Archived Story

Road commission rebuilding

Published 6:34pm Thursday, October 18, 2012


ST. JOSEPH — Twenty-six applications for seats on the road commission and 36 manager applications have been received by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.

Interim managing director Derek Perry, St. Joseph public services director, said six to 10 candidates will be chosen today for interviews.

“There is strong interest because, although there have been some bumps in the road recently, there is a great group of employees out there,” Perry said. “The (four) foremen don’t have email, so that’s one thing I’m trying to get. It’s a $13 million to $14 million operation” with 67 employees.

After meeting in closed session Thursday, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners gave “discretionary authority” to corporate counsel Donna Howard to “finalize a summary compilation” of what led to the Sept. 20 removal of Charles Collins and Larry Merritt from the road commission.

Commissioners’ unanimous 13-0 motion also authorizes Howard to respond to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office “to whatever extent is deemed necessary and appropriate to respond” to Merritt’s letter seeking an investigation.

Mac Elliott, of Buchanan, administration committee chairman and former corporate counsel, said his motion was meant to give the attorney “flexibility and latitude.”

“With respect to potential response to the attorney general,” Howard said, “I haven’t had the time this week yet to digest all of the allegations Mr. Merritt made.”

Merritt, of Stevensville, complained to the attorney general that two meetings Sept. 13 were closed illegally, so their minutes should be made public; that the county denied due process by not giving written notice of charges before the dismissals; and that they did not get an opportunity to discuss with commissioners Charlotte Wenham’s independent investigation of road commission complaints by 13 employees.

Prior to the ousters, the board interviewed each member of the five-member panel, although Louis Gibson resigned rather than answer questions. Collins, of Buchanan, met with the board in private. Road commission lawyer Michael Kluck was informed it would be a conflict of interest to represent the agency and individual road commissioners, so their discussion proceeded without representation.

County commissioners retained Chairman Robert Forker and Vice Chairman James Daniel and appointed Russell Costanza of Sodus in the interim so the road commission would have a quorum to conduct business.

Major projects proposed for 2013

• Hollywood Road-M-63 to 500 feet south of Glenlord Road (reconstruction)

• Cleveland Avenue-Linco Road to Lemon Creek Road (resurfacing)

• Date Road bridge over Keeler Creek (replacement)

• Naomi Road-Bailey Road to M-140 (resurfacing)

• Red Arrow Highway-Paw Paw urban limit to I-196 (resurfacing)

• Coloma North Road-Hagar Shore Road to county line (reconstruction)

• Red Bud Trail-culvert replacement, north of Moccasin Trail.

• Deans Hill Road-Hochberger Road to half-mile southwest (reconstruction)



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