Cass County Road Commission to hold summit with funds dwindling

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, November 11, 2008

By By NORMA LERNER / Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS – A summit meeting is being planned by members of the Cass County Road Commission to figure out how to take care of county roads with dwindling funds.
The meeting will take a couple of months to organize since it will involve many people to get together.
This means members of the road commission, the Cass County Board of Commissioners and the county's 15 township board members.
But this needs to be done, said Commissioner Louis Csokasy, who on Thursday reported the road commission is spending more revenue than what it is receiving.
"The sooner we address the issue will be the easiest to solve. We have to increase our revenue or continue to reduce expenses. We can only spend 50 percent (revenue) on improvement of roads. Fifty percent has to come from some place. It doesn't say necessarily to come from the townships."
Csokasy continued, saying, "We need to take another look at benefits, labor contract and staff. We need to address one or the other."
Road commission Chairman Cliff Poehlman said, "We are not the only county hurting for funds."
Csokasy maintained that the road commission has done an excellent job of reducing costs by eliminating positions and reducing benefits.
"We are the only agency to do that. We are still not balancing revenues and expenses," he said.
Commissioner Robert Powers said 22 townships have road millages. Allegan County is going to reduce snow plowing, he noted.
Vice Chairman LeRoy Krempec said things have to be done now. "We can't speculate. I don't like to do it. We have to have funds to be sufficient."
Csokasy said it's time for county commissioners, the townships and road commissioners to hold a summit.
We need to know where we are going in the future, he added. He said now the county needs to understand they have to take a step, too. It was decided that Csokasy draft a letter to county commissioners and township supervisors about the summit. Engineer-Manager Joseph Bellina III will contact County Administrator Terry Proctor.
In a more positive note, the board approved a plat map for an industrial subdivision in the Edwardsburg Industrial Park.
Presented by Chris Marbach, engineer, it will be a four-lot industrial plat with the use of economic development grant money and has already doubled the number of employees that developers told the state it was going to hire at North American Forest Products. He said there are 45 new jobs. It is located on the south side of May Street, east of the railroad tracks.
Bellina told commissioners that the bridge on Redfield Street over Christiana Creek has a 52-inch section of the wall knocked off underneath it. He met with inspectors who said they could not see closing the bridge at this time but suggested posting a 20-ton limit and putting up a barrier to keep motorists off the north shoulder.
Bellina said if the Michigan Department of Transportation determines the storm water did the damage, the road commission would be potentially eligible for emergency funds.
The commission adopted a resolution to apply for repair funds of $830,400.
The road commission would be responsible for 5 percent of the cost.
Road commissioners will check with Silver Creek Township about changing the name of Garret Road to Garrett Road upon the request of Bonnie Weaver, a Garret Road resident.
She said in 1848 the Hugh Garrett family lived on the road.