Montcalm County Drain Commissioner opponents question qualifications

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 12:29 pm on Monday, November 05, 2012

Sandy Raines

Shane Jacobs

The heated and frequently acrimonious race between Shane Jacobs and Sandy Raines for Montcalm County drain commissioner has focused all along on integrity and experience.  Those two factors will likely guide voters going to the polls on Nov. 6.

Raines, a Republican who currently holds the chief deputy drain commissioner position, boasts 34 years of “hands-on” experience in public service.

“I have worked side-by-side with the current, retiring drain commissioner (Donald Cooper) for 26 of my 34 years,” said Raines, a Sidney resident. “I am ready, day one, to assume the drain commissioner’s duties without any learning curve or without extensive and costly training courses necessary for an inexperienced candidate.”

Raines added that, if elected, she would develop a five-year, rotating maintenance and inspection program on county drains in an effort to reduce costs to property owners. She said she would also seek out greater community involvement and continue to modernize antiquated drain records.

The most important role of the drain commissioner, however, is to attend to the needs of residents in regard to water.

“(My job is) to provide for the health, safety and welfare of Montcalm County citizens by providing storm water management, flood control and development review and to be a steward of our natural resources,” Raines said.

Bringing in someone with no practical experience working in the office would hinder the tasks performed there, according to Raines.

“An inexperienced person … would face many challenges, understanding the complex drain code which governs the drain office and the other laws pertaining to the drain office,” Raines said.  “Also, an inexperienced person could drive project costs up tremendously which would be assessed back to the property owners. The duties also require knowledge of the administrative, field operations, knowing how to read legal descriptions, maps, and survey minutes of the route and courses of drains, how to do apportionments, determine scope of projects, and dealing with the public on drainage complaints and concerns.”

According to challenger Shane Jacobs, a Democrat, those things can all be learned. The Howard City man said his experience as owner of a landscaping business has given him some familiarity with the drain commissioner’s job, particularly its financial aspects.

Jacobs said that, if elected, he would bring integrity back to the position. Jacobs has on several occasions leveled accusations against Raines that she used the drain commissioner’s office to assist in State Rep. Rick Outman’s re-election campaign.

“The deputy drain commissioner even wrote a letter from the drain commission’s office and faxed it to the Bureau of Elections from the drain commission office,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs also accused Raines of nepotism in her hiring practices.  If elected, he said would hire candidates based solely on qualifications.

“I will not appoint relatives to posts and maintain an open door policy for those who may be treated differently because of nepotism,” Jacobs said.

The most important aspect of the drain commissioner’s job is “maintaining the integrity of the drain commissions and safety of all residents of this county,” according to Jacobs.

He asserts that Raines is not up to the tasks related to the financial aspects of the position, citing late filings of annual statements during her tenure as treasurer.

“The drain commissioner can raise taxes without a vote of the people and we need someone who can handle the position of drain commissioner,” Jacobs said.

Raines vehemently denied Jacobs’ accusations, pointing out that he has no experience with the operations of the office and is therefore unqualified to make determinations of this nature.

“It’s important to have a drain commissioner that is conservative and knows the administrative duties, laws, finances, daily field operations, and DEQ regulations,” Raines said. “I am a conservative, and I am the only candidate qualified to take over the drain commissioner’s responsibilities and effectively run the department starting Jan. 1.”

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