Washtenaw County board of commissioners special working session (June 14, 2012): A wide-ranging discussion on proposed expansion of public transit in Washtenaw County revealed some sharp philosophical differences among county commissioners.
A three-hour working session was intended to be a chance talk through these issues prior to a formal board of commissioners vote on a four-party transit agreement and articles of incorporation for a new Act 196 transit authority. That vote might take place as soon as the county board’s July 11 meeting. These documents would set the framework for a broader public transit authority than currently exists in the county.
Washtenaw County is one of the parties to the four-party agreement, but with a unique role compared to the other three entities: the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which is spearheading this effort. Unlike those entities – whose governing bodies have already approved the transit documents – the county would not be contributing assets (AATA) or a millage (Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti). Nor would the county board be asked to put a countywide millage request on the ballot.
Rather, the county clerk would be asked to file articles of incorporation with the state – an action to create a transit authority under Michigan Act 196. When formed, the Act 196 board would have authority to put a funding proposal on the ballot for voters to consider. A financial advisory group that’s been working on this effort has suggested that revenues equivalent to a 0.5 mill tax would be needed to cover the cost of expanded services for the first five years. [.pdf of financial advisory group report]
Most of the comments and questions from commissioners at the working session related to issues of local versus regional control; the process by which local communities could opt-out or opt-in to the new transit authority; parity between Ann Arbor and other municipalities; and how details of the service and funding plan would be communicated. Dan Smith was the only commissioner who put forward specific proposals for amendments to the documents, which were discussed at the working session and covered many of these broad issues.
The original intent of the working session was to review any possible amendments from commissioners and take a straw poll to gauge the board’s sentiment on those amendments. Any consensus could then be reported back to the other three parties, for possible action prior to formal consideration by the county board.
Although eight of the 11 commissioners attended the June 14 session, two of them – Leah Gunn and Rolland Sizemore Jr. – left before straw polls were taken. Not attending were Rob Turner, Ronnie Peterson and Barbara Bergman.
Three possible amendments were considered to have sufficient consensus to discuss with a separate committee that helped develop the draft documents, which includes representatives from all four parties as well as an unincorporated Act 196 board. The three amendments relate to these questions: (1) Should the Act 196 authority be dissolved if a vote on funding fails in any of the jurisdictions? (2) What restrictions should be placed on board membership? and (3) Who should have the power to amend the articles of incorporation?
The outcome of that committee meeting, held on June 18, was to let the current four-party agreement and articles of incorporation stand for now. At the Ann Arbor city council’s June 18 meeting, councilmembers Sabra Briere and Christopher Taylor – who participated in a committee meeting earlier that day – reported to their council colleagues this consensus: AATA, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor would not consider any further amendments to the documents before a vote by the county board.
Wes Prater described Dan Smith’s amendments overall as being “absolutely necessary” to ensure proper oversight of the new authority. If the changes aren’t made, he said, there will come a time when the board will regret it: “Mark my words.”
Although it’s unclear which of the amendments might have traction, at this point it seems likely that there are sufficient votes on the county board to pass the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation in some form.
The working session began with a presentation by Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. He noted that he’s spoken to the board five times in the past 18 months, and though there have been some minor changes during that time, the effort is essentially on the same path. [For Ford's most recent county board presentation at a March 22, 2012 working session, see Chronicle coverage: "County Board Updated on Public Transit Plans." For additional background, see: "Ann Arbor Council Re-OKs Transit Docs" and “AATA Board OKs Key Countywide Documents.”] Additional information is also available on the Moving You Forward website devoted to the expanded transit effort.
Ford’s presentation on June 14 covered much of the same ground that’s been presented at previous meetings of the county board, the city councils of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and the AATA board. [.pdf of Ford's slide presentation] He highlighted recent service upgrades and increases in ridership for AATA, as well as a rider survey indicating interest in increased frequency and more direct routes.
Ford also reviewed highlights of the proposed five-year service plan for a broader transit authority, as well as key aspects of the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation. He outlined the process for creating a new, broader transit authority, and stressed that the county’s role would be limited.
The county board would vote to approve the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation, and the county clerk would file the articles of incorporation with the state. The county’s actions would not force any community to participate, Ford said. Nor would it entail offering the full faith and credit or bonds to the new authority, and or automatically create the authority. Rather, the board’s action is part of a process that allows local communities to choose to participate, he said.
Ford noted that there is no perfect way to create regional transit. The Act 196 approach is one way to do it, allowing local communities to be involved in the process. He said he was happy to answer questions, and would definitely be back for the board’s July 11 meeting, when he hoped a formal vote on the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation would take place.
The bulk of the three-hour working session consisted of questions and comments from commissioners, which were fielded by Ford, community outreach coordinator Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, and Jerry Lax, who’s providing legal counsel for the AATA in this process. Commissioners also discussed amendments proposed by Dan Smith, and took a straw poll on those amendments.
There was considerable overlap among the issues raised by commissioners. This report organizes the wide-ranging discussion thematically. [.pdf of four-party agreement, as amended by the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti city councils] [.pdf of articles of incorporation] [.pdf of Act 196]
Yousef Rabhi began the discussion by thanking two Ann Arbor city councilmembers – Sabra Briere and Jane Lumm – for attending. [Briere stayed for the entire working session. Lumm left after about an hour.] Rabhi hoped that by the end of the board discussion, commissioners could take a straw poll on various amendments and the overall agreement, to give a general indication about where they stand.
Leah Gunn noted that the issue of countywide transit had been discussed for a long time. She observed that every time the board votes on a resolution, the staff memo accompanying it indicates the budget impact for action related to the resolution. In the case of the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation, “this will have no impact on our budget,” Gunn said. It’s simply creating an authority – the voters will decide on whether to approve funding, she said.
Ann Arbor taxpayers have been paying a transit tax since the 1970s, she noted, that’s been rolled back over the years to about 2 mills, because of the Headlee Amendment. The investment in public transit infrastructure and operations, funding the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, has come from Ann Arbor taxpayers, “who have been very generous indeed,” she said. More recently, AATA has formed partnerships with entities that pay for transit services, she noted, like the city of Ypsilanti, which has its own transit millage. Gunn again emphasized that board action would not cost the county government one penny, “and therefore I’m thoroughly in support of it.”
Rolland Sizemore Jr. said he appreciated AATA adding more bus stops in Ypsilanti Townships, and in working to get more information to residents about public transit. He expressed general support for the agreement.
Sizemore also noted that while he was glad to see the two Ann Arbor councilmembers at the working session, he wished that other representatives from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and AATA – the other three parties in the four-party agreement – would have attended. “I don’t want any whining after we do this,” he said.
Sizemore added that he wasn’t happy to have the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation on the July 11 agenda for both the board’s ways & means committee meeting and its regular board meeting. [Resolutions are considered and voted on first at ways & means, a committee on which all commissioners serve and which meets immediately prior to the regular board meetings. Typically those resolutions are considered for a final vote at the regular board meeting two weeks later. However, the board only meets once a month during the summer, so it's more likely that resolutions will be given both initial and final votes on the same night.]
Rolland Sizemore Jr. asked if a county commissioner could serve on the Act 196 board. Yes, as a non-voting representative, Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz replied. However, if a commissioner wanted to serve as a voting member, they would need to be appointed by one of the eight districts that would be designated as part of the Act 196 board.
Sizemore also wondered about the distribution of board members. Of the 15 members on the Act 196 board, seven would be designated to represent the Ann Arbor district. What if one of the other districts drops out? Would that mean that there would only be 14 members – essentially giving Ann Arbor control of the board?
In that scenario, Gryniewicz said the board membership would be shuffled as needed, based on the current way that membership is being determined – such as the amount of funding that is contributed.
[In some cases, districts comprise several townships or other jurisdictions. On the proposed Act 196 board, Ann Arbor would have seven seats, the city of Ypsilanti would have one seat, and a district that includes Ypsilanti and August townships would have two seats (the southeast district). Pittsfield Township would constitute a district. The other four seats would come from districts labeled as follows: west, north central, northeast, south central. [.jpg of map showing board composition of Act 196 transit authority]
Rolland Sizemore Jr. asked if a municipality can opt out of the transit authority before a millage vote. Yes, Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz replied. The first opt-out opportunity comes during a 30-day period after the county clerk files articles of incorporation with the state. There’s another period to opt-out before a vote on funding is taken.
Opting-Out, Opting-In: Bonds
Dan Smith offered an example using Northfield Township, which is one of the jurisdictions he represents on the county board. Suppose that Northfield Township participates in the Act 196 authority and the authority issues a 10-year bond supported by a five-year millage. What happens if Northfield Township decides to opt out when the first five-year period ends, before a vote on the millage renewal? Are township taxpayers still on the hook for another five years, or would the terms of the bond indicate that there’s no liability for the township in that case?
Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz indicated that the township taxpayers would not be liable for a share of the bond payments. In that case, Smith replied, it sounds like that’s a bond no one would want to buy. Gryniewicz noted that no other Act 196 authorities have bonded. Smith said that’s likely because all of the participating communities could opt out, and the bondholders would lose their money.
Conan Smith said that to him, the setup makes perfect sense. The bonding entity would be the new Act 196 authority, which would be able to take on debt and liabilities. The new Act 196 authority would begin with extensive assets, he noted – transferred from the AATA. Local units of government would be protected if they decided to opt out. He likened the situation to county parks and recreation. If the county bonded for a new recreational facility but voters didn’t subsequently approve a millage renewal, the county would be on the hook for bond payments, backed up by its assets.
Dan Smith countered that when school district boundaries are altered, voters that were inside the former district boundaries but are outside of the new boundaries still have to pay for bonds that were issued before the boundary change occurred. That seemed like an analogous situation, he said, adding that he’d like to see more information on this issue, to understand exactly how it would work.
Leah Gunn suggested that there’s a reason why Act 196 authorities haven’t bonded – it’s because they’re using millage revenues instead. AATA already has assets and infrastructure, she noted. A millage would add to that infrastructure, and provide operational funds. The new authority wouldn’t necessarily need to bond.
Opting-Out, Opting-In: Governing Boards vs. Voters
Dan Smith said he didn’t want to split hairs, but it’s important to be crystal clear when talking about how decisions get made. When organizers of countywide transit refer to “local community,” what they mean is the local board or city council. The community doesn’t really have a say-so, Smith said – it’s the members of each governing body who determine whether the municipality will participate. All the other residents of Northfield Township might be against it, for example, but if the township board doesn’t listen and doesn’t opt out, then that community participates in the Act 196 authority, he said.
To him, that’s an important distinction. Some townships work well, others don’t, Dan Smith said. If the county board approves the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation, then Northfield Township – by way of example – is participating, unless the township Northfield Township board takes action to opt out, he said.
Leah Gunn, who represents one of the four county districts in Ann Arbor, observed that we live in a representative democracy. Those township trustees represent the residents of the township. If they’re not doing a good job, then residents “need to vote the rascals out,” she said.
The problem, Dan Smith replied, is that a new government entity is being created, with the ability to tax. That’s a big distinction.
Opting-Out, Opting-In: Ann Arbor’s Exception
Felicia Brabec, whose district covers Pittsfield Township, asked about Section 9 of the four-party agreement. She wanted to clarify her understanding – if Ann Arbor residents vote against a ballot initiative for a funding option, such as a millage, then the city could opt out of the agreement?
Section 9 reads as follows:
9. Ann Arbor Approval. Notwithstanding anything in this Agreement to the contrary, if voters in the City of Ann Arbor fail to approve the NEW TA [Transit Authority] Act 196 funding source at any interim vote prior to December 31, 2014, regardless of whether it is approved or not by the other voting jurisdictions, then the City shall have the right to, but is not required to (i) withdraw from this Agreement without penalty; (ii) veto any attempted termination by AATA of the AATA-City operation agreement; and (iii) refuse to designate and/or assign its millage under Section 3(a). If Ann Arbor voters fail to approve the NEW TA Act 196 funding source before December 31, 2014, regardless of whether it is approved or not by the other voting jurisdictions, then the City shall withdraw from this agreement without penalty, shall veto any attempted termination by AATA of the AATA-City operation agreement, and shall refuse to designate and/or assign its millage under Section 3(a).
Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz indicated that Brabec’s understanding was correct. If a funding ballot initiative passed overall, but failed in Ann Arbor, then this provision kicks in. It’s an unlikely scenario, Gryniewicz said. [The subsequent deliberations reported below, as Conan Smith would later point out, initially conflated two different issues: (1) Ann Arbor's ability to out of the requirement that the millage and assets be assigned to the new Act 196 Authority; and (2) opting out of participation in the Act 196 authority. ]
Why isn’t this provision available to all communities? Brabec asked. Michael Ford replied that Ann Arbor has invested heavily in public transit over the past decades. Those assets will be moved to the new authority. That’s unique compared to other communities, so the city is given special consideration, he said.
Brabec said she understood that Ann Arbor was contributing its assets, but she still didn’t see why other communities can’t opt out if a majority of voters in their jurisdiction vote against a funding ballot initiative.
Gryniewicz noted that the goal is to have real regional transit, and function as a region. When you start parceling out these decisions, then you don’t have a true regional system and communities aren’t working together. She noted that it’s virtually impossible that this provision will kick in, so it’s not a logistical concern.
Conan Smith, who also represents Ann Arbor on the county board, said he looked at it as being parallel to a countywide structure. It would be possible for the county board to create a countywide transit authority and put a countywide transit millage on the ballot. The process that’s being pursued instead is more complicated, he noted, but it allows the local governing boards to voice their concerns and have input.
The county is the representative government that’s responsible for creating the new authority, Conan Smith said. The voters who would be voting on a funding mechanism will be voting as residents of the county, not of their individual township, village or city. It’s a regional decision, he said, not one based on a collection of decisions by local governing boards.
Regarding Ann Arbor’s special opt-out provision, Conan Smith said the asset issue is an important and challenging one. The transfer of more than $200 million in assets is a lot to give away, he said, and a lot of control to cede. It’s fair for the Ann Arbor community to be a bit trepidatious. But it’s not an automatic opt-out, he noted – it thrusts control back to city council, if the funding vote fails within the city of Ann Arbor. It’s the same question that all local governments are being asked during the 30-day opt-out period, he said. Ann Arbor has been driving this effort, so if its voters say no to a funding mechanism, the city council should be afforded the opportunity to look at the question again, he said.
Wes Prater disagreed. Ann Arbor is getting three bites at the apple, he said, while other communities that are being forced into this by the county are only getting one chance to opt out. It’s patently unfair to the townships, he said. And it’s not by the townships’ choice – it will be an action of the county board that puts the townships into this situation, he added. In order for this to be fair, everyone should have the same opportunity as Ann Arbor.
If a community doesn’t opt out within 30 days after the articles of incorporation are filed, there are only two other ways to opt out, Prater said, based on his understanding of Act 196. [.pdf of Act 196] One way is for two-thirds of the Act 196 authority board to approve a request to opt out. Prater said it’s not clear whether that request has to come from an individual township, or from the entire transit district to which the township belongs. The other way is a petition drive:
(b) Subject to subsection (6), a petition that bears the signatures of registered electors of the entity equal to at least 20% of the number of votes cast in the political subdivision or portion of a city, village, or township for all candidates for governor in the last general election in which a governor was elected and that requires the governing body of the entity by resolution to submit the question to its electors at the next general or special election is filed not less than 60 days before the election with the clerk of the entity presenting the question.
In either case, Prater said, it’s not easy. He said he supports public transit, but not the process that’s being used to achieve it.
Dan Smith asked for an opinion from the two attorneys – Jerry Lax, who’s been working on the Act 196 issue for AATA, and Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel. Is there a solid legal opinion that this Ann Arbor opt-out clause would hold up?
Lax clarified that the four-party agreement is a binding contract between the four entities – the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, and the AATA. The contract sets the terms for transferring assets and assigning millages to the new authority. The ability of Ann Arbor to opt out is not a function of Act 196, Lax noted, but of the contractual agreement.
Dan Smith then noted that if it’s a contractual arrangement, it can be done for each municipality. Lax pointed out that each municipality would need consideration, and he didn’t know that it would be the same for other municipalities. ["Consideration" in this sense is a legal term, indicating that something of value has been promised in order to be part of the contract.] Smith replied that a dollar would be enough to take care of that.
Lax said that someone could propose it, but the premise of this entire arrangement is to create an authority in which everyone is in it together.
Brabec wondered what would happen if Ann Arbor voters voted against a funding proposal. What would that look like for the rest of the county? What would happen to AATA’s assets?
Gryniewicz said the likely scenario is that AATA would remain in operation as it is now. The assets and Ann Arbor millage would remain with AATA, and not be transferred to the new authority.
Prater said he wanted to amend Section 9 so that it would apply to all communities, not just Ann Arbor. Lax noted that it’s a four-party agreement – an agreement among four parties, not all of the communities. Amending the agreement in that way “wouldn’t fly,” he said.
Prater said he respected Lax’s opinion, but it’s worthwhile to talk about these things. If Ann Arbor doesn’t agree to remove Section 9, he added, “then I’m coming at it.”
Yousef Rabhi pointed out that the county board also has the option to dissolve the Act 196 authority. He read from Section 12 (b) of the four-party agreement:
12. Termination of Agreement.
b. Discretionary Dissolution or Withdrawal Conditions. The Washtenaw County Board will also be allowed to dissolve the New TA if there is no Authority-wide voter approved funding passed before December 31, 2014, or voter approval passes Authority-wide but the same is defeated in the City of Ann Arbor. The City of Ann Arbor may also withdraw from the new TA Agreement using any of the methods authorized by MCL 124.458. In the event the City of Ann Arbor exercises any of the foregoing rights, the City of Ann Arbor may immediately terminate this agreement upon written notice to the other parties.
At this point, Conan Smith noted that the discussion was conflating two issues. If the Act 196 is created and a transit millage passes, Ann Arbor can’t get out of the Act 196 authority – they’re in it like everyone else, even if the majority of Ann Arbor voters don’t approve the new millage.
The four-party agreement addresses the transfer of assets, Conan Smith said. Under Section 9, Ann Arbor would have the opportunity to do three things if city voters don’t approve a millage: (1) withdraw from the four-party agreement; (2) veto any attempt by the AATA to terminate its agreement with the city; and (3) refuse to assign the existing millage to the new transit authority. All three of those options relate to existing assets.
Under this scenario, the new Act 196 authority could still collect a 0.5 mill tax – that would serve as its funding base. But the importance of this four-party agreement is that the 0.5 mill funding base would likely be insufficient to operate the services that are articulated in the proposed five-year plan, Conan Smith said.
Brabec wanted to know why the agreement is just between four parties – why not include all the communities? Gryniewicz replied that the agreement relates to existing assets, and involves the entities that have those assets, or that (in the county’s case) would need to file the articles of incorporation to create the Act 196 authority. Other communities don’t have existing transit assets to contribute at this point.
Opting-Out, Opting-In: Joining Later
Alicia Ping said her question is the flip side of the opting-out discussion. Most communities in her district – which covers parts of southern and southwest Washtenaw County – aren’t planning to participate, she said. But she was recently asked what the process would be if they wanted to join later.
Gryniewicz referred to the relevant section of Act 196:
124.457 Membership after formation of public authority; resolution; approval, execution, filing, and publication of amendment to articles.
Sec. 7. A political subdivision or a portion of a city, village, or township bounded by lines described in section 4 may become a member of a public authority after the public authority’s formation under this act upon resolution adopted by a majority vote of the members elected to and serving on the legislative body of the political subdivision requesting membership for all or a portion of the political subdivision and upon resolution adopted by a 2/3 vote of the members serving on the board of the public authority approving an amendment to the articles of incorporation of the public authority adding all or a portion of the political subdivision. The amendment to the articles of incorporation shall be executed by the clerk of the political subdivision, all or a part of which is being added and shall be filed and published in the same manner as the original articles of incorporation.
So it’s a simple Act 196 board action, Gryniewicz said. A request to join would have to be negotiated and receive a two-thirds majority of board votes to join at any time.
Ping said she had planned to vote against the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation, but now she thinks it might be good to have the Act 196 authority in place – in case municipalities in her district decide they’d like to join in the future.
She asked Gryniewicz eventually to provide a summary in layman’s terms that describes how entities might opt-in or opt-out. Gryniewicz indicated she would do that.
Region vs. Municipality
Dan Smith argued that the way that voters would be asked to approve a funding mechanism was essentially doing an end-around the Headlee Amendment. Headlee was designed to let voters decide whether to be taxed, he noted. By allowing each municipality’s governing board to decide whether to opt-in or opt-out, it’s taking the issue out of the voters’ hands.
Conan Smith disagreed, saying that voters are still deciding – by voting on whether to approve the millage or other funding mechanism. Dan Smith countered that Northfield Township and voters in other small communities are being lumped in with Ann Arbor. The Headlee Amendment specifically tried to prevent that, he said.
Leah Gunn said other communities would be paying only 0.5 mill. Ann Arbor residents would also be paying that amount, plus the 2 mills they currently pay for public transit. The burden is really on Ann Arbor taxpayers, she said, who are also handing over the assets of AATA.
Conan Smith said he wanted to reiterate that voters will be acting as one region, not as Ann Arbor voters or Northfield Township voters. He pointed out that if the funding question went to the entire county, Northfield Township would be lumped in with Ann Arbor in the same way. With this process, each municipality gets the option not to participate. That’s highly unusual, he said, and is actually the reverse of what Dan Smith had described.
Dan Smith responded, stating again that there’s no way for Northfield Township voters to avoid being part of Act 196 if the township board decides to join. That’s the same for any community, he said. And if they’re part of Act 196, their votes on a funding proposal will be lumped in with Ann Arbor voters.
Conan Smith argued that a Northfield Township resident’s vote counts exactly the same as an Ann Arbor resident’s vote. The only way to get taxed is by a vote of the people, he said, not by the local governing board. This isn’t a Headlee workaround. It’s simply a vote by people in a common region, asking if they want to tax themselves for public transportation services, he said.
Wes Prater wondered if we’re all one people, why is Ann Arbor getting an extra opportunity to opt out? And don’t tell him it’s because of Ann Arbor’s assets, he said. The AATA has a roughly $30 million budget, and only about $9 million comes from the Ann Arbor millage, he said. A lot of the rest is from federal funding, Prater said, which comes from his federal tax dollars. Everything needs to be put on the table if these issues are going to be resolved, he said.
Wes Prater pointed to Section 2 of the four-party agreement, which refers to AATA publishing “details of the service and funding plan in newspaper(s) of general circulation…” The entire section states:
2. Authority Formation. The County, upon the AATA’s written request, will create a new Act 196 authority by approving, signing and filing articles of incorporation (“Articles”) in substantially the form attached as Exhibit A. Prior to the submission of any request by AATA to County to initiate formation of a public authority all of the following must occur: (i) AATA will publish details of the service and funding plan in newspaper(s) of general circulation in the Washtenaw County, (ii) the Articles of Incorporation in the form presented for approval by the County shall be separately adopted by Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti by affirmative vote of the respective governing bodies. No transfer of assets to the New TA from AATA shall occur unless and until all contingencies stated in Section 4 of this Agreement and any and all conditions which may be established in the Articles of Incorporation have been met.
“I don’t think that’s been done yet,” Prater said, referring to publication of the service and funding plan.
Michael Ford replied that the plan’s details are still being finalized. When that happens, the details will be published in a wide range of publications, he said, including Patch.com, AnnArbor.com, The Ann Arbor Chronicle, and the Heritage papers. Responding to a follow-up query from Prater, Ford said the notifications in local publications will happen prior to a request to the county to file the articles of incorporation. “That’s the answer I wanted,” Prater said.
Felicia Brabec said she’s talked with the Pittsfield Township supervisor, Mandy Grewal. The township also has a five-year transit plan, Brabec noted, and it doesn’t match the proposed Act 196 plan. What kind of communication is there between the Act 196 organizers and Pittsfield Township? Does the Act 196 plan address the township’s needs? she wondered.
Ford replied that they’re working to incorporate more of Pittsfield’s plan into the Act 196 plan, and he’s confident that the final Act 196 plan will address the township’s transit needs.
Prater asked if details of the service plan would be published in local newspapers prior to the county board’s July 11 meeting. Yousef Rabhi replied that the publication needed to happen before the articles of incorporation are filed, not necessarily before the board votes on the articles and the four-party agreement. Ford indicated that Rabhi was correct.
Prater didn’t think that’s what the four-party agreement stipulated, and accused Ford of “making up rules as you go along.”
Dan Smith said it depends on how you interpret the phrase “initiate formulation of a public authority.” Very broadly interpreted, it could mean the process of voting on the four-party agreement, he said. More narrowly, it could mean filing the articles of incorporation.
Conan Smith contended that the county won’t take formal action until the board sees a funding and service plan. As a board, they can just make that determination and hold themselves accountable to it, he said.
In response to a question from Rabhi, Ford said the five-year plan will likely be finalized by late July or early August.
Conan Smith stated that since the county board will have a resolution to approve the four-party agreement, they can add a resolved clause stating that the county won’t file the articles of incorporation until the five-year plan has been publicized.
Prater asked what else would be included in the resolution. Smith said he didn’t know yet, but they can include whatever contingencies they want.
Rolland Sizemore Jr. said he wanted to see the resolution well before the July 11 meeting, “or we’re gonna have a real good time at ways & means.” [Sizemore is chair of the ways & means committee, where resolutions get an initial vote before being forwarded to the regular board meeting for final action.]
In addition to the funding questions reported earlier in this article, several other funding-related issues were discussed during the working session.
Funding Issues: Municipal Service Charge
By way of background, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti city councils amended the four-party agreement so that the city of Ann Arbor will continue to collect a municipal service charge, which is intended to reimburse the city for handling the collection and transmission of money levied for Ann Arbor’s transportation millage. In Ann Arbor, that tax is 2.5 mills as provided by the Ann Arbor city charter, but it has been reduced by the Headlee Amendment to around 2 mills. In Ypsilanti, the charter transit millage is .9789. The Ypsilanti city council decided not to collect a municipal service charge, but rather to forward those funds to the new transit authority.
Translated into dollars, the service charge would be roughly $90,000 for Ann Arbor – that’s the amount that Ann Arbor will now keep. For Ypsilanti, the amount would be about $3,000 – it would return that amount to the transit authority.
At the June 14 working session, Rolland Sizemore Jr. asked about the 1% municipal service charge. Michael Ford explained that Ypsilanti didn’t want to charge the transit authority, while Ann Arbor does. Sizemore asked whether Ypsilanti Township would have to pay the charge. No, Ford said. Sizemore said he didn’t understand why one community had to pay it, while others didn’t. [The municipal service charge in question is a charge that the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti can apply to their existing millages. Ypsilanti Township, in contrast, does not currently levy a transit millage.]
Funding Issues: Millage Renewal
Yousef Rabhi asked what happens if an initial transit millage is approved, but voters don’t renew it after five years. Michael Ford replied that existing services in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti would be maintained, as outlined in the four-party agreement. Beyond that, it’s not clear what would happen, he said, though clearly services would be reduced, compared to the levels in the first five years.
Rabhi wondered if Section 12(c) would still apply if a millage isn’t renewed. That section states:
c. Effective Date, Continuity of Services. No such termination or dissolution shall be effective unless and until provision for continued transportation services to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti is in place, operational and all liabilities on the New TA have been satisfied.
Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz said that’s why the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti millages are so important – those millages guarantee that services in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti will be maintained.
If that’s the case, Rabhi noted, then it’s likely that transit service outside of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area would be cut back. But the Act 196 board would still include members from those outside areas. Yes, Gryniewicz said. That would be challenging. One option might be to try to put the millage on the ballot again, she said.
Leah Gunn observed that Ann Arbor had been very clever in the 1970s in making its transit millage a charter millage that doesn’t require renewal. It’s permanent, she said.
Funding Issues: Other Resources
Felicia Brabec wondered where funding will come from for costs that aren’t covered by a transit millage. Michael Ford said they are continuing to refine the service plan, but for the first five years it would likely be covered by the millage. Beyond that, they’d look for state and federal funding sources.
Funding Issues: Legal Challenges
Wes Prater wanted to know if the Act 196 tax levy had ever been challenged in court. Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, wasn’t aware of any legal challenges, but he said he’d look into it. “Is there something I should know about?” Hedger asked, eliciting laughs.
Prater said he was also concerned about lingering responsibility for the county – that’s something else for legal counsel to look into. He noted that there’s a 60-day period after the articles of incorporation are filed, during which legal challenges to the Act 196 formation can be made.
Jerry Lax, the attorney representing AATA in this effort, confirmed that this is part of Act 196. The relevant section states (emphasis added):
124.455 Articles of incorporation; endorsement as evidence of adoption; publication; filing; operative public authority; effective date of articles; validity of incorporation conclusively presumed; exception.
(2) The articles of incorporation shall be published by the person or persons designated in the articles at least once in a newspaper designated in the articles and circulated within the area proposed to be served by the public authority. One printed copy of the articles of incorporation shall be filed with the secretary of state, the clerk of each county to be served by the public authority, and the director of the state transportation department by the person designated to do so by the articles. The public authority shall become operative and the articles of incorporation effective at the time provided in the articles of incorporation. The validity of the incorporation shall be conclusively presumed unless questioned in a court of competent jurisdiction within 60 days after the publication of the articles of incorporation.
Articles of Incorporation
Yousef Rabhi noted that the articles of incorporation allow for the new authority to provide services to areas outside of the authority’s boundaries. How does that work now?
Michael Ford gave examples of express services that AATA provides to Chelsea and Canton. He said AATA is working to get those communities to contribute to the cost.
Rabhi said he feels that efforts like the Canton express bus and the WALLY north/south commuter rail are subsidizing people who live outside of Washtenaw County. It’s providing incentives for people who aren’t living in this county. He hoped communities would be required to bring money to the table in order to get transit service.
Dan Smith was the only commissioner who proposed formal amendments to be discussed at the June 14 working session. [Added language is in bold italics; deleted language is indicated with strike-through.]
After all the proposed amendments were discussed, the group took a straw poll to gauge support for each item. By that time, only six commissioners were in attendance: Dan Smith, Conan Smith, Felicia Brabec, Wes Prater, Alicia Ping and Yousef Rabhi. The results of the straw polls are indicated after each item.
Four-Party Agreement Amendments: Notification
This amendment aims at being more specific in how details of the service and funding plan would be communicated.
2. Authority Formation.
The County, upon the AATA’s written request, will create a new Act 196 authority by approving, signing and filing articles of incorporation (“Articles”) in substantially the form attached as Exhibit A. Prior to the submission of any request by AATA to County to initiate formation of a public authority all of the following must occur: (i) AATA will publish details of the service and funding plan as shown in attached Exhibit B in newspaper(s) of general circulation in Washtenaw County, including the paper of record for each political subdivision, (ii) the Articles of Incorporation in the form presented for approval by the County shall be separately adopted by Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti by affirmative vote of the respective governing bodies. No transfer of assets to the New TA from AATA shall occur unless and until all contingencies stated in Section 4 of this Agreement and any and all conditions which may be established in the Articles of Incorporation have been met.
a. Upon creating the new Act 196 authority, the County shall send notice of such by registered mail to Clerk and the personal address of each individual board member for all political subdivisions in the county. Such notice, as shown in Exhibit C, shall detail the “opt out” mechanism and deadline.
Dan Smith said about a dozen publications would be included in Exhibit B. Conan Smith asked if this proposed amendment could be handled in an agreement directly with the AATA, as a memorandum of understanding, rather than as an amendment to the four-party agreement. Dan Smith said he didn’t care how it was handled – he just wanted it to be done. Michael Ford agreed that the communication would be handled as Dan Smith proposed.
Dan Smith also wanted to make sure the communication comes from the county. Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, noted that Act 196 specifies that the authority itself must communicate the information. Dan Smith said his main concern is that the communication be sent to individual members of a governing body, not just to the town hall or city hall as an entity.
Yousef Rabhi suggested that the county could send out a letter too, in addition to communication from the new authority. He said this could be laid out in the board’s resolution regarding the four-party agreement.
Straw poll: Commissioners agreed that this action would be incorporated into a board resolution regarding the four-party agreement.
Four-Party Agreement Amendments: Ballot Language
Dan Smith wanted to include in the four-party agreement the ballot language that would be used to seek funding, and stated that the same 100 clear words would be used countywide. [A ballot proposal is limited to 100 words.] He said he wanted that to happen sooner rather than later, because he thinks it will be difficult to come up with 100 words that will be clear while providing all the necessary information.
Straw poll: This was a suggestion – not a specific amendment at this point.
Four-Party Agreement Amendments: Automatic Termination
Dan Smith said this proposed amendment would get the county out of the middle of the agreement. Unless one-third of all communities participate, it wouldn’t be considered a countywide transit entity, he said.
12. Termination of Agreement.
a. Automatic Termination. This Agreement will terminate automatically if (i) Closing does not occur before December 31, 2015, or if (ii) after incorporation of the Authority and the expiration of the statutory withdrawal period from the public authority, the City of Ann Arbor is the only participating political subdivision in Washtenaw County in the New TA, or if (iii) after incorporation of the Authority and the expiration of the statutory withdrawal period from the public authority, less than one third (10 of 28) of the political subdivisions in Washtenaw County are participating. It is recognized by all the parties that if any either of these conditions occur the stated objectives of Act 196 and this Agreement will not have been met and the Agreement shall be null and void.
b. Discretionary Dissolution or Withdrawal Conditions. The Washtenaw County Board will also be allowed to dissolve the New TA if there is no Authority-wide voter approved funding passed before December 31, 2014, or voter approval passes Authority-wide but the same is defeated in any participating political subdivision the City of Ann Arbor. The City of Ann Arbor may also withdraw from the new TA Agreement using any of the methods authorized by MCL 124.458. In the event the City of Ann Arbor exercises any of the foregoing rights, the City of Ann Arbor may immediately terminate this agreement upon written notice to the other parties.
Conan Smith said he didn’t like the amendment. The idea of a countywide entity is aspirational, he said. And the fact is that the Act 196 authority is an agreement among units of government, whether it’s two or 20 – the statutory language is the same.
Dan Smith argued that if fewer than a third of governmental units in the county want to create an Act 196, they could do it separately. Conan Smith said he wouldn’t want to see this long process start over again. He’s tired of reading about it in the paper, and is ready to vote on it.
Alicia Ping said she thought the county was out of it anyway, after the articles of incorporation are filed. Jerry Lax, the attorney working on this project, said that the county would still technically be a “member” of the Act 196 authority. But the authority’s articles of incorporation specify that its governing body would be formed with other local units of government, not the county.
Dan Smith pointed out that the county is creating the authority – they’re causing it to come into existence. The county is filing the articles of incorporation. He said his amendment is stating that if fewer than a third of local units in the county want to participate, then they can do it on their own and create their own authority, and the county’s involvement would end.
Straw poll on automatic termination: This item drew support only from Dan Smith. It was opposed by Felicia Brabec, Conan Smith and Yousef Rabhi. Both Wes Prater and Alicia Ping indicated they didn’t have an opinion on it at this point.
Straw poll on discretionary dissolution or withdraw: This was supported by Dan Smith, Wes Prater and Alicia Ping. Felicia Brabec indicated she hadn’t formed an opinion yet. It was opposed by Conan Smith and Yousef Rabhi.
Articles of Incorporation Amendments: Director Removal
Dan Smith indicated that the intent of this amendment is to leave the removal of directors in the hands of the local units.
SECTION 4.04: RESIGNATIONS, VACANCIES, AND REMOVALS
A director may resign at any time and such resignation shall become effective upon the Authority’s receipt of a written resignation notice, unless the notice specifies a later date. The Authority Board may, upon a 2/3rds vote of its other directors, remove a director prior to the expiration of that director’s term of office for persistent failure to perform the duties of that director’s office, gross misconduct in office, other reasons as specified in the bylaws, conviction of a felony involving extortion, or financial misconduct. A director may be removed from office with or without cause at any time by the same local body or process that appointed the director.
Conan Smith said he wanted to hear from AATA about this amendment. If a local unit appoints a public transit “hater” to the authority board, he said, then there might be value in allowing a two-thirds majority of the board to remove that person.
Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz noted that if someone is really inappropriate, the idea was to have a reasonable process in place to deal with that.
Wes Prater said he’d never seen any other articles of incorporation like this. There’s absolutely no oversight of this Act 196 board, he said. He’d never seen any other body that had the authority to turn out one of its members. He also pointed out that there are no elected officials on the board – only appointees. A board like this can get into “big, big trouble,” he said.
Jerry Lax noted that the last sentence of this section does allow for elected officials – the groups that appoint members to the Act 196 authority board – to remove a director with or without cause. He suggested that this might address Prater’s concern about oversight.
Prater wondered why this Act 196 authority just didn’t use the AATA articles of incorporation as a model. Members of the districts that appoint the Act 196 board aren’t held accountable by the people they represent either, he said.
Yousef Rabhi said his understanding is that appointments will work in a similar manner to appointments of the AATA board. [AATA board members are nominated by the mayor of Ann Arbor and confirmed by the full city council.] For the Act 196 board, appointments would be made from local districts, whose members are elected officials, Rabhi said.
Dan Smith said his intent is to put the appointments squarely in the hands of elected officials, not the Act 196 board. Rabhi replied that there’s a clause stipulating that the board can’t remove members without cause. Smith countered that there are catch-all phrases defining cause – “persistent failure to perform the duties of that director’s office, gross misconduct in office, other reasons as specified in the bylaws” – that could be broadly interpreted.
Straw poll: Yousef Rabhi was the only person opposed to this. It drew support from Dan Smith, Conan Smith, Wes Prater, Alicia Ping and Felicia Brabec.
Articles of Incorporation Amendments: Qualifications
Dan Smith said he didn’t like this section. He wanted to ensure that the people appointed to the Act 196 board are residents of the districts that they were appointed to represent.
SECTION 4.06: BOARD QUALIFICATIONS
All Authority directors shall be residents of a member political subdivision for the appointing local body Washtenaw County, at least eighteen years old, and shall be representative of public transportation interests as they exist in the County and other qualifications as detailed in the Bylaws of the Authority. Notwithstanding the above, any of these requirements may be waived by a governing body authorized to appoint directors under section 4.01 by resolution concurred in by not less than 2/3rds of that governing body’s directors. Directors may not hold office in violation of Michigan’s Incompatible Offices Act, MCLA 15.181-.185, or other similar law.
Rolland Sizemore Jr. asked how many people on the AATA board are residents of Washtenaw County. Michael Ford, AATA’s CEO, wasn’t sure. From the audience, Sabra Briere – an Ann Arbor city councilmember – reported that two AATA board members lived outside of Ann Arbor, and one of those also lived outside of Washtenaw County. She noted that there’s no current residency requirement for the AATA board, and that the entity provides services beyond the city’s boundaries.
Sizemore indicated that he would want members of the Act 196 board to be county residents, at least. Briere observed that some people are appointed to the AATA board because of their knowledge of transit issues, even if they aren’t local residents. [Eli Cooper, for example, is a recent AATA board appointee who does not live in Washtenaw County. He is the city of Ann Arbor's transportation program manager.]
Conan Smith didn’t like restricting appointees to Washtenaw County residents. He said his inclination is to go for the best possible talent – people with integrity and skills. “Where they happen to sleep at night is less of a concern for me,” he said. Perhaps a major business owner or taxpayer would be useful to have on the board, for example. The amendment would create an artificial boundary, he said. Certainly the districts can appoint whoever they want, but he wasn’t sure why the articles of incorporation need to be restrictive.
Sizemore asked Conan Smith how he felt about hiring a company from England to do the consulting work for this transit effort. [Sizemore was referring to Steer Davies Gleave (SDG), a transportation consultant based in London with offices worldwide, that has been contracted by AATA to help with this transit effort.]
Conan Smith said he loved that decision. Sometimes you have to look outside the region for necessary expertise, he said. His mindset is that he wants the best – that’s being a good steward, he said.
Sizemore said that reflected that he and Conan Smith have different values. Sizemore’s priority is taking care of people in this community and this country, he said, particularly since many people are unemployed. He couldn’t believe that no other company in the U.S. had the expertise to do the consulting work.
Dan Smith said he agreed with some of Conan Smith’s sentiments. But in this case, a new government unit with taxing authority is being created. That’s a big difference for him, and he believes that the people on the Act 196 board should be residents of the communities they’re supposed to represent, Dan Smith said.
Prater pointed out that when Conan Smith used the term “best,” it’s very subjective.
Straw poll: This amendment was opposed only by Conan Smith. Felicia Brabec was undecided, saying she could see both sides. Indicating support were Yousef Rabhi, Dan Smith, Alicia Ping and Wes Prater.
Articles of Incorporation Amendments: Standing
This amendment would create a new section in the articles of incorporation. Dan Smith indicated that it was designed to avoid a common legal trick, in which standing – the right to file a lawsuit – is the first thing that’s challenged. He said he hopes it never comes up, but it’s important to be clear.
SECTION 6.03: STANDING
Any member political subdivision shall be deemed to have proper and sufficient standing to file suit against the Authority or otherwise contest the Authority’s actions.
Alicia Ping pointed out that there are some communities in Washtenaw County that are known to be “less reasonable” than others. Perhaps it would be better not to make it easier for them to sue, she said.
Dan Smith said he was just trying to remove that as a question. Curtis Hedger, the county’s corporation counsel, indicated that the courts would still have authority to decide the issue of standing, regardless of what the articles of incorporation state.
Straw poll: This amendment drew support only from Dan Smith and Wes Prater.
Articles of Incorporation Amendments: Tax Levy
Another new section that Dan Smith proposed would stipulate that increases in a tax could only be on the ballot in November of even-numbered years. This would ensure that such a ballot proposal would be voted on by the maximum number of people, he said.
SECTION 7.03: TAX LEVY
Any question to the electors of the Authority that will result in an increase in revenue for the Authority shall be placed on the November ballot of an even numbered year.
Conan Smith said he had two objections. The first was philosophical – the idea that a larger election is a better election “doesn’t fly with me.” In a presidential election year, for example, turnout is higher but there’s a significant drop-off in votes for ballot proposals. For elections with lower turnouts, he said, you might get more informed voters. So restricting the timing of ballot proposals based on highest turnout might not be the best way to go, he said.
His other objection related to the tight timeline that this effort is facing. This amendment leaves one opportunity for the new authority to put a funding proposal on the ballot. [The four-party agreement stipulates that if a funding mechanism isn't approved by December of 2014, the authority would be dissolved.]
Conan Smith cited a “powerful” example of a situation in which an initial millage vote failed – to fund county parks and recreation. The second attempt at a parks and recreation millage was successful, he said, and it’s been renewed ever since. So he’s disinclined to add that restriction.
Straw poll: This amendment drew support from Dan Smith and Wes Prater. Alicia Ping indicated that she didn’t yet have an opinion on it. Opposed were Conan Smith, Yousef Rabhi and Felicia Brabec.
Articles of Incorporation Amendments: Handling Amendments
Dan Smith said this amendment removes the Act 196 board’s authority to amend the articles of incorporation, and gives that authority back to the participating governmental units.
SECTION 10.01: AMENDMENTS
These Articles of Incorporation may be amended only upon approval of each member political subdivision a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the directors appointed and serving on the Authority. All amendments must comply with applicable state and federal laws. All amendments to the Articles of Incorporation become effective only after they are executed jointly by the Chairperson and by the Secretary of the Board of the Authority, filed with the recording officer of the Washtenaw County Clerk, and filed and published in the same manner as the original Articles of Incorporation.
Yousef Rabhi agreed that the Act 196 board shouldn’t have the power to amend the articles of incorporation. But he believed that power should rest with the county board, since the county will be filing the articles of incorporation with the state.
Dan Smith replied that the county would be out of the process at that point. Wes Prater added that the entities that are “paying the bills” should have the power to make changes.
Straw poll: Supporting this amendment were Dan Smith, Wes Prater and Conan Smith. Yousef Rabhi and Felicia Brabec offered conditional support, if it were rewritten to give only the county the ability to make amendments. Alicia Ping opposed it.
Wes Prater described Dan Smith’s amendments as being “absolutely necessary” to ensure proper oversight. If the changes aren’t made, he said, there will come a time when the board will regret it: “Mark my words.”
Conan Smith said he’d like to know what the other members of the four-party agreement think about these amendments. He wondered if AATA representatives could communicate with members of the city councils for Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and report back. He told Michael Ford, AATA’s CEO, that Ford could call or email him and he would relay that feedback to the rest of the county board.
Ford said it would not be a problem to contact the other parties, but he wondered what the county board was envisioning would happen at its July 11 meeting.
Yousef Rabhi said the intent of this working session was to give an indication of the amendments that might be brought forward at the July meeting, as well as an indication of how the majority of board members might be inclined to vote. The hope was to gauge the board’s sentiment on these issues, Rabhi said. However, he didn’t know if that was possible at this point.
Conan Smith joked that he could sense Ford’s pain. Ford replied that he just wanted to leave the meeting knowing what the board wanted him to do.
Smith said there were a couple of weighty issues that Dan Smith had raised, and it would be good if the other parties would also recognize the importance of those issues. Hopefully, quick amendments could be made by the other parties, if necessary. Otherwise, Smith said, the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation would be considered by the county board in July unchanged, and they’d see if there are enough votes to pass.
On Monday morning, June 18, board chair Conan Smith sent a follow-up email to all county commissioners. He reported that he had met on Friday with Michael Ford and Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz to debrief about the June 14 working session. Based on that discussion, they agreed to meet with the committee that has helped develop these Act 196 documents to discuss three possible amendments.
Members of the committee are: Sabra Briere and Christopher Taylor (Ann Arbor city council); Paul Schreiber and Pete Murdock (Ypsilanti mayor/city council); Conan Smith and Alicia Ping (Washtenaw County board); Jesse Bernstein and Charles Griffith (AATA board); David Read and David Phillips (U196 board).
The three amendments that Smith said the committee will discuss relate to: (1) in the four-party agreement, Section 12(b), should the Act 196 authority be dissolved if a vote on funding fails in any of the jurisdictions? (2) in the articles of incorporation, Section 4.04, what restrictions should be placed on who can serve on the board? and (3) in the articles of incorporation, Section 10.1, who should have the power to amend the articles of incorporation?
Smith stated that some of the proposed amendments discussed at the working session didn’t require follow-up action because they either (1) don’t appear to have sufficient board support to pass, or (2) don’t have support of the four parties. In the latter case, he stated that the county commissioners will need to decide themselves if the issues are serious enough to prevent them from approving the four-party agreement.
Smith’s email indicated that the Act 196 committee meeting would occur on Monday, June 18, and that he would send an update to commissioners after the meeting.
Also on Monday morning, Smith sent an email to committee members, outlining his hope for their discussion later that day:
From: Conan Smith
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2012 4:57 AM
Subject: Re: Transit Articles committee: MEETING MONDAY at 4pm
The County’s name is going on these incorporation documents and the body has a duty to ensure that something created this way has the fairest governing structure possible. Moreover, at the finance committee we discussed the potential of using the governors proposed vehicle registration fee as a revenue stream. If that passes it will be a tool of the County. It behooves us to ensure the Board of Commissioners is comfortable with the governing structure so that if that ask comes down the road we don’t face a situation like we did with road commission funding last year. Let’s be sure not to dismiss any of these requests from the BOC out of hand.
I think this proposal about who removes board members is pretty serious and merits discussion. No community should want the risk of having its representative dismissed by the other participants – that should be a decision by the local government that appoints that person to represent them.
Politically thinking, it might be good for us to create some protection equity in the documents for those communities that may be taxed despite their residents voting against a funding proposal. The way we are crafting the Authority circumvents the citizen protections built in to Act 196, so allowing the County to play that role might create a small measure of comfort for those communities that we want to be in the Auhority but who also face less supportive electorates. I say let the people blame the BOC for taxing them and provide the locals some political cover.
Sarah has done an excellent job of paring down the point to three significant issues. I don’t think it will be burdensome to give them their due consideration.
Smith also included a summary and analysis of the working session that Gryniewicz had compiled. [.pdf of working session summary/analysis]
The outcome of the committee meeting was a consensus that the three other parties – the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and the AATA – would not consider any amendments to the transit documents at this time, before a vote by the county board of commissioners.
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