Appoint vs. elect for county Road Commission?

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 7:38 pm on Friday, March 23, 2012

STANTON — The question of whether road commissioners should be elected or appointed continues to be debated in Montcalm County.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently approved an amendment to Public Act 156, which would allow a county board of commissioners to ask voters to decide whether the powers, duties and functions of an elected board of county road commissioners should be transferred to the county board of commissioners.

If voters approved the transfer, the board of road commissioners would be dissolved and the county board of commissioners would be authorized to receive and expend road commission funds.

If the board of road commissioners was dissolved and the county board of commissioners determined that a board of road commissioners would provide a cost-savings and would better meet the needs of the county, the board of commissioners can ask voters to decide whether to adopt a county road system with a board of county road commissioners.

Montcalm County commissioners discussed their options in a recent committee meeting. The discussion is expected to continue at the full board meeting Monday afternoon in Stanton.

Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township initiated the conversation in the recent committee meeting.

“I think we need to make a decision one way or the other, whether we are going to continue with elected or whether we are going to make a decision to appoint,” he said.

Commissioner Ron Baker of Howard City said it appears the county could save taxpayer money by going from elected officials to appointed officials.

Commissioner Lloyd Walker of Greenville said he remembers when road commissioners were appointed instead of elected. He said the appointed road commissioners were usually retirees.

“It takes a certain amount of training to know what the issues are on the Road Commission,” Walker said. “Those people who were appointed were usually very knowledgeable about the Road Commission. You’re at the mercy of who the people choose and they’re not always trained for it or have the skills for it. I think there’s a good argument to be made for selecting people who have skills in that field.”

Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer encouraged commissioners to decide on the issue before May 15, which is the filing deadline for anyone wishing to run for county office this year.

The Road Commission for Montcalm County currently has three elected members — Chairman Dale Linton, Vice Chairman Bob Brundage and member Don McCracken.

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