Cass purchase moratorium idea leaves some seeing red

Published 7:04 pm Monday, October 20, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - Commissioner Jack Teter's Oct. 2 suggestion that a county purchase moratorium be instituted left some of his colleagues seething about "micro-management."
Teter recommended the Board of Commissioners stop buying supplies, equipment or printing immediately and until further notice.
Then, two commissioners would be appointed per week to approve purchase requisitions submitted from department heads.
Sayer also scorned Teter's suggestion to model anything after Lansing. "At this point in time, I don't think we should look at the state of Michigan to set an example. They've got enough problems. I feel we're doing a good job. Evidently, you learned more in the last nine months than had the first two years I was a commissioner," Sayer said.
Rodebush said, "When I read it - and I did read it a couple of times - I felt like it was kind of pointing at the department heads. Maybe I'm a little thin-skinned about that, Jack."
Commissioner Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, said he didn't read in the same things others had. "It's not uncommon in business, especially at the end of a fiscal year and at a time when you have tough budget problems, for the board of directors of that company, or the CFO or CEO something to the effect of, 'Please curtail non-essential spending between now and the end of the year.' That's what I read as the main thrust of Mr. Teter's letter. Any money we save will help alleviate some of the problems we're going to face next year. That's the signal I got. I also agree with Commissioner Sayer that for us to sit down and look at purchase requisitions is getting into micro-management. We have to trust the department heads and the administrator."
It's important to keep the board informed, and "this has been going on for years in Cass County, including monthly reports and special meetings. The Cass County Board of Commissioners probably has a better understanding of the county's financial picture as a result of this year's budget process than any similar board that I'm aware of," Proctor said.
More advice is to "avoid quick fixes," Proctor said. "The board resolution addresses the health insurance issue, which is affecting all employers - not just Cass County or counties, private sector, public sector, big places, little places."
A financial issue which may impact the county more in 2004 than this year is a surcharge on cellular phone bills due to end Dec. 31.
Commissioners will be able to attend a training seminar Oct. 20 in Kalamazoo on shaping the future day by day with big-picture policy making. Jack Teter, R-Edwardsburg, and Robert Wagel, R-Wayne Township, had signed up.
Wagel also brought back materials from a meeting he attended on historic preservation. "One of the positive things we sometimes overlook is the number of beautiful, old historic homes in Cass County. They're part of our heritage," Proctor said. "They're part of the wealth of this community, and there are programs through the Michigan historic preservation office offering tax incentives for fixing up those properties. It seems to me it would be great to have some historic districts created in Cass County. Within those districts, people fix up historic homes before they're lost."