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Tuscola County Commissioners challenge road commission longevity bonuses

By Mary Drier
Staff Writer

and Tom Gilchrist
Correspondent

CARO — Robert “Bob” Worth, who has expressed his concerns about Tuscola County Road Commission operations to its board on and off for several months, took his complaints to the county commissioners this week.

“I can’t see why they have to pay out over $44,000 in ‘longevity bonuses’ when they complain they don’t have enough money to fix roads, do roadside mowing, can’t cut dead trees over the roads while they push trees and limbs into the ditch, and can’t afford to cut brush back from roadways for safety. Instead of spending money on bonuses — for jobs that already pay well — they should be cutting back costs,” said Worth who is a former Millington Township supervisor and a current trustee. “They allow multiple employees to take county vehicles home. Who pays for that gas? And, the pension fund is in arrears over $1.5 million.

“I feel what they are doing is wrong. They are not serving the residents of the county to (the best of) their ability.”

Commissioner Matt Bierlein also had an issue with longevity bonuses and items on the agenda that were skipped when he attended the Dec. 19, 2013 road meeting where a sketchy, one-page, summary of the 2014 budget was presented.

Items skipped at that meeting were “further discussion regarding 2014 wages,” and “further discussion regarding M.E.R.S (Municipal Employees’ Retirement System). (See related sidebar on A3)

“They said there was no wage increase and left it at that. They skipped over two items saying the agenda / meeting was long, and would take it up at the next meeting… I’d say mostly because there were several people there,” surmised Bierlein about the skipped items.

The meeting started at 8 a.m. and ended at 9:20 a.m. with a Christmas lunch at noon.

Although commissioners are concerned about Worth’s complaints as well as other complaints they have received from residents about the road commission, there isn’t much they can do because the road commission is an autonomous (self-governing) board.

“There has been long-standing complaints about the road commission. I share your concerns. If their employees get the private use of a county vehicle than the (Prosecutor) Mark Reene, (health officer) Gretchen (Tenbusch) and others could claim the same. I don’t think their private use of a county vehicle falls under public preview as a necessity. It’s out of step with the economic times,” said Bardwell. “I sense there are check and balance issues there that aren’t working as well as we intended.

“It would seem longevity bonuses are out of step in this time of cuts.”

According to Commissioner Roger Allen, he checked with Bay County’s Road Commission on those issues.

“They pay longevity bonuses also. Some staff use (county) vehicles and their mileage is reported on their W-2. If that’s (reported) done here, I feel better about it,” said Allen, who is a liaison to the road commission.

In checking with the Huron County Road Commission, some get a longevity pay also, and the foremen and superintendent of roads get a road allowance. At the Sanilac County Road Commission, there is no longevity pay is given or vehicle provided, but a gas allowance is.

“In the (road commission) meetings I’ve been able to get to, I don’t seen checks and balances, or much interest for concerns that are brought to them,” said Commissioner Craig Kirkpatrick who has tried unsuccessfully to have the road board address the issue of dead ash trees over roadways.

Because the road commission is a self-governing board, the county commissioners have an “arm’s length relationship” with them, explained Bardwell.

“We are only a fiduciary arm to them. As Craig stated, the lack of checks and balances has been there for many years,” said Bardwell. “There is very little that we can do. If people are unhappy, they can change the people who represent when voting.”

The road commission is a five-member board. Initially, it was a three-member board appointed by the board of commissioners. County commissioners decided two years ago to expand the road board to five members with stagger expiring terms. This six-year the seat of road commission Chair Jack Laurie, expires.

Other road commission structure options include, road commission districts set up the same way that county commission districts are, or eliminating the road commission board and brining its operation under the county commissioners control.

“When we changed to having the (road commission) board  elected rather than appointed by us and expanded to five members, we thought that would resolved some of the issues… In hindsight, we are wishing we hadn’t. There are other options,” said Bardwell. “Maybe it is time we brought the road commission under our control. Others in the state have done this. There should be a cost savings there. We should think about this.”

After hearing numerous complaints, county commissioners decided to ask road commission officials to attend a meeting to discuss concerns, and to also explore taking over road commission operations, which would require a county-wide vote.

Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at drier@tcadvertiser.com.

 

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9 Responses to "Tuscola County Commissioners challenge road commission longevity bonuses"

  1. teabagmebaby says:

    Attacking the earnings of our neighbors is the final solution to road construction in Tuscola county. When will the working class embrace the concept of compassionate concessions in the work place and cease the never ending demands on taxpaying neighbors and Wall St.?
    Historical Real Median Household Income for Michigan
    Date US Michigan
    2012 $51,371 $46,859
    2011 $51,557 $46,942
    2010 $52,703 $47,824
    2009 $53,760 $48,444
    2008 $55,484 $51,818
    2007 $56,189 $53,099
    2006 $55,176 $53,731
    2005 $54,387 $54,148

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  2. teabagmebaby says:

    Continuing this trend over the next decade would adjust Michigan’s average household income to a more reasonable level of $38,000 – $40,000 annually.

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  3. justwondering25 says:

    Teabag, really ??? I have been at my job for a long time and make way less ….. there will never be wages the same between all workers ……. so, moving on to something else I can make a real difference at …..

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  4. teabagmebaby says:

    Way less? Are you earning too much for your labor is the issue. Can you not tighten your finances further for your countries betterment?

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  5. justwondering25 says:

    Am I earning too much …. did you not read what I wrote … I make enough to be content …. I am thankful ….

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  6. teabagmebaby says:

    Contentment is indicative of your ability to pay additional taxes as deemed necessary to support your community, assuring your future contributions are affordable. Will you support future increases in taxation as required by local units of government, equal to the contributions being asked of road commission employees? We could raise millions with those equitable contributions being made not just by those employees, but by every county resident.

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  7. breakfastboys says:

    Road Commission workers do a decent job with what management allows them to do. Some of their road policies are outdated compared to Huron and Sanilac Counties. I have always had a problem with how they crown the gravel roads. A good example this spring is Crawford Rd. between Mushroom Rd. and Red Oak Dr. This stretch was grated and crowned by a contractor after he delivered stonecrete. Nice crown and hardly any water or pot holes. Go to Crawford Rd between Deckerville Rd. and Shabbona Rd. and you have pot holes, washboard, and water hanging up in the center of the road. Grated and crowned by the road commission. Both of these roads have been improved in the last 8 years so there is plenty of gravel to work with. I have been told that the road commission does not like crowns in the winter because of ice and vehicles sliding off. So knock the crown down on the last grade before winter and restore it the first grade in the spring. Cross into Sanilac County from Tuscola County on a gravel road and you will see the difference. It just stands to reason that one high and dry lane in the center of the road is better than the whole road being a mess. Even my Amish neighbors complain.

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  8. teabagmebaby says:

    The buck stops………….

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  9. themouthfromthesouth says:

    The road commission does not do the best job they can do. They could care less about dirt roads, yes they grade the road but that really does not help when the roads are lower than the land besides. The ditches are plugged up with tree’s and bushes. Water runs down the side of the road not in the ditch where it should be draining. There is no center grade to the roads anymore, some roads become washed out for weeks, I have seen some dirt roads were they were completely cover in water, sometimes looks like ponds in the road, because of the lack of proper drainage roads get washed out and pot hole ponds become and cars/trucks hit them splashing out more dirt/gravel out of these. You can say these people need to drive slow, alot do but when you have this much water and mud, there is alot of people playing mud bogs on these roads.

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