Wagel gets nod as Cass Commission chair

Published 2:02 am Friday, January 9, 2004

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- Cass County commissioners on Thursday elected retired Dowagiac Union High School guidance counselor Robert Wagel, 63, R-Wayne Township, as chairman of the 2004 board.
Wagel is in his ninth year as a commissioner in two stints on the board dating back to 1989. He also chairs the county Board of Public Works.
Wagel said the budget will continue to be the main issue before commissioners, but he also identified a couple of other possibilities.
One would be enlarging the jail so that cell rentals could again contribute to the revenue stream.
Another will be hiring an architect for renovation of the 1899 courthouse.
Vice Chairman Ron Francis would also like the board to address economic development issues.
In the first round of voting, Wagel, nominated by Commissioner Terri Kitchen, R-Silver Creek Township, garnered six votes, to five for 2003 Chairman Johnie Rodebush, D-Howard Township, and four for Commissioner James Sayer, R-Dowagiac.
In the runoff, following a caucus, the ensuing 10-5 margin for Wagel appeared to strictly follow party lines.
Rodebush declined Taylor's offer to nominate him for vice chairman, which went to Ronald Francis, 68, R-Cassopolis, in a 9-6 vote over Carl Higley Sr., R-Ontwa Township, the 1985 chairman.
In other business at the first meeting of the new year, County Administrator Terry Proctor reported that a Family Independence Agency (FIA) auditor is in the courthouse conducting the annual review of the Prosecutor's Office and Friend of the Court cooperative reimbursement contracts, "those big federal grants we get for collecting child support."
Proctor advised Francis that "there's no further news to report" on flooding which closed the Law and Courts Building.
Michigan State University Extension has moved into the 1899 courthouse annex. Veterans Officer Fred Leet will be shifted Monday.
Painting of what will become the commissioners' meeting room started Thursday.