Commissioner board hears from planning commission, health department

Published 9:05 am Monday, April 8, 2019

CASS COUNTY — Cass County Commissioners heard presolutions from two area organizers Thursday.

At the regular meeting of the Cass County Board of Commissioners, John Egelhaaf, executive director of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, and Jeff Elliott, director of the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department, presented their annual reports.

Egelhaaf opened the meeting with his presentation and emphasized five themes of interest and focus of the SWMPC, which included environmental factors, economic development, transportation, community planning and data and mapping. In his slideshow, Egelhaaf spent a few minutes on each focus to briefly highlight some of the methods and projects related them.

Beginning with the environmental focus, Egelhaaf talked briefly about the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater program. The SWMPC helped get two SAW grants for the southwest Michigan region, one for the Ox Creek Watershed in Benton Harbor and another for a series of tributaries that run into Lake Michigan. He quickly moved on to how SWMPC is working on trail development in the region, and highlighted the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail — the first bi-state trail in Michigan — an extension for which is being considered that will go up into Berrien Springs. Egehaaf also highlighted efforts for the Paw Paw River Watershed Trail and the removal of the Pucker Street Dam in Niles.

Egelhaaf moved on to economic development in the southwest Michigan region by talking about several development efforts. Some of the efforts included the consultative panel he sits on with Michigan State’s Center for Economic Innovation, how SWMPC works with the U.S. Department of Commerce to find regional projects in need of grants, the Regional Prosperity Initiative that brings voices from different sectors together to cultivate projects that reflect the mission of local economic prosperity, and the impact of the local economic environment on food and food distribution.

Egelhaaf then moved to the topic of transportation and how SWMPC facilitates transportation projects between various communities in the greater Michiana area in a way that he described as “mutually beneficial to all involved.” He also highlighted how SWMPC has done road rating for the last 15 years as part of asset management in coordination with the state.

From transportation, Egelhaaf continued to talk about SWMPC’s community planning projects, which he said they are able to facilitate about every 18 months. SWMPC tries to encourage joint plans that combine the efforts of townships and cities in their jurisdictions, Egelhaaf said.

Egelhaaf then touched briefly on the topic of data and mapping and noted how SWMPC will helping facilitate the census in 2020.

Jeff Elliott of the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department then took the podium to give his annual report to the board. He began by highlighting how the health department’s infrastructure aims to address communicable disease control, chronic disease and injury prevention, environmental public health, maternal/child/and family health, access to and linkage with clinical care and health equity and social determinants.

Elliott quickly came to the topic of the health education and training facility that will house all the public health programs, the dental program, an educational center for students the Van Buren Intermediate School District and community nursing program. According to Elliott, the facility will be a 20,000 square foot building with an emphasis on public health and health education.

He then went on to discuss the community health needs assessment program that summarizes health needs and issues in areas of social inequities, institutional inequities, living conditions, risk behaviors and disease, injury and death. The CHNA is worked in coordination with Bronson Healthcare in an effort to address regional health needs.

After Elliott’s presentation, the commissioners voted in favor of two resolutions: the first to recognize National Animal Control Appreciation Week, and the second to recognize National Public Telecommunicators Week. They then voted by roll call to approve the whole of the proposed consent agenda, after which commissioners Roseann Marchetti and Skip Dyes gave brief reports, and interim county administrator Jeff Carmen talked about the county’s search for a new cleaning company for county facilities.