Crawford County Board opts to increase the total membership on road commission to five members
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
More eyes will be on local roads and more ears will be given to concerns of the public after a recent change was made regarding membership on the Crawford County Road Commission.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its regular monthly meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 28, unanimously passed a resolution to change the road board to having five members rather than three members.
In November, the county board held a public hearing regarding changing the number of members on the road commission.
The option was brought forward in an effort to bring better representation from outlying areas in the county. There was also a concern about board members’ attendance at meetings to handle the official business for the road commission. A quorum on the road commission can be met with two members in order to hold a meeting.
Last year, representatives from outlying townships attended a road commission meeting to voice concern that projects weren’t taking place in their jurisdictions.
Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo said that it did not look good to the public in attendance when only two road commission members were discussing the issues.
Since then, road commission officials have adopted a policy to budget funds annually for local road projects. Other funds are used in order to obtain federal and state grants to address major road and bridge projects in the county to get more bang for the buck.
At the county board’s last meeting, Compo recommended the board hold another public hearing, make a decision on the road commission membership or remove the issue from consideration.
Crawford County Commissioner Carey Jansen, who serves as a liaison to the road commission, supported the resolution to increase the number of road commission members. The resolution passed by a unanimous vote of the board.
“It is important to have equitable representation. I think going to a five member board is more reflective of our community,” Jansen said. “It is the responsibility of the Crawford County Commissioners to ensure that our citizens get the best representation and the best public policy available. We believe this implementation will assist that process.”
Jansen added that more public input is needed to ensure that the proper infrastructure is in place as economic growth continues locally.
“Crawford County’s projected growth in the next five years is going to be exponential,” she said. “I think having the infrastructure in place to support our growing community is important.”
Although the county board made the decision to increase the members on the road commission, the road commission will have to incur the costs for new members in upcoming budgets.
Currently, road commission members receive per diems to attend meetings. They can also receive health insurance or take a buy out in lieu of receiving health insurance coverage.
Ryan Halstead, the vice chairman of the road commission, said adding two road commissioners to the board would cost the road commission over $100,000 for two six-year terms on the road commission.
Halstead maintains that increasing the membership on the road commission is a waste of money.
“I’m against bigger government, so I’m not in favor of it,” he said.
Halstead said the increased cost to taxpayers is especially egregious following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to increase the tax on a gallon of gas by 45 cents to fix and maintain all state roads. The proposed gas tax would be implemented in three stages over a two-year period.
“It is what is, and we’ll have to deal with it,” Halstead said regarding increasing the membership on the road commission.
Jim Burtch, the chairman of the Crawford County Road Commission, was more optimistic about the change.
“We’re welcoming them and we are ready to work with them,” Burtch said.
Shelly Pinkelman, the chairwoman of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, said the board had discussed eliminating the health insurance benefits for road commissioners in the past. The change, however, was not made because the benefits were tied into a contract with road commission employees.
Compo said paying for the added road commissioners could be addressed at upcoming meetings since it is under a state statute giving the county board the ability to determine what benefits officials receive.
“Until they change that, you always have the ability to change the compensation,” Compo said.
The county board will interview and appoint the two new road commissioners. Compo said that they will be for two to four year terms or four to six year terms since no more than two road commission members can be up for reelection at one time.
Candidates are required to be 18 years of age or older, a registered voter, and have his or her primary residence in Crawford County.
Interested candidates should submit their resume to Compo by mailing them to 200 W. Michigan Ave., Grayling, MI 49738. The deadline for consideration is 12 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27.
Jansen talked to the road commission and some of its employees about the issue at a meeting last week.
“I’ve discussed this change with the road commission’s board and a few employees at the last meeting,” she said. “We had good, open dialogue and I look forward to journeying this new road together.”