, and results in helping employees be as efficient as possible. Smith said he also appreciated that the standard fee for the three-day processing is unchanged.

Kestenbaum observed that processing a marriage license requires great attention to detail. All of the information must be correct: “It is not a frivolous thing at all.” C. Smith noted that it would be unfortunate if the paperwork resulted in someone inadvertently marrying the wrong person. “That’s not our problem,” Kestenbaum quipped.

Wes Prater also supported the increase to $50, saying that people spend much more than that on other parts of their wedding.

Dan Smith confirmed that the standard fee – to process the license in three days – hasn’t changed. Kestenbaum explained that more than 95% of the licenses are handled this way. Normally, he added, a wedding involves planning, and getting a license is part of that.

D. Smith then asked a series of questions to elicit more details about the process, prompting Sizemore to say, “You’re asking a lot of questions – is there something we don’t know?” [Smith is single.]

Alicia Ping asked how much the standard license costs. It’s $30, Kestenbaum said – an amount set by state statute that’s been unchanged for more than 40 years.

Ping disagreed with Prater and others, and felt that for many people, $50 was a lot of money. However, she said she understood that $5 was too low.

Outcome: Commissioners unanimously approved increasing the fee for expediting the marriage license processing to $50.

Drain Projects in Ann Arbor

Initial approval for five projects planned by the county’s water resources commissioner had been given at the board’s June 1 meeting. On Wednesday, the projects were before the board for final approval.

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.

Outcome: Commissioners voted to approve the drain projects in Ann Arbor, without comment.

Hearing Set on Agreement with Energy Office

Commissioners were asked to set a public hearing for its Aug. 3 meeting regarding a proposed interlocal agreement with the Southeast Michigan Energy Office Community Alliance (SEMRO). The Ferndale-based nonprofit (SEMRO) provides technical services to the county in identifying and implementing federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant projects.

The energy office is a division of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. County commissioner and board chair Conan Smith is CEO of the alliance. The board voted initially to join the energy office at its March 17, 2010 meeting. Smith abstained from that vote.

Outcome: Without comment, the board voted to set a hearing on Aug. 3 regarding an interlocal agreement with SEMRO.

Proclamation on National Training Institute Week

On the agenda was an item proclaiming July 30 through Aug. 5, 2011 as National Training Institute Week in Washtenaw County. The proclamation recognized the estimated $5 million economic impact of the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) for the Electrical Industry – its annual training week brings about 2,000 people to this area. [See 2009 Chronicle coverage: "Electricians Juice Up Ann Arbor"]

The proclamation was introduced and read by commissioner Rob Turner, who was instrumental in convincing the NJATC to move its annual training week to this area. Turner described how he had worked with Greg Stephens, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 252, and others to convince NJATC to hold its training in Washtenaw County, and how the community has reached out to make the NJATC members feel welcome.

Wes Prater added that credit goes to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti convention and visitor bureaus too.

Outcome: The proclamation declaring July 30-Aug. 5, 2011 as National Training Institute Week in Washtenaw County was passed unanimously.


Commissioners unanimously approved the appointment of Scott Menzel to the Washtenaw County Workforce Development Board to represent the educational sector for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2012. Menzel is the new superintendent for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Commissioner Dan Smith commented that he knew Menzel when Menzel was superintendent of the Whitmore Lake school district, and Smith was glad that he’s brought his skills to WISD.

The board also appointed Robert Gray as a representative of the general public to the Washtenaw County Health Code Appeals Board/Public Health Advisory Committee for a five-year term, expiring Dec. 31, 2015.

Nominations for appointments to county boards and commissions are made by the board chair, Conan Smith, but require approval by the board of commissioners.

Misc. Communications

There are several opportunities for commissioners and the administration to share information during the meeting, as well as four slots for public commentary.

County administrator Verna McDaniel told commissioners that she’d be working with staff to develop a pro-active plan in light of state legislation that will end cash assistance to welfare beneficiaries who’ve been receiving aid for more than 48 months. About 900 people will be affected in Washtenaw County, she said. They’re working with Cynthia Maritato, director of the state Department of Human Services – and former director of the Washtenaw County department of human services – to see who will be affected by this law. She hopes to bring a plan to the board in early September.

Conan Smith noted that Nelson Meade, one of the founders of the county’s parks & recreation commission who has served on that commission for more than 35 years, is being honored at the national level as a public official of the year. Smith said it was a well-earned honor, and gave a “hearty congratulations” to Meade for his service.

Kristin Judge congratulated the county’s information technology department, noting that they had moved up from 8th place to 4th place in a national ranking of county IT departments. The ranking is from the 2011 Digital Counties Survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties (NACo). [The award will be presented on July 16 at the NACo annual conference in Portland, Oregon. Judge, a member of NACo's justice and public safety steering committee, will be accepting the award on behalf of the county.]

Misc. Communications: Public Commentary

Thomas Partridge spoke during the four opportunities available for public commentary. He called for the board to add an agenda item that would address the impact of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget, and urged commissioners to support a recall effort of Snyder, his administration and Republican legislators. It’s the only responsible thing to do for anyone who advocates for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised citizens, he said.

Partridge also called for reforms and changes to county government, and advocated for having an elected county administrator. [The Washtenaw County administrator is a position appointed by the board of commissioners.] Partridge objected to the redistricting decision earlier this year that resulted in decreasing the number of districts represented on the board from 11 to 9 – a change that will take effect for the 2012 election. He said it might be necessary to pursue legal action on this issue, and he urged commissioners to ask the county’s corporation counsel to look into the matter.

Public Commentary: Commissioner Response

Following Partridge’s first public commentary, Barbara Bergman – a Democrat from Ann Arbor – said that Republicans and Democrats on the board worked together, with the goal of bettering services for the county’s residents. They aren’t there to take political stances, she said, and it’s not their business to pass resolutions criticizing or supporting one political party or individual. [Partridge walked out of the boardroom midway through Bergman's remarks, and returned when she finished talking.]

Regarding Partridge’s comments about redistricting, Conan Smith pointed out that Brian Mackie was in the audience – and that Mackie, the county’s prosecuting attorney, was one of the five members of the apportionment commission. [As part of a mandated redistricting process keyed to the U.S. census results, the apportionment commission voted in May to adopt the 9-district plan.] Smith, a Democrat, said the commission had met frequently, and those meetings were public. The maps were displayed prominently in advance, he said, and the process had been extremely accessible. They did the job they were charged to do, Smith said, in a manner that comported with the law. He would not recommend that they encourage the county’s corporation counsel to get involved.

Dan Smith, one of three Republican county commissioners, also weighed in. He noted that he was the only county commissioner who attended every meeting of the apportionment commission. He agreed with Conan Smith that the process was handled properly, saying he saw no inappropriate actions.

[The Chronicle attended several meetings of the apportionment commission. The final plan that was adopted had been posted for public view shortly before the commission's final meeting. From coverage of the commission's final meeting on May 11:

The final vote was for a 9-district plan drafted by county prosecuting attorney Brian Mackie and revised with input from other Democrats on the apportionment commission, including [county clerk Larry] Kestenbaum and county treasurer Catherine McClary. It gained unanimous support from the full commission. [.pdf file of adopted 9-district county map]

Redistricting occurs every 10 years, based on population changes determined by the U.S. census. Until this week, only two plans had been offered: one for 9 districts, another for 12. However, just hours before Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting, several new plans were submitted for consideration. In total, 11 plans were considered by the commission – for 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 21 districts. One resident during public commentary said he’d attended several previous meeting, and that it was shocking to arrive and see so many new plans on the day of the final vote.

Present: Barbara Levin Bergman, Leah Gunn, Kristin Judge, Ronnie Peterson, Alicia Ping, Wes Prater, Rob Turner, Rolland Sizemore Jr., Conan Smith, and Dan Smith.

Absent: Yousef Rabhi

Next regular board meeting: Wednesday, Aug. 3, 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. In addition, the board will hold a July 21 working session on the 2012-2013 budget, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the same location.

Next working session: Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. The working session will focus on the 2012-2013 budget.

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One Comment

  1. July 11, 2011 at 2:17 pm | permalink

    Just to be clearer than I was at the meeting: if either of the parties are Washtenaw County residents, the basic marriage license fee is $20. If both parties are from elsewhere, the fee is $30.