Road commission continues to collaborate

Published 9:09 am Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The road commission boards for Cass and St. Joseph counties have been working together to carefully evaluate long-term organizational goals and objectives over the last few months.

Options for improving the organizational structure of the shared endeavor between the two road commissions that began in late 2010 have been under consideration, one of which involves changing from a shared manager to two independent managers.

At a joint board meeting held on Jan. 29, manager Christopher J. Bolt, P.E., recommended that each agency continue to collaborate on sharing services in accordance with its Joint Endeavor Agreement of May 2012 and its Joint Purchasing Council of December 2010. He then explained that there are numerous compelling issues faced by each agency that demand the attention and focus of a full-time manager at each organization.

Bolt reported that both organizations have benefited tremendously thus far from over three years of collaboration, and that sharing a manager had resulted in a long list of accomplishments.

“We’ve simply come to a critical juncture whereby we all realize that we need to evolve in our

efforts to find the optimal organizational structure that best serves each county agency,” he said.

The two boards first entered into a Joint Operations Management Agreement in late 2010 when the St. Joseph County Road Commission hired Louis Csokasy as their manager.

As Cass County Road Commission’s then full-time manager, Csokasy worked with both boards in a shared capacity, with his employment costs split equally between the two agencies.

Csokasy later assumed the role of Cass County Administrator in July of 2012, at which point Bolt – then director of engineering for the St. Joseph County Road Commission – assumed the role of shared manager for both organizations.

The shared arrangement was the first in Michigan, whereby two road commission boards collaborated to formally share the services of a full-time manager. With similar demographics, staffing, and budgetary resources, the two boards have successfully fostered a synergistic and collaborative relationship that both boards expect to continue for years to come.

Key among the challenges discussed were stagnant revenues for rural transportation infrastructure from the Michigan Transportation Fund for over a decade, rapidly deteriorating roads and bridges and an increasingly intense competition for diminishing resources necessary to fulfill each agency’s core mission.

“For example, the staffing in Cass County is now 50% of the staff that it had only 10 years ago. The impacts of this are sobering and extremely challenging, especially during our recent major snow events where we now have only 26 plow drivers instead of more than 50, and with only 8 support staff instead of 18,” Bolt said.

“Both counties have benefitted tremendously from the shared relationship over the last three years – we have accomplished a great deal under the leadership of Mr. Csokasy and Mr. Bolt, and we look forward to having our managers continue to collaborate for years to come, said Cass County chairman LeRoy Krempec.

A revised Joint Endeavor Agreement clarifying the new structure was approved unanimously by both boards at Wednesday’s joint meeting. Members of both road commission boards stated a desire to continue efforts to evolve and develop the joint endeavor for the mutual benefit of Cass and St. Joseph Counties.

The Cass Board is in the process of commencing a search for a new manager with the assistance of manager Bolt, who will continue to lead both organizations as long as necessary through the transition.