STANTON — The Montcalm County Transportation Authority is more than $11,000 in debt and local officials are worried the needed funds don’t exist.
A proposed countywide public transportation system millage vote failed Nov. 8. Three months later, the Transportation Authority still hasn’t paid for election costs.
The Transportation Authority owes the Montcalm County Clerk’s Office $5,924 for ballots and programming the ballots. The Transportation Authority owes another $5,707 to 19 townships for election costs, including applications and ballots, travel, wages and cleaning township halls for the election.
Transportation Authority Chairman Franz Mogdis did not return repeated messages seeking comment for this story.
The Transportation Authority officially dissolved Dec. 31. It was comprised of Mogdis, Marty Combs, Pat Hinrichs, George Hubbard, Larry Moss, Glenn Ritter and Shannon Winnie.
“There are no campaign finance reports as no dollars were spent by the authority,” Mogdis previously told The Daily News in response to a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for a Dec. 31 story. “The Montcalm County Transportation Authority has not had nor does it have any bank account or funds. The November election costs are being tabulated and we will be working to see them paid. The Authority formed no official campaign finance committee. The Authority did not solicit funds or accept any funds.”
Winfield Township Clerk Colleen Stebbins has sent two bills to Mogdis on behalf of her township. She sent Montcalm County Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Q. Carr and District 6 Commissioner Ron Baker a copy of the latest bill, which contained the written note, “Please pay your expenses!”
“They’re leaving us townships out here with the bill and that’s not right,” Stebbins told The Daily News. “We really watch our budget and what we’re spending. That election comes out of our budget.”
Carr said he and his fellow commissioners were originally reluctant to approve a special election, but he said Transportation Authority members convinced them. He said the issue of payment may come up at a future Board of Commissioners meeting.
“I know people are concerned about this,” Carr said. “I thought it would have been paid by now, but it’s not and I don’t know where we go from here. I’m still holding out that they’re going to pay.”
Baker said commissioners were “gun shy” of allowing the Transportation Authority to try for a vote in the first place. He said in hindsight, commissioners should have requested the money up front.
“They promised to take care of those bills, so in good faith we gave them the authority,” Baker said. “There’s no easy solution to it. It’s one of those things they promised they’d do and they didn’t do and now we’re saddled with the problem. We’d like them to make arrangements to pay for it.”
In the meantime, local clerks are left wondering if the debt will be paid.
“Our board felt they should have had their ducks in order before they indebted everyone for their part of the election,” said Cato Township Clerk Louis Morse. “There were too many uncertain aspects for it (the millage) to pass anyway.”
“We all feel that it just isn’t right that townships have to eat costs for an election that their jurisdictions didn’t even call,” said Evergreen Township Clerk Kelli Greenhoe.