County Board Retreat Set for Jan. 21

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners will hold a strategic planning retreat on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the county parks and recreation offices, 2230 Platt Road. The meeting notice was posted at the county administration building late Thursday, Jan. 12. County offices were closed on Friday through Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The retreat was scheduled by board chair Conan Smith. It had not been announced at previous board meetings, nor was it formally announced during any of the opportunities for communications from commissioners at the board’s Jan. 18 meeting. However, commissioner Ronnie Peterson mentioned the retreat during the Jan. 18 meeting, noting that he would be unable to attend. He said he was concerned that there wouldn’t be adequate citizen input or participation, and he wanted to encourage the board to include that perspective.

In response to Peterson’s remarks, Yousef Rabhi – chair of the board’s working sessions – told commissioners that Smith will use part of the Jan. 19 working session to prep for the retreat. The two main agenda items for the Jan. 19 working session were both listed as topics of discussion to be led by Smith: (1) a “millage discussion,” and (2) a discussion of a statewide regional transit authority. Smith indicated that the second topic on regional transit would be removed from the agenda, because anticipated legislative action at the state level has not yet occurred.

The millage discussion is a reference to an idea that Smith has previously floated, and that he outlined in a presentation at the board’s Dec. 7, 2011 meeting. At that meeting, he discussed a plan for board priority-setting in 2012 and beyond that focused county efforts on shoring up the county’s east side. He laid out a variety of options that the county could pursue to fund those efforts, including a possible Headlee override or a new millage to pay for services.