Cass board reconsiders March intergovernmental forumPublished 9:45pm Thursday, January 17, 2013
CASSOPOLIS — Is Cass County’s signature event, the Intergovernmental Forum, on the chopping block?
There were sentiments both ways during the board of commissioners’ discussion Thursday evening, exemplifying its new meeting format brought about by the 2013 reduction of commissioners from 15 to seven.
The work session started at 6 as a committee of the whole, followed by regular action at 7.
Commissioners also intend to follow a consent agenda, where routine motions can be bundled together unless anyone objects.
The board is also mulling physically rearranging its chamber in the 1899 courthouse — which commissioners don’t want to leave for the road commission — perhaps repositioning the podium and maybe adding closed-circuit television, since presenters always have their backs to the audience.
Commissioners also felt discussion should take place at one meeting for action at the next meeting, Feb. 7, but they did vote 6-1 to grant Water Resources Commissioner Bruce Campbell’s desire to restore the historic name of his office, drain commissioner, changed in 2007 on an 8-7 vote.
“When I came in 4 1/2 years ago (succeeding Jeff Van Belle), there’s a perception more responsibilities were added,” said Campbell, a former county emergency preparedness coordinator and deputy sheriff. “Only four counties of 83 switched. Two had countywide responsibility for sewer and water systems,” which is not the case in Cass.
Duties for other elected officials, such as sheriff, clerk and treasurer have changed since 1865, he said, but not the office’s name. It barely passed in 2007 and never should have been changed. I’m on the county Board of Public Works, but don’t directly control any of those actions. Municipal sewer authorities are separate — Sister Lakes, Cass, Ontwa, Porter.”
The change won’t mean wasting letterhead because technology enables easy document updating. “There’s no added expense,” he said. “The media call me drain commissioner, even commissioners introduce me as drain commissioner.”
Former chairman Robert Ziliak, R-Milton Township, objected, arguing the board should delay until County Administrator Louis Csokasy can weigh in with a recommendation or risk going “backward.”
Voting to approve Campbell’s request, which he campaigned on all summer, were Chairman Skip Dyes, Vice Chairwoman Bernie Williamson Robert Wagel, E. Clark Cobb, Dixie Ann File and Roseann Marchetti.
Marchetti raised the issue of continuing the countywide March dinner, which 10 years ago in 2003 featured programs on methamphetamine, then new to the county, and broadband.
“I”ve attended four and the last two were poorly attended,” said Marchetti, R-Edwardsburg. “We invited 120 people. Including (15) commissioners, there were 63 there. How do we make this more relevant to townships? I suggest we suspend the forum for a while. Come to the Feb. 7 or 20 meetings with ideas.”
Ziliak and another former chairman, Wagel, disagreed.
“I don’t think we should put a hold on the countywide forum,” which County Administrator Terry Proctor instituted in the early 1990s. “Very few counties have them, though I’ll have to admit we’ve had some speakers who weren’t very dynamic.”
“I concur,” Wagel said. “It might have been scheduled on a night” where other government officials had a conflict.