Commissioners deadlock on Road Commission vote

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 2:12 pm on Tuesday, March 27, 2012

STANTON — A motion to have a public hearing to gather input on appointing vs. electing Montcalm County road commissioners failed in a deadlocked vote Monday.

The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners voted 4-4 to host a public hearing.

Commissioners Ron Baker of Howard City, John Johansen of Montcalm Township, Betty Kellenberger of Carson City and Tom Lindeman of Greenville voted “yes.”

Commissioners Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview, Roger Caris of Vestaburg, Ron Retzloff of Crystal and Lloyd Walker of Greenville voted “no.”

Commissioner Carl Paepke of Pierson was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Johansen made the motion to host a public hearing to gather feedback about switching from the Road Commission’s current three elected members to putting the Board of Commissioners in charge of the Road Commission and appointing road commissioners instead.

“I’m not excited about jumping into that arena,” Caris said. “I am not excited about adding to the plate (of current commissioner responsibilities). I think it’s best to just keep focusing on what we’re doing if this is working.”

Carr agreed with Caris, noting that members of the Road Commission haven’t asked the Board of Commissioners to make any changes to the status quo.

“The Road Commission has gone to great lengths to prove that they’re not part of Montcalm County government by changing their name (to the Road Commission for Montcalm County) and everything else,” Carr said. “It’s to my understanding that they would prefer we leave them alone. I just don’t buy the arguments that appointing members make any more sense. What’s to say that the people here (the county commissioners) are qualified? Then we’ve made two mistakes. To be honest, I think the places the county has gotten into trouble over the years is on the state’s advice. I’m just not real excited to see how fast we can jump through a bunch of hoops and promises that the state’s going to save us all this money.”

Baker countered by saying it would be worthwhile to look into whether taxpayer funds can be saved by making changes to the Road Commission.

“We’re not really looking for a take over as I see it,” Baker said. “We’re looking for a public hearing to see if people are interested in appointing or electing. I think it would be interesting to see what happens.”

Carr vehemently disagreed again, saying commissioners have “no business” getting involved with the Road Commission.

“The fact that we’ve got the authority to do it doesn’t make it right,” Carr said. “There’s no reason to gather feedback unless we’re going to make a decision and that decision has to do with something we have no interest in.”

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