Stories indexed with the term ‘food industry’

Animal Issue Dominates County Budget Talks

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Nov. 2, 2011): At a meeting that lasted nearly five hours, commissioners gave initial approval to the county’s 2012-2013 general fund budget, following a discussion dominated by the topic of funding for state-mandated animal control.

Jenny Paillon, Yousef Rabhi

Jenny Paillon, director of operations for the Humane Society of Huron Valley, reviews some HSHV financials with county commissioner Yousef Rabhi (D-District 11) during a break at Wednesday's board of commissioners meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

With supporters of the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) demonstrating outside the county administration building and speaking during public commentary at the meeting, commissioners debated at length over how to handle its contract with the non-profit. The proposed budget calls for cutting HSHV’s contract from $500,000 this year to $250,000 in 2012 and 2013.

HSHV’s current two-year contract expires at the end of 2011, and leaders of the humane society have expressed reluctance to sign a new one with such a significant cut, saying that even at the current rate the county is not paying what the services are worth. [.pdf of HSHV analysis of legal and financial costs for mandated services]

For their part, some commissioners contended that they don’t yet know the actual cost of providing mandated services, and that HSHV hasn’t provided them with the kind of financial data they need to make an informed decision.

In the budget that received initial approval, the line item that originally earmarked $250,000 in annual payments to HSHV in 2012 and 2013 was renamed to “Mandated Animal Control,” a generic reference that reflects the possibility that the county might contract with another agency for animal control services – an option they discussed explicitly.

Board chair Conan Smith also proposed an amendment to move that line item out of the county’s funding for outside agencies, where it has traditionally been listed, and add it to the budget for the sheriff’s office. The funding could then be combined with a line item of $180,000 that is already part of the sheriff’s budget – for animal control officers. The county recently has discussed the possibility of paying HSHV $250,000 plus $180,000 – a total of $430,000 – if the humane society also takes responsibility for the work now done by the animal control officers. The shift in fund categories was approved on a 8-3 vote, with dissent from Rob Turner, Rolland Sizemore Jr., and Ronnie Peterson.

After the vote, sheriff Jerry Clayton spoke to the board during public commentary, saying he hadn’t been notified that this shift in funding to his office might occur. He expressed a range of concerns about the decision.

After making two other amendments not related to animal control, the board ultimately gave initial approval to the budget on a 9-1 vote, with dissent from Sizemore, who said he still has questions about it. Felicia Brabec abstained. Appointed two weeks ago to fill Kristin Judge’s vacated seat in District 7 (Pittsfield Township), Brabec indicated she’d like more time to review the budget document. Additional amendments are expected before the board takes a final vote on the budget, likely at its Nov. 16 meeting.

The board also got a third-quarter 2011 update from the county’s finance staff, projecting a nearly $1 million shortfall for the year, which will be covered by use of the county’s fund balance.

In other business, the county voted to create a planning task force for a new pilot program in agribusiness. Called ”Seeds for Change: Growing Prosperity in Ypsilanti,” the project is intended to provide job training and placement to unemployed workers interested in agricultural employment, and to offer shared commercial kitchen space and business support to local agribusiness entrepreneurs. No funding has yet been identified for the effort. [Full Story]

Project Focuses on Food Entrepreneurs

A task force has been formed to guide a pilot training program for agribusiness jobs in Ypsilanti, including support for entrepreneurs in food-related businesses. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted to create the task force at its Nov. 2, 2011 meeting, but none of the 17 members to the entity have been identified.

Called ”Seeds for Change: Growing Prosperity in Ypsilanti,” the project is intended to provide job training and placement to unemployed workers interested in agricultural employment, and to offer shared commercial kitchen space and business support to local agri-business entrepreneurs, according to a staff memo. The initiative will also encourage local entities – including governments, universities, hospitals, and other partners – to buy products made from people in this program. Products … [Full Story]

County Reorganizes 911 Dispatch

Ken Weber

Ken Weber of Weber's Restaurant & Hotel, foreground, sits next to Kevin Gudejko of Main Street Ventures at the Nov. 4 county board of commissioners meeting. They were among the restaurateurs who spoke at a public hearing and questioned the need for a proposed food safety training program. (Photo by the writer.)

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (Nov. 4, 2009): After removing a major item from their agenda – the 2010/2011 budget – county commissioners spent the bulk of their Nov. 4 meeting listening to presentations, reports, and a public hearing. Commissioners also voted and approved a new tax to raise roughly $603,000 annually for economic development. The 0.04 mills will be collected on the December 2009 tax bill.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton spoke about plans to reorganize the county’s central dispatch and emergency services operation. Changes include co-location of the county and the city of Ann Arbor’s central dispatch, which will both be housed in Ann Arbor.

Dick Fleece, director of the county’s Public Health/Environmental Health department, gave an update on the H1N1 outbreak and vaccination clinics in Washtenaw County. [On Monday, Nov. 9, the county announced a new clinic for mass immunization of people in expanded priority categories. That clinic will be held on Saturday, Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor.]

Commissioners also heard concerns from local restaurant owners and managers – including Ken Weber of Weber’s Restaurant & Hotel, and Rick Strutz of Zingerman’s Deli – during a public hearing on a proposed new food safety training program. [Full Story]

Graduating with Golden Spatulas

It was a surprisingly loud whistle from Eileen Spring, president of Food Gatherers, that called the crowd to order. The assembled graduates, friends and family were at the Delonis Center today to celebrate their completion of the Culinary Arts Training Class. And the pre-graduation mood was certainly lively and celebratory enough to require whistling to order.

Graduate receives congratualations and a chef's jacket from Scott Roubeck, Special Projects Coordinator for Food Gatherers Community Kitchen Staff

A graduate receives congratulations and a chef's jacket from Scott Roubeck, Special Projects Coordinator for Food Gatherers' Community Kitchen

The Culinary Arts Training Class is part of the jobs training program … [Full Story]