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March 20th Board of Commissioners Meeting Recap

The March 20 meeting began with Bryce Hundley announcing that Gretchen Iorio, one of his constituents, would be doing the invocation. This is the first time that a layperson has asked and then been granted permission to perform the invocation. Her invocation was secular. It focused on the need for the community and the commission to show respect and to cooperate for the common good of the county… Her thoughts seemed to take hold. As the meeting progressed the tone of the proceedings appeared unusually calm and congenial.

Orlando Todd, from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, attended the meeting to personally present Wendy Hirschenberger, Health Officer of the Grand Traverse County Health Department, with the Public Health Accreditation Certificate. He highlighted the fact that the local health department obtained the certificate with an outstanding perfect evaluation score for two straight years. The county health department also received several other awards. Wendy and Orlando outlined to the commission and public the many important public health functions the department performs.

Ventures North, a non-profit organization, gave a presentation on their role in granting loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs. They serve 10 counties in Northern Michigan. The money loaned is obtained from local, state, and federal sources. Venture North provides the loan administration service to Grand Traverse through an agreement with the county. The board voted to extend the contract.

A proposed change to the per diem reimbursement policy initially suggested that the time limit on requesting a per diem expense be set to January 31st, the following calendar year. Revelation of the proposal prior to the meeting caused a great deal of apprehension. Revised wording from Gordie LaPointe stated clearly that per diem requests should be submitted in the month they occur. Requests for reimbursements after 90 days would not be paid. Finally, all per diem expense reports for a given calendar year needed to be turned in no later than January 31 of the following year. This revision was adopted by the commission.

Betsy Coffia reported on her attendance at the 2019 NACo Legislative Conference held in early March. A few of many sessions she attended include:

  • Community, Economic and Workforce Development

  • Justice and Public Safety Policy

  • Addressing Ongoing and Emerging Threats Due to Adverse Weather Patterns

  • Creating an Ethical Culture

  • Supporting People with Mental Illness Awaiting Trial

  • Rural Caucus - focus on upcoming census

  • Upcoming Supreme Court decisions impact on counties

Based on what she learned at the Rural Caucus, she recommended that the county be actively involved in dealing with issues related to the 2020 census. Changes in the way the Census is contacting the public is likely to result in many of our constituents not being counted. The homeless, people with no internet, and people who have no physical address are likely not to be counted. This would negatively impact the county’s various funding sources. One of the speakers at the event recommended that rural counties establish a “Complete Count Committee”. Training is being offered to county officials. Robert Hentschel pointed out that he is scheduled to meet with the Census Bureau March 22. He said he would be contacting Betsy for her input.

Public comment continues to focus on opposing the meeting time at 8am, rejecting religious invocations, and disapproving the chair’s power to control public comment and preferred rights to establish the meetings’ agenda.

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